Professional Photographer Magazine Ranger Quadra Review View

Professional Photographer Magazine Ranger Quadra Review View
Ranger Quadra
If you are a location
photographer,Elinchrom’s latest
piece of kit could revolutionise
the way you work,and prevent
back injury in the process
WORDS Ian Farrell
flash is very popular in all kinds of
photography at the moment. Although,
anyone who has used so-called portable
studio flash systems will know that these units
can sometimes be far from portable. Battery
packs can be rather hefty, resembling
something you’d usually find under a car
bonnet and weighing upwards of 5kg.You’ll
need strong arms to carry them between jobs.
This is not a criticism that can be levelled at
Elinchrom’s latest product though.The Ranger
Quadra comprises a battery pack and control
unit that weighs just 3kg and can drive two
tiny but powerful flashheads with highly
controllable asymmetric output.The whole
thing fits in a carry case, about the size of a
large briefcase.
We had the great fortune of getting our
hands on a Ranger Quadra at its UK launch at
the Focus on Imaging 2009 show in February,
and gave it a good workout, shooting some
indoor and outdoor portraits.The control unit,
which clips to interchangeable lead-gel
batteries, is superbly built with rubberised
padding around the edges.The top of the unit
is dominated by two connectors for the
flashheads to plug into and a digital power
display that doubles up as a menu system.
Controls for accessing this menu system are
accompanied by buttons that increase and
decrease output power, switch the modelling
lamp on and off and fire a test flash. A simple
battery level indicator finishes things off and
two carry-strap lugs mean you can have the
unit slung over your shoulder or dangling from
a flash stand if you wish.
Usefully, Elinchrom’s own wireless flash
trigger system, Skyport, is built in to the Ranger
Quadra, meaning you only need an on-camera
trigger to fire the unit and control power
output remotely.You can find options for
setting up Skyport in the unit’s
menu system. A conventional
slave sensor is also available and
you can connect with a standard
sync lead if you wish.
The flashheads themselves are
tiny compared to Elinchrom’s
standard A- or S-type heads
(which, incidentally can also be
used with the Ranger Quadra via
an adaptor).They also come in
A- and S-type variations, with the
S-type recommended for standard
use and the A-type for applications
where a very short flash duration is
required. An energy-efficient 20W LED
modelling light means the units don’t sap all
your power when you are setting the scene
up, although they do have the equivalent
brightness of a 40W halogen lamp. By default,
the modelling lamp stays on for 15 seconds
before turning itself off; this can be changed in
the control unit’s custom function menu.
As the lamps are smaller than usual they
require their own bayonet fitting system,
although the existing range of Elinchrom
accessories can be used with an optional
adaptor.‘Spill-kill’ type reflectors are supplied
with the heads.
Connecting the lamps to the control unit is
easy enough and each one can be secured in
place with a locking collar.The Ranger Quadra’s
output is asymmetrical for versatility: socket A
outputs 66 per cent of the unit’s total with the
rest coming through socket B. By connecting a
head to socket A you’ll be able to vary power
from 25 to 400Ws; connect to socket B and
you’ll have 8.2 to 132Ws available, which is
good for when you need shorter flash
durations. Connect both heads at once and
you’ll be able to vary power in a 2:1 ratio over a
25 to 400Ws range.
Weighing in at just 3kg, this unit can still pack a punch,
powering two small and impressive flashheads.
To put this in context, the larger Ranger RX
pack may deliver 1100Ws of power, but it also
costs a lot more money, is the size of a house
and weighs a ton. If you don’t need that kind of
power then the Quadra is a much better bet.
Even though we used a pre-production
prototype for this test, the unit we used
performed like a dream. Each successive burst
was consistent according to our flash meter,
and the unit fired without trouble over a large
distance using the supplied Skyport remote in
the hotshoe of a Nikon D700 or attached via a
cable to our Hasselblad 500CM.
The diminutive flashheads are so light that,
once mounted on a stand, they weren’t
anywhere near as unstable as monoblocs or
normal flash can be. Nevertheless, we hung the
power pack from one of the stands when
For location portrait photographers, the Ranger Quadra offers a lot of flexibility in a small, value for money package.
outside to give it more stability, controlling
power from a distance with the Skyport.
Recycling was swift for a power pack of this
size, which came back to full charge in half a
second after firing one head at half power.
From a full power discharge with both heads
attached we waited about two and a half
seconds. Using the unit outdoors in slightly
cold weather and with the modelling lamp on
a few times as we set up gave a lifetime of 100
flashes – although we should again point out
that this was a pre-production unit so final
battery life may be better than this.
With the current fashion for strobism using
TTL flashguns like Nikon’s SB-900 or Canon’s
EX550, Elinchrom has waded into an evolving
market with an undeniably cool product.The
Ranger Quadra should be on the shopping
list of any photographer who shoots
location portraiture.The sheer flexibility it
gives is amazing considering the level of
portability it retains. Plus, if you are already
an Elinchrom user, you can use all your
existing light-modifying accessories with it.
UK importer of Elinchrom,The Flash
Centre tells us the Ranger Quadra system is
available in one-head and two-head kits. At
time of writing the two-head kit was
available to pre-order from the Flash Centre
for £1121 inc VAT – significantly cheaper
than something like a Lumedyne kit.
The Elinchrom Ranger Quadra is a
great piece of kit for anyone
shooting location portraiture. It’s
light, powerful, flexible and
represents good value for money.
Destined to be a best-seller.
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