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|| News Item: Posted 2000-03-23

Is That a Radio Slave in Your Pocket?
By H. Darr Beiser, USA TODAY

Photo by
I had heard that the PocketWizard Max from LPA Design was a big improvement over the old PocketWizard, so I was happy to get one just in time for the ACC Basketball Tournament in Charlotte. The Max has a number of new features, but I was mainly interested in the claims of improved performance. I found the claims to be well founded.

I used the Max for triggering a remote camera mounted on the catwalk of the Charlotte Coliseum. I have had mixed luck using the old PocketWizard and other radio remote controls in arenas and stadiums. They always seem to work when testing before the game but not always when the game is going. Who knows why? Maybe all the human bodies filling the seats absorb the radio waves.

But the Max worked well. For one overhead shot I had an uninterrupted line of sight to the receiver, and it worked fine. The harder test was when the receiver was in a spot over the end of the court opposite me and the transmitter. The huge scoreboard hanging down over the center of the court was between the receiver and me. I fully expected all that metal and wiring and other material would foil the radio. Thankfully, it did not. The Max worked like a charm and I got the shot I wanted.

I also found the claim of extended battery life to be credible. Before the tournament, I loaded in the standard alkaline AA batteries that came with the transmitter and receiver. (Hey, I wish my kids' toy would come "batteries included!") I read in the manual that the battery life should be 200 hours, but I was a bit incredulous. The radios were on for 10 to 14 hours a day for four days, and I really gave them a workout. I thought about changing the batteries for the championship game, but decided to give them the test. Sure enough, the batteries held up fine.

Photo by
Here are some of the other interesting features of the Max, quoting from the manual:

- 32 Channels: Channels 1-4 are compatible with the PocketWizard Plus, channels 1-16 are compatible with original Pocket Wizard and channels 16-32 are for Quad-Triggering or fast sync mode.

* Quad-Triggering allows independent selection of up to four sets of remotes.
* Regulated power supply -- no performance degradation until low battery indication.
* Digital trigger signal virtually eliminates false fires."

Quad-Triggering means you can trigger four different receivers independently with the same transmitter, or choose any combination of receivers, using sub-channels A,B,C and D. For instance, if you have four strobes set up in a room, you could choose to turn one or more off or on depending on your position in the room. Or you could put four cameras up in different positions and choose different combinations to trigger using one transmitter.

One nice feature is that the LCD on the transmitter displays a resettable number showing how many times it has been fired, and the receiver displays how many triggering signals it has received. If these numbers don't match, you know something is wrong. The LCD also has a battery life indicator.

All this comes in units that weigh less than 4.5 ounces each with batteries. Radio remotes have come a long way.

(H. Darr Beiser is a staff photographer with USA TODAY based in the Washington DC area.)

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