Saturday, February 20, 2010


I shoot with Alien Bee's in my home studio.  For me, they work perfectly.  I've learned to work with their limitations, and honestly, I really like them.  I could afford more expensive lights, but my Bee's have been so good to me I don't give buying different lights a second thought.

With that being said, for Christmas my wife picked up a CyberCommander for me.  This was a great gift, she's such a wonderful companion.

This unit gives you the ability to remotely control your lights wirelessly.  It includes a light meter which also measures light temperature, a flash trigger, and is fully configurable for all the lights offered by Paul C. Buff

The unit runs on two AAA batteries and I've found that the Lithium Ion's typically give better service life.  I get about a month out of a set of batteries with steady use.

The display is bright and of surprisingly good visual quality.  The system is complex and the manual is fairly well written, although I found I had to read things a couple of times before it really sunk in.

The CyberCommander comes with a micro SD card for saving your light configurations.  You can configure each light on the system by telling it which type of light it is then it allows you to set the modeling light ratio so that it matches the power output of the light.

When you're shooting with the system you can, in real-time, make adjustments quickly and easily to each light in the system either individually or as a group.  You may also trigger each light individually and meter it, or you can meter the entire group.

I found that after playing with the CyberCommander for a few days the controls become quick and easy to use.  But I do see a few areas for improvement.

The Cons:
 The unit is made of moderate quality plastic.  It only costs $179 so it's not made of exotic alloys unfortunately.  The LCD display is also protected by plastic, which is pretty easy to scratch.

The neck of the unit where it mounts to the hotshoe seems very flimsy and would appear to be easily broken.  It snaps into different positions from being vertical to angling back at about a 45 degree angle .  It's too frail for my liking and a good jolt would likely cause it to break.

The unit does not lock into the hotshoe mount.  It just slides in and honestly, it isn't all that secure.  I spoke with their technical support staff and they recommend that you actually not use the CyberCommander as the trigger for the lights and keep it in your pocket vs. mounting it to the hotshoe.  This means you would have to use CyberSync CST to trigger your lights.  This is the method I'm currently using.

Finally, there's no on-off switch.  The unit simply goes to sleep after a couple of seconds of inactivity.  If you keep this in your camera back it's easy for movement to keep waking the CyberCommander up.  In no time you'll find the batteries are dead and in need of replacement.

All things considered I really do like the CyberCommander and would buy it again.  I do look forward to future improvements which correct some of the shortcomings of the current system.  I would gladly pay $300 for an improved model made of higher quality materials.   But as it stands the system is extremely useful and honestly, I can't imagine studio life without it now.

1 comment:

  1. I wonder if the flimsy neck is meant to be that way as a way to make for cheaper repairs . . .ala hot shoe flash units . . . ie IF it's going to break, control where it does as that's the cheapest part/way to repair it.

    Nice blog Tim, keep it up.