Pint-Sized Power to Go: Paul Buff Hits One Out of the Park
Three months into heavy use of the Paul Buff Vagabond Mini Lithium, I have found the battery I want to marry.
Short version: If you shoot AlienBees, White Lightning or Einstein, this pack is a no-brainer. But it is small enough -- and powerful enough -- to see much more varied use in our house.
I've owned and used both earlier generations of Paul Buff Vagabond batteries, to mixed result. The v.1 was serviceable, but the required grounding cable made it pretty inconvenient.
The v.2 model, of which I owned two, was more user friendly. But one of the two packs was chronically unreliable, even after repair. And they were all really heavy.
They actually worked pretty well as a stand-in for a sand bag, which is a back-handed compliment for any battery system. No surprise, as seal lead acid (SLA) batteries are all about the pounds.
So when the new Vagabond Mini Lithium came out, I was both intrigued and suspicious. Okay, it's tiny and lightweight. But what about capacity? What about reliability?
Then I read Rob Galbraith's comprehensive road test post (which sounded almost too-good-to-be-true) and had to see for myself.
That it powers AB's and Einsteins well should come as no surprise. That's what it was designed to do. But it also will run a Profoto Acute pack, which is designed to suck a lot more current than Buff's models.
I have a pair of (battery-powered) Profoto B600's, but they only drive one head each. The Vagabond Mini allows me to add an AC Acute pack to that mix to added multiple outdoor heads whenever I need.
It will drive an Acute 1200 -- if you are very patient. It needs about 10 secs to recycle if you are using it at full power, so not real practical at 1200ws. But my main outdoor pack has grown to be a Profoto Acute 600e generator, which I got used, along with two heads, extension cables and soft box rings for $900.
(I know, right? A dentist listed it on eBay with a buy-it-now price of $900. Heh.)
Anyway, the 600 pack can drive up to three more heads. It usually gets used symmetrically, driving a pair of rim lights. The Vagabond works great for that, allowing me to use the B600s for key and fill.
The number of pops this little battery gives me is amazing. Rob has a full grid of results on his post (definitely read it of you are considering the Mini) and my results mesh with his.
Like Rob, we have found that the Mini is convenient enough to where it gets used for far more than big strobes. I learned long ago that the limiting factor when you are traveling and trying to get online is more often AC power than 'net signal. So the Mini travels with me. It'll greatly improve your battery time for a laptop, for instance, or recharge your camera batts.
The kids use it as a near bottomless pit of power for iPods when on the road -- and also to power the pay-as-you-go Virgin Atlantic Mi-Fi we all use to connect to the 'net. (Ben pretty much monopolized it on the last trip.)
Even though it does not have the memory issues of an SLA battery, I keep it topped off at home in case of a power outage. It'll easily drive a couple household lamps with CFL bulbs.
The lithium-based battery is rated as safe for air travel, but I have not tried to run the TSA gauntlet with it yet. Hopefully, they won't be jerks about it. On the plane, a Mini and a charged laptop would give you tons of time. And once arrived, and an Einstein and a Vagabond Mini is a lightweight match made in heaven.
If you shoot AB/Einstein/WL, I cannot recommend this pack enough. It's tiny, lightweight and runs like a horse. Reliability has reportedly been great, too. In fact, if I shot primarily with Paul Buff lights I would probably get one for each flash head. That would give you the faster recycles and more capacity. And at $239.95 ea., still would not break the bank.
:: Paul Buff Vagabond Mini :: (product page)
:: Rob Galbraith's Comprehensive Tests::