Recently, I was asked to do a product review on new Quantum equipment for Studio Photography magazine. I accepted, and a week later a big box arrived at my door. It contained several T5D-R Qflash units, a transmitter, receivers for the FreeXwire with new capabilities, two Qnexus IR units, the latest D13w-R QTTL adapter for Canon EOS cameras, and the new Turbo SC compact battery.
About 14 years ago, I purchased my first set of Quantum "1" batteries to power my Canon 540 Speedlites. As I became involved in ballroom dancing in Arizona, I moved from prime lenses to the newer Canon zooms and finally made the move to EOS auto focus, an absolute necessity to capture the dancers' movement and lines.
My dance event business started to explode, growing from one major ballroom event to almost 40 events in three years. To handle larger events, I purchased two Quantum Turbo batteries to reduce the recycle times on my strobes. I ended up with five Turbos, as I covered events such as the Ohio Star Ball in Columbus, Ohio, the largest ballroom event in the U.S., where I generally take more than 45,000 images in a six-day period.
When we switched to digital capture, I was in desperate shape until I was introduced to Quantum's Qflash. I purchased a Qflash T4D and my flash exposure and durability problems disappeared. I've been a diehard Qflash user ever since. I own three of them.
One of the big advantages of the Qflash line, besides its ruggedness, auto exposure accuracy, and compatibility with many camera systems, is that the flash tube is user-replaceable. Instead of sending it off to the repair center for a few weeks, you just have to pull out the old flash tube and insert a new one, with virtually no down time. Instead of $130 per repair, you spend about $75 for a new flash tube. In four years of extreme use, I have yet to blow out a Qflash flash tube. With its accurate auto fill feature, I have been able to resurrect my original Canon EOS 1Ds and put it to use with the Qflash as a local flash for main light indoors or fill outdoors.
I have used both radio and IR units in the past for camera and flash sync, with good results. One major advantage of these new Quantum units is that they work with TTL with or without a pre-flash. Most sync sets cannot handle the pre-flash.
They are not what I would call smart systems. The Quantum units definitely are. A unit can not only handle the pre-flash, but it will also pass the camera's aperture to the remote receivers whenever it is changed.
I took the set to the Emerald Ball ballroom competition in Los Angeles to test the equipment. This event has a very large dance floor with a large number of competitors and spectators moving about, so getting around the ballroom to make setting changes to a remote unit is difficult.
The first night I set up the FreeXwire system with a local Qflash and two remote Qflash units powered by Turbo batteries and mounted on light stands. This system can be set to any of eight noninterfering channels and four remote zones. I was also able to change the lighting ratio for each remote separately and turn each one on or off when needed.
The on/off control is done from the front of the FW9T transmitter; the ratio is controlled from the panel of the local (master) Qflash. The FW7Q receivers attach directly to the side of a 4D or 5D and require no batteries—a neat setup—and the FW9T can also be powered from the local Qflash via an FW31 cord.
The next evening, I replaced the FW7Q receivers with the Qnexus receivers. Qnexus units attach to a Qflash in the same way, but the Qnexus requires either a Canon or Nikon flash as a local (master) controller. I had to rent a Canon flash, since I no longer own one, to perform this test. I was impressed by the amount of control the master flash units have over the remotes. You just have to make sure nothing blocks your view of the Qnexus receiver while you're working.
The new compact Turbo battery is so small and light that you hardly know you are wearing it as you work. Since I don't own a Canon flash, my choice will be the FreeXwire system, which I'll make into a very compact and portable three-head system for remote location work. The Qflash units are light, rugged, and powerful. All three can be stored in a small case with three 2X2 Turbo batteries and a set of light stands, umbrellas, and other light modifiers. I only send my Qflash units back to Quantum for the required upgrades.
The new Quantum Sync systems are fantastic and simple to use. Be sure to read the instruction manuals thoroughly for all of the above mentioned items to determine if your existing equipment requires an upgrade to take full advantage of the new features. If you are not sure about equipment upgrades, the tech support department at Quantum will be happy to assist you.
One item I would love to see from Quantum in the future is a ring light mounted on a cord like the remote flash head and be QTTL-capable. This would be a location photographer's dream, particularly if it is able to operate in QTTL mode. It would allow a photographer to move about during a photo shoot and save the time and effort of metering the ring light whenever he or she moves closer to or farther away from the subject.