Updating the firmware on Cactus devices

I have been meaning to write this post for a few months but for one reason or other I never got round to it. However after using the RF60 speedlights and the V6 transceiver in a real-world(ish) situation over the last couple of days I decided that enough was enough I was going to update the firmware and document the process too since there was no a lot of detail out there.

You can access the Cactus firmware update software and the latest manuals at the following website: http://cactus-image.com/downloads.html. Downloading the software is as easy as clicking the appropriate link; both the flash and transceiver update software links download the same software:

Cactus-Downlaod-Page

I also thought that the situation has been made easier than before since Cactus have now created a Mac version of the updater software; currently this is at version 1.01 (the PC version is v1.13) and although it works with Mac OS X Mavericks, it does not work with Yosemite, you can read about this by clicking here. I found out the hard way by downloading the software on my Mac and then getting an error about the file being corrupt.

Fortunately, I also have access to a Windows 8.1 PC in the house too. After downloading and installing the software (simply running a single setup.exe file) seemed to work but it would never recognise that the flash gun nor the transceiver when plugged in via a USB cable. A quick read over the FAQ revealed that the badly written software had to be installed in a very specific way, you can read the FAQ here. However someone on YouTube (called “Dyeless”) has created a good video that shows you the process of installing the software visually. If you have Windows 8 I recommend that you watch the video:

So after successfully installing the software correctly I went onto getting the latest firmware onto my RF60 speed lights and the V6 Transceiver.

The Process for the v6 transceiver:
The V6 transceiver has a mini-USB port that allow you to connect them to a computer via a suitable USB (computer end) to mini-USB (V6 end) cable, when using suitable updating software you can upload various bug-fixes and new features too.

To check the firmware version of the V6 you need to press and hold down the “A” and “D” buttons and whilst holding them down then switch on the V6 in TX or RX mode. The LCD display will then show you the current firmware version that is installed. The LCD display will return to the main screen after 3 seconds.

My v6 Transceiver’s firmware version was v1.0.156 which is 10 versions behind the most recent version 1.1.007

Run the Cactus updater software, it should have an icon like this: Cactus-Icon

The software is very simple and looks like this when running, you will note the complete lack of any proper Windows conventions, I assume that the Mac version looks very similar if or when they update it to support Yosemite:
Cactus-Screen1

Make sure that you V6 transceiver is switched off and then remove the two batteries; I’m not sure why but the manual does have lots of warnings about plugging this in with the batteries connected. Remove the cover over the mini-USB port and connect this to the a mini-USB end of the USB cable to this, connect the other end to the computer.

You now need to press and hold the “menu” button on the V6 and then switch it on in Tx or Rx mode (it doesn’t matter which), the Windows computer I was using made the familiar doo-doo noise that means that the computer has detected something plugged into the computer. The Menu button can now be released; the V6 is now in firmware update mode. The status LED at the rear of the V6 blinks in red rapidly and the computer screen will now look something like this:

Cactus-Screen2

Click on the “Check for Latest Firmware” button. you will be presented with a list of firmware choices:
Cactus-Screen3

The most recent or latest version is at the top of the list. In this case it is v1.1.007 that was released on 18th December 2014; click on the “SELECT” button to the right of the date. This firmware will download to the computer, in this case it was the version suggested when the V6 was first plugged in.

Click on the “UPDATE” button to transfer the firmware update to the V6, this only takes a few seconds:
Cactus-Screen5

Once the software has been installed onto the V6 all of the LED channel lights and the display will light up, you can switch the V6 off and disconnect it. I recommend that you run the firmware check again to ensure that the latest version has indeed installed (one you have refitted the two AA batteries).

The firmware update will set the V6 back to factory defaults so you will need to change anything you set previously. For me this was the EV setting to 1/3 stops to match the OM-D and also enabling the Zoom/Power change toggle mode too.

The Process for the RF60 Speedlights:
Like the the V6 transceiver, the RF60 speedlights also have mini-USB ports too and they can use the same software to have their firmware updated.

To check the firmware version of the RF60 you need to press and hold down the “Next” button and whilst holding this down then switch on the RF60. The LCD display will then show you the current firmware version that is installed. The LCD display will return to the main screen after 3 seconds.

Both of the RF60 speed lights were only 1 version out of date, version 123 when the latest is v124

Before you can update the firmware on the RF60 speedlight, you will need to remove the 4 AA batteries first and unlike the V6 the flash unit will be recognised as soon as you connect the unit to the computer.

Assuming that the software is already running on the computer, when you connect the RF60 the screen will look similar to the one below:
Cactus-Screen7

Click the “Check for latest firmware” button and you will be presented with a list of available firmware choices for the RF60 speedlight, select the most recent which in this case is v124 dated 21st July 2014:
Cactus-Screen6

Click the “SELECT” button to download this to the computer. If this is the version you are downloading there is a discrepancy in the date on the next screen, here it shows a date of 8th December 2014? The version is however the same, i.e. V124. Click the “UPDATE” button to install the firmware onto you RF60 speedlight.

Cactus-Screen8

Once the software has been installed, the software will display this screen and the entire display on the RF60 will illuminate and it will simultaneously beep three times:
Cactus-Screen9

The firmware installation on the RF60 is now complete, unplug the speedlight, install the batteries and ensure that the firmware is now the latest version (v124), you will also need to perform the same process on any other RF60 units you may have.

Did it fix my issues?
In a word “no”! But it seems that whilst one of the RF60 speedlights is always OK the second one sometimes needs to think about any changes you make. I have found a way to make it work, but it’s more of a work-around than a proper cure. I will have to keep on eye on it and see if a firmware fix comes out for it. Unfortunately I have had the speedlight for a couple of months now and sending it back would be a pain as I’m not sure if there is a UK based place to send it to.