The killer app for the FlexTT5, MiniTT1, and AC3 is what Pocketwizard calls the ControlTL system, which gives users the speed and flexibility of Nikon’s CLS and i-TTL systems with the reliability of radio transmission. In other words, the holy grail of wireless flash.
Support These Reviews
The new Pocketwizard MiniTT1, Pocketwizard FlexTT5, and Pocketwizard AC3 Zone Controller units tested in this review was provided on loan by B&H Photo Video in NYC. If you find this review helpful, please consider buying your next photo gear purchase from B&H or any of our other affiliate links.
The Pocketwizard ControlTL System
With the ControlTL system, Pocketwizard gives users the ability to use TTL flash metering, enable high speed sync, and change manual power on up to three groups of remote flashes.
Inside The Boxes
Both the MiniTT1 and FlexTT5 ship in a minimal kit. Both units include the appropriate batteries to get running, as well as a USB cord for firmware updates and a 3-year warranty card. If anything, the 3-year warranty may be enough of an incentive for some photographers to go for the Pocketwizard standard – and premium – over cheaper third-party options.
Design – FlexTT5
The Pocketwizard FlexTT5 is no small unit, and features a footprint roughly twice that of the MiniTT1. This is not a small transceiver that you can simply squeeze into your bag. Moreover, carrying a large set of these units is going to require dedicated space in your portable lighting kit.
For users shooting with lighting modifiers that have dedicated brackets, the larger size of the Pocketwizard FlexTT5 may pose a problem. This is not only due to the size of the transceivers, but also because of the off-center tripod mount.
Unlike less “intelligent” flash triggers, the brains of the FlexTT5 require that flashes connect via the transceiver’s hotshoe, so this should be a consideration with the gear one uses.
The battery compartment for the FlexTT5 opens on the side of the unit and features a sliding lock. The FlexTT5 uses two AA batteries, which may be reason enough for some photographers to pay more for these transceivers over the MiniTT1 – even with the larger size.
Design – MiniTT1
Interface & Controls
Overall, the inputs and controls on the FlexTT5 and MiniTT1 units are simple and pretty straightforward. Both unites feature channel selectors, which also include the off switch, as well as Test/Learn buttons. The FlexTT5 unit also features group selectors for setting different flash groups (A, B, C)
The switches on both units have a very short travel between settings. Due to the short distances, a soft touch works best for selecting the middle options in the 3-setting sliders. Those who don’t know their own strength may find themselves “overshooting” the middle detents. For photographers with existing PocketWizard transceivers or PocketWizard-compatible equipment like the Sekonic L-358 light meter, it may be best to configure the C1 channel setting on the FlexTT5 or MiniTT1 to your most used channel – doing so is a simple affair using the included software.
Since its release, the Canon ControlTL firmware has been updated numerous times to improve performance and compatibility, and now sits at version 5.000. The Nikon version has already been updated to 2.100, and Pocketwizard recommends checking new units to ensure they’re updated to the very latest firmware.
Downloads for the firmware are free and available on the Pocketwizard website:
In addition, the FlexTT5 features two 3.5mm jacks for flash sync and shutter release capabilities. As mentioned previously, the units only ship with USB cords – all other accessory cables must be purchased separately.
Using the ControlTL System
The heart of the ControlTL system is the big FlexTT5 unit. These key devices are the crucial link that fool your Nikon speedlights into thinking they’re attached to a camera, and thus unlock features previously unattainable with other wireless flash triggers.
When using the ControlTL system for Nikon, all remote flashes should be set to TTL FP mode. For users used to using Nikon CLS, where individual flashes are set as dedicated remotes, this is slightly counter intuitive, but just trust Pocketwizard. It just works.
Additionally, all flash grouping is established on the FlexTT5 unit, where remotes can be set as groups A, B, or C, rather than on the speedlights themselves. For anyone familiar with Nikon CLS, you should feel right at home.
Aside from one FlexTT5 for each remote flash, either a FlexTT5 or MiniTT1 is necessary to act as the primary transmitter on top of your DSLR, as well as a commander flash. For the Nikon CLS system, this means either the Nikon SB-900, Nikon SB-700, or Nikon SU-800.
Lock on your CLS commander of choice to the Pocketwizard transmitter on the hotshoe of your camera, and you’re ready to go.
From there, the beauty of the ControlTL system is that Nikon CLS and i-TTL work exactly as they normally do, controlled via the built-in menus/interface of your Nikon commander, but now with the range and reliability of the standard 344MHz Pocketwizard radio standard.
Aside from using Nikon’s commander-capable units, Pocketwizard has also introduced the AC3 Zone Controller, which is arguably the most impressive part of the Control TL system.
Design – AC3 Zone Controller
The PocketWizard AC3 Zone Controller is very small, roughly half the size of the already compact MiniTT1. The tiny form factor of the AC3 is in part thanks to the fact that it has no battery – drawing power directly from the FlexTT5 of MiniTT1 it’s connected to.
Remote Power Control
This small piece of equipment comes with a very big promise. The AC3 Zone Controller gives photographers on-camera power control over three groups of remote flashes in either manual or i-TTL mode.
At the time of writing, the AC3 Zone Controller can remotely adjust the output of Nikon and Canon TTL speedlights attached to a FlexTT5 as well as studio strobes from Elinchrom and Paul C. Buff (separate adapter required).
Using the AC3 Zone Controller
The controls on the AC3 Zone Controller are extremely straightforward. The unit features switches that control three groups of remote flashes, with detents for off, manual, and automatic (TTL). The AC3 also has three numbered dials that control the relative output of each flash group.
When set to Manual mode (M) and attached to either a FlexTT5 or MiniTT1, the AC3 Zone Controller is capable of adjusting the output of remote speedlights over a 6 stop range, from 1/64 power up to 1/1 in roughly one-third stop increments.When set to Automatic mode (A) the power dials of the AC3 Zone Controller set flash exposure compensation relative to the i-TTL exposure of the corresponding group. Simply choose the operating mode of your remote groups, dial in the relative power level, and start shooting.
In our testing, the AC3 Zone Controller demonstrated reliable power control and triggering of remote speedlights even when mixed with other non-TTL strobes.
TTL Flash Metering
Aside from using a commander unit with the ControlTL, it’s also possible to use TTL metering with remote flashes using the FlexTT5 transceivers by setting them to TTL-FP.
One of the coolest aspects about this feature is that it’s still possible to dial in flash exposure compensation from your Nikon DSLR.
While this flash compensation is less useful for multiple flashes, it makes it still possible to control a 6-stop range of exposure compensation with TTL flashes without the need for a dedicated commander unit. This feature is especially useful for one-light setups where TTL flash metering is still preferred, but may need to be fine-tuned.
Standard Wireless Triggering
While the ControlTL system and its TTL compatibility is what makes these new Pocketwizards for Nikon notable over competing wireless flash triggers, the FlexTT5 and MiniTT1 units can be used as conventional triggers for manual flashes as well. For this non-TTL triggering, it’s possible to use a PC-sync cord, which gives you more flexibility for accommodating the slightly awkward size of the FlexTT5 transceivers.
Compatibility & Legacy Use
In our testing, the FlexTT5 and MiniTT1 were also able to trigger a 1000WS Dynalite pack with built-in PocketWizard receiver with rock solid reliability. While most third-party, budget manufacturers seem to change their wireless protocols with every new generation, one beautiful thing about Pocketwizards is that you can use the TT5 transceivers and TT1 transmitter with any Pocketwizard running on the 344MHz FCC band.
Build quality across the ControlTL system is very good. FlexTT5, MiniTT1, and AC3 Zone Controller feel solid in the hand and leave little to be desired in terms of materials or finish. On the whole, the build quality of the ControlTL line feels significantly better than that of PocketWizard’s legacy transceivers.
High Speed Sync
Aside from the benefits of wireless TTL and CLS control, one other notable feature of the ControlTL system is the capability for high speed sync without significant loss of flash power. With Nikon flashes, this means the freedom to sync and trigger flashes over the standard x-sync of 1/250.
In testing, the Pocketwizard FlexTT5 and MiniTT1, the units successfully ramped up to cleanly sync at a staggering 1/8000 – a full 5-stops above the standard sync speed of the Nikon D3. For anyone interested in overpowering daylight or freezing motion, your options for Nikon speedlights just got better.
The new Pocketwizards for Nikon have been a long time coming, with many delays. Still, what they promise – the speed and control of Nikon CLS and TTL with the reliability and freedom of wireless control – is the holy grail of small flash photography.
While Radiopopper has had TTL units that piggybacked onto Nikon’s IR CLS system out for years, the Pocketwizard ControlTL system feels like a much more complete and reliable system. After all, no one really wants velcro in their wireless flash chain as a point of failure.
For the CLS addicts and the control freaks who love Nikon’s wireless flexibility but want the rock-solid reliability of the Pocketwizard brand, the new Pocketwizard MiniTT1, FlexTT5 and AC3 Zone Controller units are a revelation. They just work.
Now that they’ve arrived, we here at FlashRAW must say that they deliver. At a price. Not a metaphorical price, but retail prices that are 50% to 75% of the Nikon brand flashes – the Nikon SB-700 and Nikon SB-900 – with which they’re designed to work so well. The premium price of the new ControlTL units is essentially the only caveat here.
Aside from the bulk of the FlexTT5 units, the best part about this Pocketwizard system is that it practically fades away to total transparency, especially when using the tried and true Nikon SB-900 as the commander unit. You get all the CLS goodness you know and love, but now thinking about line-of-sight and bouncing the IR signal is a thing of the past.
All in all, the new ControlTL system is the most flexible set of wireless triggers to date from Pocketwizard. With high-speed sync, TTL, and the ability to wirelessly control the power of remote flashes with the ease of Nikon’s own great CLS system, the MiniTT1, AC3 Zone Controller and FlexTT5 units are must-haves for the dedicated small flash shooter who wants to maximize his/her Nikon speedlights. You just gotta pay to play.
Where To Buy – Recommended Retailers
Buying photography gear? We recommend the following retailers:
Purchases through these affiliate links help support FlashRAW.