Need a great performing TTL flash with transceiver built in? The Cactus RF60X may be all you want

The Cactus RF60X flash is a speedlight with a built-in radio transceiver, HSS and stroboscopic capabilities, support for four groups and delay functionality. It’s compatible with the Cactus V6 II, V6 IIs and older V6 flash triggers. Its radio operates in the crowded 2.4GHz radio bandwidth, but it has 16 channels and 999 radio-IDs to choose from to avoid interference.

The Cactus RF60X is a Chinese product, so — taking into account its feature set — it’s inexpensive, but if you think Cactus has saved on the quality of build, you’d be surprised. In fact, of the four brands of speedlights (Metz, Cactus, Hahnel, with the manual-only Lumo Pro as a reference for some tests) I have been testing lately, the Cactus comes out as second best in the consistency test and best at outputting a smooth light flash with no hot spot or banding whatsoever.

But lets’ first turn our attention to the materials and features. The Cactus RF60X has a guide number of 56 at ISO 100. Its motor zooms from 24mm to 105 mm. It has 22 power levels with flash durations from 1/1,000 to 1/45,000 sec. The Metz 64 AF-1 announces a shortest duration of 1/18,000, while the Hahnel Modus 600 RT goes up to 1/20,000. However, it’s not clear whether any of these is at t.5 or t.1.

You can operate it in Local, Master and Slave mode. Furthermore, it can function as an optical slave, has a 1W LED AF-assist light, is powered by four AA-batteries and weighs 395g. I used four eneloop Pro AA-batteries to power the RF60X for this review, but Cactus has an external power pack.

The flash has a 3.5mm jack port instead of the ubiquitous PC sync port, a micro-USB port for updating firmware and — a very useful extra I so far have only seen on the excellent, but manual-only Lumo Pro LP180 — a tripod 1/4in mount.

Except for features like HSS and stroboscope support, a good flash should in the first place be able to consistently fire at the same flash duration even when you fire it several times in a row — waiting for the batteries to catch up, of course. To test consistency, I fired each of the four flashes five times in a row, one cycle at full strength and one cycle at half strength.

The Cactus RF60X came out as second, slightly better than the LP180. Both Cactus’ RF60X and the LP180 fired 100% consistently at full strength. They only varied at half strength with 0.26% and 0.4% respectively. Four freshly charged eneloop Pro AA-cells allowed the flash to be ready for firing again at full power within two seconds.

Operating the RF60X is easy. The LCD screen is well laid out, with easy-to-use options and a clear, large white font on a black background for legibility. The RF60X can be part of or control one of four groups. It’s a full TTL flash — you can control both power level and zoom factor — and it can be used in local mode (mounted on the camera), Master and Slave mode. You can also put it in manual and two optical slave modes.

Unique features

First of all: the RF60X has a V6 II built-in, so it can be both a radio master flash and a slave. It can be remotely controlled by a V6 II, as well as a V6 IIs. If you want to have a few good flashes that you can remotely control, all for a decent price, then the Cactus is a great option. The RF60X’s radio capabilities are as good as the V6 II’s, although you have a few features less to play with.

One unique feature that you gain is that you can set your groups to alias names that make sense to you. For example, if you want, you can set Group A to “Hair” and Group B to the alias “Fill”. It makes it easier to remember what each flash does.

The RF60X has a unique cooling feature that doesn’t abruptly turn off the flash when it risks overheating. Instead, it will decrease the recycle time to let the flash cool down. Obviously, you can turn off this feature.

A Quick Flash mode lets you fire the RF60X, even though the flash capacitor is not fully charged. It’s only to be used when speed is more important than light output. There’s also the ability to have an AF-assist light in always-on mode, at a power level of your choice, and a delay timer you can set in milliseconds for second-curtain synchronisation.

Multi-flash capabilities allow you to set a repeating number of flashes at a specific frequency with a power level no higher than 1/4. You can set different groups to different multi-flashing settings.

The RF60X supports HSS and it’s fully automatic when commanded by a V6 II, but if you command the RF60X Slave by another RF60X, RF60 or V6 TX, you’ll have to set up the HSS system in “sympathy” mode. I didn’t test that feature, but it’s a 6-step operation that is clearly explained in the user guide.

Conclusion

The Cactus RF60X shows that you don’t have to spend a ton for equipment that performs well. The flash is well-built, its noise levels when it fires are about the same as what I experienced when testing the almost dead-silent Mecablitz 64 AF-1, it’s very consistent in its flash output, showing no banding or bright spot.

It has a user-friendly LCD-screen with clear, easy-to-read characters and a good radio system built-in. Its guide number is perhaps a bit low, but that’s being made up for by its low price of €169. For that price, you can buy two of them, have all the light output you need and flexibility with regards to where the light is coming from.

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