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*Cactus LV5 LASER trigger Review Setup Guide How To Instructions
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The new Cactus LV5 is a combined radio and laser trigger designed to make taking photos of slow or fast moving events easy.
There are 2 parts to the system : a laser emitter and a laser detector. The laser emitter has 1000Hz and 500Hz modes which allows adjusting the LV5's sensitivity to movement. The detector has a built in Cactus V5 radio transmitter making it easy to set up the system even if the camera and event are quite some distance apart.
I was lucky enough to be involved with the development of the LV5 and was able to take some shots using a beta test set. I now also have a production set which incorporates several new features that Cactus were able to add thanks to the suggestions of the beta test group.
I think the best way to describe the features of the LV5 is to explain a couple of shots I took with the units. I can see "how do I take this shot with the LV5" being a common question, so I've described two very common scenarios below.
Shot 1 - Jumping kitten
Cactus designers intend the LV5 to be useful to wildlife photographers. To simulate this use I took some photos of my kitten jumping. You can never have too many cat shots!
Basic setup :
LV5 set up so that the laser beam (shown in red) would only be broken when the cat jumped. Set to send a shutter signal on channel 16 - shown in green. V5 connected to the camera's shutter port using a shutter cable. V5 set to receive mode on channel 16.
This is all that is needed to get the camera to fire when the cat jumps. If the shot was set up outside on a sunny day I would have got some great shots. When the cat breaks the beam the LV5 sends a signal on channel 16 and the camera takes a shot.
However I took the shots in the evening, being dark I needed flash to capture the cat jumping. Without flash the cat was just a blur due to the long shutter speed needed in low light. On camera flash wasn't giving me the lighting I wanted so I decided to use off camera flash.
Flash setup :
V5 on camera's hotshoe on channel 1 - shown in blue.
Flash attached to a flash attached to a large softbox to backlight cat, triggered by V5 set to channel 1
Bare speedlight on low power for a little fill in front, triggered by V5 set to channel 1
Now when the kitten breaks the laser beam the camera is triggered to take a photo. The flashes are triggered by the camera when the shutter is open via 2nd set of V5 triggers on a different channel.
If I had set up all the triggers on the same channel the flashes and camera would have been activated simultaneously which does not result in the desired image. The flash is electronic so it fires instantly, whereas the camera has a mechanical shutter that takes a fraction of a second to open. By the time the shutter is open the flash will have finished firing which results in a black frame. For this reason its very important to separate camera and flash triggering. The camera is triggered via a V5 receiver plugged into shutter port on the side of the camera, this unit should not be mounted on the camera's hotshoe. The flashes are triggered via a V5 transmitter mounted on the camera's hotshoe. The camera only sends a fire signal to its hotshoe when the shutter is fully open which ensures the correct timing.
I generally use channels 1-5 for triggering flashes as the V5s have some handy multi channel grouping features on those channels. The camera must not be on any of those channels. I find it easiest to use channel 16 for triggering the camera but any channel from 6-16 would be fine.
Shot 2 - Water balloon bursting
I have always wanted to do some splash shots, and the LV5 is designed to make these easy, so I bought myself a pack of water balloons. I tried a few different setups but in the end dropping the balloon onto a stand with a pin taped on top worked well. The LV5's laser beam was aimed right at the bottom of the pin.
I tried setting this up with just the camera during the day but the camera simply doesn't respond quickly enough to get the shot. Shutter lag makes the shot almost impossible to achieve - by the time the shutter is open you only see a couple of tiny drops at the edge of the frame - not the shot I wanted! So again I waited until night and used flash.
This time I set the camera up to take a 3 second long exposure. This gave me plenty of time to press the shutter button then drop the balloon and got the LED christmas lights in the background the brightness that I wanted. It would also be possible to use a set of V5s to trigger the camera and then drop the balloon but as the camera was close to the drop zone this wasn't needed.
The LV5 was set to transmit on channel 1. This fired a flash connected to a V5 set to receive on channel 1. Pretty easy really. The timing was consistent but each balloon split in different ways creating different effects. I've included a few of my favourites.
The LV5 can be used stand alone - it has a 3.5mm socket that can be used to connect it directly to a camera or flash via the appropriate cable. 3.5mm and PC cables are included, camera cables are sold separately as each camera needs a different shaped connector. Connecting the LV5 via cable is often quite limiting as often the ideal position for the camera or flash is not immediately next to the LV5 detector. The built in V5 transmitter makes triggering remote devices really easy. To the best of my knowledge the LV5 is the only trigger to incorporate both laser and radio triggering. This does make setup very easy.
Freeze and Delay.
The production models also have 2 ways of adjusting the timing of the signal called freeze and Delay. These were added at the request of the beta test group.
Freeze makes the LV5s send only one signal for a user selected time. This is useful for shots such as the balloon burst shot where its important that only one signal is sent, otherwise sometimes the flash may fire a second time causing unwanted multiple exposures.
Delay adds a pause before the first signal is sent. These times are shorter to allow the timing of the shot to be adjusted. I had set a delay when taking the water balloon shots I would have caught the splash a fraction of a second later so the splash would have looked even bigger as the water would have had more time to spread out.
Single and Multi shot modes
The LV5 has 2 triggering modes, designed to allow the user to take one shot per event or to take multiple shots for as long as the event continues to happen.
Single shot mode is designed so that the LV5 only sends one short fire signal per detected event. This is intended for use with a camera also set to single shot mode. Freeze and delay can be used to control the timing of the signal. This mode is useful when the intention is to capture the start of an event only such as water splashes, jumps, explosions etc etc.
Multi shot mode is designed so that the LV5 sends a continuous fire signal as long as there is an event detected. With the camera set to burst mode multiple shots are taken as long as an event is detected. This is great for occasions when the photographer wants to capture images as the event progresses e.g. wildlife photography, dance and many other sequences
Break or Escape
In my examples I've set up the LV5 to trigger when an object breaks the laser beam. The LV5 can also be set to escape mode by holding the power button in for 5 seconds. In this mode the LV5 won't send a fire signal until the laser is detected i.e the object blocking the beam is removed. This could be used to see what animal is eating the food or who opens a door. When the food is removed or door opened a shot is taken.
Each LV5 unit can take 4x AAA batteries, but only needs two AAAs to run. These should be put in either both on the left or both on the right. The only time you need to use four AAA batteries is when using the LV5 for extended periods e.g. for wildlife shots where the LV5 may be turned on for several days. I have not yet had to change the alkaline batteries included with the LV5 set. LV5s can be run on Alkaline or NiMH batteries. Rudy came up with the clever idea of putting one battery in each side of the LV5 for storage to ensure the unit isn't accidentally turned on in your camera bag.
Typical run times with fresh NiMH or Alkaline batteries :
LV5 emitter : 35-40 hours with 2 AAAs, 70-80 hours with 4 AAAs
LV5 receiver : trap mode : 75-85 hours with 2 AAAs, 150-175 hours with 4AAA
LV5 receiver : escape mode : 50-60 hours with 2 AAAs, 100-175 hours with 4AAAs
The LV5 will work with :
- Cactus V5 radio triggers
- Cactus V5 shutter release cables
- Canon, Nikon, Olympus, Pentax, Samsung Sony, Konica Minolta & Panasonic cameras via the appropriate shutter release cables
- V6 radio triggers - due late 2013
-Laser : Cactus claim 20m outdoors in bright sun and 150m in a dark environment. I had the LV5s working well 25m outdoors in full sun with the hood fitted. At typical distances of only a few meters the hood wasn't needed. Cactus suggest using a black card to help locate the laser at large distances in bright sun. The lid of the box works well used in an inverted L shape to shade the vertical section.
Radio trigger : Cactus claim 0.3 - 100m. I have previously tested the V5s and found they will sync correctly at 275m, so I'm sure the LV5 will easily trigger at 100m and more.
- LV5 emitter - sends the laser beam at 500 or 1000Hz- LV5 detector with built in Cactus V5 transmitter
- Sun shade - helps if the detector is used in full sun
- 4x AAA batteries
- PC and 3.5mm cables
- Poster of images taken with the V5
The Cactus LV5 is unique in that it combines laser triggering and radio triggers into one handy package. This allows photographers to create images that would otherwise have needed much more complex setups quite simply. Its also great to see that Cactus are including new features while maintaining compatibility with their existing range of products.
Stands shown are NOT included with the Cactus LV5 - however they are supplied with Cactus V5s.
A big thank you to Brian of brianhurseyphotography.com for allowing us to use his images!
This product was added to our catalog on Saturday 16 February, 2013.
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