Bowens' Pulsar Radio Trigger System
Work Wirelessly...On Location And In The Studio

Photos © 2004, Joe Farace, All Rights Reserved

OK, I'll be the first one to admit that I'm a klutz. I like to work with long lenses (an 85mm lens is short to me) and am constantly backing up into whatever boyfriend, husband, or hanger-on that models feel obligated to drag to shoots. When working on location and in the studio, I'm the first to trip over a sync cord, knock down a light stand, or back up into whatever person is brave enough to stand behind me when I shoot. Worse yet, I'm often pulling over monolights connected with too-short sync cords.

Sync cords are a menace when working in the studio. On location? Fuggedaboutit. Lately, I've been using Bowens' Pulsar Radio Triggers--small, lightweight wireless devices that can control a wide range of photographic equipment including studio flashes, cameras, and light meters. Pulsars are compact transmitter/receivers that slip onto your hot shoe to control your lighting systems. They have a locking wheel that's just a bit too small in diameter and if screwed on snugly you might have trouble removing the Pulsar later. If Bowens made the locking wheel a little larger or put rubber-gripper surfaces on it, the Pulsar would be the perfect photographic accessory--now it's merely wonderful and darn near indispensable.

The Wireless Connection
There are all kind of connections and switches on the Pulsars, which at first glance may intimidate the less technically inclined, but each control has a simple, logical function, and the briefest of get acquainted sessions will make you a pro.

The three-position switch on the left-hand side reads Rx-Tx-Off. This lets you set the device as a receiver or transmitter. It is most important to remember to turn it off when you're finished--more on why later. On top, there's a blinking LED that lets you know if "this thing is on," a test button, and a selector for up to four channels.

In transmitter mode, Pulsars will trigger all units that are set as receivers. If you set it to a specific channel, it will trigger any Pulsar set to that same channel or all. Want to check lighting ratios? Attach up to four Pulsars in receiver mode, with one set to each channel, and plug your light meter into the transmitter and meter each flash--one at a time--by changing the selected channel. If you have a large studio with more than one photographer working and don't want to fire each other's flashes, the Studio selection switch lets you assign six different discrete channels.

When used as a receiver, Bowens includes a bracket that attaches to the shoe connector and then wraps around your light head or light stand with a clever elastic band. A PC sync outlet is found on the Pulsar's back and you can plug the (included) sync cord from the unit to any flash that has a mini plug, such as Photogenic's StudioMax II or other. If you have a flash such as Adorama's Flashpoint II that accepts a 1/4" phone jack, pick up a mini-phone adapter at RadioShack. I used the #274-367 Stereo Plug adapter, but for lighting use I don't think it matters.

Two Pulsar transmitter/receivers easily fit inside a Norazza Ape Case designed for digital cameras. The front pocket contains the mounting cord used to attach the receiver module to a strobe head or light stand, while the mesh pocket on the right holds the sync cord that goes from the receiver to the flash. And there's still another pocket on the other side!