Cactus V5 Duo, with included stands, cables, and batteries
Cactus V5 Duo (top)
After five years of shooting with the
Cactus V4 system, and loving
it, I wanted a few more triggers. I made the choice to upgrade to the V5 Duo purely for battery
considerations. The V4 transmitter uses a non-standard battery type
(A23), which doesn’t come in
rechargeables and can’t be found everywhere. The V5 system uses
AAA batteries, which are
the second-most common rechargeable battery and can be bought almost anywhere.
As my readers know, I spent years migrating
to off-camera flash as my primary lighting method and now use it almost exclusively when
shooting indoors. (And sometimes outdoors.) Aside from the battery issue, the Cactus V4 set has
worked perfectly for me, so the V5 set seemed like the sensible option for me. I bought two sets
— each box includes two transceivers, so I have four as of this writing.
An example of what I can easily achieve with off-camera flash, three in this case
Cactus V5 Duo (bottom)
The V5 Duo set differs from the V4 set in one fundamental way, besides using more common
batteries: the V4 set includes one transmitter
and one receiver, while in the V5 set, both units are “tranceivers”, which means each
can act as a transmitter (“Tx”) or a receiver (“Rx”). This
means each Tx/Rx unit has a hot foot on bottom (see image at right) and a hot shoe on
top (see image above).
Like most budget-friendly radio flash triggers, these are not built sturdily. I imagine one good
drop from eye level to a hard surface would crack the flimsy plastic shell or dislodge something
internally, though I’m not willing to test my assumption. But they will stand up to normal
use — attaching and removing from cameras, speedlights, light stands, etc., traveling in a
camera bag, being turned on/off repeatedly, and replacing batteries occasionally.
A V5 is also larger than a V4, as seen in the comparison images below.
V5 Duos at left and right; V4 receiver and transmitter in the middle.
V5 Duos at top; V4 transmitter and receiver at bottom
V5 Duo on its stand, holding the V4 reciever (middle) and transmitter (top)
A few users have reported that the battery compartment door doesn’t always stay completly
closed, resulting in a non-working trigger. I haven’t had that issue yet; perhaps Cactus
corrected it since the early batches.
V5 battery tray, partially opened, with two AAA batteries
Channel-switching knob, with my left thumbnail for scale
I do have a complaint about how small the channel-switching knob is — see image at right.
That’s my left thumbnail in the image, next to the knob, which is just about microscopic
in size. Fortunately, I will likely never need to change channels.
The on/off switch (see image below) is larger, and requires a choice between Tx and Rx —
whether you want the unit to act as a transmitter or receiver. The one you place on the camera’s
hot shoe should be set to “Tx”, and the unit attached to the speedlights should be set
The Tx/Off/Rx switch on the V5
Just like the V4 receiver, the V5 units have a 1/4”-20 female thread on bottom, for attaching
to light stands or any male thread. In the V4, the thread was in the middle of the cold shoe, and
there was no locking knob. You can see in the image below that the design improved.
The bottom of the V4 (left) and the V5 (right)
All the Cactus units come with 3.5mm (1/8-inch) jacks, to connect to flashes via standard stereo
cables — it’s the same size jack you’ll find on a pair of headphones or to
plug in a set of speakers to your computer. This can come in handy to use extra flashes —
each receiver can fire a flash on the hot shoe and via a cable. The V5 that sits
atop your camera as a transmitter can fire not only the flashes on the receivers, but also one
in its own hot shoe and via the cable port.
The 1/8” (3.5mm) jacks on the V4 transmitter, V4 receiver, and a V5 Duo
So far, the only real downside I’ve experienced with the V5 setup (besides the expected
fragility of such an inexpensive product) is the minimum range, something I hadn’t
expected, and don’t remember experiencing with the V4. When I set up a family portrait
recently, I had one fill flash very near the camera, maybe six inches to the left, and it
wouldn’t fire via the V5 transceiver. I eventually switched that flash to optical slave
mode and it worked. Later, I read the V5 manual, and it said there is a minimum distance of
one foot, and possibly up to one meter, at which the triggers might not work. I don’t see
this being a problem very often, but it is something I will have to keep in mind when working in
close quarters. (Of course, I could always fire it via a cable if I’m going to be that close.
The whole point of wireless triggers is to get distance.)
Like the V4, the V5 system came with the necessary batteries, and two very short starter cables. It
also came with an adapter to use for the larger jacks on studio strobes.
So far, I am very happy with my purchase of the V5 Duo sets. They seem like an improvement over the
V4 in several ways — slightly sturdier, a more standardized battery size, and the included plastic
stands. And perhaps best of all, I can still use the V4 system, since the V5 has a hot shoe on top with
“pass-through” signal. I’ve tested this several times with no issues.
(Note: I do not receive any compensation for mentioning any company or its products in this