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|| News Item: Posted 2000-05-30

Wizard Tips
By Jack Bingham, LPA Design

The new Plus and Max do have several improvements, most of which would not dramatically improve performance in arenas.

- First it is true that the older the Classic is, the lower it's performance will be compared to a Plus or Max. We are constantly improving our product. So a very new Classic should perform almost as well as a Plus or Max.

Photo by Robert Hanashiro

Photo by Robert Hanashiro
- Second the antennas on the Plus and Max are copper clad which has improved range and made them less sensitive to other metal objects, like railings, in their vicinity.

- Most of all the battery life has increased substantially. In any metal building a radio signal will bounce off surfaces generating a reflection. Now this reflection will be an exact opposite wave pattern of the original signal. If these two signals happen to meet they cancel each other out.

So it is very possible to be within line of sight to your receiver and not get a trigger. Truly the best way to avoid this problem all together is to mount a second receiver in a different location, wired to the same strobe or camera. If they both fire it is not a problem, and if only one fires you are still covered.

Next while the Plus and Max are better at handling noise from metal objects nearby, railing and such can still act as antennas for all the other radio noise in a building potentially causing interference. It is always best to avoid taping a receiver directly to a pole or railing. A plastic rod like our mounting bar or even a length of tape hanging the unit will prevent this from being a problem.

A few basic decisions were made early on at LPA that set our course to design and build the best possible radio remote. The most important was to make a digital radio. Now I have been chided frequently about the following example and since high school was so long ago I can not remember if it was Physics or French class. But here goes: If you were to stand in a crowded room with everyone speaking English it would be very hard to discern one conversation from another because of the overall clutter of English words.

Now if you were to speak French with one other person while everyone else spoke English, you would have no trouble hearing the conversation because it sounds completely different.

Bear with me, I'm getting to the point. So if a radio sends a single tone it could be very hard to distinguish among all the other tones. Furthermore some of those other tones could be very close to the one you need to hear. Now if you embed a set of 0s and 1s in the transmission lets say 16 of them in a specific pattern then the receiver will have a much easier time finding the right signal.

Next LPA decided that since there were so many photographers out there we needed many channels. Channels as it turned out are actually different digital codes. All PocketWizards, excluding the Max Quad channels, operate on exactly the same frequency.

Photo by Robert Hanashiro

Photo by Robert Hanashiro
The only thing keeping one system from firing another is a complex 16 bit digital signal. We thought 10 would be plenty until we discovered sports photography, so then there were 16.

At the 1996 Summer Olympics someone fortunately did some simple math and discovered only having 16 channels at an event like that could lead to some unhappy campers, hence the custom channel.

Beyond the digital thing there are a few other techniques we applied to make a great radio. With all the radio noise out there it is best to eliminate as much of it as you can before the radio has to search for the code.

Because the PocketWizard was crystal controlled it could never drift off frequency. If it never drifts then you can filter out every frequency you don't care about.

Next with a little intelligence you can have the radio look at a signal on the right frequency and only respond to the signal with the right code.

Finally because we wanted to make the PocketWizard digital we needed to put a microcontroller (really little computer) in the thing. Doing this eliminated one other nasty problem with remotes: sync timing.

The microcontroller runs on a digital clock, which makes the PocketWizard fire on time, every time, period.

(LPA products are distributed by Bogan Photo Corp. For specs and product information, go to LPA's website at:

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