Location flash: Premium kits\
T HE SLEEPY WORLD of flash has been
rudely awakened. A delegation from
China has arrived unexpectedly,
bringing innovative new products
with big power, battery mobility, and a stack
of 'IGBT' features that make location flash
photography easier and better – and more
affordable too. Tut-tut. This is not good
news for some older members of the club,
but it's great news for us.
Insulated Gate Bipolar Transistor (IGBT) is
the technology that controls flash output,
makes auto-TTL exposure control possible,
brings High-Speed Sync (HSS) and also very
short flash durations for freezing movement.
Previously, only low-power flashguns could
do those things. Lithium-ion batteries deliver
Test: RICHARD HOPKINS
the juice, with fast recycling and hundreds of
flashes per charge, while a small on-camera
master unit controls multiple heads easily and
reliably over distance by radio.
Some brands offer a full range of products
from flashguns to studio heads to location
units, that can be mixed and managed from
a common master controller. Compared to
just a few years ago, this is flash nirvana.
What was previously very difficult and a
costly pain in the backside, has become
almost a walk in the park.
What's exciting from a creative point of
view is being freed from mains power. You're
no longer tied to a plug socket so the great
Gear
outdoors becomes the most amazing al
fresco studio. Environmental portraits can be
given studio-quality lighting, sports and
action subjects are controlled and captured
with HSS, changing conditions are tamed
with auto-TTL metering and remote power
control. Seriously, if you've not yet dipped a
toe into the invigorating waters of new-age
flash, you're really missing out.
In the September 2017 issue, we looked at
five battery-powered units under £700:
Pixapro PIKA200 (identical to the Godox
AD200), Pixapro Hybrid360 (Godox AD360),
Pixapro CITI600 TTL (Godox AD600), Interfit
S1, and iLUX Summit 600C II. They all scored
well, with the modular PIKA200 and
high-spec CITI600 taking Best Buy awards.
February 2018 Digital SLR Photography 103
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Gear/ Location flash: Premium kits
This month, prices range from £700 to
£1,600 and, broadly speaking, more money
means more power. Shooting outdoors
usually needs much more wattage than in
the studio, if only because daylight can be
very bright and that sets the baseline for
exposure. To make best use of the flash it
needs to at least match, and preferably
over-power the ambient light level. That's
when the quality from a good softbox begins
to shine through, and produces those
moody dark skies behind. As a rough rule of
thumb, it takes around 400Ws to do the job
well, though generally the more power you
have, the more options and control are
available in bright sun.
14
12
13
11
10
9
5
4
6
15
16
3
1
2
4
17
6
7
1
8
5
2
3
HOW WE DID THE TESTS
Watt-seconds (Ws) is the amount of energy
stored in the capacitors and is only a rough
guide to flash brightness, so true light output
was measured in a custom rig – two
softboxes joined face to face, with the flash
fired at one end, funnelled down through five
diffusion panels to eliminate hotspots, and
metered at the other (above). This provides a
level playing field for accurate exposure
comparisons with all types of flash unit.
Brightness is expressed as an f/number plus
decimal, at ISO 100. For example, f/16 +0.5 is
half way between f/16 and f/22. Test figures
are similar to the kind of exposures you'd get
with a medium-sized 80-100cm doublediffuser softbox or white umbrella, at 1.0m
distance. Modelling lamps were measured in
the same way, with brightness given in
Exposure Values (one EV is one stop).
High-Speed Sync (HSS) can't be measured
with a standard flashmeter, and effective
exposure changes slightly according to the
camera model's individual shutter
characteristics, among other things, so
exposures with different cameras could vary
by half a stop or more. A Canon EOS 7D was
used to photograph the test rig calibrated to
mid-grey, and brightness is given in EV. As
above, exposures are similar to a mediumsized softbox. For reference, the Sunny 16
Rule puts bright midday sun at EV 14.7.
Flash durations are difficult to compare
accurately to real shutter speeds, as the flash
pulse doesn't switch on and off instantly.
The industry uses two reference standards
to simulate actual shutter speeds, known as
't.5' and 't.1' flash durations, measured on an
Key features: Flash unit
1) Bare-bulb flash tube: Radiates in all directions for
even spread of light inside a softbox or beauty dish.
2) S-type modifier mount: Also known as Bowens fit.
Hundreds of different light modifiers available.
3) LED modelling lamp: Very small and efficient. The
best ones put out enough light for use in studios.
4) LCD panel: Shows mode status and settings. This
one looks exactly like a flashgun, while others follow
conventional studioflash designs.
5) Control panel: Controls all settings. With a
dedicated radio trigger fitted on the camera offering
the same options, there's often no need to use this.
6) Umbrella shaft: Runs as close to the flash tube as
possible for best positioning and has a locking knob.
7) Tilting handle: Large and easy to grasp. These heads
are quite heavy and you need a firm grip.
8) Stand mount: With the universal 5/8in fitting.
9) Modern batteries: Lithium-ion, good for hundreds
of full-power flashes with fast recycle times.
10) Battery charge indicator: Tells you how much
power is left. Not known for great accuracy.
oscilloscope. Basically, t.5 is the time the flash
pulse stays above 50% of peak brightness, and
is notoriously optimistic. Whereas t.1 is the
time above 10% of peak brightness and is
much more realistic, though still not truly
accurate with all types of flash unit.
Recycle time is how long the flash unit
takes to recharge to 100%. This is often
slightly longer than the flash-ready beeper
indicates. Colour accuracy at different power
settings was assessed with a Macbeth Colour
11) Charging socket: Use along with charger supplied.
Some can be used while still attached to the unit.
12) Slave sensors: Used for optical triggering.
13) USB data port: Used when updating firmware.
14) Sync port: Standard 3.5mm fitting can be used
with any manual-only trigger or hard-wire sync cable.
15) Vents: Helps keep the unit cool. May be fan-assisted.
16) Modifier release catch: Releases attachment.
17) Tilt locking handle: Some adjust freely, while
others adjust in more secure notched increments.
Key features: Flash trigger
1) LCD panel: Shows group flash settings.
2) Controls: Selector buttons and scroll wheel.
3) Switches: For power on/off and AF-assist light.
4) Accessory hotshoe: With signal pass-through.
5) Hotshoe mount: With locking collar.
6) Status LED: Indicates whether the trigger is ready to
fire, or receiving, either with a solid or flashing light.
Battery compartment (base): For two AA batteries.
Red LED AF-assist light (front): Aids AF in low light.
USB data port and co-axial sync socket (side).
Checker, and sections from the neutral
mid-grey patch are shown in each review,
alongside a calibrated neutral patch for
comparison. This gives an accurate visual
reference that is easier to assess than metered
colour temperature figures. Exposure
accuracy in auto-TTL mode isn't included in
this test as it's not really a flash function:
exposure is metered and set by the camera
and the flash simply responds to instructions.
With that covered, let's get started…
104 Digital SLR Photography February 2018
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15/12/2017 12:46
Location flash: Premium kits \
Gear
Phottix Indra 360 TTL
SPECIFICATIONS
Price: £700
Trigger: Phottix Odin II transmitter/controller
£160 extra (Canon, Nikon, Sony)
Power: 360Ws (IGBT-regulated)
Light output (ISO 100): Tested max power:
f/16 +0.9 (90cm softbox at 1m, ISO 100)
Recycle time: Tested 3.2secs to 100% charge.
1.5secs with mains adapter
Battery capacity: Approx 300 max power flashes,
4000mAh lithium battery
Flash durations (t.1): Tested max power: 1/450sec,
1/4 power: 1/2330sec, 1/16th power: 1/6420sec,
1/64th power: 1/11025sec
Colour: Claimed 5500K +/-200
Auto-TTL control: Yes
High-Speed Sync: Tested max power EV14.3:
(90cm softbox at 1m, ISO 100)
Second-curtain sync: Yes
Strobo multi-flash: Yes
Remote control: Integral radio receiver,
optical slave, sync port
Modelling lamp: 4.5W LED, tested max power:
EV 4.6 (90cm softbox at 1m, ISO 100)
Fan cooled: Yes
Modifier fitting: Bowens S-type
Dimensions: 16x12x12cm (main body)
Weight: 1.8kg, battery 0.53kg
Warranty: One year
Website: eu.macgroupus.com
T HE BUILD QUALITY is the first thing
that strikes you. It's beautifully made,
seemingly hewn from a solid billet of
aluminium. Indra uses the acclaimed Phottix
Odin control system featuring auto-TTL,
high-speed sync, and OverDrive sync (see
Indra 500 review). The Odin II trigger
(£160) is one of the best; another
quality job with direct access
buttons for flash groups plus a
clear and logical LCD. Odin is also
compatible with Phottix Mitros
hotshoe flashguns and there's a
separate receiver unit (£125)
available that will convert other
flashguns to Odin control.
Phottix was actually the first
manufacturer to bring both flashguns
and powerful studio/location flash heads
into one fully-integrated control system and
it all works very well together.
The Indra 360 is slightly less powerful
than the Indra 500, a little lighter and
cheaper, and comes with a smaller battery.
It's a more mobile kit with the separate
battery keeping the weight of the head
down to 1.8kg. The battery can either
A
B
C
Above: The Indra 360 and battery pack.
Below: The rear LCD screen is clear and
logical, as is the controller.
attach to a belt, or it comes out of the case
to slip smoothly into a pocket. The
4000mAh pack has enough power for 300
full-power flashes, but lacks the Indra 500
battery's High Speed mode so 100%
recycling takes a longer 3.2secs, reducing
to 1.9secs at half power. Plugged
into the Indra 500's HS battery,
recycling drops to 1.8secs at full
power, and down to a swift
1.5sec with the optional mains
adapter. Rated at 360Ws, it's the
least powerful unit here, reaching
f/16 +0.9 in the test rig – 0.7 stops
down on the Indra 500. In highspeed sync mode, we got EV 14.3,
and the modelling LED checked out
at EV 4.6, which is modest but usable
indoors. Flash durations are fast, recording
1/450sec (t.1) at full output, then roughly
halving with every stop of power reduction,
down to 1/14600sec at 1/128th minimum
setting. Colour accuracy proved mixed
– very good at higher outputs where it's
more likely to be used, but noticeably blue
at lower power settings. In HSS mode,
colour is slightly warm.
D
E
F
VERDICT
This is a high-quality
product for sure, using
the excellent Odin control
system, but power output,
recycle times and colour consistency
are bettered by some newer options.
Build quality
Features
Performance
Value for money
Above: Colour accuracy at: A) full power; B) 1/4 power; C) 1/16th power; D) 1/64th power; E) HSS mode; F) neutral reference tone.
Overall
February 2018 Digital SLR Photography 105
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15/12/2017 13:53
Gear/ Location flash: Premium kits
Bowens XMT500
SPECIFICATIONS
Price: £800 approx
Trigger: Bowens XMTR transmitter/controller
£60 extra (Canon, Nikon, Sony)
Power: 500Ws (IGBT-regulated)
Light output (ISO 100): Tested max power:
f/32 +0.0 (90cm softbox at 1m, ISO 100)
Recycle time: Tested 2.5secs to 100% charge
Battery capacity: Approx 500 max power flashes,
8700mAh lithium battery
Flash durations (t.1): Tested max power: 1/210sec,
1/4 power: 1/1510sec, 1/16th power: 1/3640sec,
1/64th power: 1/6620sec
Colour: Claimed 5600K +/-300
Auto-TTL control: Yes
High-Speed Sync: Tested max power:
EV 17.3 (90cm softbox at 1m, ISO 100)
Second-curtain sync: Yes
Strobo multi-flash: Yes
Remote control: Integral radio receiver,
optical slave, sync port
Modelling lamp: 10W LED, tested max power:
EV 5.5 (90cm softbox at 1m, ISO 100)
Fan cooled: Yes
Modifier fitting: Bowens S-type
Dimensions: 37x14x13cm (main body)
Weight: 3.3kg inc battery
Warranty: Check retailer's T&Cs
Website: www.bowens.co.uk
B OWENS CLOSED ITS doors for the last
time recently, sadly after 94 years, but
we've included the XMT500 because
it's a very good unit and there may be a few
bargains around. The label claims 'Designed
in England', though how far that extends
beneath the sleek black body is an
interesting question as it's manufactured in
China by Godox. That's an open secret, but
our test results are so similar to the Pixapro
CITI600-TTL, which is unashamedly 100%
Godox, we're almost certain that this
Bowens also contains mostly Godox
electronics inside.
That's hardly a bad thing though, as the
CITI600 is outstandingly good, but there
are some notable differences, even if
they're not all improvements. The Bowens
XMT500 is bigger and heavier, has an
unusual lever-locking mount, the battery is
difficult to remove, and it's more expensive,
at the original asking price at least. But it
does outperform the CITI600 in one
significant aspect – more on that in a bit.
Although nominally rated at 500Ws,
compared to the Pixapro's 600Ws, light
output is identical, from f/32 +0.0 at fullpower, with a huge and accurate nineA
B
C
Above: It says Bowens on
the outside, but the
internals are by Godox.
Below: It's a big and heavy
unit but performance is
very good.
stops range down
to 1/256th
minimum output.
Flash durations
measured 1/210sec
(t.1) at full-power,
then ramped up
quickly to 1/750sec at
half-power and 1/1510sec
at quarter, and on to
1/7730sec at minimum – also very
similar to the CITI600, with small changes
probably down to the slightly different flash
tube. Colour accuracy is very good, again
like the CITI600 (see below).
The 10W LED modelling light measured
EV 5.5, which is just about workable in the
studio and effectively the same as the
CITI600. The 8700mAh battery is good for
500 max output flashes, with a recycle time
checked at 2.5secs on full-power, 1.1secs at
half-power, and pretty much instant at
lower settings – all the same. But there was
a surprise in HSS mode where Bowens
showed a notable upside at EV 17.3; a very
handy 0.8 stops higher than the CITI600.
The Bowens XMTR remote control trigger
appears to be a redesigned Pixapro ST-III.
D
E
F
VERDICT
Effectively a rebadged
Pixapro CITI600-TTL,
with cosmetic changes
and a handy boost to HSS
output. An excellent product, especially
at the right price, but check its warranty.
Build quality
Features
Performance
Value for money
Above: Colour accuracy at: A) full-power; B) 1/4 power; C) 1/16th power; D) 1/64th power; E) HSS mode; F) neutral reference tone.
Overall
106 Digital SLR Photography February 2018
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15/12/2017 13:54
Location flash: Premium kits \
Gear
Phottix Indra 500 TTL
SPECIFICATIONS
Price: £1,200
Trigger: Odin II transmitter/controller
£160 extra (Canon, Nikon, Sony)
Power: 500Ws (IGBT-regulated)
Light output (ISO 100): Tested max power:
f/22 +0.6 (90cm softbox at 1m, ISO 100)
Recycle time: Tested 3.0secs to 100% charge in
HS mode. 1.5secs with mains adapter
Battery capacity: Approx 360 max power flashes,
5000mAh lithium battery
Flash durations (t.1): Tested max power: 1/250sec,
1/4 power: 1/1460sec, 1/16th power: 1/4290sec,
1/64th power: 1/8580sec
Colour: Claimed 5500K +/-200
Auto-TTL control: Yes
High-Speed Sync: Tested max power: EV 15.3
(90cm softbox at 1m, ISO 100)
Second-curtain sync: Yes
Strobo multi-flash: Yes
Remote control: Integral radio receiver,
optical slave, sync port
Modelling lamp: 4.5W LED, tested max power
EV 4.6 (90cm softbox at 1m, ISO 100)
Fan cooled: Yes
Modifier fitting: Bowens S-type
Dimensions: 16x12x12cm (main body)
Weight: 1.9kg, battery 1.2kg
Warranty: One year
Website: eu.macgroupus.com
T HREE YEARS AGO, Phottix was the first
manufacturer to introduce a 'total
lighting system' with a range of
products from its Mitros flashguns though
to powerful lithium-battery-powered Indra
studio/location flash units – all with
auto-TTL metering, high-speed sync
(HSS) and OverDrive sync, and
all operating off the same
Odin remote control.
OverDrive sync is Phottix's
label for 'long-burn' hypersync
that, like HSS, allows shutter
speeds above the X-sync to be
used. There are pros and cons
– see the Elinchrom HS review.
The Odin control system is
excellent, logical and reliable, and
with Odin II the interface is improved and
an AF assist light has been added. A
matching receiver unit (£125) converts
most flashguns to Odin control. Phottix has
also announced an Indra 500LC head that's
fully compatible with the Canon RT flash
system. That's available soon.
At £1,200, the Indra 500 is substantially
more expensive than the 360 version, but
A
B
C
Above: A compact head and battery
system that packs a lot of features.
Below: The Indra 500's interface is a
true joy to use –logical and reliable..
comes with a useful slug of extra power and
a bigger battery. It can run two heads and
has a welcome High Speed mode for faster
recycling, timed at three seconds to 100%
charge (we couldn't match Phottix's
claim of two seconds), down to 1.4secs
at half-power, and almost instant
thereafter. In every other way the Indra
360 and 500 are pretty much identical
– same size, design, controls and
modelling LED, as well as the same
exceptional build quality.
Power measured f/22 +0.6 at
full output, which is a handy 0.7
stops up on the Indra 360, and
identical to the Profoto B1X,
rated at 500Ws. In HSS mode
we got EV 15.3, one stop up on
the Indra 360, but a bit down on
rivals. The 4.5W modelling LED
delivered EV 4.6 and is just
bright enough for studio work.
Flash durations measured
1/250sec (t.1) at full-power, 1/725sec
at half power, 1/1460sec at 1/4 power,
down to 1/11520sec at 1/128th minimum
output – very much as you'd expect from a
typical IGBT controlled 500Ws flash head.
Colour accuracy is very good at higher
power settings, but like the Indra 360, it
gets progressively blue towards minimum.
D
E
F
VERDICT
Until fairly recently, the Phottix system
was in a class of one. Though not cheap, it
can still hold its own against newer rivals,
particularly for those wanting the mobile
advantages of a two-piece outfit.
Build quality
Features
Performance
Value for money
Above: Colour accuracy at: A) full-power; B) 1/4 power; C) 1/16th power; D) 1/64th power; E) HSS mode; F) neutral reference tone.
Overall
February 2018 Digital SLR Photography 107
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15/12/2017 13:54
Location flash: Premium kits \
Gear
Elinchrom ELB 400 HS
SPECIFICATIONS
Price: £1,420 Hi-Sync To Go kit (includes system bag)
Trigger: Elinchrom Skyport Plus HS transmitter/
controller, £210 extra (Canon, Nikon, Sony,
Olympus/Panasonic. (Fujifilm planned.)
Power: 424Ws (voltage-regulated)
Light output (ISO 100): Tested max power:
f/22 +0.3 (90cm softbox at 1m, ISO 100)
Recycle time: Tested 1.7secs to 100% charge
Battery capacity: Approx 350 max power flashes,
4100mAh lithium battery
Flash durations (t.1): Tested max power: 1/165sec,
1/4 power: 1/130sec, 1/16th power: 1/110sec,
1/64th power: 1/280sec (min B port)
Colour: Claimed 5500K max power
Auto-TTL control: No
High-Speed Sync: Hi-Sync only. Tested max power:
EV 18.0 (90cm softbox at 1m, ISO 100)
Second-curtain sync: Yes
Strobo multi-flash: Yes
Remote control: Integral radio receiver,
optical slave, sync port
Modelling lamp: LED 50W equiv, tested max power:
EV 6.6 (90cm softbox at 1m, ISO 100)
Fan cooled: No
Modifier fitting: Elinchrom EL
Dimensions: 20x15x9cm (power pack)
Weight: 2kg power pack/battery, 0.65kg head/cable
Warranty: Three years
Website: www.theflashcentre.com
E LINCHROM'S POPULAR QUADRA was
an early pioneer of high-powered
portable flash. Back then, IGBTregulated control was only for flashguns as
it couldn't handle big outputs, so there was
no auto-TTL, no pulsed high-speed sync,
or ultra-fast flash durations that
are all exclusive to IGBT.
Today, Elinchrom is still
sticking to its guns with
conventional voltageregulated power control, for
one simple reason: at fast
shutter speeds above max
X-sync of 1/200sec or so,
effective brightness is much
higher than pulsed HSS. At
full-power, the Elinchrom Hi-Sync
head delivered EV 18.0 from its
424Ws (measured in the middle of the
frame), which comfortably beats even
the mighty Pixapro's 1200Ws in HSS mode.
Hi-Sync basically uses the traditional
'long-burn' method that has always been
effective, but quite difficult in practice.
So Elinchrom has cleverly harnessed
new technology to both enhance flash
A
B
C
performance and make it easy to use. The
Hi-Sync flash head has been optimised to
burn with a very long flash duration (long
enough for the focal-plane shutter to
complete its full cycle) and triggering and
sync timing has been made simple with the
neat plug-in-and-play Skyport Plus HS.
There are downsides though, and apart
from missing out on those IGBT goodies,
there is a significant change in brightness
down the frame as the flash fades while the
shutter is still open – typically reducing
between one to two stops depending on
the camera. When working outdoors in
daylight however, this is hardly
noticeable, if at all, as the ambient
light effectively evens out the
overall exposure – check out
Elinchrom's impressive
marketing examples.
Of course, the ELB 400
with Hi-Sync head also
works normally at below
the X-sync ceiling, albeit
with longer than average
flash durations, and accurate
colour (see panel). Alternatively,
the HS head can be swapped for
the standard Pro head, or the Action
head that delivers very short flash durations
at high outputs – timed at 1/925sec (t.1) on
max power. Recycle time is swift, checked
at 1.7 seconds on full-power, and the LED
modelling lamp is unusually bright with a
very usable EV 6.6.
D
E
Above: Featuring a small and light head, the Quadra keeps
the weight at the bottom of a light stand, aiding in stability
when being used outdoors, or in high-traffic areas.
VERDICT
The best of old
technology, married
to the best of the new,
creates a very potent
outdoor flash – if not without some
downsides and a fairly hefty price tag.
Build quality
Features
Performance
Value for money
Overall
Above: Elinchrom's
Quadra pack is reasonably
straightforward to use.
F
Above: Colour accuracy at: A) full-power; B) 1/4 power; C) 1/16th power; D) 1/64th power; E) HS mode; F) neutral reference tone.
February 2018 Digital SLR Photography 109
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Location flash: Premium kits \
Gear
Pixapro CITI600 1200Ws twin kit
Above: Pixapro's modular flash
system is really rather unique and
clever, and offers photographers
a big boost to power output.
SPECIFICATIONS
Price: £1,470 (2x CITI 600 TTL heads,
plus 1200Ws extension)
Trigger: Pixapro ECO2.4 transmitter/controller,
£50 extra (Canon, Nikon). Other triggers for Canon,
Nikon, Sony, Fuji and Olympus/Panasonic available
Power: 600Ws (IGBT-regulated)
Light output (ISO 100): Tested max power:
f/32 +0.8 (90cm softbox at 1m, ISO 100)
Recycle time: Tested 2.6secs to 100% charge.
1.8secs with mains adapter
Battery capacity: Approx 500 max power flashes,
8700mAh lithium battery
Flash durations (t.1): Tested max power: 1/190sec,
1/4 power: 1/1510sec, 1/16th power: 1/3710sec,
1/64th power: 1/6860sec
Colour: Claimed 5600K +/-200
Auto-TTL control: Yes
High-Speed Sync: Tested max power: EV 17.4
(90cm softbox at 1m, ISO 100)
Second-curtain sync: Yes
Strobo multi-flash: Yes
Remote control: Integral radio receiver,
optical slave, sync port
Modelling lamp: 10W LED, tested max power:
EV 4.8 (90cm softbox at 1m, ISO 100)
Fan cooled: Yes
Modifier fitting: Bowens S-type
Dimensions: 25x22x13cm (main body inc battery)
Weight: 2.7kg inc battery, 1200Ws extension 1.5kg
Warranty: Two years
Website: www.essentialphoto.co.uk
A
B
C
P IXAPRO'S MODULAR design approach
is reshaping the way we use flash, with
the ground-breaking PIKA200 and
now the CITI600. Take two of those (voted
Best Buy in September 2017), couple them
to the £220 twin-tube head, and they
transform into a mighty 1200Ws unit of
extraordinary capability. Power is doubled,
but everything else is identical to the
CITI600, with the same recycle times,
colour and flash durations. They can be
easily clamped to a stand, or slung over a
shoulder for fully mobile working. The extra
power is always useful, especially in bright
sun or at greater distances with larger
softboxes. Alternatively, turn things down a
little and there's still plenty of punch, yet
recycling is very rapid, flash durations are
much faster, and you get many more pops
from the battery. At half-power, it's still
putting out 600Ws, yet recycling takes less
than one second with a fast t.1 flash
duration of 1/760sec, and at 1/4 power it
fires as quickly as you can press the shutter
release with 300Ws and at an actionstopping 1/1510sec.
Max power checked out at f/32 +0.8,
exactly one stop more than a standard
CITI600 with the remote 600Ws head
attached. Bear in mind that there's an
inevitable two stops loss of power in the
cable. HSS mode delivered a usable EV 17.4.
The 10W modelling LED is the same as the
CITI600, but the extra flash tube in the
1200Ws bulb blocks some light to leave a
D
E
F
rather disappointing EV 4.8. Colour is well
controlled. Remote control triggers are a
Pixapro strength, operating across their full
product range from flashguns to studio and
location heads, for Canon, Nikon and Sony,
and now Fuji and Olympus/Panasonic too.
Pixapro's ST-III trigger is a bit fiddly but
very comprehensive and includes a
pass-through hotshoe and off-set timing
for 'long-burn' hypersync technique (see
Elinchrom HS review). Similarly for the
ECO2.4, which is much nicer to use but
lacks auto-TTL control and the passthough. The new ST-IV trigger has just been
announced and it's looking as if it's to have
the best of both.
VERDICT
More power simply
means more options
outdoors, and the Pixapro
1200 has tons of it, in a
high-spec and versatile package. For
value, nothing comes near at this level.
Build quality
Features
Performance
Value for money
Above: Colour accuracy at: A) full-power; B) 1/4 power; C) 1/16th power; D) 1/64th power; E) HSS mode; F) neutral reference tone.
Overall
February 2018 Digital SLR Photography 111
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Location flash: Premium kits \
Gear
Profoto B2
SPECIFICATIONS
Price: £1,495 To-Go kit (inc shoulder bag & holdall)
Trigger: Air Remote TTL transmitter/controller,
£350 extra (Canon, Nikon, Sony, Fuji, Olympus)
Power: 250Ws (IGBT-regulated)
Light output (ISO 100): Tested max power:
f/16 +0.5 (90cm softbox at 1m, ISO 100)
Recycle time: Tested 1.8secs to 100% charge
Battery capacity: Approx 215 max power flashes,
3000mAh lithium battery
Flash durations (t.1): Tested max power: Normal
mode 1/380sec (Freeze 1/395), 1/4 power: 1/760sec
(Freeze 1/2210sec), 1/16th power: 1/1710sec
(Freeze 1/4480sec), 1/64th power: 1/4190sec
(Freeze 1/6620sec)
Colour: Claimed +/-150K in Normal mode,
+/- 800K Freeze mode
Auto-TTL control: Yes
High-Speed Sync: Tested max power:
EV 14.6 (90cm softbox at 1m, ISO 100)
Second-curtain sync: Yes
Strobo multi-flash: Yes
Remote control: Integral radio receiver,
optical slave, sync port
Modelling lamp: 9W LED, tested max power: EV 5.2
(90cm softbox at 1m, ISO 100)
Fan cooled: No
Modifier fitting: Profoto
Dimensions: 17x16x8cm power pack, 10x10cm head
Weight: 1.6kg power pack, 0.7kg head
Warranty: Two years
Website: www.profoto.com/uk
W
ITH 250WS, THE B2 sits neatly
between the potent B1X and new
Profoto A1 flashgun. Power and
weight are closely related and 250Ws
strikes a good balance – roughly equivalent
to three good hotshoe flashguns in a light
two-piece outfit that prioritises mobility
for weddings and social events, with
a lightweight head and the
power-pack over your shoulder.
Like the B1X, there are two
power mode options: Normal
gives the best colour, and it's
consistently accurate at all
power settings (see panel);
while Freeze mode offers the
fastest flash durations, at the
cost of a slight tendency towards
blue at lower outputs. Power is in
line with expectations for 250Ws, just
below the Indra 360 with a max of f/16 +0.5
(Normal mode). With high-speed sync
operation though, the B2 betters the Indra
360 with EV 14.6, and the 9W LED
modelling lamp checked out at a handy
A
B
C
EV5.2. Flash durations are very fast in Freeze
mode as the power is reduced, dropping to
1/1230sec at half-power and progressively
quicker to 1/10100sec at 1/256th output.
These are t.1 times, and tie in pretty closely
with Profoto's claimed t.5 figures.
Recycle times are quite nippy at 1.8secs
to 100% charge, though slightly longer than
the claimed 1.4secs. Profoto says the
3000mAh lithium battery is good for
around 215 full power flashes, which could
be tight for some users. The AirTTL remote
control unit is excellent and a Profoto
system highlight – see B1X review.
Profoto is made in Sweden and as always
it's beautifully put together,
and comes with a nice
shoulder bag and holdall.
The quality, both of the
product and the service
and back-up from
Profoto UK is beyond
doubt, but that comes at a
premium price. Profoto
users are used to that, and for
those already committed to the
excellent Profoto system it makes
perfect sense – the B2 fills a gap and will
slot seamlessly into their workflow. For
others though, there are a few alternatives
that can match the performance at least,
at a much lower cost, notably the Pixapro
PIKA200 (Godox AD200) and Pixapro
Hybrid360 (Godox AD360).
D
E
F
Above: The B2 strikes a balance between power and
size/weight. Below: Well designed and well built,
Profoto users expect quality from their kit.
VERDICT
On the face of it, when compared to
rivals, the cost is hard to justify, but for
Profoto system users the B2 is the perfect
two-piece mobile companion, and fulfils
its design brief expertly.
Build quality
Features
Performance
Value for money
Above: Colour accuracy at: A) full-power; B) 1/4 power; C) 1/16th power; D) 1/64th power; E) HSS mode; F) neutral reference tone.
Overall
February 2018 Digital SLR Photography 113
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Gear/ Location flash: Premium kits
Profoto B1X
SPECIFICATIONS
Price: £1,632 To-Go kit (includes holdall)
Trigger: AirTTL Remote transmitter/controller,
£350 extra (Canon, Nikon, Sony, Fuji, Olympus)
Power: 500Ws (IGBT-regulated)
Light output (ISO 100): Tested max power:
f/22 +0.6 (90cm softbox at 1m, ISO 100)
Recycle time: Tested 2.2secs to 100% charge
Battery capacity: Approx 325 max power flashes,
4700mAh lithium battery
Flash durations (t.1): Tested max power: Normal
mode 1/340sec (Freeze 1/350), 1/4 power: 1/810sec
(Freeze 1/2120sec), 1/16th power: 1/1790sec
(Freeze 1/3870sec), 1/64th power: 1/3310sec
(Freeze 1/6100sec)
Colour: Claimed +/-150K in Normal mode,
+/- 800K Freeze mode
Auto-TTL control: Yes
High-Speed Sync: Tested max power: EV 16.4
(90cm softbox at 1m, ISO 100)
Second-curtain sync: Yes
Strobo multi-flash: Yes
Remote control: Integral radio receiver,
optical slave, sync port
Modelling lamp: 24W LED, tested max power:
EV6.8 (90cm softbox at 1m, ISO 100)
Fan cooled: Yes
Modifier fitting: Profoto
Dimensions: 31x21x14cm
Weight: 3.0kg inc battery
Warranty: Two years
Website: www.profoto.com/uk
W
HEN THE B1 became the B1X,
Profoto promised "power, power
and more power". Specifically, a
brighter modelling lamp, 45% more pops
from the bigger battery, and
high-speed sync
available at all settings
instead of just down to
1/4-power output. But
the actual flash power
remains the same.
Not that it's short of
'oomph' with 500Ws
testing at f/22 +0.6, but
it's not top of its class in a
sector where brute force
counts. The brighter
modelling lamp is welcome, and
beats rivals with a 24W LED matching
a 130W halogen bulb. Measuring at EV
6.8, it marginally betters the Elinchrom
but blitzes everything else and is great in
the studio, even if it drains the battery
quicker. The high-speed sync output is
generous too with EV 16.4 at full-power.
A
B
C
Above and below:
The updated Profoto B1X
doesn't come cheap, but
packs a load of features
and performance that's
hard to match.
There are two output options: Normal,
for consistent colour and Freeze for faster
flash durations. Some manufacturers are
using IGBT control to combat the natural
tendency towards blue at lower power
settings, and oscilloscope tests of flash
durations in Normal mode reveal a bright
flash pulse followed by a lower burst of
warmer HSS pulses to neutralise the
overall colour, and it works very effectively
(see panel). Without this help in Freeze
mode, the light gets a little blue at
minimum power, but flash durations are
very short with t.1 measurements down to
1/8750sec at minimum 1/256th output, or
1/19680sec when measured at t.5 (in line
with Profoto's claims).
Profoto's AirTTL trigger/controller unit
is a delight – easy, logical and with
plenty of direct-access buttons –
and now available for a wide
range of cameras (listed
above). Only drawback is no
AF assist light, but here the
new Profoto A1 studio light
comes to the rescue, and
in more ways than one.
Not only is it a very well
designed on-camera
flashgun, it can replace the
AirTTL trigger and act as a
master radio controller, with
an AF-assist beam and even a
modest modelling light. Perhaps
best of all, it rounds out Profoto's batterypowered range so that everything from
flashguns to studio heads to powerful
location units are all seamlessly integrated
into one system.
D
E
F
VERDICT
Great spec, performance
and build. The B1X is
part of a comprehensive
system solidly backed by
Profoto UK and widely available for
hire. Only the price spoils the party.
Build quality
Features
Performance
Value for money
Above: Colour accuracy at: A) full-power; B) 1/4 power; C) 1/16th power; D) 1/64th power; E) HSS mode; F) neutral reference tone.
Overall
114 Digital SLR Photography February 2018
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Location flash: Premium kits \
Gear
GROUP TEST CONCLUSION
T HERE'S QUITE A range of different
styles and types of flash units here,
with power outputs from 360Ws to
1200Ws, in either two-piece or monolight
designs, at prices ranging from £700 to
over £1,600. But they're all aimed at the
outdoor operator needing lots of power
(to overcome daylight) in a mobile
package. All meet that brief well.
Another important consideration is how
they fit into your overall lighting system.
As a rule, you can't mix components from
different manufacturers because the
triggering and remote control systems are
incompatible. Or you can, but only by
fiddling about with extra workaround
receivers and even then you'll probably
only get basic triggering with no other
options. So with that caveat, let's look at
these units on their individual merits.
The Phottix Indra comes in two
flavours: the 360Ws or 500Ws. The Indra
360 is more affordable with a neat battery
pack to slip easily into your jeans pocket,
though that lacks a fast recycle mode. It
earns a Highly Rated award for value. The
Indra 500 comes with usefully more
power and faster recycling from the larger
power pack, but it costs substantially
more. Phottix also offers Mitros flashguns
that are fully compatible with the same
remote control system.
Although Bowens is no more, it went
out on a high with the Highly Rated
XMT500 and there are still some about.
The XMT500 may be a lot like the Pixapro
CITI600, but Bowens has squeezed 2/3rds
of a stop more light out of the HSS mode
and for some users that alone makes it
worth seeking out.
The Pixapro CITI600 (an over-branded
Godox AD600) merited a Best Buy award
in the September 2017 reviews. It makes a
welcome return here, now twinned with a
second CITI600 unit and both mated to
the 1200Ws extension head. This is an
awesome combo – hugely capable, with
unmatched versatility, terrific value, and
emphatically a Best Buy. Godox is rocking
the boat, with great products and prices, in
a comprehensive range of flash units all
operating off a common control system.
Elinchrom is doing things differently,
preferring not to jump on the IGBT-control
GODOX IS ROCKING
THE BOAT, WITH GREAT
PRODUCTS AND PRICES,
IN A COMPREHENSIVE
RANGE OF FLASH UNITS ALL
OPERATING OFF A COMMON
CONTROL SYSTEM
bandwagon, instead harnessing its tried
and tested voltage-control expertise to
work in new ways with the latest triggering
technology. It delivers exceptional power
at fast shutter speeds and though not
without some downsides, in the right
situation, for example shooting action
outdoors, it's very potent for such a
compact and lightweight unit, if pricey.
The other long-established name,
Profoto, is embracing IGBT with open
arms. Let's get one thing clear though –
Profoto is expensive. It's superbly made in
Sweden, the professionals' choice, but it
costs more than double similar products
from China. That said, Profoto makes
some great gear and has now created a
complete system around IGBT tech, from
the cool-looking A1 flashgun upwards,
and all working off the excellent AirTTL
remote control system.
The B2 is a two-piece mobile unit
aimed at social events photographers.
It's light, with a very compact flash head,
and fulfils its brief very well, if not
over-endowed with sheer power at
250Ws. The Highly Rated B1X however,
has a full 500Ws for doing battle outdoors
in bright sun. It's just beaten for outright
punch by the Pixapro CITI600 and lacks
some of its versatility, but Profoto
counters with innovative and effective
colour management and a really bright
LED modelling lamp.
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