Steelevisions Blog Rotating Header Image

Tuff—New Wireless TTL Flash Trigger

Tuff TTL Wireless Flash TriggerIrish camera gear maker Hahnel asked me to test their new Tuff TTL Wireless Flash Trigger for Canon DSLR’s (a Nikon version is “coming soon.”)  I’m happy to report that it’s a solid entry into the mid-range flash trigger marketplace.

The Tuff fills a gap between the low-priced, dependable, sync-only triggers (Yongnuo, Cactus, Strato, etc,. as seen in my off-camera flash photography course), and the high-end TTL triggers (Phottix Odin, PocketWizard Flex) that provide through-the-lens metered control of multiple remote flash groups.

By omitting the groups, the $150 Tuff cuts the price in half while still providing full TTL control of unlimited remote flashes, including High Speed Sync and Second Curtain Sync.

Tuff TTL Trigger Cover

The rubber cover can be removed to change batteries.

The most unique aspect of the aptly-named Tuff is the rugged build quality.  The triggers are enclosed in a rubberized housing, and they feel like something designed for a desert tank battalion.

And unlike the pricier brands, which can be challenging to master, the Tuff triggers are trivially easy to use.  Basically turn them on, match channels, and go.   (I was almost disappointed that the instruction “manual” required only a couple of paragraphs, because I was enjoying reading instructions in real English—Hahnel is in Ireland—rather than Engrish.)

The basic stats:

  • 2.4 Ghz frequency
  • 200-meter range (claimed, I did not test that)
  • AA batteries
  • Compatible with Flash Exposure Compensation
  • High-Speed Sync and Second Curtain Sync
  • Digital Channel Matching to avoid interference
  • Unlimited number of receivers

In testing the Tuff, I worried that I would find the lack of multiple groups too limiting.  After all, when all your flashes fire in TTL mode, the camera chooses the power settings for them.  How can you control your ratios?

But I found that I could set a flash in Manual mode and set its power by hand, and the Tuff would fire it at that power.  This saves the day by effectively allowing you to create manual “groups” by hand.  I would use this, for example, to create a group of manually-locked background lights, or rim lights, while using TTL flashes as my main lights.

What you cannot do with the Tuff is adjust the power of these manual flashes from your camera position, as you can with the fancier Odin and Flex systems. Instead you have to walk over to the flash and change it.

And you cannot set ratios between your TTL flashes the way you can with the built-in Canon Wireless system, or with pricier TTL triggers.

Tuff TTL Trigger Base Stand

The rubberized base makes a great flash stand.


1) About half the price of the fancier TTL triggers that allow separate groups.

2)  Rugged construction.  It really is Tuff.

3)  Ridiculously easy to use.

4)  Solid, rubberized receivers make a great base-stand for flashes.


1) $150 for the transmitter/receiver pair is still not exactly cheap. (Additional receivers are about $100 each.)

2) No groups, and thus no TTL ratios between groups.

3) No focus assist beam on the transmitter.  The beams on your individual flashes still fire, but that’s useless if they are firing through an umbrella or from behind your subject.

This lack of a focus assist beam is a pet peeve of mine, and it’s a weakness shared by my favorite trigger, the Phottix Odin.  When some smart manufacturer adds an infrared beam to their transmitter, they will jump to the front of the pack.

4) The drawback of the convenient flat base is the lack of a hot shoe adapter for easy mounting on existing brackets.  Instead, you have to screw it onto your light stand using the standard tripod mount threads, which requires a bit of extra fiddling during setup.


I really like these triggers.  If you’re looking for a rock-solid starter set of TTL triggers, and you don’t want to splurge for the high-end group-enabled products, these will serve you well.

Of if you’re looking for a rugged product that you can throw in a camera bag or use in a sand storm without worry, then this is your trigger.

I still expect to use my Phottix Odin more often, for its ability to control Groups from the transmitter. But when I need straight-up TTL under extreme conditions I’ll throw the rugged Tuff in the bag.

Be Sociable, Share!


  1. Hi

    This is a great summary – I am always looking for an alternative to Cactus vs PocketWizard. This may fit the bill.

    Thanks, Erik

    PS Your Off Camera Flash Tutorial was a super kick start to this entire topic!

  2. Chuck Hafferman says:

    Hi Phil,

    Have you had a chance to check out the Pixel King E-TTL triggers? I saw a video review that indicated they may have the infrared beam you’re looking for!

  3. art wagner says:

    Hey Phil ,

    Like your review of hahnels new ttl triggers. Have you reviewed or tested the Pixel King ttl triggers?? They seem to be very good and reliable also, and will do groups and ratios.

  4. Chris Wray says:

    I see this Tuff trigger is for the Canon DSLR, but will they work with non-Canon flashes? (running a Vivitar DF383).

  5. Ted Newman says:

    Hi Phil, Another very informative and honest appraisal of what appears to be a great option for a mid range trigger system.

    I purchased and studied your flash course which is great!, and very recently went and searched for some wireless setups on eBay here in the UK.

    I found a listing that was for ‘One Pocket Wixard Mini TT1 and three FlexTT5’s’ (Nikon Fit) which had no bidders and a starting price of £250 (around US $350-$400) so I took a chance and placed a bid and to my amazement no-one else did! (Notice that Wizard was misspelt in the listing…I didn’t until much later!)

    They were only a few months old and one TT5 was brand new. (Total cost over £520 for them all…I was sent the original receipts)

    So the moral of all this is if someone purchases your courses, not only will they get great value content, they can possibly save a whole lot more financially further down the road!

    So thanks again for all your courses (Which I have purchased) and the information on your blog…it really is invaluable!


  6. Steve says:

    Hi Phil….so I recently bought a EOS 60d. I wouldn’t need a TUFF TTL trigger because my 60D has on built in…right?

  7. David L. says:

    Are these compatible with the Flex, OEM, or any other brands of triggers?

    I can see reason to get these, but only if it will add to my current trigger portfolio. They don’t even need to be fully functional with the other systems as long as they perform as a dumb trigger with the others.

  8. Thanks for the info, good price, but without groups and the ability to change the power from the camera I think I’ll keep looking

  9. You mentioned the flashes support high-speed sync, but what you didn’t mention was if you tested that feature or not. I’d like to find out if these will flash above 250th of a second.

  10. Ernie says:

    Do you know if either these or the Photix support the 5D III? I have a worthless, pricey set of PocketWizards for sale!!!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Google Profile