Earlier this year my favorite flash radio transmitter people updated my favorite radio transmitters for my flash with a completely new design. It was a great update for the RadioPopper Jr 2 Transmitter. It was obvious by the construction of the new transmitter and receivers that a great deal of time and thought had been put into these new transmitters. They were constructed for a lot more abuse than the first iteration which spelled good things for me because I am rough on gear. I don’t treat my gear with kid gloves. Completing the job is all that matters. I’ve smacked $2000 lenses into enough door jambs to prove that and the original Radio Popper JrXs have all visited Radio Popper for repair and I am on a first name basis with Laurent, the repair dude. The new version is very militant in its design and offers a lot of power and functionality without as many bits that can be smashed or torn off.
The things I like about the Radio Popper Jr2 transmitter:
-Four groups to control
In this version they have added another group to control on the transmitter and it surprises me how often I use all four groups. Typically I use a main light, two rimmer/hair lights and now have the option to add in a gelled background light on that fourth group to spice up some otherwise dull location.
-Many more stops of control
You can now control the output of your flash more accurately in smaller increments. When trying to dial in your light for correct exposure it has been a little frustrating at times to have such a limited amount of control when using the original JrX. The new RadioPopper Jr 2 Transmitter has 9 stops of control in either 1/3 or 1/10 increments. This degree of control has been pretty incredible especially in the 1/10 increments but it takes longer to spin the dial if you have to make large changes in your lighting output.
-Hot shoe locking ring
Yes! Finally my camera strap wont get caught on the transmitter and yank it off of the camera anymore. The new version of the Jr2 come with a rotating hotshoe lock that makes sure that the transmitter doesn’t go bouncing across the dance floor anymore.
-Back lit LCD screen
There are two components of excellent awesomeness here. First off, it has a screen that gives you useful data about what each group is doing. Instead of the dials on the original JrX, they’ve given you a screen which shows everything you’ll need to know about your flash output. I’ve added color stickers to all of my gear so that I know which group is which. The other component is that it is back lit which is absolutely necessary once it gets dark.
One of the things that I suggested to RadioPopper as an improvement to their JrX system was a kill switch that would shut off a group but not change the output for that time when you wanted to turn the group back on. I had many situations when I needed to kill a group on the JrX and I found that the only way to do that was turn it all the way down and then turn it back up when I needed it again. This was painfully annoying because I’d have to dial my light back to where I wanted it which took time, often which I did not have. The back lit buttons on the top of the Jr2 show you which channel is on, allow you to select which channel you’d like to adjust and act as a kill switch.
This allows you to save certain lighting configurations to be called up from the transmitter’s memory. Kind of cool but I never shoot anything the same way but I can see this being cool in a studio where nothing changes.
-Works with old JrX
I have many of the old JrX receivers and all of them work with the new transmitters on the first three groups. Since the fourth group is only on the new Jr2 transmitters and Reciever you won’t access to this unless you use it with the new receivers like the RadioPopper Jr2 Reciever – for Canon, the RadioPopper Jr2 Reciever – for Nikon the RadioPopper Einstein Receiver or RadioPopper Photogenic Receiver.
-USB connection for firmware updates
Pocket Wizard has had this option for a while but this is a new Feature for RadioPopper. I am looking forward to seeing it in action but there have not been an updates for any of the new gear as of the publishing of this review.
-Controls PCB Einstein 640
Wow. This is what I was waiting for since the great Pocket Wizard debacle of 2010 and 2012. RadioPopper did not make a receiver for the Paul C Buff Einstein 640 so I had to resort to using the PCB Cybersync system with the Cyber Commander. The PCB Cybersync has a lot of options; too many options unless you have a eight strobe set up and assistants to set up and carry everything for you. The Cyber Commander is an amazing piece of hardware but is somewhat clunky in its design and operation. It does not lock down on the hotshoe, has so many options that you can get lost and was all operated but a couple of joysticks on the front of the device. It was however the way to remotely control the Einstein so in a fit of passionate frustration thanks to PocketWizard I bought one of these so I could at least use the Einstein on gigs. Then came RadioPopper’s Einstein receiver, A little stick that slid into the jack on the top of the Einstein and made magic happen for me using the RadioPopper Jr2 transmitter. Out of all of the transmitter systems I have ever used this is by far the best. It gives me the most flash output control with the least amount of headaches. The PCB Einstein 640 is a great light. I’ve smashed it to the ground from 10 feet in the air and it kept on going. It is a workhorse of a flash and with the new RadioPopper Jr2 it gives me an unreal amount of control over the flash output. The only problem that I really have with the design of the Einstein is where and how the receiver is plugged in on the strobe. All receivers, the PCB Cybercync Transceiver, the PocketWizard Power MC2 Transceiver and the RadioPopper Einstein Receiver all stick straight out of the top of the strobe which can cause a lot of problems if you are moving your light from location to location through doorways. We often have use our Einstein on a monopod and constantly moving from one place to another. Being the largest and tallest of the transceivers, we snapped the antenna off of the Pocket Wizard transceiver twice before it was retired to the pile of stuff that we don’t speak of. I found a way around these problems by making a wire harness that plugged into the Einstein and then allowed me to flat mount the transceiver/receiver to the side of the flash solving the problem. It’s been a rock solid rock star since I came up with this solution.
The Jr2 Receiver has been a little troublesome. There are some major battery life issues that prevent this receiver from working like I think it should. RadioPopper says that they are going to issue a firmware update to remedy the problem but so far this receiver is not reliable enough to use in real gigs. The design is great and such a dramatic improvement over the previous version which included the receiver coupled with a Canon or Nikon RP-Cube but as of right now I continue to use the old receivers because they are rock solid and their batteries last forever. The new version eliminates the RP-Cube and the cable that connects the JrX Receiver to the Cube. It’s sleek and looks like it can take a lot more of my abuse than the old version but until there is a firmware update to address the perpetual dead battery issue. I’ll have to wait to give the RadioPopper Jr2 Reciever another go.
I don’t push the boundaries on range in any way at all. Typically I get no further that 75 feet away from the strobe furthest from my transmitter and I’ve found that all kinds of factors may or may not cause problems with even that distance. The transmitters are competing with a lot of other RF noise in the air plus they have to deal with human interference in the form of water filled bodies. For a short time I worked for an RF engineer and he made all RF sound like voodoo. I know it is to me.