Review: AlienBees CyberSyncs

By: Brian
Posted on: April 7, 2010
8 Comments | Share This Post

“I bought a flash, how do I make it work?”

I’ve been asked this question over and over. It’s a great question, a question I myself was asking a little over a year ago. When it comes to off -camera lighting there are numerous ways to get those flashes to fire.

Sync Cords

The first flash I bought didn’t have a PC connection so I couldn’t use a standard sync cord. I started by using a cable I picked up at my local camera shop. The problem was that it was expensive and short. I paid $40 to move the flash two feet away from my camera, not extremely helpful. A little DIY ingenuity and some CAT-5 cable and I was able to extend that cord out another 20 feet. While helpful, it was still a pain to wire everything up.

Cheap E-Bay Flashes

The next step was to hit Ebay and find a cheap remote setup. I found and bought a set of remotes with one transmitter and two receivers. Again, I was hit with the problem of getting the receiver to talk to a flash without a pc cord connection. The solution was to buy a hotshoe adapter from FlashZebra.com. The hotshoe adapter gave me several inputs at a cheap price. If you need an adapter I highly recommend FlashZebra.com, great prices and ultra fast shipping.

Once I finally had everything I needed I was ready to roll, or so I thought. I started having problems as soon as I started using the cheap remotes. Constant misfires and shady construction reared their ugly heads from the start. I couldn’t be too close to the receiver or more than ten feet away or the remotes refused to talk to each other. One of the receivers broke and I had to open it up and re-solder one of the connections.

I battled on with those remotes until I was shooting family portraits for a friend one afternoon and found myself continually apologizing for equipment failure. I felt like a hack and looked like I had no idea what I was doing. While they may have been a great way to learn how to use off camera lighting I knew there was no way I could rely on them in a real world situation. It was time to move on…

When it was time to upgrade the logical thing to do was go out and buy some PocketWizard wireless remotes. After all, the PocketWizards are the industry right? I’ve tried PocketWizards once or twice and knew they worked, plus knew they were a solid product. I was using two strobes at this point and the problem came with the price tag, no way I could afford to plunk down $600. Time to look for alternatives.

AlienBees CyberSyncs

After a few weeks of research I finally decided on trying the AlienBees CyberSync Remotes. There wasn’t a lot of information out there concerning the remotes, but I owned a AlienBees B400 strobe unit and was impressed with the quality of their products at an affordable price.

I picked up one CyberSync CST Transmitter and two CyberSync CSRT Battery-Powered Trigger Receiver. The total cost for my two light setup, including shipping, was a mere $209, a third of the cost of the PocketWizards. I had my new remotes in under a week and was ready to start using them.

The difference of the CyberSync remotes compared to the cheap E-bay remotes were night and day. The construction was solid, made out of thick plastic, and the receivers came with three different cables so there was no need for another trip to the camera shop. Once plugged in, the remotes fire every single time, no matter how close I am or how far I’ve gone. I’ve never been too far away and have not had a single misfire other than the time the battery in the transmitter died.

The receiver itself sets up on the hotshoe of the camera and is small and simple to operate, just dial in the channel. The receivers is just as simple, plug them into the flash unit, set the channel and off you go. The one problem I have with the receivers is that there is no good way to mount them to the flash or light stand. They just hang there by the little cable, swinging in the wind. I solved this problem by picking up some Velcro. Now I stick the unit directly on top of my flash units.

8 Responses to “Review: AlienBees CyberSyncs”

  1. Brian Says:

    Thanks for the edit Brad, teamwork at it’s best!

    I plan on getting out there to document some stats. See how far away I can get and really put the remotes to some tests. I can say they fire through glass and brick without a problem.

    The only thing I can’t do with them, or havn’t figured out is how to fire the camera using one of the transceivers. I know the Pocket Wizards can do it and it’s a handy feature I wish these had.

  2. Ken Savage Says:

    Nice B. I was just looking at the B400 and their remote triggers flash setup. I got the Nikon SB600 flash and I don’t think it’s compatible without some adapters or something. There’s no where to plug in a cord that I can see. http://www.nikonusa.com/Find-Your-Nikon/ProductDetail.page?pid=4802

    What about taking that fancy shmancy camera of yours and shoot a video of how to setup a AlienBees CyberSync setup?

    Oh and btw is it CyberSync or CyberCync? ;)

  3. Nicole Says:

    UGH! I want to love this stuff. I really do. And I was one of those people who pestered Brian for advice. After an evening of confusion and a lot of advice, I got it all set up, messed around and was excited about the prospect of learning to strobe. Then I got caught up in moving and exam taking and breaking my camera and buying a new one. Months later, I realize that I’ve sold the flash for which I bought the set up. I’ve got a borrowed Nikon flash in the next room… I guess I’ve gotta see if I’ve got the right connector doohickeys and dive in again. I WILL learn this stuff.

  4. C-Towner Says:

    Off camera flash is on my list of things to get into, and getting something other than a legacy flash is what I need to do next. Someday, I hope! This is a great article for a lower cost alternative, which is great to hear, since pocket wizards are universally regarded to be the “only” foolproof solution.

  5. Martin Says:

    Great review.
    When I was in Nashville(home of Paul Buff- Alien Bees) for a seminar I borrowed Cybersyncs and they work great on my Nikon.I highly recommend them. I bought a Radiopopper JrX trigger and receiver recently and they work great as well for a price similar to the Cybersyncs. In all honesty, I rarely find a situation where the pop-up flash on my Nikon fails to trigger my remotes. I prefer the CLS setup as I can adjust flash power directly from the camera. I do keep the Radiopoppers handy just in case but so far I haven’t needed them. By the way, setting the Nikon flashes to SU-4 mode makes triggering them even easier.
    Both Radiopopper and Pocket Wizard have models that will allow power adjustment at the camera but they are way too expensive in my mind. I’m sticking with CLS triggering until prices get better or Nikon develops their own radio system.
    Great review.

  6. abe Says:

    I feel like I just read a Chinese scroll…

    but the info is certainly something I will come back to when i have enough cash to spend on something extra :)

    thanks!

  7. Martin Says:

    Ken, the SB-600 lacks the PC/miniphone port you need to connect to a remote trigger. The SB800 and SB900 both have a port. I think some older Nikon flashes have a port. My workaround for the SB600 is to set the flash to SU-4 mode which means any flash it sees will trigger it. I use my pop-up flash or a remote SB800/SB900 to trigger it. Just be sure the receiver spot on the SB600 can see some light from the other flash.

  8. RobCzn Says:

    Well for my 2c worth, I bought some of those Yongnuo RF-602′s that have been the big talk lately on the Strobist forums (friend brought them back from the UK), and I can say they work great, still need to test the range, but for indoor use they work really well, and at ~£30 for a pair (with lots of discount options for 1 trigger and multiple receivers) they are a bargain. so far not one single misfire.
    Get them on Amazon

    The SU-4 mode really is amazing, but of very limited use outdoors without line of sight, works like a charm indoors though. Saving up for an SB-900 since no-one here (ZA) is letting go of their 800′s second hand to upgrade. (and I really can’t afford one right now)

    I find it interesting that so many of the WAC readers are interested in off camera flash – perhaps you could do more articles / step-by-step tutorials for us.

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