· PIXEL – X800C Speedlite Review – UPDATED
UPDATE – May 2015 – The Pixel X800C speedlites are now available from around $157, and Pixel have made some solid improvements in range and consistency with the production firmware now provided.
The King Pro’s interface has also had a major improvement, with the adjustment of groups now possible through the rear interface buttons alone (as many people had asked for).
Radio range between X800C flash units was fairly limited in beta units, though this has improved greatly (just a little less now than the Canon RT flash system).
The King Pro triggers have exceptional range though, and using the King Pro as transmitter to the X800C flashes gives a decent range advantage over most other current TTL radio systems.
The King Pro interface also provides the ability to mix ETTL and Remote Manual groups, which the X800C (at the time of writing this) do not provide.
With X800C flash mounted on-camera I do still see a couple of discrepancies in ETTL exposures compared to the Canon 600EX-RT. When switching to Master mode the TTL exposures drop more than a stop more than the Canon flash does.
And with the flash bounced from the ceiling, and lense zoom length beyond 35mm, again there is an exposure drop compared to the Canon flash.
Exposure compensation works as it should though, so these issues can be compensated for until Pixel possibly provides further refinements.
Also any remote manual or auto flash zoom function does not currently appear to be enabled in the X800C, even when using the King Pro as transmitter.
Otherwise the Pixel radio flash system is looking to provide an interesting option now, particularly if range is a priority, and a transmitter unit on cameras is desirable.
The new X800C ETTL speedlights for Canon are the first flash units available from Pixel HK with 2.4GHz radio transceiver built inside. Providing both master and slave modes via radio, as well as Canon Optic Wireless transmission.
And the X800C are compatible with existing Pixel King Pro ETTL and HSS enabled transceivers (with firmware version V105 onward).
The X800C are full featured ETTL flashes with HSS (High Speed Sync) enabled.
Like Pixels recent and first speedlite the Mago, the X800C take some styling cues from the current Canon 600EX-RT, though again they do still retain their own unique design.
Instead of being a larger flash as the Mago is, Pixel have managed to actually make the X800C a little more compact than the Canon 600EX-RT this time. While still retaining close to a full power flash with 2.4GHz radio transceivers built inside.
Please note though – the X800C are not directly compatible with Canon’s RT radio system.
GN 60m (ISO 100 / 200mm)
HSS to 1/8000th
Flash Mode – ETTL /M / Multi
1st Curtain Sync / 2nd Curtain Sync
FEC / FEB – 1/3rd Increments (±3 stops)
Manual Flash – 1/128 – 1/1 output control (1/3rd increments)
20-200mm Auto and Manual Flash Zoom
Pixel 2.4GHz RF Radio Master and Slave Modes
Master and Slave Modes for Canon Optic Wireless System
S1 & S2 Basic Optic Slave Modes
Full Power Recycle – From 2.5 Seconds
Flash Groups – 3, A/B/C
Radio Channels – 4
Optic Channels – 4
Supports Canon Flash Control Menus
LCD Back Light Can be Kept On
AF Assist Light
Full 360 Degree Swivel and Tilt Head (With Locking Button)
Large Clear High Resolution Dot Matrix LCD Screen
Canon Like Interface
Fast Clamping Metal Foot with Locking Pin
Long Life Flash Tube
External Battery Port
USB Port for Firmware Updates
PC Sync Port
Canon RF style Master Interface (ETTL and Manual Groups Can Not Be Mixed)
AF Assist Light is Good, Though Not Great
Proprietary External HV Power Pack Input Socket
Limited Custom Functions
Limited Compatibility with TTL Triggers From Other Brands
No Remote Manual Function On Non Canon Cameras
The X800C are Pixel HK’s first 2.4GHz radio enabled flash units available. And second speedlite model overall after the recent non radio enabled Mago.
And for those that may not be aware, Pixel HK were the first Chinese company to engineer TTL radio triggers for the Canon, Nikon, and Sony systems, a number of years ago now.
So the X800C have been a long time coming, and many King and King Pro TTL trigger owners have been patiently awaiting the arrival of a radio flash to complement their system.
The X800C provide a relatively inexpensive on-camera ETTL and HSS enabled flash, as well as an off-camera flash system, where the master flash on camera can control a number of slave flashes via the built in radio system.
The X800C speedlites reviewed here
are pre production units with original F1S 001 firmware.
Update – now production firmware from F4B_002 onward.
So any issues mentioned here may be (or have been) resolved in future firmware updates.
The physical build quality of the X800C is overall quite nice. They have a nice look and solid feel to them, with a clear high resolution LCD interface. The head tilt and swivel is quite smooth.
Apart from the foot and main dial discussed below, a slight capacitor whining noise is the only indication that these may not be more expensive flashes than they actually are. (This may be refined in production units as seen previously with the Mago).
The X800C are a little more compact than the Canon 600EX-RT, and around 10mm shorter in overall length.
Looking at the direct comparison below you can see the extra 10mm in the height of the Canon 600EX-RT body just above the LCD screen.
Other than that the two flash units share similar proportions. And the X800C conveniently have the same size and shape of flash head as the 600EX-RT, so that modifiers will be compatible between the two flashes.
The slightly more compact size of the X800C will definitely be a bonus to the many owners of the smaller Digital Rebel style cameras. Where the larger Mago are can be a little top heavy on these smaller cameras.
TILT & SWIVEL LOCK
One feature many third party flashes have been leaving out is a locking button for the flash tilt and swivel.
Some have now added a lock for the tilt motion only, though the X800C actually locks for both tilt and swivel with the one button, like the original Canon flash.
The X800C locking button appears to work fairy well, though it does require more concentration to press the button in to disengage the lock, than with the 600EX-RT.
Some people tend to prefer the speed and simplicity of no locking button at all, while others do find a lock important when mounting heavy modifiers like the original Lightsphere’s etc.
Being for tilt motion as well though, the important thing is this lock does help to remove stress on the flash foot when swiveling the flash head, as the 600EX-RT lock does as well.
Like the Mago the X800C also feature a level lock clamping foot similar in style to the Canon 600EX-RT.
And the pre-production X800C does initially feel a lot more secure when clamped into the cameras hotshoe than the Mago. Though unfortunately if you do place enough pressure on the flash it will still tilt forward and backward in the hotshoe, potentially losing contact with the cameras TTL connections.
UPDATE – Pixel have improve this connection in the production flashes, though there is still some flex in the flash foot.
The TTL contact pins on the X800C foot are also rounded. Unlike the very pointed pins Canon use, which helps to reduce the possibility of any dust or oil from preventing a good connection with the cameras hotshoe contacts.
The rubber seal around the foot will also pull off much more easily than the Canon 600EX-RT, though this is common with many third party flashes.
Pixel have consciously made the main control dial on the X800C and Mago larger and easier to turn than the Canon 600EX-RT’s dial.
And after some use I have come to really prefer the ease of use of the Pixel dial, and Pixel are surely on the right track here trying to make some improvement over the small and stiff canon dial.
Though unfortunately the X800C dial does still show signs of skipping adjustments as the Mago dial did, and Pixel may need to improve this if they haven’t done already.
The X800C’s power switch ON and LOCK positions are also opposite to the Canon flash, which can be a minor annoyance if you’re used to the Canon switches.
RADIO SLAVE MODES
The X800C’s radio master interface currently follows the interface options in the same way as the Canon Optic Wireless system.
This means that ETTL and Manual flash groups must be selected separately, and ETTL and Manual groups can not be mixed together, for on or off camera flash use. Like the Canon RT system, or even the Pixel King Pro transmitter allows.
So this may be one of the main limitations to the system for event style photographers who commonly like to use a TTL flash on-camera, and remote manual flashes to help light up a room etc.
When using the Pixel King Pro as transmitter to the X800C flashes, their built in interface allows mixing ETTL and Manual groups.
Though for flash on-camera use, stacking a master flash on top of an extra transmitter unit does defeat the purpose a little of having a flash with master unit built in.
Otherwise the King Pro provide a nice transmitter option for the X800C flashes, and improves their range to some degree as well (more on range further bellow).
BOUNCE FLASH – AUTO ZOOM
One other small point that should be noted (and this is common to most third party Chinese flash units possibly other than the Phottix Mitros) is that the X800C when mounted on-camera retains auto zoom settings to follow the camera lens, even when the flash head is pointed upwards in the bounce position.
Where Canon flashes go straight to the 50mm zoom setting when the flash head is tilted, as that is much more efficient than wider zoom lengths when bouncing the flash.
So with the X800C you would need to manually change back and forth from auto to a manual zoom setting when using direct or bounced flash (which can be quite tedious).
The downside to Canon’s implementation is that any remote flash zoom changes when using off-camera ETTL radio triggers are lost when the flashes head is tilted. So ideally this mode also needs an option to be turned off for off-camera use.
In general the X800C appear to work as they should otherwise, as an on camera TTL and HSS enabled flash, or as a very simple to use and relatively inexpensive off camera flash system as well.
The Mago have a good simple interface, with larger buttons and main dial than the Canon 600EX-RT, making them a little easier to access and manipulate.
One possible issue that has carried over from the Mago is the relatively loud beep sound which goes off with every single click of the main dial, or button press on the flash interface. The beep can be turned off, though this unfortunately disables the useful recycle ready indicator beep as well.
Otherwise the Mago’s interface is very simple, and really quite fast and easy to use for a Canon style interface. Unlike Canon though there is no need to dig through menus as all function options are displayed directly on the LCD screen.
The high resolution Dot Matrix LCD screen used in the X800C has very fine pixels, even compared to the Canon 600EX-RT. So it displays very crisp with detailed icons.
Though the icons are quite small, and the detail can take some concentration to see what is selected at times.
Like the Mago the X800C’s LCD screen does have a slight mirror like appearance again, though the viewing angle appears to be better than the Mago (which tends to lacks contrast when viewed straight on).
In comparison with the Canon 600EX-RT the X800C’s back light is brighter, and the resolution higher. The Canon LCD still provides more contrast though.
Mounted on camera the 600EX-RT displays the flash range scale along the base, which the X800C does not provide. ISO and aperture settings from the camera are displayed though.
Again the X800C also provides a handy battery level indicator which the Canon flash does not have.
Pressing the mode button simply scrolls through the 3 main flash modes, TTL, Manual, and Multi (or stroboscopic mode).
The X800C’s custom functions are all conveniently displayed on the LCD screen in the right column. So there is no need to dig through menus to find what options are available.
Holding the Function button scrolls through the options: Sound Prompt, LCD Back Light, AF Assist, and Sleep Mode.
Keeping it simple, these are the only custom functions available with the Mago.
Pixel have also now provided an option to leave the LCD screen on permanently (where the Mago only allowed 10 seconds as the maximum option).
Pressing the Sync button quickly scrolls through: HSS, Second Curtain, and First Curtain Sync.
Again Pixel have listened to feedback from the Mago, removing the first curtain icon. So no icon displayed means first curtain mode, which makes it much easier to see when second curtain is actually selected.
MASTER & SLAVE MODES
Holding the first *RMOT button simply scrolls through to Master and Slave modes.
Once in Master or Slave mode you can then choose between Radio or Canon Optic Wireless Master transmission.
This is selected in the left menu column, which can be selected and adjusted in a similar way to the custom functions detailed above.
Finding the basic S1 and S2 slave modes is the only thing that is a bit tricky. Once in the “SLAVE A MODE NORM” as shown right above, you then need to press the right MODE button quickly and adjust the main dial to move to S1 or S2.
So for occasional use the user manual will likely come out to find the S2 and S2 modes. Where they could have been added to either of the higher master slave selections where they would easily be found.
MASTER MANUAL MODE
As mentioned in the overview, the X800C’s radio master interface currently follows the interface options in the same way as the Canon Optic Wireless system.
This means that ETTL and Manual flash groups must be selected separately, and ETTL and Manual groups can not be mixed together, for on or off camera flash use (like the Canon RT system, or even the Pixel King Pro transmitters allow).
Selecting A:BC mode allows three manual groups to be adjusted independently. The on-camera flash if set to fire will be in group A.
The only option then to turn these manual groups ON and OFF is by selecting the group options: ALL, A:B, or A:BC, to be set as ON.
MASTER MANUAL ETTL
Again the X800C’s radio master interface currently follows the Canon Optic Wireless systems options.
And again a flash on camera set to fire will be in group A.
The group options are ALL, A:B ratio, and A:BC, where group C is an independent group to be used as a background light (and should not be aimed at the subject).
When using the Pixel King Pro as transmitter to the X800C flashes though, their built in interface does allow mixing ETTL and Manual groups as they usually provide.
The X800C generally appear to be around 1/3 of a stop less powerful than the Canon 600EX-RT when used directly, or when bounced off the ceiling etc the same settings.
And this is quite common for comparable flashes like the YongNuo flashes as well.
Though I did find when used direct at around the 35 to 50mm zoom length, that the X800C provides around 2/3 of a stop less light in the frame as seen below.
This would simply be due to the way the flash is spreading the light at these zoom lengths. The flash zoom patterns are shown further below in the review.
MANUAL POWER LEVELS
Accuracy between the X800C manual power levels are quite good.
Even the Canon flash shows some variation here, with 1.3 stops between 1/2 and full power.
These results were recorded with the flashes mounted in a softbox to avoid any hot spots, and in exactly the same position and settings.
The X800C’s ETTL exposures appear to be quite good, though they may still be tweaked further with later firmware updates.
Its not uncommon for third party ETTL flashes to have a base TTL exposure varying up to around a stop from the Canon flashes (depending on camera model used), though the X800C results appear to be quite similar to the 600EX-RT.
In the case of the Canon 7D used below, this camera generally requires around +0.7 FEC (Flash Exposure Compensation) to match a light metered manual exposure. Though with the particular wine bottle scene below 600EX-RT actually required a little more FEC at +1.0, while the X800C required +0.7 as usual.
In general though both flashes are providing similar base TTL exposures when used on camera. And unlike the early Mago tested, the X800C appear to be much more consistent over a number of TTL exposures of the same scene.
ETTL OFF CAMERA
Moving the flash off camera its common to require a little more FEC, depending on the subject and scene. And the 600EX-RT required an extra +0.3 FEC over the on camera flash exposure above, when used with same scene again bellow. Which is quite normal.
The X800C though required a full extra stop more FEC than the on-camera ETTL exposure above.
This would normally be an issue, though we know this discrepancy is more likely due a bug the X800C are experiencing. Where they drop in TTL exposure more that the Canon flash as soon as any master mode is enabled on the master flash.
So taking this into account, the off camera ETTL exposures should also be quite similar if that bug is resolved .
The X800C’s Flash Exposure Compensation adjustments appear to be working as they should be, and quite consistent.
Again the X800C’s base exposure is +0.3 above the 600EX-RT in the same scene bellow. Other than that they are consistent through the FEC adjustments.
The X800C’s full power recycle time averages from around 2.5 seconds using a good set of Eneloop batteries. Compared to the Canon 600EX-RT at around 2.6 seconds with the same batteries.
So the X800C have a slight advantage over the Canon flash, though there is not a lot in it.
The X800C recycle times were also virtually identical to the YongNuo YN600EX-RT.
The X800C do also provide a High Voltage Port for external battery packs, if faster recycle times are needed.
The X800C’s heat protection mode provides a heat sensor for the battery compartment and flash tube. So this does not operate off a simple and consistent count of pops as some other flash units do.
From near cold, and set to the 50mm flash zoom setting, and full power, the X800C allowed –
32 pops – Then Battery Temperature Warning break for aprox 10 seconds
8 pops – Battery Temp Warning aprox 10 seconds
6 pops – Battery Temp Warning aprox 25 minutes (yes minutes!)
At the same time the X800C did those first 46 shots (with two 10 second breaks included) the Canon 600EX-RT managed 72 pops –
72 pops – Then Heat Temp Warning break for aprox 30 seconds
9 pops – Heat Temp Warning aprox 30 seconds
8 pops – Heat Temp Warning aprox 1 minute
With the flash zoom set to the widest 20mm setting (where the flash tube is right up against the flashes front lense), and full power, the X800C’s allowed –
14 pops – Then a Lamp Temperature Warning break for aprox 1 minute
14 pops – Then a Lamp Temp Warning aprox 2 minutes
14 pops – Then a Battery Temp Warning aprox 10 minutes +
Where the 600EX-RT set to 20 mm zoom went straight to –
48 pops – Before the first Heat Temp Warning for aprox 30 seconds
9 pops – Heat Temp Warning aprox 30 seconds
8 pops – Heat Temp Warning aprox 1 minute
So the Canon flash does have a significant advantage here if you need to push the flash hard.
Pixel have made some improvements here over the Mago’s early firmware for example, by not shutting the flash down completely from the first heat warning.
Though the Canon flash still provides more a of a a serious option for event photographers by allowing the flash to keep firing at least to some degree at a slower rate. This all really depends on how demanding your needs are with flash power though.
As with most speedlites there is nothing particularly notable about the X800C’s flash durations. Most speedlites, being IGBT flashes, have a fairly long flash duration at full power, and increasingly very short durations at lower power levels.
Due to the long duration at full power, most speedlites lose around 0.3 stops of light from around 1/125 to 1/160 shutter speed, moving up to a 1/250 maximum x-sync speed. The Canon 600EX-RT results are shown below, and the X800C results are quite similar to this.
COLOR & CONSISTENCY
In regular flash mode the X800C show a slightly wider color variation through the power range than the Canon 600EX-RT.
And the tint also changes slightly from more magenta (-3) at full power, to more green (+4) at 1/32 power.
In HSS mode though the X800C do show slightly more of a color shift than I have seen with other comparable flash options available.
Though as noted below the 600EX-RT and Canon flashes produce a color shift in HSS mode as well, and this generally goes mostly unnoticed in regular HSS images where ambient light is mixed in the image.
The samples bellow show the largest color variations recorded, and were shot at 6000K with a Canon 7D and 24-105mm Lens. White balance values were acquired using the WB eyedropper in Adobe Lightroom.
Below is a direct comparison of the light patters produced by the X800C and the Canon 600EX-RT at each flash zoom length.
These are all shot at the same 17mm lens zoom length on a Canon 7D, so that the full light patterns can be seen.
RADIO RANGE AND RELIABILITY
UPDATE – From production firmware F4B_002 onward, the radio range and consistency between X800C as master and slave has improved considerably from the early firmware versions.
Radio range is now just a little less than the Canon 600EX-RT, or common radio triggers like the YongNuo YN-622C. And consistency is very good now within this range.
Pixel have now stated the range as 50 meters +, which they can reach quite easily line of sight.
Where the Pixel system have a good range advantage though over most other TTL radio systems is using the Pixel King Pro as transmitter unit.
The King Pro triggers have exceptional range used on their own (around double that of most other TTL triggers), so combined with the X800C they still provide a decent advantage over the Canon RT or YN-622C etc.
AF ASSIST LIGHT
For the X800C Pixel have moved from the very unique AF light provided with the Mago, to a regular lazer style AF pattern commonly used by YongNuo and others.
Again this is a single AF light for all focus points, unlike the Canon 600EX-RT, which use a more sophisticated second light pattern when outer AF points are selected.
The issue that often comes up with these laser pattern AF lights is that they are either too larger or too small of a pattern to suit everyone’s needs.
If using the cameras center, or a single focus point, its easy for that AF point to fall between any of the lines when using anything but wider angle lenses, particularly with crop frame cameras.
A wider pattern can possibly cover more focus points, though any single AF point will fall between the lined even easier.
And if the patter is too small, then its possible to it may even risk missing the center AF point completely at closer distance to the subject (and wider zoom lengths) where the pattern tends to be projected higher.
So the recent trend appears to be making the pattern smaller again so that single AF points will not fall between any pattern. And Pixel Appear to have made the X800C’s AF light pattern around 80% of the size of the light found in the common YN-622C TTL triggers.
Strangely though YongNuo’s YN600EX-RT flashes have a slightly larger pattern than the X800C, though they still appear to lock focus more often than the X800C. Either flash can start to struggle though past around 35mm lens zoom length on a crop camera with center focus point used.
Moving the flash around in the camera hotshoe can sometimes help to align some pattern with the AF point though.
Below is a previous comparison showing the similar YN-622C AF light, and Canon’s dual AF light system.
These samples where taken at 1.8m (or 6 feet) from the subject, and at the zoom lengths as noted, on a 7D crop sensor camera.
For on-camera flash use, practicality of the AF assist light is likely one of the biggest differentiating features between the less expensive third party flash options, and the original Canon and Nikon etc flashes.
These AF lights are slowly becoming more refined and practical, though Canon do still have a good advantage here at this stage.
EXTERNAL HV BATTERY PORT
The X800C provide a high voltage external battery port for connecting external battery packs. Which can speed up flash recycle times considerably, and provide extra pops without having to change batteries regularly.
Though one catch here is that Pixel have made the X800C’s socket to suit their own new proprietary plug.
Ironically, as we have seen previously with the Mago, this will still fit the original Canon style plug if you are prepared to cut the lower of the 2 notches out of the X800C’s socket (with a hobby knife etc). Modifying the socket would risk voiding your warranty though.
Pixel do already have one of the most popular inexpensive AA packs for Canon and Nikon etc.
UPDATE – the latest Pixel TD-381 battery packs for Canon will also work with the X800C and Mago. Just check with the seller to be sure they have the latest packs which will fit the X800C and Mago sockets.
PC SYN PORT
The X800C provide a standard screw lock PC sync port for firing the flash via sync cord or other radio triggers. (As usual a more reliable 3.5mm miniphone socket would be preferred).
A micro USB port allows for firmware updates to the flash.
Sharing the same dust cover, the USB port would be exposed to dust etc while an external battery pack was being used (though easily fixed with gaffer tape if needed).
The X800C share a similar battery layout to the Canon 600EX-RT, which is always handy.
The battery door does not have the same sliding release button as the Canon flash has, though appears to work fine as it.
There is also no rubber weather seal inside the battery compartment as with the 600EX-RT.
PIXEL RADIO TRIGGER COMPATIBILITY
The X800C should also be compatible with existing original Pixel King transceivers, once the appropriate firmware is available.
The King Pro provide 3 remote groups, which can be a mixture of ETTL and Remote Manual groups, as well as a pass through hotshoe for mounting an on-camera flash (in either ETTL or Manual).
ETTL, HSS, Second Curtain Sync, are all supported. (Remote flash zoom is not currently functioning at the time of writing this).
THIRD PARTY TTL RADIO TRIGGER COMPATIBILITY
Having their own radio trigger system built in third party TTL trigger compatibility does not appear to be a priority for Pixel at this stage. Again this could change with future firmware.
The YongNuo YN-622C do appear to work with the X800C to some degree when used with ETTL and HSS. Though the manual side is not working, so there is no remote manual power control possible at this stage.
As with the YN-622C, the YNE3-RX appear to work with ETTL and HSS. Though the manual power levels do not work. Sometimes the X800C actually shows 1/32 manual power level on the LCD screen, but no power level changes are possible.
The Phottix Odin do not fire the X800C at all. Though the cameras aperture and ISO are displayed on the remote X800C.
SINGLE FIRING PIN CAMERAS
With the rise in popularity of alternate brand mirrorless cameras, its becoming important for flash and trigger systems to have at least some function when used with single firing pin or alternate brand cameras as well.
Mounted on a single pin camera hotshoe the X800C does work fine as a fully manual on-camera flash.
As a radio master unit though the X800C will not fire the slave flashes when they are mounted on an unfamiliar (non canon TTL) hotshoe.
This is a little strange, and hopefully something Pixel will update. Because the master flash, when held in hand, will a change the manual power levels of the slave flashes, and fire them via the test fire button.
So Pixel should hopefully be able to make this remote manual function work when mounted on alternate or single firing pin camera hotshoes as well.
As with most current speedlites, the X800C come with a plastic base stand and a nice padded case.
And the X800C even provide a nicely fitting (and quite shapely) diffuser cap.
The relatively large base stand and diffuser cap will not all fit into the padded case at once though unfortunately.
I found without the base stand the flash with diffuser will “just” fit into the case though.
Its difficult to get the flash in and out of the case with the base stand in there as well, so I found its easiest just to leave the stand out anyway.
The X800C case now has a velcro belt strap similar to the Canon 600EX-RT case.
Though a nice extra touch is the ability to mount the case on a belt or strap parallel or perpendicular to the belt or strap.
At the time of writing this review the emerging RF radio flash system from Shanny would offer the closest alternative to Pixels X800C and King Pro RF system.
YongNuo do not actually have a flash with YN-622C radio transceivers built inside at this stage. If (or more likely when) that happens, the YongNuo RF system would be stiff competition. The separate YN-622C transceivers and YN-568EX II flash would still have to be considered a popular alternative at this stage though.
Where all the RF style systems from Pixel, YongNuo, Shanny, and Phottix are not directly compatible with Canons radio system, or each others / any others.