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As a professional wedding and portrait photographer, I would say the most important accessory in my kit bag besides my main camera and lenses would by my flashes. So when it came to making a decision on what flash system use, I did a lot of research and in the end I opted for the Phottix Mitros+/ Odin system. I don’t normally write gear reviews as I think the internet has enough top quality content. I realized however in my research that the Phottix Mitros+, although sold internationally, is comparatively less well known and not well documented on the web.
I am a big fan of using off-camera flash and as a Canon shooter and have previously been using Canon 580 EX II / Pocket wizard combination for the last 4 years. The Canon 580 EX IIs in all fairness have served me well. They have been dropped many times, and rained on, but never skipped a beat. The problem occurs when I take them off camera. Using the PocketWizard Mini TT1 and TT5 trigger and receiver I have experienced a whole host of reliability problems that eventually was the catalyst for me to look for alternate solution.
I started by looking at the Phottix Odin TTL triggering system, which I have used before and has had excellent reviews. That was when I realized Phottix also sells the Mitros+ flash, that includes the wireless transceiver built into the unit. The “+” denotes that it has radio transceiver built in as they also do a non “+” version with no transceiver. The Mitros+ flash is great for a number of reasons;
First impressions when you take the Mitros+ out of the box; it comes in a nice pouch and feels solidly built to take a few bumps, which is essential as I will put it though the rigours of professional use. The first thing you notice is that it makes a beep, like studio lights, to tell you the flash is recycled and ready for use. This is especially useful if you are firing at full power, and can be turned off using the custom functions if you don’t like it. I fired off a few successive frames and it seems extremely quick to recycle. This is by no means a scientific test but I set the flash in manual mode 1/2 power and fired consecutive bursts. It seems to recycle at least as fast, if not faster, than a Canon 580 EX II. In the real world, it holds up very well; I tested it all day in different lighting situations and the ETTL worked consistently. The battery consumption seems about the same as the 580 EX II, I did a full day shoot and didn’t need to change batteries, so all in all I am very happy.
The real benefit of the unit however, is taking it off camera. It’s an absolute joy to use; no having to set up the PocketWizard receivers, and no misfires. I don’t have to do my usual five minutes of troubleshooting if the flashes aren’t firing. It just works like it is supposed to. With this system you can also control everything directly from my Odin transmitter, or using another Mitros+ flash. You can alter settings remotely such as TTL exposure compensation, manual power, high-speed sync and even flash zoom level. You can configure three groups of flashes and adjust each one individually. This basically allows you to control everything you need from the camera so no need to walk up and down making adjustments.
The litmus test for me to judge how intuitive a menu system is; if I need to read the manual, it’s probably not that intuitive. I very quickly figured out how switch from ETTL to Manual, activated high-speed sync and got the radio trigger system working. I actually think the menu system is better than the Canon 580 EX II, which took me a long time to figure out. Like the Canon speedlite, you can also control flash exposure compensation from the Canon 5D Mark III’s menu, although this is not recommended by Phottix. An advantage of the Mitros is that it has an indicator to see how much battery life left, which is absent in the Canon 580 EX II.
I recently took the Mitros+ system for an intensive four day shoot on Tinian Island and I am glad to report it has been flawless. I was asked to do a beach shoot at 1 p.m. in the blazing afternoon heat and managed to overpower the sun with three of Mitros+ flashes set up in cluster.
Firstly, it is an open system. Odin can be used to trigger not just the Mitros+ but other studio lights as well. In comparison the latest Canon 600EX–RT flash and Canon ST-E3 trigger are only compatible with each other. I have also bought Phottix Odin receivers to bolt onto my old Canon 580s, so can use them with the Mitros+/Odin system together.
Another positive for Phottix is that it’s more backwards compatible than the Canon 600 EX-RT, which is not fully compatible with pre-2012 models, such as Canon 5D Mark II, which I also own. I read reports that you lose features like HSS, (High Speed Sync) and the sync speed is lowered to 125th/sec but I haven’t tested it myself. It seemed very odd to me that a third party company can get their flash working with older Canon cameras but Canon can’t. I have tested the Mitros+ system with both the Canon 5D Mark II and 5D Mark III. It works fine and it is even compatible using infrared with the Canon 580 EX IIs, so you can use the Mitros+ to trigger the Canon flashes and vice versa. The Mitros+ also has optical slave which is something Canon never put on the 580 EX for unknown reasons.
I talked about comparisons with Canon in my review as I am a Canon user, but the Mitros+ is available for Nikon now also. It should be quite attractive to Nikon shooters as I think Nikon have yet to release a flash with a built-in radio transceiver.
Things really have moved on for third party flash manufacturers in the last few years. When I first researched into non-proprietary flash systems, they were generally cheaper, but vastly inferior product to the brand name equivalents. The Mitros+ is a great quality product, at a great price. It’s well built, easy to use and packed with features. Phottix as a company feels like they are selling products designed by photographers, and have really listened to their customers. Looking back at reviews of the original Mitros when it came out, customers were just saying “if only it had the Odin radio system built in that would be fantastic”, not long after the Mitros+ was released.
The Phottix Odin radio trigger system fully deserves all the praise it gets. PocketWizard, which has historically commanded such a market dominance in this sector, should be well aware of the new competition – which I think is a good thing. I remember paying nearly $500 USD for a PocketWizard TT1 Trigger and TT5 receiver, but had to as there was just no competition at the time. I experienced range issues, reception/connection problems, broken hot-shoe and general unreliability which is unacceptable for such a premium priced product.
The Mitros+ / Odin combination so far has been solid as a rock in terms of reliability. Time will tell if the build quality is as good as it looks but at least Phottix shipped with a two year warranty peace of mind. For those of you looking to either buy your first flash, or add to existing flash system, it’s worth keeping an eye out for products from third party manufacturers such as Phottix. Light is light at the end of the day, and I don’t care what brand name it says on the side as long as it gives me consistently good results and so far my Mitros+ has done exactly that.