123 — Entry Level Camera Trigger Showdown — PocketWizard versus Cactus

Pho­tog­ra­phy pod­cast #123 com­pares 2 entry level trig­ger­ing devices for your cam­era. A ‘trig­ger’ is sim­ply a device that allows your cam­era to fire nearly any portable flash, mono­light or stu­dio flash while it is OFF-camera. The abil­ity to fire a flash or other light source while OFF-camera allows you to mod­ify the direc­tion and the qual­ity of the light(s) to pro­duce much more cre­ative and pro­fes­sional look­ing pho­tog­ra­phy ver­sus direct on-camera flash. The 2 units tested are the Pock­etWiz­ard Plus X and the Cac­tus V5 Duo.

The PocketWizard Plus X transceiver (sold as a single unit) and the Cactus V5 Duo (2 transceivers)

The Pock­etWiz­ard Plus X trans­ceiver (sold as a sin­gle unit for $99.00) and the Cac­tus V5 Duo (2 trans­ceivers for $99.00 or sold indi­vid­i­ually at $59.00)


Thanks to The Cam­era Store (The largest cam­era store in Cal­gary, Alberta, Canada)  for spon­sor­ing the Photography.ca pod­cast and for loan­ing me the test equip­ment for this week’s podcast!

Both these units do the identical job with identical (100%) reliability in both my indoor and outdoor tests.

Both these units do the iden­ti­cal job with iden­ti­cal (100%) reli­a­bil­ity in both my indoor and out­door tests. The top photo shows how the Cac­tus trans­ceiver attaches to both the cam­era and to an off-camera flash. The bot­tom photo shows how the Pock­etWiz­ard Plus X trans­ceiver attaches to both the cam­era and to an off-camera flash. The main dif­fer­ence is that the Pock­etWiz­ard is miss­ing the extra hot shoe so it attaches to the off cam­era flash with (an included) sync-wire.


The build qual­ity of the Pock­etWiz­ard is slightly more robust than the Cac­tus V5 and its leg­endary reli­a­bil­ity (Pock­etWiz­ards have been around for decades) and the fact that they work with every other Pock­etWiz­ard ever made are its main advantages.

Where the Cactus V5 duo really shines is with the addition of the extra hot shoe on the unit. Both these units will do the identical job, but the cactus's design is more elegant and user friendly.

Where the Cac­tus V5 duo really shines is with the addi­tion of the extra hot shoe on the unit. Here the flash will act as an on axis-fill flash to fill in shad­ows cre­ated by another light, and it fits snugly into the hot shoe on top of the Cac­tus V5. At left is the Pock­etWiz­ard attempt­ing the same task but because it has no extra hot shoe it must be attached to the camera’s flash via an included sync-wire


Both these units will do the iden­ti­cal job, but the Cactus’s design (at right) is more ele­gant, eas­ier to attach and the Cac­tus V5 Duo is half the price of the Pock­etWiz­ard Plus X. Unfor­tu­nately the Cac­tus V5 will NOT work with Pock­etWiz­ards or even dif­fer­ent Cac­tus models.

Links /resources men­tioned in this podcast:

The Pock­etWiz­ard Plus X at The Cam­era Store
The Cac­tus V5 Duo at The Cam­era Store
Illu­minight — Pho­tog­ra­phy exhi­bi­tion by Marko Kulik

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Thanks for lis­ten­ing and keep on shooting!


  1. Mike Bons says:

    For any­one want­ing to get a pair of trig­gers for around the $100 mark, and you shoot Nikon or Canon, I would also highly sug­gest check­ing out the Yongnuo 622’s. I have had these for a cou­ple months now and absolutely love them espe­cially when using them on some of my newer bod­ies like the Canon 6D and 7D where I have full flash con­trol in-camera. The 622’s sup­port TTL, HSS, sec­ond cur­tain, you can add the on cam­era flash on top of the trans­mit­ter, they use AA bat­ter­ies like my flashes. How­ever, Like Jimmy men­tioned with the Cac­tus trig­gers, I don’t like the thumb screw lock­ing mech­a­nism on the 622’s.

  2. Lucy72 says:

    Per­fect tim­ing on this Marco as I am ready to try this out and I am going to invest the $100 at the cam­era store on your recommendation.

  3. Hey Marco. I really enjoyed your ” Entry Level Cam­era Trig­ger Show­down” pod­cast. I do own a pair of Cac­tus V5 trig­gers and I really enjoy using them. I paid some­where around $70 or so for my set on sale. I do like the qual­ity of these units and the fact that I can pur­chase addi­tional sin­gle trans­ceivers for some­where around $40 or so. I pur­chased the V5 duo MAINLY because they take AAA bat­ter­ies ( not the expen­sive and hard to find but­ton type bat­ter­ies!
    I don’t like the thumb screw that secures the units to the cam­era. There is very lit­tle room to get your fin­gers between the knurled hold down knob and the cam­era. I also wish they came with some kind of a hang­ing cord like the Pock­etWiz­ards have. I give the V5 trig­gers an 8.75 out of 10.
    Happy shoot­ing ? — jimmy

  4. Darnell B says:

    More gad­gets to buy but this should be fun and edu­ca­tional.
    Thanks Marko for another infor­ma­tive podcast.

  5. tOM, Ottawa says:

    I ? your pod­casts. But here I sug­gest you also cover the even cheaper alter­na­tives — long wires & light sen­si­tive slaves.

    You cov­ered TTL flash a lit­tle didac­ti­cally — my Olym­pus OM2,3, and 4 film cam­eras mea­sured the light DURING the expo­sure — not in a pre­flash, and turned the flash units off when enough light had arrived — great for bounc­ing with a wide aper­ture. Then again, ALL expo­sures could be TTL, flash or no.

    • Marko Kulik says:

      Thx for the com­ment Tom. I really wanted this to be a quick uncom­pli­cated pod­cast so for sure I left lots of things out.…(I haven’t any Olym­pus expe­ri­ence­but Canon and Nikon TTL work in the way I’ve described (I should likely have men­tioned that in the pod­cast though — my apologies).…even if your doesn’t work in a sim­i­lar way I hope the gen­eral dif­fer­ence was clear enough.

      In terms of slaves and sync wires — now that you men­tioned them — Let’s talk about slaves and sync wires for a sec.

      Although slaves and sync wires from cam­era to flash can do the same job, wires are sim­ply a pain in the butt espe­cially with mul­ti­ple lights. Each Sync wire will cost you around 15 dol­lars so you are already into 30 dol­lars just for 2 lights and 45 bucks for 3 lights…and then there’s the ugly wires. Yes the wires will work with 100% reliability…but what if you want to place the light far­ther away than a 6 foot (stan­dard wire). You can­not do it eas­ily. You sim­ply never see any­one on a pro­fes­sional job (wed­ding, events, stu­dio) using them.…because they are a has­sle and not versatile.

      Slaves — do not give 100% reli­a­bil­ity and so they can­not even com­pete at the same poker table against the PW or the Cac­tus V.. Try using one in a large spaces, out­doors, or when the slave angle is slightly off from where it needs to be. You will never get 100% reli­a­bil­ity. I used them for a cou­ple of years when i started out. Each slave will cost 15 to 50 dol­lars — so just buy­ing 2 of them you are at 30–100 dol­lars. The flash of any other pho­tog­ra­pher can set off that slave as you know — so slaves too (not assis­tants :) are some­thing that you never see pros using at events.

      I’m still firm on my sum­mary :) The Cac­tus at 100 dol­lars for 2 of them whips these 2 alter­na­tives for value, reli­a­bil­ity, and ease of use. The PW at 100. each is still a bet­ter alter­na­tive which is why they are the indus­try stan­dard (brand wise)…and they have come way down in price for entry level models.

      Both the Cac­tus and PW offer 100% reli­a­bil­ity and ver­sa­til­ity. If you are still shoot­ing reg­u­larly (If you shoot rarely no big deal I guess…but still frus­trat­ing com­par­a­tively) and have the bud­get, pick up 2–4 cac­tuses for 100–200. Try them and return them if you don’t like them.….. trust me — you won’t want to return them.

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