Last week I received a package containing 3 shiny new Phottix Atlas transceiver kits. I have been extremely excited about these things ever since I first heard about them here. I can say that my initial impression is that they are pretty sweet little units. The biggest selling point, for me, was that they are compatible with the industry standard Pocket Wizard triggers. In fact, the phottix units bear a striking resemblance to the pocket wizard form factor. This essentially makes them future-proof, as one of the benefits to the Pocket Wizard system has been their dedication to making backwards compatability. Where the Pocket Wizard Plus II's cost about $170, the Atlas' ring up at $112 shipped while offering essentially the same functionality as the Plus II's. I have owned a bunch of other "knockoff" budget triggers in the past, and while they were much cheaper then the Pocket Wizards, there were serious trade offs in range and reliability. The last of these cheap triggers were the YN-602's. The YN-602's were pretty reliable and a set of 4 receivers and a transmitter only runs about $110, but there were a few issues that kept them out of the highest rating club. For one, they used these nasty little proprietary cables that often came unplugged and were not especially durable. If one of these cables broke, it would take 2-3 weeks to have another shipped from China. Yes, I did keep a few spares around, but it was still a pain in the butt when a cable broke. The other major problem is that the receivers used a pair of AAA's, and the transmitters use the hard-to-come-by and expensive CR2's. This means that, in addition to carrying a bunch of AA's for the flashes, I now had to carry several sets of AAA's and CR2's and their respective chargers. It also means that in the event of an emergency, it is both difficult and expensive to find replacements locally. The last issue that I have with the YN-602's is that the system uses separate transmitters and receivers. This meant that I had to carry backups of both. When you add it all up, the cost of the entire system approaches the PW's or the Atlas' in terms of both money and space. While I don't currently have the cash to purchase a full set of PW's the fact that I can start with 3 Atlas' and add PW's as I go is very appealing.
The Atlas' units are solidly built, featuring a metal hotshoe and an injection molded plastic housing. They use AA batteries and are capable of using standard 3.5mm "headphone" cables to connect to flashes. Since several of my flashes already use a 3.5mm jack for sync, this is a no-brainer feature that more triggers should use. And since I use 3.5mm cables for hard sync backup, it adds further flexibility to my sync system.
I have so far only used the triggers for close range work, product and portraits, but several others who have tested them have found results equal to or better than the PW's. When I get the chance to test 'em further I will post the results here.