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Monday, November 16, 2009

Choosing Big Lights: Elinchrom

UPDATE: As I suspected would happen, there is some really good info already developing in the comments from Elinchrom owners. If you are reading email or RSS versions, be sure to check it out. And FWIW, I expect this ongoing comment discussion will be the best part of the post.
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One of my main considerations when shopping for more watt-seconds was to be able to work independent of AC power.

In this respect, Elinchrom gets strong consideration in the form of their two battery powered platforms, the Ranger RX and the new Ranger Quadra. A look at a very powerful battery flash, and it's baby brother, inside.
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The Ranger RX

The Elinchrom Ranger RX is one of two very popular battery "big flashes" among pros, the other being the Profoto 7B. At 1100 watt-seconds, a Ranger can deliver sunlight-blasting power from its very rugged, splash-resistant battery unit.

I know I ruled out the idea of choosing a flash based just on what other photogs had chosen, but two friends for whom I have a great deal of respect use the Ranger as their primary location big gun.

Joe McNally frequently uses them in conjunction with his SB-900's, with the Ranger as the lead light and the speedlights in supporting roles. He will often place the Ranger outside of a room or building to get that strong ray of (CTO'd) late-afternoon light in a pinch.

And Drew Gardner lights entire woodland scenes with them in broad daylight to transform the areas into magical little glens bathed in impossibly beautiful light.

They have power to burn, and are supported by a wide range of Elinchrom light modifiers. Both the flashes and the light mods have a very good reliability record among the people I know who use them.

They go head-to-head against the Profoto 7B, and the Ranger comes up the winner in one very important category: Watt-seconds per dollar. Which is, of course, a very big draw. Especially for those who plan to use multiple lights and thus will be purchasing multiple units.

You can plug two heads into one pack, with the power distributed either symmetrically or asymmetrically based on the pack model you choose.

One area in which they (formerly) came up short against the Profoto 7B was recycle time. I was speaking with Sports Illustrated photographer Peter Read Miller over dinner one night, and he gave me what I considered to be an excellent reason why he switched from Elinchrom Rangers to Profoto 7B's:

"I just didn't have six seconds of bullshit in me between shots," he said.

Fortunately, as long-time readers of this site well know, I am not bound by such limitations. I have a vitally unlimited supply of bullshit at the ready at any waking moment.

But to Elinchrom's credit, they have since introduced the Ranger RX Speed variant, which gets the recycle down to 3 seconds. That's pretty much a wash vs. the 7B's 2.8 second mark. So make sure you differentiate between the two models if recycle time is important.

In short, the Ranger RX is a big gun with an excellent reputation. In fact, one of its strongest competitors is its new baby brother.


The Ranger Quadra

One of the most interesting battery flash new entries to come along in years is the Elinchrom Ranger Quadra. It is small, cranks out 400 watt-seconds, has built-in Skyport remote power level control, has a daylight balanced 100-watt equivalent, LED modeling light -- and most important -- is incredibly portable.

Even with it's diminutive size, the pack can push two heads. Which means if you are not going with light-sucking softeners (soft boxes, etc.) you can drive two hard, straight heads with a single, small pack in a full-sun environment.

This is perfect for those hard light "key-and-fill against sunlight" portraits that I have been gravitating toward lately.

And the heads themselves are positively tiny -- actually smaller and lighter than an SB-800 -- so they have their own accessory standard. Fortunately, Elinchrom offers an adapter to get you to the (big) Ranger head standard. If you use both, this is obviously a required purchase.

In addition to the size, maybe the best other feature about the units is the LED daylight modeling lights. They are battery-friendly, which is sweet. Generally, batteries and modeling lights do not get a long very well. With traditional bulbs, they have to make them too dim to be very useful, and they still suck juice like crazy.

But the Quadra LEDs are easy on the batts, and have the bonus of being daylight balanced. This is a great feature for using them as continuous lights for video switch-hitters, albeit in low-light situations.

If you want to see more, you can check out Scott Kelby and Mark Astmann in full-blown Ron Popiel Mode in this video walkthru.


Check, Please…

So, what is it gonna set me back to go Elinchrom?

I figure I will need three light sources. If I am overpowering sun, I want to do so with key, fill and some kind of separation light.

And even though both the Ranger RX and the Quadra both have two-head packs, my preference is not to split all that power up. I would probably end up buying three heads and three packs. This would also serve as insurance should a pack go down. Also, all things being equal I would have extended shooting time vs. running three heads off of two packs.

So before modifiers (no small consideration, that) I would be looking at about $5,400.00 for three standard Ranger RX kits or a little more for the fast recycle models. Going with Quadras, the damage would be about $4,500.00.

I was actually a little surprised at how small the difference is. Dollars-for-wattseconds, you would think the big Rangers are the obvious buy. But it also comes down to workflow and how many pounds of gear you want to schlep.

With that thought, I would probably go all Quadras if going Elinchrom. Or maybe one Ranger RX and two Quadras.

Elinchrom offers a huge array of modifiers, so there still would be quite a bit of variability left in the full tab. But I would probably start fairly small and add modifiers as I need them.

So that's the first of three contenders. And not to ignore the built-in brain trust we have around here, if you use Ranger RX's and/or Quadras, please hit us with your thoughts (likes and dislikes) in the comments.
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Next up: Profoto


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98 Comments:

Blogger Jerod Foster said...

I actually just got a Ranger Quadra "S" Pro Kit last week and used it in conjunction with two Dyna-Lite kits in a fashion shoot the next day. While I haven't had enough time to give it a thorough review, one thing I already love about the kit (besides it's size and extreme portability) is the fact that you can operate it via sync cord, radio transmission (via Skyport), AND built-in optical slave.

Also, a particular disadvantage I see is the asymmetric power distribution when using both heads together. This isn't too big of a deal, but sometimes moving a light closer to and farther away from a subject is not an option, especially when size of light source is important.

Other than that, I know the Quadras are the best buy I've made in a long time in regards to portable lighting. Good Luck!

November 16, 2009 12:46 AM  
Blogger Eduardo said...

While the quadra seems sweet on paper the price combined with the output power and the need to buy the adapter kinda puts me away from the deal.

With two heads plugged you have an asymmetrical distribution of power: 66.5%-33.5%(266ws in one head and 134ws in the second head) which is not so nice for outdoor shooting. better than hot shoe strobes? yeah but you are paying for the kit around $2,200 (S heads) or $2400 (A heads) add 117 bucks for adapters for each head and while portability is good the price is really high for the output power you receive.

Besides they are really closely priced with the Ranger RX, the ranger RX AS with an S head is around $1950.00 and the price of the Ranger RX (non Asymmetrical) being $1,760.00 you loose one head but gain a whole lot of output power and the power distribution is much generous and better suited to shoot outside: 66.5%=731.5ws) on one head and 33.5%=368.5ws)for the other head with the AS version and the non AS is 550ws for each head (50%-50%), with the difference in output power and how close is the price are you willing to sacrifice a lot of output power for portability?

For me the price of the ranger quadra is way disproportionate with what it offers compared with the price of the Ranger RX and Ranger RX AS.

Ranger RX AS kit with one $1950.00 is and an extra S head is around $530 plus 88 bucks for 2 reflectors is $2568.00 and a ranger quadra with 2 heads and 2 adapters combo is around $2430.00.. $138 bucks of difference!

Also if you go with the quadra prepare yourself to buy all 7mm shaft umbrellas (the freelite heads for the ranger allow you to use 8mm umbrellas near the tilt mechanism).

I dunno David once you run some numbers you sacrifice a whole lot for portability and you don´t end up saving much money with the quadra.

-Prices are from adorama-

November 16, 2009 12:56 AM  
Blogger Sheldon N said...

I am a huge fan of the Ranger RX Speed AS. Fast recycle times, reasonable size and the battery seems to just last forever. The Elinchrom light modifiers are really excellent too.

I'm mainly a one light kind of guy at the moment, so my main issue was wanting something that could truly compete with the sun, at reasonable distance, AND through a largish light modifier.

The Ranger absolutely delivers. I can get over f/11 at 10ft ISO 100 through a double diffused 53" Octa. Move in tight and you can totally overpower the sun. If you need distance, a beauty dish gets you better than f/16 at 10ft ISO 100, and the HP Sports Reflector will do better than f/22.

The Quadra is nice, but giving up a stop and a half sort of defeats the "Big Light" purpose for me. The ranger isn't too large IMHO. I can toss the pack + one head and a camera in a backpack and hike miles out into the woods or on location.

When you compare the size/weight/price of the Ranger RX Speed AS against the Profoto 7b, the Ranger clearly comes out on top.

November 16, 2009 12:58 AM  
Blogger geroco said...

I've been using a Ranger RX kit with one head for about a year now. Frequently I use it on location shoots outside to overpower the sun. It has been a great kit and very reliable. I have the 53" octabank and the beauty dish and both produce wonderful light. My only complaint is not always having an assistant to, as you say, schlep all that equipment around.

An example of the lights power in outdoor conditions is here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/geroco/3583674191/

November 16, 2009 1:15 AM  
Blogger Wayne Mah said...

I recently bought the Speed AS with A head... I love it. Just gotta watch out when upgrading from SB2x to this... the power on the Ranger is huge -- be careful not to blind yourself or the model!

I've only shot inside with it but I can't wait to take it outside!

November 16, 2009 2:51 AM  
Blogger Charles Verghese said...

Hey David and Fellow readers...

Just wanted to let you know that there is an Indian version of the Elinchrom brand called Prolinchrom. Apparently licensed by Elinchrom. Might be worth a check to see if they have something similar to the Quadras/Ranger and pack..

Cannot seem to find a link to their site but 2 supplier websites in India are:
http://www.studiosystemsindia.com/prolinchrom.asp
http://www.photosystemsindia.com/productsmain.asp?maincatid=13&subcatid=72

I have no affiliation to any of these companies...just a FYI

Charles

November 16, 2009 3:27 AM  
Blogger Vibrant Photography said...

I have the Ranger Speed RX AS A kit (something of a mouthful) and I love it. There only 2 things I wish it had - an integrated handle (although the snappy harness is GREAT) and built in skyports.

I love that I can take it close to the ocean, rogue waves, sand etc and it cops a fistful of water and it keeps pounding out the light. One of the main decisions of taking it vs the Broncolor mobil which was available to me at the same price.

I hope to add a quadra to the mix soon, for run-and-gun weddings that I do. The quadra can power the Ranger A / S heads via an adapter cable, which makes a nice integrated system.

Check out my flickstream - particular the bridal series;

http://www.flickr.com/photos/8279638@N05/sets/72157612129494036/

for outdoor shots taken with the Eli and my personal favourite modifier- the Mola BD.

November 16, 2009 3:37 AM  
Blogger DaveBulow said...

Nice reflection on the first photo there, by the way. I assume it's the new 'lightweight' model? ;-)

Please excuse my cheek, I couldn't resist.

November 16, 2009 3:45 AM  
Blogger Michael Quack - Visual Pursuit said...

The Hensel Porty Lithium 12 delivers one flash every 1.8 seconds, and 250 of those at 1200 Ws in a row.

At the same time it weighs in far below the Profoto and the big Elinchrom, with spare batteries at little over 900 grams.

November 16, 2009 4:29 AM  
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November 16, 2009 4:35 AM  
Blogger petr said...

I went through deciding between Quadra and Ranger Speed AS recently, and in the end went for two Quadras.

The price for 2 Quadra packs 1 head each is almost the same as one Ranger Spees AS with two speed heads here in europe, so it was all about power/portability (shoot without assistant most of the time).

Pro's for Ranger Spees AS with two heads were - more power with 1 head. That's it!

Pros for 2 Quadras -
1. two independent lights, can set ratios and distance as you want

2. can go really really light if you don't need the power (just taking 1 pack with two heads)

3. even two packs with heads is much lighter setup to carry around than the big ranger

4. Using 2 heads on one stand, you're getting 800Ws light source (can push that through lastolite or umbrella), which is really not that far from 1100ws of the big brother

It really depends on what and how you're shooting, but for some tasks, Quadras can't really be beaten for the price.

I'll add that one day i'm adding the big ranger to the mix, but don't really see the need in near future.

November 16, 2009 5:09 AM  
Blogger snoop said...

Working as an assistant I find a common theme amongst the photogs and rental houses that I work with that Elinchrom has lousy turnaround times on repairs - so much so that some places don't stock them anymore.

Profoto and Broncolour on the other hand usually turn around repairs within a week.

November 16, 2009 7:09 AM  
Blogger moop said...

It's weird how cheap the Ranger RX AS is in North America... so much cheaper than here in Europe, whereas the Ranger Quadra prices seem the same.
So it was kind of a no-brainer price-wise to get the Quadras for me.
But still, the decision was mainly for portability. I can carry around two Quadra packs, heads and cables complete with camera body and three lenses in my not that big Dakine Sequence backpack (photographic evidence http://www.flickr.com/photos/moop/3884743849/ ). A huge advantage when going to shoot BMX riders and moving by bicycle with them.
In comparison, two Ranger RX with heads and cables are around 21kg while two Quadras with heads and cables are around 7 to 8kg. the heads with cables on the RX are 2.4kg alone so I would've needed to use heavier-duty lightstands than the amazingly compact and light Manfrotto Nanos that I use now, so it would've meant yet more weight in total.
I've recently traveled to Singapore and Japan with that gear and I don't think I would've really enjoyed that with the RX packs.

One word about the built-in Skyport receivers though. They are CRAP. At least regarding signal sensitivity or whatever you want to call it. They are super unreliable at maybe 60ft already with no obstructions between trigger and receivers whatsoever. Sure it won't matter much in a studio environment but then again in a studio you wouldn't really need a battery pack.
BUT: the build-in Skyport receivers are a real blessing at the same time, because you can change the power output remotely via the Skyport transmitters and also turn on the modeling light for a few seconds...
*sigh*
I've tested if the built-in Skyports will still work when a separate receiver (I used a standalone Skyport receiver) was used at the same time, and it actually worked - so with that method, if I had to put the pack further away than the integrated Skyport would permit, I could still trigger with the external Skyport and in case I needed to change the power output, I would only have to get closer... (to see if I'm in range, I could test signal first by trying to enable the modeling light...)
Speaking of the modeling light, I'm unconvinced it would really suffice for video, it's kind of weak IMO.
And regarding the 7mm shaft, I don't really have an issue with that since all I need is the Lastolite Umbrellabox which does come in 7mm flavors as well.

In retrospect, even if the price difference would've been as little over here as Eduardo here found on Adorama, I would've gone with the Quadras for the amazing portability. Sometimes it's more important than price.

But as you already stated, one Ranger RX (Speed or Speed AS for me) in combination with my two Quadras would probably be optimal since 400Ws are a bit limiting at times...

November 16, 2009 7:57 AM  
Blogger e.e.nixon said...

One thing you should feel comfortable about regarding the Quadra option is the build quality of those small heads. Will they stand up to the rough and tumble of frequent use, particularly if you are going to use the built in umbrella mechanism. There's a lot of plastic there.

The add-on accessory holder? Check that out too. There have been some reports that it's not terribly good at holding larger modifiers in place reliably.

It's probably not a good strategy to let the 'no modifiers' criterium hold much sway. I've always found "never say never" a good phrase to remember; keep an eye on the head room your choice leaves open.

November 16, 2009 8:24 AM  
Blogger Jan Klier said...

If you're looking for just a battery powered unit the Elinchrome is a good deal.

But the biggest disadvantage I found when I made my choice was that the entire product line-up isn't as cohesive as Profoto.

In the case of Profoto the modifiers literally fit on every single head. And a AC head fits on a battery unit.

So if you run multiple configurations there is a lot more flexibility. Or when you start out with a smaller model like the Accute and then later upgrade to the Pro7 all your modifiers will still work. In my review of Elinchrome that didn't seem to be the case.

Thus Elinchrome may be cheaper on an individual unit base, but in the long-term build out of the whole kit Profoto may pull ahead.

The other consideration I've heard from many is the ability to rent gear in variety of locations or at commercial studios. Profoto appears to be more widely available in those cases.

November 16, 2009 9:16 AM  
Blogger alexweltlinger said...

Hi there

I've been using the rangers for about a year now - have a RX Speed AS and a RX Speed battery, plus 3 heads and a multitude of modifiers. The system is bloody brilliant. I'm a location photographer and have literally bashed the rangers against the side of cliffs, had them ankle deep in water and a hanging off assistants shoulders (wonderful wonderful VAL's) in any number of strange places.

The battery life of these packs is fantastic! Rated at around 250 flashes at full power, I once pulled closer to 400 from a single charge at full power. I very rarely have to change batteries while shooting. And believe me, I use them hard...

The modifiers are also excellent, especially the softboxes. Easy to set up, very very durable and an excellent quality of light.

There are a couple of issues any prospective buyer needs to be aware of:

- The flash tubes aren't user replaceable. This is a biggy. If a tube blows on set, it's up to you get it replaced (at least, here in Oz), which must be done by a qualified technician. That's $600+ AUD. Youch.

- You can't ratio the heads independently if you're running two heads on one pack. This isn't the biggest issue however, you learn ot work around it.

- The case the rangers come in is absolutely useless. If you're going to be using them often and over, you'll have to invest in proper carrying cases. This will be obvious to any working pro though...

- The modifiers and accessories are comparatively more expensive than other systems, and you'll have to work very much harder if you want to use other modifiers on the Elinchrom system as they have their own proprietary format.

- There are a few odd misses in the Elinchrom system which would be nice to have, like egg crates - there's only egg crates on the smallest soft box, which is kind of pointless.

All that being said, I found the ranger system to be by far the strongest and most cost effective battery powered pack + head system on the market. Love em to bits! And I highly highly recommend them!

November 16, 2009 9:22 AM  
Blogger Ingo said...

I've bought two Quadra packs with three heads a few months ago (after lugging 60lbs of lighting gear to two weddings in blazing heat) and generally agree with most things which have been said here. The Quadras' main advantage is that you can carry a pack, a head, a camera, two small tripods and two umbrellas in a single backpack without massively breaking your back. In fact, if you take out the camera and lens, you can even fit a second quadra and a replacement battery in the backpack. *AND* that you can control the whole setup from the camera with your skyports.

After buying the first quadra unit we immediately ordered the second one as we decided to move most of our lighting towards this platform as it's so easy to carry it on location.

Personally, yes, I'd sometimes like more light and in 2010, we might add a Ranger RX with a beauty dish for more punch. But on the other hand, when putting two Quadras next to each other on full power, they can also deliver 800Ws …

-Ingo

November 16, 2009 9:52 AM  
Blogger Clyde said...

Curious why Lumedyne has been ruled out. US-made, very reliable, great versatility, up to 2400 WS of battery-powered light. They even have a 1600 WS ring flash head now.

November 16, 2009 10:10 AM  
Blogger Alex said...

Good write up David.

I'm a Quadra user and one thing you forgot to really mention is the skyport or more precisely the remote power change feature on it. For me that's a real bonus since I often put my strobes in difficult to reach places.

You can see an example here where I put the Quada on the opposite riverbank, it was actually a good 10min walk away. Skyports worked flawlessly to change power though and saved a lot of effort.

Alex

November 16, 2009 10:31 AM  
Blogger mr_chompers said...

And for those more interested in some shoots and in depth review of the Quadra, I've been documenting mine here: http://mr-chompers.blogspot.com/

A couple notes, not all LEDs are daylight balanced. Mine came seriously green, and I had to swap it for another head from another batch, all the originals here in Cologne were greenish. It is bright enough to sometimes use with ambient light, (the LED that is) even with a modifer on it.

I think a lot of people are underestimating it's power. It's 4x as bright as a 580ex II. It packs some serious punch.

November 16, 2009 11:46 AM  
Blogger swanky said...

I second the Lumidyne's, why are they not discussed. I have used them for years, and smashed them and abused them, they totally work. Just curious why only the "main stream" stuff is discussed here.

November 16, 2009 11:47 AM  
Blogger hansning said...

I've been dealing with a similar dilemna. I need at least 2 lights, at distances quite far from each other. using a 20- 30mm equivelent lens (90mm on 4x5), they needed to be out of frame. I am ending up building 2 battery packs, and I also have a generator. Together, the batteries cost less than $400, with 2 300w inverters. Obviously, speed isn't a concern when shooting 4x5, but the recycle time is pretty much the same as it would be if it were plugged into a wall. on my school's visatec 1600, that would me about 2-3 seconds for a full recycle.

I don't know if this would fit the bill, but getting some monolights + battery packs would work too, especially if you don't want to be tied down to one battery.
obvious more pro choices range from Vagabond II's to Innovatribux Explorer XT, to the more expensive Dynalite xp1100. DIY is definitely the cheapest route though.

November 16, 2009 11:54 AM  
Blogger Mike said...

I'm still a "small flash" user and have been looking at getting a set of the 800 W/S AlienBees. Are the Bees really considered minor-league compared to the Rangers?

November 16, 2009 12:07 PM  
Blogger David said...

For those asking about Lumy's, long-time readers will know I have used them for years. But as rugged as they are, the latest flashes make it very hard for them to compete head-to-head IMO. Esp the Quadra.

As for Hensels, many people who use them love them. But as I said this is not a comprehensive look at all lighting brands. (That would get crazy.) These are the three brands I narrowed my choices down to.

-DH

November 16, 2009 12:17 PM  
Blogger kaziutek said...

Ummm, we are in 2009 :-)

"NOTE: For much of Monday, 11/16/2007..."

November 16, 2009 1:04 PM  
Blogger Jan Fredrik Leversund said...

"For much of Monday, 11/16/2007, I will been the air much of the day."

Oooh, screw the lighting info, I'd rather you tell us about this time travel thing you're doing!

November 16, 2009 1:16 PM  
Blogger Merwen said...

I did not understand why you do not speak about the vagabond II or Zeus by Paul buff ? Great AND cheaper competitors no ?

http://alienbees.com/battery.html
http://www.white-lightning.com/zeus.html

November 16, 2009 2:23 PM  
Blogger ososnilknarf said...

Wow, what's happened to the strobist?

Remember the days when he would complain about spending $20 on a little light modifier?

Now, he's barely blinking at shelling out 5 grand for a light... wow.

November 16, 2009 2:31 PM  
Blogger Matthew Brush said...

A few years ago when I purchased lights the ranger and 7b were the two I was looking at. After having used both quite a bit, I found the profoto to be the better fit for me, despite the extra cost. Well 3 years ago the 7b was $1k less for the same thing!!!

That said, the 7b is built better. It's like a tank. Sure it's heavier but can take more of a beating. I have it housed in the location shooting bag. It's rock solid reliable. The ports are better constructed as well. The modifiers for profoto are better constructed. And you can bet that every rental house in the US and almost worldwide has your profoto needs taken care of. I have two elinchrom 600B monolights and a slew of their modifiers as well. Simply not as good in build quality.

One thing to keep in mind as well, especially for location guys wanting to achieve an above 1/500th sync speed using the new pocket wizards.

Don't mix light brands! Their duration speed differs as well as the output. Although it might be very similar, you'll likely run into issues. I've yet been able to sync my profotos and elinchroms together above 1/500th. But I've been able to sync 3 7b's together at 1/1000th of a second no problem.

Oh, and the flash tubes on the elinchrom are far more delicate and exposed. Be careful when on location. :)

November 16, 2009 2:38 PM  
Blogger pierre said...

Well I own 2 elinchrom RX 600's and I got myself a ranger quadra last summer.

FWIW, what I like about my quadra :
- super portability (ie a basic lighting and imaging rig fits in a domke bag)
- the built-in modelling light and skyport
- more rugged than it looks
- fires via sync cable, PWs, optical sensor or skyport
- constant flash output (well, more so than my vivitars). Makes setting up the lights a lot easier for me
- lets you control the flash output and modellling light from the camera's skyport
- short flash duration
- more importantly : the light it produces. From what I see, I'd say the quadra is up there with the rest of the elinchrom range, no corners cut here.

On the minus side:
- a bit expensive, though I would say "reasonable"
- The build *feels* a bit like plastic.
- "only" 400W/s

In short, I'm thoroughly happy with my quadra so far, am considering getting a second unit and reselling my RX600 monoblocs.
I've been struggling a bit with vivitars and PWs to setup my lights, and by comparison the quadra really is a different ballgame and makes my life easier.
Now if elinchrom could pack a ranger RX in the quadra form factor, I'd get one for the extra w/s, but then I don't think that's feasible right now.
I don't know about the competition in the US, but I live in Switzerland (where elinchrom (and broncolor - but they're a lot more expensive) lives), so I found no competition at this price/performance/features point.

BTW, first post here, thanks a lot for your work Dave and for creating such a great community of talented and inspiring people. You guys are an awesome bunch.

November 16, 2009 2:48 PM  
Blogger James said...

Mike / Alienbees

I would HIGHLY recommend checking out the Alienbees Einstein coming out (supposedly) next month.

November 16, 2009 3:12 PM  
Blogger Mark Astmann said...

Hi Guys,

Mark Astmann product manager for Elinchrom at Bogen here, so bear that in mind in the following discussion.

Service and support - Bogen Imaging handles all service and support for Elinchrom here in the US. For newer flash heads turn around time is usually within a week. Time may be times when we are out of a spare part on older units which can add a week or two the the repair, but this is very rare. However, To help eliminate this issue in the future, all units introduced since 2007 are modular and a factory trained technician can fix any of them in under a half hour.

Elinchrom Skyport - Moop I think you must have gotten a bad Skyport module as we don't get many issues. Please contact Bogen so we can correct your issue. Photographers like Tom Bol consistently use the Quadra with Skyport outdoors (and often in or around water) at distances of a couple of hundred feet (check out his blog on Quadra).

Elinchrom modifiers - I think that Jan Kiler may have gotten it wrong. Elinchrom makes 55 modifiers which fit on every head Elinchrom has ever made, with the exception of the Quadra head. If you use the Quadra Reflector Adapter, 53 of the 55 accessories work. - In terms of cohesiveness of the line, in comparison Profoto offers 34 modifiers.

Quadra - The Quadra was developed from the ground up to be lightweight and small. It was designed to do every job a photographer may run into, but, with today's high ISO's there is quite allot that can be done with 400ws at a 2.2 second recycle time at full power. One thing not mentioned here is battery re-charge time. From dead to full charge takes only 90 minutes. From dead to 80% power is only 45 minutes. With 110/150 full powered shots per charge this is a pretty compelling combination compared to others on the market today. - Also, while I know many of the users in this forum like to operate they shoe mount flashes in a manual mode, Quadra's has Eye-Cell technology built allowing them to operate flawlessly with shoe mount flashes that are using TTL. The Quadra has a training mode in which it will count all the pre-flashes the TTL flashes put out, then it won't flash until the last pre-flash goes off. The Quadra's power is adjusted with Skyport manually while TTL handles the shoe mount flashes.

Thought this might be helpful.

Mark Astmann
Lighting Product Manager
Bogen Imaging

November 16, 2009 4:46 PM  
Blogger Maks said...

What about Calumet?

http://www.calumetphoto.com/item/CE1307/

Travelite with AC power and Power Supply option.
or
Super cheap Genesis:

http://www.calumetphoto.com/item/CF0502K/

AC Power only.

And now question, for the above strobes, would it be betetr to have an original power pack or AC plug third party power supply/generator?
Such as this one:

http://www.innovatronix.com/detailpage.asp?productid=363&categoryid=42

Thank you!

Maks

November 16, 2009 4:48 PM  
Blogger Tom said...

david,

i am a soccer photographer in the netherlands and have to make all kinds of portraits of soccer players in a minimum amount of time (my record is 2 almost identical pictures and the subject was gone)
at first i used d-lights4's with a tronix explorere 1200 as battery.. ofcourse this was far from ideal...
when the quadra's where out i bought them without thinking. I knew there was no reason to think about it! it was perfect!
When i went to the store and bought the quadra i got a call of the office... a player would be flying to his home country and we needed a portrait of him!
at the airport i had to move around my portable studio several times. first it was the wrong terminal, then the security didn't want my inside the airport so i had to move out at the moment the player walked in the airport! offcourse the player was already late for the check in and had 1 minute.
we ran outside, put 1 light up and was in love with the quadra!

lightweight!
beautiful light! (even with the standard reflector)
lightweight!
fast
lightweight!
perfect!

but!!! tomorrow i am going to the shop again! buying a ranger speeed AS for a colleague! he claims 400 watt is far from enough! he is going to mix 2 sets! elinchrom and lumidyme...
to be continued!

November 16, 2009 5:53 PM  
Blogger m photography - melanie rebane said...

This is awesome. I have been sitting on my decision re: the Ranger and Quadra...this is very helpful in making my decision.

November 16, 2009 6:24 PM  
Blogger Fil Hunter said...

Good advice as usual, David, but I do take exception to one point:

"I ruled out the idea of choosing a flash based just on what other photogs had chosen..."

Well, maybe not JUST on what others choose, but for me it plays a big part. Who has every light, every lens, every type of camera they'd like?

Friends buying similar, compatible equipment creates an equipment-loaning network that gets everybody practically everything they need.

November 16, 2009 6:27 PM  
Blogger Pemberton King said...

I recently bought the Quadra (the case with 2 heads, two batteries, etc) and it is one of the best purchases I've ever made. With the adapter ring I use the 53" Rotalux Octa and the 39" inch box. Gorgeous light, fast recycle times. I just added the beauty dish, as well. Literally a studio you can carry in a briefcase.
Most have covered all the technical aspects of the Quadra, so I will add one other cool thing... you can daisy chain the cords that connect the heads to the packs. So you can connect two cords together to extend the distance the heads can be from the pack.

November 16, 2009 8:10 PM  
Blogger Irene Jones said...

Fantastic post and comments! I thought there was mention of discussing the white lightning/Paul Bluff units with battery pack. Those have been my system of choice forever now. I'd love to see what the Stobist has to say about those in comparison.
For examples of location and wedding work with this system you can view my portfolio. http://www.ijphoto.net . My monolights are 1600 ws and though they don't have as near the number of modifiers for this system, a little tinfoil, duct tape and ingenuity have gone a long way and been kind to my wallet. My set up includes 2 1600 ws and 1 800 ws strobe. Between the three lights I can light up any dark, old, cathedral like a Christmas tree.

November 16, 2009 8:32 PM  
Blogger Arthur McLean said...

"The Quadra has a training mode in which it will count all the pre-flashes the TTL flashes put out, then it won't flash until the last pre-flash goes off. The Quadra's power is adjusted with Skyport manually while TTL handles the shoe mount flashes."

pretty darn smart, but I'm guessing that wouldn't quite work with Nikon's CLS, different number of preflashes depending on what CLS is doing, correct?

November 16, 2009 11:19 PM  
Blogger Kevin Winzeler Photography said...

Great choice David! And Mark Astman (above) has been awesome to work with as well as the Bogen repair department!

-Kevin

Utah Photographer | Kevin Winzeler

November 17, 2009 2:50 AM  
Blogger Sean said...

For those concerned about recycle, as noted the 'Speed' version of the Ranger is the ticket. Is it as sexy as the Brons with selectable power on each head? No, but it doesn't cost nearly the same, either.

The Skyport is fantastic and I expect the next iteration will be leaps and bounds beyond. Hopefully to debut with the next Ranger?

A few public questions for Mark (really appreciate you taking the time to comment here, btw):
- Will the Quadra adapter be factory modified in future releases? 53 / 55 may fit, but by now you're well aware of the weight issues for many of them. Something as simple as a locking washer fix it, but it'd be great if that were being installed at the factory.
- Does Bogen offer any promotional pricing or incentives on the Ranger / Quadra setups?
- Would I be better buying these through a big chain or at my local store?
- Will / can Bogen consider bringing in the Ranger Speed pack (non-AS)? There are a number of uses I would have for this, but can't get hold of one.

And for all - these setups rock. I don't own the Quadra (Ranger guy) but have seen it in action - it's a thing of wonder. I mean, it's 1000 'equivalent' Ws in a 4lb package. Also realize that Paul Buff has decided to go to a 7mm umbrella shaft for his next iteration of his PLM, allowing you an incredibly affordable and compatible modifier on top of Elinchrom's own top-notch line.

November 17, 2009 6:02 AM  
Blogger Andy Smith said...

A timely discussion for me this one and really interesting to read others comments, thank you David/all. Here's an email I sent to a friend and fellow snapper after visiting my local pro shop to have a look at the Quadra gear, here in the North of England. Might be of more interest to UK readers this one:

"Just been to have a shufty at the Elinchrom kit. Its pretty good. As you know from the video it splits the power 66% 33% between the heads if you fire two from the same pack. For another £675 you can have another pack though and the original kit comes with two batteries so no need to get another to go with the extra pack. The standard cables are 2.5 metres but you can buy others, upto 3.5 metres, but you lose power when a 2.5m and a 3.5m cable are joined up.

You have to buy the bits that go on the heads/built in reflectors in order to attach soft boxes and other modifiers separately, I didn't ask how much they were but for the following:

2 packs [and 2 batteries].
2 heads
two extra 3.5M cables

you're looking at about £2000 excl. VAT. So put soft boxes and whatever else on top, I reckon you'd be looking at approximately £2250 to £2500 for a kit that will allow you to fire both heads on full and have a few toys to put on them. Its got built in Sky Port which is their equivalent of pocket wizards and some fancy memory that recognizes pre-flashes of other branded flashes so it won't fire if you're using it in an environment where there's more than one snapper working, which of course is useless to you and to me.

It all fits in a small enough bag and looks well made, not as flimsy as the Quantum gear. I'm going to hire it for the next ******* job... more sloppy equipment reviews to follow".

November 17, 2009 6:57 AM  
Blogger Mazza said...

Not much more to add than has already been said about the Quadra other than I was an early adopter of a set, had my 2 head kit for a couple months now and love them. Here in Australia, they set me back $3500 including the extra 3.5mtr cord. I'm extremely happy with it's output so far and haven't really been needing much more power since I pick my times to shoot to work in with the output capabilities of the system.
Looked at the RX Speed system as great as it is, but the weight of the battery was way more than I was willing to lug around. With the Quadra my assistant (wife) can easily sling the it's battery over one shoulder while holding light with my beauty dish attached at the same time if need be.
So all in all, a very happy camper.
Thanks David for doing the write-up, great work as usual.
http://www.flickr.com/photos/mazzapix/

November 17, 2009 8:06 AM  
Blogger Eduardo said...

@Arthur:

I use a monolight of another brand that can skip preflashes and mix it with CLS in manual mode without a hitch, in manual mode the pre flashes are the same everytime you use it.

However a full kit of a Quadra vs a full kit of a Ranger RX AS prices is merely $140.00-$150.00 which considering the low ouptut power of the Quadra doesn´t makes that much sense or much of a good deal.

November 17, 2009 9:33 AM  
Blogger petr said...

interestingly the small Quadras are getting most attention in the comments, I guess by being small and somewhat cheaper, thus closer to the regular strobists looking for upgrade -

I just want to add, if you are interested to see what power the 400Ws is in real life, you can check the Flickr group dedicated to Quadras here:

http://www.flickr.com/groups/quadra/

Most people over there use 1pack with 2 heads, and the results are quite interesting - in some cases so much that I'd say for entry level 1pack+2heads is very reasonable solution for stepping in bigger lights.

November 17, 2009 10:22 AM  
Blogger Rakesh said...

I recently purchased a Quadra basic set, and used it on one shoot so far... I can't wait to use it outdoors -- which if all goes well I'll be doing this weekend.

It's very easy to use, and I'm finding that just putting a shoot-through umbrella on it makes for gorgeous light -- I just used a reflector for fill rather than a 2nd light.

The main reason that I got the Quadra rather than the RX wasn't price, the difference there wasn't enough -- it was due to the weight of the battery pack. The entire Quadra kit, with my lightstand and a medium-sized softbox, weighs less than the 13 pounds of most of the bigger battery packs I've seen.

So you're paying for portability -- which isn't unusual.

November 17, 2009 1:50 PM  
Blogger Paul said...

I recently expanded my single vivtar 285hv flash to be accompanied by the ranger rx battery/A-light kit. Here are several reasons I love the new kit:

1. Extensive amount of light modifiers including but not limited to elinchrom-lines (I actually also bought the mola beauty dish to use with this)

2. Fast watt/second and can support an additional strobe for future expansion of equipment. Can easily overpower ambient even under direct sunlight.

3. Various ways to synch with other lights (built-in slave for the battery, sync cord, radio triggers)

4. Kit comes with extra battery so I can always be on the go and not worry about charging time (or can serve as backup for long shoots where there could be chance of failure or battery juice running out)

5. Portability (not so much compared to the quadra battery packs) but water-resistant and don't have to worry about being super careful during shoots when I tend to be more focused on the model rather than my equipment.

www.paultakamoto.com (the shots of my runner is an example of how I mix the elinchrom kit with my vivtar to cross light)

November 17, 2009 5:36 PM  
Blogger Mark Astmann said...

Response to Sean

- Will the Quadra adapter be factory modified in future releases? 53 / 55 may fit, but by now you're well aware of the weight issues for many of them. Something as simple as a locking washer fix it, but it'd be great if that were being installed at the factory.

EL 26339 the Quadra Reflector Adapter will now start to come through with new washers which prevent the creep problem that occurred when using some of the larger/heavier Elinchrom boxes. Still the adapter is not designed to hold boxes larger 100cm, about 39".


- Does Bogen offer any promotional pricing or incentives on the Ranger / Quadra setups?

Bogen is a distributor of product and doesn't sell directly to end-users. Currently there are no Bogen or Elinchrom promotions going on, nor am I aware of any ones in the immediate future (currently the BXRi compacts are being promoted). There is however a Quadra try before you buy program. Participating US dealers can be found at http://www.elinchrom.com/distrib.php?country=US. This list is updated on a weekly basis as dealers are lining more and more dealers come aboard.


- Would I be better buying these through a big chain or at my local store?

Whatever you are more comfortable with. We like for you to establish a relationship with your favorite dealer which can really help you out in a pinch.


- Will / can Bogen consider bringing in the Ranger Speed pack (non-AS)? There are a number of uses I would have for this, but can't get hold of one.

This is only the second request for this item I've received in the 4 years I've been Elinchrom product manager. The downside of the symmetric unit is that it provides a 7.5 stop range (instead of the 8.5 in the AS) and it's lowest power is 25ws (as opposed to 8ws on the AS). Many photographers find it very helpful to be able to go lower then 25ws.


I hope that this helps.

Mark Astmann
Lighting Product Manager
Bogen Imaging

November 17, 2009 6:40 PM  
Blogger Tim said...

So...... I was wondering if the $.02 cereal box snoots will work with this $5400 setup?? And even more so, I'm wondering what percentage of your loyal legions will ever get enough work to justify spending said monies on 3 flashes. I certainly appreciate your work, but if the Elinchroms are that steep, I would advise you not waste, er, invest a whole lot of time on the Profoto spot next week!

November 17, 2009 8:00 PM  
Blogger David said...

Sigh.

News flash: Profotos *are* coming next Monday, so feel free to skip that day, 'cause they are waaay flippin' expensiver.

AlienBees are next. They are cheaper, but still monolights. So that might be bad for some people, too, because they are big and some are even yellow or something.

This site is largely centered around speedlights because that is what the most people have access to. And they are great for lots of things. I know -- I have used them and still do.

But light is light. Use what works best for you.

And that is exactly what I am trying to determine, openly, through this series of posts. From the comments, it has clearly been of help to some other people, too.

Save the dogma for Photo.net. They *love* that dogma, and snobbery at Photo.net. The reverse snobbery that pops up here is just the flip side to that coin. No better, no worse.

FWIW, this is the last one of these if-it-ain't-speedlights-and-cardboard-it-ain't-valid comments I plan to moderate into publication.

Life's too short.

MGMT.

November 17, 2009 10:04 PM  
Blogger Grant Gunderson Photography said...

I have been using the Ranger RX AS Speed packs for years and swear by them. If your trying to stop fast moving action in gnarly weather conditions nothing else comes close in a battery pack. The main advantage is the extremely fast flash duration when shot at full power, so the amount of motion blur is at a minimum.

Check out my site for examples of images shot with Elinchrom gear in the worst possible conditions.

www.grantgunderson.com

November 18, 2009 1:18 AM  
Blogger Jason said...

Regarding the Profoto post for next week, by the sound of things I guess you are not looking at the D1 monos? I've been very very interested in finding some feedback on these lights beyond the initial FUD that came out around their launch.

For example, people railed on the fixed 77 degree reflector and how that's just all around bad for their light modifiers. Though I'd be shocked if Profoto was so short sighted to come up with a design that didn't work with their modifers and produce great results. Though maybe they did and they really have a failed design on their hands? Unknown, as I have yet to find a constructive and well written evaluation of them to explain all the ins and outs.

Last week when you first said you'd be doing this series, I got the feeling you'd be leaning more towards monos - or at least have them in consideration with all three companies. Maybe that isn't the case?

With AB - will you be considering Paul's new Einstein design that should be released any time real soon now? No yellow to worry about, and they sound like a nice improvement over the existing AB units in place today.

Last, regarding the comments about small flash strobes and their obsession that they think this blog is only supposed to be that? Thanks for sticking to your guns and explaining the reality. When I first started reading this blog, I realized that the small strobes were a great learning tool that many of us may only use for the rest of our lives - but more importantly with them we could learn some good lighting techniques that could be translated to bigger and better lights down the road. I for one look forward to more good content on your site, and less of the noise that shows up in the comments from time to time when these topics come up!

Keep up the great work!

November 18, 2009 2:10 AM  
Blogger petr said...

To put some angle on justifying big lights purchase and if it's thing to be considered by amateurs (ie. "you have to get lots of work to justify spending so much") -

it's a HOBBY - as long as it doesn't make you starve (and in some cases even though), hobby is about doing what you love, money or no money coming back from it.

How many expensive sport bike owners do race for money professionally? How many golf players bring back money by playing the sport they love?

I'm getting mad more and more everytime i hear "You should be making some money, spending all those money on photography" - so what? I can afford some lenses and i can afford some lights.

It makes me happy to shoot what i want how i want, and actually what i love most about being amateur is the freedom it carries, no obligation to deliver anything, freedom to leave event or end shoot at any point (as long as the other parties involved are on same boat).

So from this point of view, series of articles on choosing bigger lights is actually very welcomed for amateurs, as the investment might not have any payback turnaround, and so the mistakes will be felt much harder.

I still use cardboard gobos and salad-bowl BD's with Elinchroms btw...

November 18, 2009 2:42 AM  
Blogger Neil Turner said...

I've had the Ranger Quadras since the day they arrived in the UK. They replaced my ageing Lumedyne system and, after nine years using them, I would not go back. These weigh about the same and are a bit more powerful but the real beauty is that they are ultra-consistent.

Like most photographers, I know what I want and nobody makes the perfect system and so my Quadras have had a few small changes made to the way they work with light modifiers. Simple stuff, no real expense and it means that I have the closest thing to an ideal system for me. I use the Skyport triggers even though I own a lot of Pocket Wizards. They are small, light and have easily enough range for me.

I integrate my Quadras with speedlights using the Skyport receivers where necessary. I'm a bit of a "one light" kind of photographer but I am finding some of my magazine clients like an extra kick light or two and the speedlight is ideal for those.

The 3.5 metre cables are better than the 2.5 metre ones and the softbox adapter isn't as good as it could be. The range will grow and I look forward to adding some more bits an pieces.

If I had a couple of assistants and didn't have to carry everything that I need myself I would have the Ranger RX system. As it is, I have to balance portability with power and ease of use and for me the Quadra is as good as it gets. Generators, external batteries and even mains power are no use to me so that rules out 66% of systems. Availability of kit and living in the UK rules out another 14%. rom the remaining 20% it really is a "no-brainer".

Neil

neil@dg28.com

November 18, 2009 8:07 AM  
Blogger roncastle said...

I'm probably going to buy a set of the Quadras, but I'm a little unclear about the remote triggering. The video seemed to say the trigger (that allows remote level control) was included in the package, but I don't see that in the Amazon package. I have a set of Pocket Wizards with a TT-1 transmitter, and I just got a set of Radio Popper Jr's (transmitter, 3-regular receivers and 1 Studio). Will either of these trigger this unit? Will the Radio Popper transmitter be able to control the levels like it does for the Alien Bees? OR....do I have to buy yet another transmitter? HELP!!

November 18, 2009 9:05 AM  
Blogger petr said...

@roncastle

skyport trigger is included in the "ToGo Pro" kit, which consists of 2 heads, 2 batteries, 1 pack and 1 skyport trigger (along with case and 2 cables).

If you buy the smallest set (1 head + 1 pack + 1 battery), you need to get the skyport on your own.

PW's will trigger the unit, as the pack has regular jack input, to wich you can plug any standard radio trigger receiver. No power adjustments with other than skyport transmitter though.

You can use any radio to trigger the pack, and still get remote power adjustments by carrying the Skyport trigger in your pocket - I do that when i integrate Quadra with speedlights, I'm triggering everything with Cybersync's but control the power of Quadra remotely by Skyport i have with me.

November 18, 2009 10:57 AM  
Blogger gene2008 said...

Nice timing for me. I have fried 5 Sunpak 555s in the past year doing the altar shots at weddings. They are great units... just not up to shooting half power and 100 shots in a short time. At some point I could pay for just about any "big" unit by avoid the repair bills.

I'm anxious to see thoughts on a monolight in the field and how it is powered. I'm sure by early in the next year I will be conducting my own economic stimulus by running my own deficit spending program.

Thanks Mr. DH.

November 18, 2009 11:28 AM  
Blogger jayanth said...

what about the broncolor verso? culd u tell us more abt tht also?

November 18, 2009 12:10 PM  
Blogger David said...

Jayanth-

Nope. I got it down to these three before choosing. Hadda draw the line somewhere...

:)

-D

November 18, 2009 1:20 PM  
Blogger Çois. said...

Question for those owing a Ranger unit. Can you also plug the Ranger in an AC outlet when one is available and use the Ranger as you would an ordinary power pack? I read it is possible with the newest Hensel Porty Lithium. Which implies that indoors, one is not limited to the 250 or something pops.

November 18, 2009 3:08 PM  
Blogger Mark Astmann said...

Hi Cois,
Ranger's and Quadra's always run off their batteries, however, you can plug them into an A'C outlet with the included charger and they will recharge when not firing.

November 18, 2009 7:55 PM  
Blogger Sean said...

@Cois:

From the Ranger manual:
"With a flattened battery in place, the Ranger RX Speed S/AS may be used as an emergency with the
charger connected. Efficient battery charging will only re-commence when the Ranger RX Speed S/
AS is switched off."

@Mark:

Thanks for the responses - I'm glad to hear the change has been made to the adapters... even if I can't get a non-AS Speed RX box ;).

Knowledge and responses like these are why I keep coming back to you guys, fwiw.

Sean

November 18, 2009 9:48 PM  
Blogger Heipel said...

Man this one good post; can't wait for the next ones. I'm in the middle of deciding on new "big" lights and this just enriches the research to an amazing degree.

Oh and when are you going to do a seminar in Alberta, Canada?

November 18, 2009 9:53 PM  
Blogger Gary S said...

The one problem with charging a Ranger RX while shooting is that the charger uses the same socket as the Skyport. You'd be better off having a second battery to charge while you use the first. Swapping batteries is very quick.

November 18, 2009 11:13 PM  
Blogger Graeme Murray said...

Have a look at the Ranger and the Quadra in action together here http://www.vimeo.com/6902593 ,

November 19, 2009 4:06 PM  
Blogger craig said...

This is perfect timing. I am in the market for either the Quadra or the Acute 600b. It will be nice to hear an open honest C&C of these units.
And due to the fact that i live in a city that you cannot rent, or try these before you purchase them as they are both specail order, makes me appreciate this even more. Nothing worse them spending the $$$ and finding out it is not going to suite your needs, and you cannot return it.... OUCH.
Can any one tell me if you can replace the quadra flash tubes on your own, or they like the ranger that you have to ship the head back?

thanks
c

November 19, 2009 7:05 PM  
Blogger moop said...

craig, according to this fm thread ( http://www.fredmiranda.com/forum/forum/topic/837388 ), they are replaceable (actually they seem to be the same tubes as on the BXRi) and one tube goes for about $114 at BHphoto

I was wondering about the Profoto AcuteB 600 as well, before getting the Quadra - but in the end I'm glad about my choice, since I would've never managed to put two AcuteB in my backpack, also I would've paid as much as for both Quadras for one AcuteB, plus you can only connect one head on the AcuteB (okay I never use the Quadras with two heads regardless..)

Mark, thank you for hinting me my Skyport modules might me faulty, I will look into this. Also I'm positively surprised Bogen/Elinchrom would get involved with end users this way, really nice :)

November 19, 2009 11:22 PM  
Blogger Sergei said...

Thanks for putting it together, David.

I recently started to ponder on bare bulb heads meself too, checked out quantum q-series, didnt like them (too much pay for too little power), went to see Elinchrom and now almost swayed to buy a set with 2 Quadras (just have to find a decent deal). Not a last reason for it - great location lighting stuff by Frank Doorhof, who is using Rangers, but then i rarely shoot in midday - wont need that much umphhh..

And now you pulling there too. Dammit. So tempting :)

November 20, 2009 12:40 AM  
Blogger Daniel said...

Hey David,
I´m very interested in your choice criteria for a mobile flash system and this blog series. What about your "natural preference" for monoblocs? I think that the "cable salad" is much lesser? For my opinion that´s a big advantage, especially for outdoor shootings. Or did you plan to speak about them in another post of this series?

Another short remark:
The german word for "dragging" is "schleppen", so you have to spell it "to schlepp". So my laptop has always been a Schlepptop. ;-) (Fooling around, sorry for my bad english at this point...)

November 21, 2009 8:36 AM  
Blogger Dominik Eller said...

For indoor shootings i usually stick with SB-800 and SB-26 because of portability.

A few weeks ago I had the time to do some testing with the Quadra.

There were some con´s: I putted one flash on a 280cm (about 9 ft) standard-background-stand with a superclamp, but the chord betwen head and unit is just 250cm ( 8ft)
..hm.. i puttet two bricks under the unit and fixed it. But this got me a limitation of about 8ft diameter to setup the second light, and made it impossible to do the desired pictures. Switched to another idea, which came out with better pictures...

the point is: If you´re indoor you dont need the big power of 400ws - i dialed it down to about 25 - 50 and that´s what you can get with your speedlights, too. (while using a softbox, i adapted with a universal connector)

Brings the value/dollar on the table: for two grands i can buy four or five SB-900 which ´re giving me more creative freedom within the same weight - and without cables in the way, causing accidents when overlooking them a second.

The plastic battery clip isn´t very rugged in constuction, i would guess that will be one of the first things to be broken.

The flash bulb is unprotected, in europe there are no protection glasses for them, as available for the big heads. Don´t know about them in the US.

Summery: Too expensive and without the (expensive) extension chords not that versatile.

But this was only testing indoor portraits. maybe there´re other fields it´ll work better.

November 21, 2009 10:06 AM  
Blogger moop said...

@ Dominik
attach a superclamp to the lightstand, hang the quadras off them. no need for extension cords and actually more stability for the lightstands

November 21, 2009 4:03 PM  
Blogger Mark said...

I use the Broncolor Mobil A2r with two heads and 1200ws...Lots of juice and fast recycle time and for students the price is much better than the Ranger...(amazingly the student price on the a2r is cheaper than the single head Profoto 600B as well) and it has the bonus of being fully compatible with the rest of the bron gear in the cage. But man those Quadra heads look cool....

November 21, 2009 8:54 PM  
Blogger Mark Astmann said...

Bogen has a student program as well where students pay what a dealer pays for any of the equipment. Students buy directly from thier favorite photo dealer.

Mark Astmann
Lighting Product Manager
Bogen Imaging

November 22, 2009 9:04 AM  
Blogger Hunter said...

So I bought the Quadra kit and will by the big ranger kit sometime soon. I am a wedding photographer who does the strobist thing, so the Quadras make sense for me. Lighter than my current B800's and vagabond II.

Now my only problem is that I cannot find the Quadra reflector adapter ring anywhere. Everyone is sold out! And I mean everyone.

If Mark Astmann from Bogen is still watching these comments, please import more of these. I desperately need two. I cannot use Quadras with my softboxes unless I have the adapter.

November 23, 2009 12:48 PM  
Blogger kirk tuck said...

David, I have two of the Profoto 600b's and one of the Elinchrom Ranger RX AS Speed systems and I love them both. The Profoto stuff is indestructible. It's half the weight (and half the power), works well with all my studio packs and monolights.

But I bought the Ranger as I love to shoot in high sun with a big softbox and the RX pack with a head is amazingly powerful. Now I'm addicted to the 1/10th stop ratio controls.

If I had a "do over" I'd go with three Ranger RX AS Speed packs and a bag of speedlights. That would do it for studio and location. Everything else goes.

All the best, Kirk

November 25, 2009 1:20 PM  
Blogger fotoSam said...

Well is shoot a lot of sports (cycling) and Portrets inside or on location now i was wondering if ill get enough power out of 2 q or should i go and get the ranger Rx speed Rs... i would like to work with them in my studio too so... hmmm Sugestions??

November 25, 2009 1:28 PM  
Blogger Erez Avraham said...

using Ranger RX for bar mitzvah photography and portrait photography and i love it, very versatile light
but it is HEAVY

Erez
http://www.erezavraham.com/blog

November 26, 2009 12:45 AM  
Blogger Paul D'Andrea said...

About having to buy new umbrellas because of the 7mm shaft: I just recently got a set of Quadras and while marveling at the size of the head compared to an SB-800 it struck me that I may as well just use a regular umbrella adapter. I put a double ended spigot in the top in place of the cold shoe and mount the head to that. It's just about exactly the same height.

December 20, 2009 11:13 PM  
Blogger Simon Keitch said...

I posted my initial thoughts on the Ranger Quadra system on my blog shortly after I received mine and had had the chance to use them out on location a couple of times: Ranger Quadra First Thoughts

They certainly won't suit everyone but they're the best system currently available for the kind of work I do.

February 16, 2010 4:31 AM  
Blogger Petar said...

A Quadra (A-heads kit) user here. I quite like the system, but as it seems to often be with Elinchrom - they didn't quite get it right. Here's a few cons to consider...

Very poor build quality on the heads and especially the swivels. The swivel on the EL adapter is particularly useless (having to modify a 70+EUR accessory in order to make it work is just a shame, real shame). Lots of plastic which eventually either wears off (esp. where the heads attach to reflectors or the adapter) or simply cheapens a unit which costs a 4-digit number in EUR. No simple bulb cap as there is for the bigger heads (pity!). The later introduced multifunctional cap is just a cap (expensive too, mind you). If you want to use it as a diffuser - do keep in mind that at Elinchrom they forgot to color-correct the temperature of the light coming through it. So shooting a diffused bare head with, say a Deep Octa will just ruin your photo. The diffuser/cap adds a blue cast to the light... ugly. The build of the battery-to-generator attachment is of particular concern - they could have made at least this one of something that's not plastic. On my kit, with either one of the batteries, it's really hard to attach them - too much power needed for a simple task (yet another design flaw). Lastly, the carabiners that come with the shoulder strap are made out of (what appears to be) light aluminum and the holes on the generator - of something much tougher. As a result of some swinging around, the carabiners are actually slowly being destroyed as the hard metal east into the soft (not to mention the small particles that leaves around).

I don't mean to be all too negative in my feedback, but that's what it is. I've used cheap gear, I've used expensive gear. The Quadra falls somewhere in the middle - in terms of functionality it's great (and the power is not to be underestimated), but the build quality got sacrificed a bit too much... Or perhaps the engineering dept. was a bit in a hurry.

Either way, I only got the Quadra cause I couldn't afford the Ranger RX AS with two heads and didn't like the fact that you can't easily change the bulb on the latter. Yet, you can get quite good kits for similar prices from Broncolor or other good brands. I doubt I'll be buying a second generator unless Elinchrom improves them and lowers the price.

Hope that'll be helpful for anyone looking for a new buy. :)

April 18, 2010 5:38 PM  
OpenID Luke said...

Very interesting, David, and useful comments! I'm using the Elinchrom Ranger Quadra for outdoor sports photography mainly (review on my blog), and I'm very happy with it. Its low weight and dimensions are ideal for outdoor use.

June 29, 2010 8:41 AM  
Blogger david kiang said...

I just recently purchased the Quadra S kit from Samy's this past month. This pack was really putting me on the fence in terms of quality and power. But the quality of the build is coming through.

The plastic parts are extremely thin or soft. As Petar pointed out, some of the Quadra's design doesn't make sense. Very unusual for the Swiss. On the adapter ring's neck. A large set screw to lock down the adapter will rip from the plastic sleeve from normal use. Various complaints and fix its from users to keep the swivel from flopping over. As the joint is prone to loosing.

The strobe heads have very little room between the bulbs and reflectors. Mounting the heads into a part is a delicate operation. I wish there was more meat around the head.

Batteries can use a cover to protect them. The case is almost useless for location work. It's again soft plastic and lock hinges are weak. More akin to a child's toy.

The Quadra truly feels like a unit that got rushed into production. Many short cuts made and quality of materials compromised.

July 29, 2010 1:17 AM  
Blogger Neil Turner said...

13 months in and I am still impressed. These units are used every day and the various complaints about quality of materials do not ring true for me. There are one of two small design flaws - the placement of the strap lugs being the worst - but I have to say that after tons of use they are still doing the business.

July 29, 2010 9:54 AM  
Blogger Tom said...

I bought a couple of the Quadra (S) head kits as soon as they became available here in the UK along with the adapter rings so have had them in use for around 18 months shooting magazine editorial and commercial work.


Starting at the “top” and working down, the Quadra heads are tough, very tough in fact, and have taken many falls when stands have been blown over (despite sandbagging). A fall with one of my Lumedynes would generally break the flashtube. So top marks there.

The adapter rings do the job although two of mine were delivered with distorted components which prevent the mounting of some reflectors. I put that down to quality control issues with the first batch and it doesn’t appear to be anything which undoing a few screws and applying brute force wouldn’t put right. You have to tighten the locking tab much harder than seems prudent to prevent softboxes from creeping downwards, but 18 months on everything is still in one piece despite my initial fears of shattering the plastic components.

Looking at the leads, it would be a good idea to paint a line on the end that goes onto the pack as they can be tricky to line up in poor light and simply offering the cable up to the pack and rotating it until it slips into position will result in bent pins.

On the pack itself, Neil has mentioned the strap lugs, I’ll add that the strap gnaws away at the rubber retaining ties for the outlet caps until they either break off or you become frustrated with the whole deal and cut them off with a scalpel. The metal ties on the Ranger are better as they let the caps dangle overboard out of the way.

The pack itself has performed well and 400 w/s will give f16 at 1/250th sec on Lo 1 (ISO 100 on a D3) through one layer of diffusion on a Deep Octa positioned four feet from the subject. In other words, just enough to wrestle the average British summer sky into submission, if not quite enough to overwhelm it.

On both packs the battery retaining clips on the pack itself have partially broken though, and believe me, I’m not tough on gear. At least it makes the slightly fiddly battery easier to attach.

Recycling is slightly slower than my older Lumedyne 400 Ultra and to me the default “slow” mode is too slow when confronted with a time conscious subject. My packs stay in the fast mode but it’s as well to be aware that the pack will switch itself back into snail mode long before the battery is drained, so make sure you have another battery ready to as you’ll be changing it before you would otherwise expect.

October 11, 2010 10:57 AM  
Blogger Petar said...

Hi again, David and everyone else who may be looking into the EL Quadra for a purchase. Back in April I posted in the comments my thoughts on the product (and not much has changed). Shortly thereafter I came up with a cleaner mod on the Quadra Reflector Adapter (well known for being rather unreliable), so that it can hold larger modifiers. I've been using my modified adapter ever since and have been happy with how it handles the Deep Octa.

I finally got to launch my blog and post the mod in details and photos. If you don't mind me posting this, here's a link to how I did it: Elinchrom Quadra Adapter Mod.

November 19, 2010 4:33 AM  
Blogger Paul D'Andrea said...

Nice mod, Petar, and nice timing. Just this morning I broke the base of my adapter. I inadvertently backed out the screw that tightens the adapter to a light stand and when I screwed it back in it was cross threaded, pushing back and breaking the plastic base. I'll replace the base with a lite-tite swivel and be done with it.

I love the Quadras, dislike the adapter. I'm not that hard on gear, but this is the second one that's broke.

November 20, 2010 1:26 PM  
Blogger Paul D'Andrea said...

At the camera shop I found a workable solution that's a bit simpler than Petar's (His may be more elegant though). I picked up one of Manfrotto's 5/8 to 1/4 adapters (014-14):
http://www.sears.com/shc/s/p_10153_12605_SPM863629301P?sid=IDx20101019x00001a&ci_src=14110944&ci_sku=SPM863629301 (Who knew Sears sold grip EQ?)

Using a double ended spigot I attached this to a regular umbrella bracket: http://www.flickr.com/photos/pauldandrea/5200553466/

I thought about using non-permanent lock-tight, but it holds very well as is.

November 22, 2010 10:46 PM  
Blogger Desherchobi said...

I don't know how many times I've visited this post.... thanks a lot, David!!.... just got my Ranger RX Speed AS pro kit few days back and still haven't managed to take it out... planning to test its portability this weekend, taking it up into the 12th floor of an abandoned building no lift!! :O

Sharif
Dhaka, Bangladesh

November 30, 2010 1:53 PM  
Blogger Bo said...

I have referred back to this article many times and was kinda disheartened to see that the comments trailed off over a year ago.

I have been using Alien Bees units for years (3 B800s, 1 B1600). I too had issues with consistency with them, so I finally got to the point where I could look at upgrading to more consistent lighting.

I am currently trying out the Elinchrom Quadra with an "A" head. I got the updated kit with the Quadra RX pack. I do a good mix of studio and location shooting, so I wanted to have the ability to work both.

I am currently having to use the Quadra in conjunction with my Alien Bees softbox and octabox. There's a special mount that you need (just search "sp-studio elinchrom" on B&H and it's a $10 adapter).

One question I had was whether or not you can use the Quadra with AC power, and I was delighted that you can. Just plug in the power adapter and you're ready to shoot when AC power is available.

This is my first venture away from Alien Bees. After reading multiple reviews, the build quality of the Quadras seemed to be the biggest problem. After playing with the unit a bit, I have to agree with that. The mount feels very cheap and is hard to get the hang of. I don't see how it'd be possible if I wasn't used to setting the softbox on the floor and mounting the head to it. Much trickier than I'm used to with the Alien Bees heads.

I mainly went with Elinchrom because of cost. When I was looking at the upgrade path, it'd more than exceed my budget to go with 2 Profoto lights, plus their modifiers. It's just a cost that I can't justify. Plus, I've seen many Profoto users using Elinchrom lighting mods.

I understand, with the Quadra, there's gotta be a trade-off somewhere. If I can get the portability and performance consistency that I'm needing, I understand that build quality has got to suffer a little bit. Maybe it'll get easier the more experience I have with it, and since I don't have any experience with Profoto it could be that their mount system isn't all that great either, even though the reviews tell a different story.

I'd love it if other current Elinchrom users could chime in, especially since it seems that the system has been updated since much of the discussion here has taken place.

January 14, 2011 2:05 PM  
Blogger Forrest said...

Bo --

I'm intrigued that you said that the Quadra can be run off AC power, because it's not mentioned in the literature, and the Bogen/Elinchrom guy (Mark Astmann) said that neither the regular Ranger or the Quadra could be run off AC. Has anyone else verified that they can be run on AC?

I went to B&H yesterday, told the guy that i was an advanced amateur who was just getting into lighting -- I've done some on-location shooting with a strobe and an umbrella, and a few friends and family weddings, but with just an SB800 -- and now, I wanted to "step-up", and he recommended the Bowens 400 or 500 with a Travelpak. This does seem a LOT heavier, alhtough they offer a total of 1000WS from the two lights, and they can be plugged in, something that he thought could be important for a wedding.

I'm thinking that if I get the Bowens kit (which is well put-together, but huge), I will wind up leaving it home (or in the trunk of the car), while with the Quadra, I'll manage to have it with me a lot more frequently.

But as I noted, the B&H guy also recommended the Bowens because it could be plugged in, and wouldn;'t run out after 150 flashes.

Which explains why I'm curious about the ability to plug in a Quadra.

Thanks in advance for anyone's further thoughts.

March 09, 2011 3:22 PM  
Blogger mr_chompers said...

Forrest

As a Quadra owner, you can indeed run it off the wall. You plug it in like it's charging, and keep shooting. Now I've never done this for hours, so I don't know if you can ever "catch up" to the charge and start getting missed flashes, but it will continue to charge while plugged in and you using it.

March 09, 2011 6:37 PM  
Blogger ikuma said...

Forrest, the Quadras can definitely be run on AC, basically you just keep the charger plugged in and the Quadras switched on, works fine, haven't had any issues in the one and a half years I've been using mine.

Also, the ~120-150 flashes are at max output only, which I personally don't really use that often.

March 09, 2011 7:10 PM  
Blogger Neil Turner said...

This is not officially supported by Elinchrom but it does work over a short duration. I have suggested that an AC power supply accessory would sell well but they have never indicated that they are considering adding one to the range.

The more effective strategy if you have AC power available is to have two batteries and keep one on charge whilst shooting with the other. I use this tactic regularly and it has yet to let me down - even on a recent twelve hour corporate portrait shoot.

March 10, 2011 3:30 AM  
Blogger Mark Astmann said...

Hi Forrest,

I think you misunderstood what I said about Quadra's running on electricity. My exact quote from a previous posting was:
"Ranger's and Quadra's always run off their batteries, however, you can plug them into an A'C outlet with the included charger and they will recharge when not firing."
So, yes they can be plugged in while in use.

March 10, 2011 5:12 PM  
Blogger ikuma said...

Hello Mark, good to see you're still keeping track of this thread here. I've finally had my quadras checked (maybe you recall my issues I had with the builtin skyport receivers, I commented under the nickname moop way earlier in this thread, a while ago) and Elinchrom replaced the keyboards for both my units within just a little more than a week! The distributor had told me it might take four to six weeks when I brought my packs to them. Quite the pleasant surprise. Also, the Skyports seem to be working a lot better now, didn't get to do extensive testing yet but the initial impression is very good. Oh and as an added bonus my old original Quadras have been upgraded to the RX models :)
So thumbs up for Elinchrom!
And thank you for suggesting I get them checked. Even though it took me a while. (Although I didn't contact Bogen but rather Profot in Germany since that's where I live...)

March 10, 2011 9:32 PM  
Blogger Johannes said...

Are there any strobes that can function with shutter speeds in excess of 1/250s?
The Nikon SB900 (and perhaps others) can work at all camera speeds. I have 4 Elinchrom BX 500 flashes and they function only up to 1/250. If a small SB900 can do the job I wouldn't expect anything less from a studio flash. I heard that Profoto has one but obviously I'd like to stick with Elinchrom because I already have 4.
Johannes

April 24, 2011 2:45 PM  
Blogger ikuma said...

Johannes, maybe check the Hypersync mode of PW's new triggers: http://robgalbraith.com/bins/multi_page.asp?cid=7-9884-9903-9906 (scroll down)

also, Elinchrom has new versions of the Skyports out as well, Skyport Speed, which might get you higher sync speeds as well, I have them but havent really tested them much with that in mind

April 25, 2011 8:31 AM  
Blogger Mark Astmann said...

Sync speed's are mostly dependent on the camera itself some modern camera's can achieve a 1/350's, but most are around 1/200 to 1/250's.
Most studio strobes are usually limited to the 1/200 or maybe 1/250's sync speeds the camera is capable of. Camera specific flash guns achieve higher sync speeds by pulsating the flash as the camera's curtain slices through the exposure. Using this technique you cam get very high sync speeds at the determent of overall flash power, so you've got to be fairly close to your subject to make it work.

LPA Design's Pocket Wizard Flex system features a technology called Hypersync which will allow you to achieve much higher sync speeds on Elinchrom RX devices (except Quadra - sorry, not the BXRi's or D-Lite's either). How fast? On a Style RX600 compact we have seen a 1/4000's sync speed. On a Ranger RX we have seen speeds as fast as 1/8000's. And the real benefit is that you can do this without the enormous loss of power you experience with flash guns. Adventure/Sports photography has a quick summary of the system on his blog along with some images. You can find them at http://prophotocoalition.com/index.php/tbolppc/story/elinchrom_ranger_high_speed_sync_w_pocket_wizard/.

Mark Astmann
Lighting Product Manager
Manfrotto Distribution

April 25, 2011 12:53 PM  

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