I’ve been using RD-616 radio triggers for my off-camera flash units for quite a few years now, and they have been working well for me. The problem with the RD-616s is that I have to have a hot shoe adapter to go on the light stands, and the PC cord connection can get wonky after a while. So I was looking around for a suitable replacement and ran across the Aputure Trigmaster Plus. This is a really cool-looking little widget that has a hot shoe built into it so I figured I wouldn’t have to worry about wires and PC cords — just thread it onto the lightstand adapter and off we go!
As these are transceivers, I opted for four units since I usually shoot with two camera bodies. I received them and immediately stated playing with them. Build quality looks good, though I’d like to see a replaceable foot on them as I’ve broken the RD-616 transmitters’ feet on occasion and it would be nice if they were user-serviceable for that sort of thing. The Trigmasters don’t have a “cheap Chinese junk” feel to them like so many of this sort of product.
Included in the box is a plethora of cables — since these are radio triggers, the box includes wires that connect them with most devices that I would need a radio trigger for: a PC cord, a small headphone jack, and perhaps the coolest part of it, a plug that allows the Trigmaster to be used to trigger the camera itself as a remote camera. This is REALLY cool and actually works quite well, even focuses the camera before shooting.
As I said before, the Trigmaster Plus has a built-in hotshoe. The pattern of the contacts on the hotshoe (and the foot as well) are consistent with that of a Canon flash, but I can’t see a reason for this. The unit does not do TTL metering to control the flash. Maybe the manufacturer is projecting forward to future models, and intending to make a TTL version of the Trigmaster Plus. I don’t know.
It took a little bit of fiddling to figure out how to get them to see each other, but once I did it seemed that we were on our way. The unit has a channel selector button next to the channel display; to change channels (if you’re using multiple lights on different frequencies, for instance) just press the channel selector button. There are six channels to choose from.
A few days later, I debuted them at a wedding.
Frustration immediately ensued. One of the receivers worked fine for the most part. The other one would randomly switch channels, forcing me to remove the speedlight from the receiver in order to reset the channel, sometimes in the middle of a shoot. I started to figure out that it was mostly when I moved the lightstand that this happened. At first, I thought it was the speedlight itself bumping the channel selector button, but there’s enough clearance between the flash and the button that this is impossible. I wrapped a blue rubberband around the offending receiver, set it to transmit, and swapped it out with another unit. This didn’t seem to have any real effect on it, since the other one started to act up at this point.
I contacted the manufacturer, who said to try loosening the screws holding the thing together. That did not help either. So I contacted the manufacturer again, who told me last week that this seems to be a problem with this batch of Trigmaster Plus units, that the problem has been remedied in more recent versions, and to return them to the seller and get replacements. I contacted the seller and was told that they are out of the office until the end of January for Chinese New Year. Really? I can see a day or a few days, but a whole month?
This really does not make me happy, as I do not relish sending these back to CHINA on my own dime, but I have the things and I’m stubborn that way. So I will do it. As it sits right now, if the new ones work they will likely be a viable alternative for Pocket Wizards but if they don’t, I will not be able to recommend them to anyone.