One of the first things I've learned when I started out with photography is that if I want to make great portraits I must get my speedlite off camera . It's a good thing the Canon 7D has a wireless speedlite controller so I was able to control my off-camera Canon 430 EX-II speedlites. However, this is limited by line-of-sight constraints: the speedlites and the built-in flash of the 7D must "see" each other or else the external speedlites won't fire.
Another way of controlling off-camera speedlites is with the use of radio triggers. Unfortunately, radio triggers can be very expensive (or so I thought). If you're just starting out, then the price alone of the triggers can be a great deterrent in making great portraits.
Enter the Phottix Ares, a no-nonsense radio trigger. The standard package comes with one transmitter and one receiver. There is an assortment of connectors that will enable you to fire strobes. There is also a wrist strap for those times when you want to hang the receiver. The transmitter-receiver combo comes with a pouch, though the pouch is missing if you buy the receiver only. There is a pair of AA-batteries for each unit - this makes replacing depleted batteries very easy; no more looking for button cell batteries that you cannot buy from your nearest convenience store.
Build quality of the system is very good and may withstand some knocks and low-altitude drops.
Using the Phottix Ares is very easy. Just mount the transmitter on your DSLR, mount your speedlite on the receiver and just make sure that the transmitter and receiver are on the same channel. (One of the thing that caused me great headaches when I considered the other brands is that their receivers do not have a built-in hot shoe - you need to buy another piece of accessory if you want to use a 430EX-II.) There are 8 channels to choose from though there are no zones. This can somewhat limit your photography, but what beginner needs 4000 zones with 36 million channels? And instead of zones, you can just set your different speedlites to different channels and just tell the transmitter to fire all of the receivers when you need to. It is that easy!
The Phottix Ares is Manual Flash mode only - there is no TTL. So, you will need to learn how to control the power of your speedlite, not to mention how to set the Aperture setting and Shutter speed of your camera. Also, the sync speed maxes out at 1/250 of a second so, no high speed sync is available. And no, don't think you are missing out on these functions with the more popular brands - their cheapest units also do not have these functions at four times the price!
Phottix says that the Ares has a range of up to 700 feet. I still have to put that to the test. But what I have already tested is that the system does not need to see each other - no line-of-sight needed! This is great if you are going to put your speedlites inside modifiers, another thing that beginning photographers need to learn how to use, among other things.
The only thing I don't like is that the foot of the receiver is made of plastic. I think it would make more sense if the foot is metal since it will be carrying the weight of the speedlite - it should be made of more sturdy materials. However, the receiver can be screwed to a tripod head, so, if you don't feel confident about the plastic foot, then you can definitely screw the receiver on a tripod. Oh, and another negative: the Ares does not work with the Canon Powershot G15...
I'll do a photo shoot using the Phottix Ares in the near future. Since it is summer time now, outdoor photography is not as inconvenient anymore (I need several hundred feet to test Phottix's claim, right?). I will feature the photos made in a future post. But for now, what I can say is that the Phottix Ares is a very good alternative to the more expensive radio triggers. Just imagine, for the price of one of the cheapest unit of the more popular brand, you can get the Ares transmitter and two receivers! Just imagine what else you can do with the money you can save and still get very decent photos!
So get yours here:
Gear used to make this post: