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Monday, April 26, 2010

Test Drive: Mystery Meat 400ws Chinese Flash


Ever tempted to look to the east for a less expensive option on a bigger flash? Not an unreasonable thought, considering many name-brand flashes are made there anyway.

A couple weeks ago I got a chance to play with one of the new Chinese flashes that are designed to compete with the Elinchrom Ranger Quadra.

Short version: Several good surprises -- and one very bad one. Hit the jump for the full test drive, and to find out whether one of these money savers might be for you.
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First, Some Ground Rules

I'll start out by saying that I do not have any kind of special equipment to test things such as light color temperature, flash pulse duration, actual power delivered in a flash pulse, etc. But you can infer a lot of these specs by shooting at various settings and looking at the results.

But it is for that reason that this review will be necessarily generic -- no brand names. And to be honest, 99+% of you would never have heard of the manufacturer anyway. Nonetheless, I thought some seat-of-the-pants observations might be useful to people in a general sense if you are considering saving some money by opting for one of the off-brand "in-between" flashes. (I.e., not speedlights, nor full-blown studio workhorses.)

If you recognize the brand from the name-redacted photos above, well, please keep yer yap shut about it in the comments. Since I am not benchmarking this stuff with full-blown testing equipment, I do not want to point fingers anywhere in specific.


The Backstory

I was evaluating the flash for an unnamed camera retailer based in central Ohio. They wanted me to take a look before seriously considering carrying the flashes. The Reader's Digest version is, for some of you this flash would be a screaming buy. And for some it would just send you screaming into the night.


What You Get

There is a lot of variability in price on these flash packages , and in what is included in the kit. The latter is important, because one of the downsides is that the typical support gear (different reflectors, additional batts, etc.) are not nearly so widely available as with the brand-name stuff.


So here is what was in my tested kit. Oh, and there was a really cheesy "rock and roll" style square silver case that you would probably end up not using.

But right off of he bat, first impressions are excellent on the supplied accessories. First and most important, the battery doubles as a turbo battery for your speedlights. It felt pretty lightweight and I was not prepared to be impressed with the capacity. But it turned out to be a lithium battery with frickin' insane capacity. More on that later.

They are very wise in that they included high-voltage cords for Canon and Nikon (SB900 and generic SB-800/etc.). Brilliant. Save me money and supply me with the nickel-and-dime-me-to-death cords? Me like.

Also -- a charger (duh) and a VAL-grip, which is pretty darn cool, IMO. (Are they reading this site?)

Answer: Nope, and I doubt that they could. The instructions are machine-translated into English from Chinese and are so hilariously bad that I could not publish them without looking like a culturally insensitive clod. (Not that I didn't think about it…)

A standard reflector is included. It is shiny, efficient, quasi-parabolically shaped, and pebbled. Short answer: A lot of the power is converted to lumens on target. The pattern looks pretty clean and even, too. But the falloff, well, let's just say the beam ends pretty abruptly at the edges.

Actually, the reflector juices the output a little, like a sports reflector. And I would not use it with the umbrella as the beam spread would not allow full coverage. But no worries, as the flash works great with the built-in tube/reflector in an umbrella. You just remove the big reflector a use it bare into the umbrella. Coverage is just right and very efficient.

The mount, BTW, is apparently a Bowens mount. Which would seemingly allow you access to some cool lighting mods. This kind of stuff is important, as you can be left hanging out to dry for modifiers with many off-brand flashes.


Give Me Power

Like I said, I do not have fancy-pants power-output measuring devices in The Cave. I thought about firing a full blast into Ben's face and counting the minutes until he could see again. But his mom was home. So I went with familiar territory. I set it up and fired a full-power blast through a Westcott double-fold.

Verdict: A solid f/16 at ISO 200 from six feet away, even tho diffused by the umbrella. That there is serious, sunlight-defeating power. They say 400ws, and I believe them.

And speaking of full-power, the controls are thus: One knob that you can walk up and down from 1/1 power to 1/64th power -- a respectable 7-stop range. But all you get is those full stops, as there are no partial-stop adjustments. That's an easy fix with partial-stop ND gels, but it would be nice to have that built into the controls.

There is a built-in slave, in the back of the head, which is sensitive but also pretty directional. I would have liked to see the receptor either on the batt pack on on the top of the head rather than the back. You can turn the slave off, too -- nice touch.

There are other modes that, to my eye seem to be almost comically useless. They are pulse modes, which I do not think can be adjusted for power levels. I say, "I think," as this part was machine-translated Chinese to English and I was laughing too hard to figure it out.


How Many Flashes?

Triple aces here. The battery pack, which feels like a Toys-R-Us joke, delivered -- big time. I sat down to watch an episode of Lost and fired it ten times a minute on full power (with a very respectable, ~2-second recycle time) and then rested it for a few minutes. Rinse, lather and repeat.

I got bored and finally quit after 300 flashes. No let up in recycle, either. That thing just kept going like the Featherweight Champion Energizer Bunny or something. It was not even starting to strain yet.

And after all of that, I hooked up my SB-800 to it and was getting ~0.7-second, full-power recycles. Damn. I would love to pick up a few of these packs just for turbo-batts for my SB's. Short answer, I do not know how deep the hole is because I ran out of rope. But suffice to say that I think it would be sufficient for most uses.

So far, so impressed. I am mentally clearing space in the gear closet for a couple of these things. It's like a blind date who turns out to be witty, gorgeous -- and even interested in you. Until you notice she has, like, a third arm growing out of the back of her head.


Meet the Third Arm

So let's look at flash duration.

What are the t.5 and t.1 times for our mystery unit? Who knows. I do not have a scope to check it. But I do know how I would use this flash -- to overpower full sun for outdoor people shots. So I set up a test to see if the thing could handle a 250th of a sec sync, which is how it would be used outside.

Time for a little Kentucky windage. If you do not have the necessary testing electronics, here's how to see if your flash is giving you full power at your max sync speed. Get in a darkish environment where you can completely kill ambient with your max sync speed and the aperture of your choosing. Low ISO helps to bleed the ambient out, too. Take a test pic without flash. If it is black, you're there.

Now set your flash on full power and close down your aperture until you get a proper exposure at your full sync speed. My sync speed on a Nikon D3 was 1/250th. If you have a Canon 5D, that might be a 1/200th. (Or less, and you should know if that is the case.)

Take a shot at your full sync speed. Then open your shutter a third stop (to a 1/200th, or 1/160th, respectively) and check to see if there are any differences between the two pictures in the histograms. If so, that is your camera telling you that the shutter speed at full sync truncated some of the flash pulse at full power. Open up the shutter another third stop (to a 1/160th or 1/125th) and try again. Still some difference? Then you are still truncating the tail of the pulse.

So, how far did I have to walk the shutter down until I saw (virtually) identical histograms? Try 1/60th of second.

That can't be right, I thought. So I did a secondary test. Remembering that this is all flash -- no ambient in the exposure -- I shot at a 60th of a sec and tripped the shutter while panning the camera at moderate speed. It was blurry. A full flash shot - streaked.

And not smoothly streaked, either. There was a frozen component and a streaked component overlaid. This makes perfect sense if you realize the peak of the pulse (including most of the flash energy) happens very quickly, say 1/250th of a sec, and then the tail of the pulse continues its downward slope.

It is hard to tell for sure, but I think the pulse hits well within 1 250th, then the tail of the flash sits down, has a cup of coffee, reads the paper and maybe even has a short nap before finishing.

(Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play?)

This does not bode well for a flash which would be most valued for its portability and use outside in full sun.

Who would like this flash? Well, if your shooting was mostly indoors (portraiture, events, etc.) you may not need a fast flash pulse at all. And for the afore-mentioned 5D shooters, the pulse is sort of negated somewhat by the fact that your flash cannot sync at 1/250th anyway. Either way, it is an important consideration.


Is It Consistent?

Not to end on a bad note, I will say that the flash is both consistent and appears to put out clean, white light. Again, seat of the pants testing: I locked everything down, shot ten frames or so, and cycled through them on the back of the camera noting changes in the histograms and the images themselves. Any inconsistencies will pop up right away. That's an easy way to test out your own gear, too.

Final conclusions: This flash hits nearly every mark, save one. Build quality, power, capacity, consistency, portability -- all great. But that one miss is a big miss for some.

The overall impression is that the Chinese are getting closer with their self-designed flashes. The pulse thing is just some extra engineering to be done. As they tighten up the pulse, they are going to run into the laws of physics on the color and consistency, too. That's why the Einstein was designed as a convertable, so you can choose which is more important at any given time.

But for those looking to save money by buying off-brand, there are still caveats.


UPDATE: I hear you in the comments. But I am still not naming names or pointing to sources, for a couple of reasons.

One, the actual company making these is not the same brand as the rebranded flashes that are being sold. And two, I do not see any established dealers who are standing behind them with warrantees, etc.

I have no idea of the average defect rate, availability of spare parts (important) or the actual safety level of these kinds of units (very important). Especially considering that they have voltages steep enough to kill you.

After all, your spouse will have to know who to sue, right? Having a source who is willing to stand behind a piece of gear like this is sort of a critical feature, IMO.


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71 Comments:

Blogger Zach said...

I know how you love to hate on the 5d's x-sync speed, but I thought you'd love to see this haha. http://www.flickr.com/photos/zgriswoldphoto/4504122557/ (exif data included)

April 26, 2010 12:24 AM  
Blogger Kris Budi S Halim said...

What's THE NAME of this light ?... even there will be 99 different names ... please name it!

I still have a mindset that the one David Hobby reviewed is obviously outstanding than any other brands :D :joke:

Gertrude and Monica? which one is prettier --parable of name :)

April 26, 2010 12:30 AM  
Blogger Thomas Zeng said...

I'm from Hong Kong, and i'm currently using 2 of these...

...and its "bigger brother" (2 of 'em)--which INCLUDES 1/3 incremental power adjustments but reverts to NiMH batteries. D'oh

I have to agree that these are great for your money, but if you're shooting high-speed--don't ever think about it.

April 26, 2010 12:38 AM  
Blogger Balls said...

Great article as always.

I guess my biggest concern with chinese products of this caliber, would be the safety.

Unfortunately the chinese have a bad rap when it comes to quality control and safety standards. It's true that most electronics are made in china.

I'd just be really worried that a low cost lighting solution might somehow pose a fire danger. At least with those that are labeled with brand names, you have a company to take your lawsuits to.

April 26, 2010 12:43 AM  
Blogger Brian Hawkins said...

How much light, do you estimate, would be lost by running at 1/250 vs 1/60? As you say, the majority is output very early in the pulse. Is it only half a stop difference, or is it more?

April 26, 2010 12:59 AM  
Blogger Yugo said...

Can you at least give us a price on this, so we can have a ballpark idea of how worthwhile it might be to buy this - at least for the battery pack?

Although to be honest, I don't know why you are hiding the brand name on this gear. You've put in enough caveats about your lack of equipment to test it scientifically, so readers are already warned to take your review with a grain of salt. Did the shop that asked you to test it place any conditions on your review?

April 26, 2010 1:25 AM  
Blogger Thomas said...

Only one question: where can I order one of these?

April 26, 2010 2:00 AM  
Blogger Jonas said...

Heck, if they would just sell us the battery and Nikon/Canon cables I'd be happy :-)

April 26, 2010 2:13 AM  
OpenID moserhannes said...

thanks for this article...
so where can we find this strobes ?

April 26, 2010 2:49 AM  
Blogger PShizzy said...

David, what was the approx US$ cost of the kit? Consider that something along the lines of a Turbo SC is 450 dollars, 500 with the cord, that this might be a solid competitor simply because of the battery pack.

Honestly, if its 200 or so, it might be worth it just to scavenge those bits. And yes, indoors, maybe with a simple light tent setup, a couple of these wouldn't be too horrible.

April 26, 2010 3:00 AM  
OpenID modifiedphoto said...

That might be neat for doing some shots in the rain where you want a little movement in the water and a typical flash would entirely freeze the motion.

So what kind of price point are we talking about here?

April 26, 2010 3:15 AM  
Blogger Jason said...

That might be neat for doing some shots in the rain where you want a little movement in the water and a typical flash would entirely freeze the motion.

So what kind of price point are we talking about here?

April 26, 2010 3:15 AM  
Blogger Jessi said...

So where buy them at? You know those Chinese there are rarely names and ya gotta fish for them on ebay.

April 26, 2010 3:24 AM  
Blogger sscholtens said...

For me the 'third arm' of this review was not having any easy way to follow up via links to a manufacturer's site, retailer's site, product page, or even an ebay listing. I only partially understand the punch and run attitude of this particular review. The benefits of the info in the review are greatly mitigated if we aren't allowed to know who makes it or where to even consider looking in order to buy it or even just research it further.

With all due respect (and you deserve a LOT of respect), if you truly don't have enough confidence in your results to publish a name, maybe you shouldn't publish the article at all? Just my way of thinking, I guess...

April 26, 2010 3:25 AM  
Blogger www.paulodevera.com said...

where do we get this mr strobist?

April 26, 2010 3:25 AM  
Blogger Tony Huang said...

Can you give us an idea how much this unite cost?

If it's cheap enought, that battery pack is very attempting.

April 26, 2010 3:33 AM  
Blogger Tony Huang said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

April 26, 2010 3:33 AM  
Blogger david said...

The 1/60th of a second duration can be a problem for fast moving objects during slower shutter speeds but if the flash duration is really that long did you try what the coverage would be on the frame during a faster shutter speed?

I was thinking that the flash might actually last during the whole time the shutter slit was moving over he frame.

Just wondering?

First time posting a comment, but have learned a lot from your blog.

Thanks,

David

April 26, 2010 3:55 AM  
Blogger rexyinc said...

well written, and a great read.. but can we have some example photos you took of this streaking that you took to work out the flash pulse please?..

dragonimage.com.au sell 320w versions of this but using Nickel-Hydrogen Silver battery and gets 800 full power or 15000 low power shots per charge.. they are based in Australia.

http://dragonimage.com.au/product.asp?id=1515

April 26, 2010 4:10 AM  
Blogger Martin said...

What is the brand actually and where can I get one of these?

April 26, 2010 4:13 AM  
Blogger Jason Joseph said...

So much wonderful info...
and hello after a long time no talk old friend.
One thing you left out though... who makes them and where can we get more info?

April 26, 2010 4:26 AM  
Blogger David Brown said...

I'm very glad you did this review - I live in Hong Kong, and these off-brand flashes have been exerting a strong pull on me every time I go into a lighting gear store.

I'll have a look at some, and now I'll be able to use your method to rate anything I can get my hands on! So thanks a bunch.

Also good to know that they're nearly there in terms of features. But you will always get what you pay for, so I guess it depends on your need for all of the features.

April 26, 2010 5:11 AM  
Blogger Peter said...

very interesting, I think I could live with the pulse duration if the price was right... while I understand why the brand was omitted from this overview, if anyone has experience of using them and could point me in the right direction I'd be grateful (send me a PM rather than posting here) thanks!

April 26, 2010 5:22 AM  
OpenID strobistsi said...

I don't know what the mystery meat is, but I think there is also another Chinese attempt to compete with the Elinchrom Ranger Quadra in the form of Godox EX Series http://www1.godox.com/_d270068598.htm

As for myself, I went for a new Profoto AcuteB2 600 AirS with AcuteB head, a Zoom Reflector and a white Softlight reflector. Still waiting for it though. 'Cause it is so new they had to put me on back order.

April 26, 2010 5:33 AM  
Blogger Catherine said...

I found a similar 'Helluvabargain' brand from Hong Kong on eBay.

2 strobes, stands, umbrellas, foil reflectors, etc. £100.

I snapped it up and found I was getting a shadow line at about 1/160 on my 5dmk2. I had no idea what it was (new to strobist photography) but a Google search informed me that there was a problem syncing.

Is this not the case with more well known brands?

April 26, 2010 5:52 AM  
Blogger Sebastien Benoit said...

Is it just me, or are those battery packs the most interesting thing about this article?

I would *love* to see those available on their own, if the price was reasonable...

I'm tired of having to baby a few dozen NiMH batteries by making sure they are fully depleted before recharging them.. I often end up without power within a few shots from start, even with the Eneloops, because I didn't realize they were that close to the end of their cycle.

With lithium packs, I would charge them after every use, just like I do with my camera batteries :)

So if that reseller is reading these comments, let's see those battery packs on their own, with those cables!!

That being said, that kit does look great for a starter studio kit... When will we hear about price/availability?

April 26, 2010 6:04 AM  
Blogger Karlo Vuk said...

Hmmm...
Did you try finding out how long the pulse would be at 1/2 power?

If you got f/16 trough an umbrella while only catching a fraction of the pulse, maybe the pulse becomes shorter and you still catch most of the pulse @ 1/250. Maybe you could get say f/13 @1/2power.

April 26, 2010 6:15 AM  
Blogger Maze said...

sounds nice! what is the pricerange it is supposed to sell...?

April 26, 2010 6:40 AM  
Blogger SS Buchanan said...

I'm pretty sure I recognize the unit - one of the local strobists had one, and called it his 'Chinabee'.
He seemed to quite like it, and got good pictures out of it.

Price wise, here in Australia, the unit (with battery, head and reflector, delivered) is about on par with just the Einstein head. Add in a Vagabond and a reflector, and you're at nearly double the price.

Or, its a bit more than the cost of a 580EXII... so the value is there, if it works for you.

April 26, 2010 7:22 AM  
Blogger Per said...

So, how much power do you loose at 1/250s ? That is: how far do you have to stop down the aperture at 1/60s before the histogram becomes equal to that at 1/250s ? It might still compare favourably to more expensive 300 Ws units...

April 26, 2010 8:16 AM  
Blogger Alex said...

Sounds amazing David.
I sure would like a couple of those. Esp because of the batts.
I know you are not at this time disclosing the name of the manufacturer, but I sure hope you will in the near future!
Are you???
Well thanks anyway for the info!

April 26, 2010 8:19 AM  
Blogger GavinB said...

Sounds like it might be worth checking these out, thanks!

April 26, 2010 8:22 AM  
Blogger James said...

so,

first, thanks for the review (and the tips on testing my own gear.)

second, how much would one of these as-yet-unnamed flash packages cost?

and, any option for ac power?

James in Maine

April 26, 2010 9:03 AM  
Blogger Ken said...

Chinese light i think i will go for them , to have them as backup . any idea who is selling them or where to buy from.

April 26, 2010 9:15 AM  
Blogger David said...

@Rexi-

Perhaps, but that is not the same model nor is it the same brand as the one I tested. It is that total lack of transparency that is one of the issues, AFAIC.

@all-

I hear you, but I am still not linking into "some guy on eBay" who is selling flashes without contact info for the manufacturer. This is not a knockoff iPod charger cord. A 400ws flash can kill you.

This was written strictly as a backgrounder for people who have been seeing the cheaper mystery flashes and wondering what you get.

April 26, 2010 9:53 AM  
Blogger Craig said...

A long pulse might be a good thing. The typically short pulse is what kills synch speeds faster that 1/250th (or whatever for your camera). But, if the "pulse" of light is lasting for 1/125th or longer, you should be able to synch at any speed, but with a proportional loss of power. You might need a Pocket Wizard Mini to be able to move the trigger point forward though. (In the old days, we used flash bulbs for outdoors fill flash since they burn continuously while the shutter is doing its thing.)

Did you try synching at higher than 1/250th to see what happens?

April 26, 2010 10:15 AM  
Blogger Woody said...

Great post, but I'd love to know the approximate price of this regardless of the brand name.

Just how cheap is it?

April 26, 2010 12:28 PM  
Blogger Andy said...

@woody - Adorama sells a similar kit (minus the speedlight cables, and with a somewhat different head design) for $200. - http://www.adorama.com/Als/ProductPage/FPBPL.html

Most people don't realize Adorama carries this since it's overshadowed by the new FP320M/FP620M AC/DC monolights.

April 26, 2010 12:58 PM  
Blogger James said...

Don't know if David will let this through, but it's not difficult to find a vendor on ebay or the original manufacturer's website.

A ballpark figure is around $550 with two batteries for the pack, but not with the turbo cords (it's pretty surprising to see both of those included, I'm guessing that's a review special). At that price point it's a bargain even with the long full power pulse length. Turn it down a stop and treat it as a 200ws unit and it's still a bargain, and one capable of 400ws 'overdrive' when the pulse length isn't an issue. It's all about compromises.

If a 'camera retailer based in central Ohio' decides to stock it he'll need to put a fair margin on it. Dealing direct with China is not necessarily easy, and if you need to return DOA's the shipping is crippling. Here's hoping it's a big success, and 'unnamed of Ohio' brings over some more of that manufacturer's gear. They look to have some good stuff.

James.

April 26, 2010 1:11 PM  
Blogger Daniel Bartel said...

If you are that interested in acquiring the flash kit David reviewed spend 15 seconds doing a search. It was that east to find. Stop asking how much it costs and where you can get one. Respect Don Strobist enough to know he's not going to share that info and figure it out for yourselves. Like everything with David's website, it's a starting point for technique and information. Take it and run with it. Learn things on your own and don't expect the second most respected master of speedlighting (McNally still wins first place for me, sorry Mr. Hobby) to spoon feed you everything.

April 26, 2010 1:13 PM  
Blogger stefanog said...

Price and where to buy? without an approximate price is hard to care... probably the distributor / seller will have a good mark up that will make less convenient... Or maybe slod rebranded by BH and Adorama

April 26, 2010 2:00 PM  
Blogger JustPhotographing said...

Hello David,

donno, if its the same, but here you can also find mobile china-flashes with up to 600ws and stepless adjustment:
http://www1.godox.com/_d270068598.htm

Have a nice day!

April 26, 2010 2:00 PM  
Blogger Boquete Guy said...

David Hobby - while u be reviewing lights, when are we gonna see your review on the einsteins??

I have three of these puppies reserved and I'm just dying to know more!

PRETTY PLEASE!!

April 26, 2010 3:38 PM  
Blogger B said...

here is link:
http://boling.en.alibaba.com/aboutus.html

April 26, 2010 3:48 PM  
Blogger FlyingDog said...

Do you have any idea of what the guide number is for this unit?

Thanks for this review.

April 26, 2010 4:27 PM  
Blogger David said...

@Boquete-

I am not planning any full review until I have had a chance to use them, and that may be a while. As I mentioned, I have moved to Profoto.

There will be a gazillion reviews out soon enough, I am sure.

April 26, 2010 4:45 PM  
Blogger David said...

@Flying Dog-

Guide number is so easily manipulated by reflector design that it is pretty much useless.

For instance, the GN for with and without the quasi-tele reflector that shipped with this unit would be very different.

April 26, 2010 4:46 PM  
Blogger Nathan said...

So its 'kinda' like this one: http://www.dragonimage.com.au/product.asp?id=1515 but with better battery tech - and shoeflash cable adapters.

Guidance on pricing? Two of the Dragon ones - I'd get a Ranger Quadra

April 26, 2010 9:31 PM  
Blogger Bob K said...

I dunno... after I read the writeup in the morning, I was thinking "I want one." Looking around at likely prices, I'm not so sure.

At $199-$299, maybe. At $550 no... too many better options in that price range: used Norman or Lumedyne systems, Calumet Travelite, or even AlienBee + DIY inverter pack would all seem better investments.

The lack of reputable manufacturer or importer is also a problem that gets amplified as the price goes higher.

April 27, 2010 12:45 AM  
Blogger Paul said...

Slightly off-topic, but I've done business with the retailer who sells the 'mystery' strobe. I've purchased diffuser domes and strobe feet (a lot of them, as they always seem to disappear on location). They were great to deal with, and those items are incredibly inexpensive. The domes fit great, but are slightly different than the Nikons. The feet, however, are totally indistinguishable from the originals.

April 27, 2010 1:22 AM  
Blogger Rambler said...

Talking of unbranded Chinese electronics I too had a pleasant surprise. In the narrow lanes of the photo-market of New Delhi, a friend took me to a shop which has just acquired the distributorship of a speedlight company. I picked up a speedlight partly compatible with iTTL of my Nikon with Guide Number nearly same as SB900 for 1/8th the price. I have been happily clicking away for over two weeks. Very good value for money!
Koshy

April 27, 2010 3:52 AM  
Blogger Clive said...

The main concern would be the lithium batteries and associated charger. When rechargeable batteries blow, it makes a big mess. Lithium batt's need more care, I wonder if the build quality of the charger is up to the job.

April 27, 2010 6:25 AM  
Blogger DGV said...

:) Its easy to figure out who the central Ohio seller is .. Mpex!

April 27, 2010 9:40 AM  
Blogger www.paulodevera.com said...

@DGV i figured that much too lol. hmmm the mystery camera accessory store which has connection to our strobist in central ohio. hmmmm.

April 27, 2010 3:30 PM  
Blogger JF Machado said...

Hm, that IS kinda sluggish outside of a studio.
Still, what price range are we talking about? It might be interesting for indoor work in big low-light areas, considering the power.

(And btw, LINKED! on my own corner of the web)

April 27, 2010 4:09 PM  
OpenID yo-sarrian said...

I'm late to the game here, and I DEFINITELY understand why you're not releasing the name of the brand. You've got a very large audience and there's enough excitement about them despite the flaws you point out that you're concerned about QC on them and warranty and all that. It makes perfect sense to me.

I would like to add my voice to the chorus of "what's the price", though, because if we're talking $200 I think it'd be worth it for a beginner, but if you're talking 4-600, then probably move along, nothing to see here.

You've piqued our interest and we're interested in finding out more about these, both the pros and the cons. Obviously the old adage of "you get what you pay for" still holds true.

April 27, 2010 7:47 PM  
Blogger peach said...

My guess is its going to cost between 250 to 350, based on similar products on the web.

My other guess it, we might be able to buy them at mpex soon!!

-V

April 28, 2010 2:05 AM  
Blogger peach said...

My guess is its going to cost between 250 to 350, based on similar products on the web.

My other guess it, we might be able to buy them at mpex soon!!

-V

April 28, 2010 2:05 AM  
Blogger Jonas said...

I wonder if tweaking the sync timer on the PW minitt1 og flextt5 would improve these flashes sync speed. It could be a case of their flash simply going off too soon or too late relative to the camera.

April 28, 2010 9:52 AM  
Blogger Alex Kroke | photography said...

the battery pack is great, and it can power 2 Canon or nikon speed light at the same time.

I have made a RIG for to Canon speed lights with pockedwizard FlexTT5 into a small soft-box, powered the 2 Flashes with the pack.

I shoot 1200 photos in a few hours with great results, i had some canon battery packs standing by for back up, but didn't use them. photos where use in the recent vanity fair

http://alexkroke.com/blog/vanity-fait-italy-published-article-with-margheria-medici-photographed-by-alex-kroke/

April 28, 2010 10:33 AM  
Blogger Raleigh Beringer said...

David,

Thanks for this review. I have been looking at a few of these wondering about the quality. By change have you ever done any review of the product at the link below?

http://www.skaeser.com/servlet/the-593/JTL-301-MOBILIGHT-WITH/Detail

Seems like a pretty good price for what your getting. I do wish it was a bit more powerful since I would like to use outside, but...

April 29, 2010 9:52 AM  
Blogger P.Christodoulou said...

Hi all-I know that the brand and a url are not supposed to be mentioned in this post and I feel this is very right but can anyone be kind enough to provide me with the relevant info in private? Please email me at parisfth@yahoo.com with any info you got since I'm very interested in this product and the Speedlite connection is a big plus for me-all my searches come up with similar products but the battery packs seem to have only one connection point and no cables for speedlites are mentioned anywhere. Any help would be greatly appreciated and then again I apologise if I'm treading on anyones toes. Thumbs up for a great blog.

April 29, 2010 1:39 PM  
Blogger elf25 said...

Thanks for wasting 20+ minutes of my life reading this "review" which does not tell us what the product is. Thank you for making the decision, since you know so much about my photography work, that this unit is of no use to me. Frankly, I'm rather put off with the whole "tease" aspect of this article.

April 29, 2010 7:13 PM  
Blogger David said...

@elf25

Ease up, Mr. Grumpy pants.

I *did* state right up near the top of the post that I was not going to give out the brand -- and why I was not going to do it.

There were other reasons, too: Safety (who knows), dealer reputation (lack of), brand history (lack of), etc. The point was to get a little background on the idea of the cheaper, "no name" Chinese flashes.

But twenty-plus minutes? Seriously? Were you reading aloud?

April 29, 2010 8:33 PM  
Blogger JF Machado said...

@David
Well, you once made a reference to your engineering background... How about actually tearing apart the heads and see what lies beneath? Could be a good way to further check the build quality.
(Or lack thereof!)

April 29, 2010 9:53 PM  
Blogger LR said...

Isn't this light IGBT though? So the flash duration would be quicker below full power?

May 01, 2010 2:36 AM  
Blogger PixSync - Singapore Photographer / Photography said...

We run a photography agency here in Singapore PixSync Corporate Photography In our region, it is very common to use lighting systems made from China. Cost effective and mobile.

May 09, 2010 3:53 AM  
Blogger Joe Catalano said...

David won't post information on the source or 'brand' of this, but just comparing photos of the equipment to whats on ebay it looks like this kit is about $370.

May 10, 2010 11:39 AM  
Blogger esben said...

Regarding T.5 and T.1...
Are the duraton on these flases getting shorter or longer as you power them down?

It makes little sense to me that they would be 1/60th second duration at full power, when studio strobes normally have the shortest duration at full power. (Don't believe me? wikipedia and google is your friend)

So are these studio strobes the exception?

(I have heard Profoto also shortens duration proportionally with power, lower power = lower duration)

(yes I know it is an old post. But it's new to me)

And may I, to finish off, just say how immensely annoying it was to have to read through 50 comments all the same asking a question you all knew would not be answered. All you have acheived is to lower the quality and usefulness of this excellent blog and drown any interesting comment in your sea of feed me feeeeed me seymour!! lazy A** attitude. As mentioned before google is your friend, he would like a visit now and then, even a long one, say hi to everyone there shake hands to at least a few of he guys ok. Not just a quick high five to the first and the best.

Sit down, have a coffee, take your time, like this flash does...

July 22, 2011 3:28 PM  
Blogger willmcgregor said...

Studio strobes do not have their shortest duration at full power, they have their shortest flash duration at their lowest power setting, you must be using a different google than the rest of the World or followed it to a Mickey mouse lighting site

April 25, 2012 9:13 PM  
Blogger David Hobby said...

@Will-

Actually, that is not universal. It very much depends on the design of the flash, including whether it is IGBT or capacitor switching.

April 26, 2012 12:37 AM  

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