Sunday, July 11, 2010

which Elinchrom Flash Head?

In the last couple of years Elinchrom has completely re-vamped their range of compact flash units (monoblocks). This means that even the low end heads have some pretty advanced features.
So, how do you know which heads are for you? What are you missing out on if you stay low budget?
Here are some simple pointers to help you find the best value and still get the features you  need.

Build Quality:
The recent update of the D-Lite to the 'it' model really beefed up the build. The handle now not only feels like it wont break when you pick it up, it feels sturdy, as if it would take a few knocks. The casing is now a nice thick plastic and the fan housing doesn't bend anymore. The stand mount is also much stronger than the old one and appears to be the same as the BXRi.
The BXRi builds on this quality, with a bigger case, for better cooling, and a nice chunky fan housing.
Strangely, the odd one out in Elinchrom's line up is the top of the range model. This will be a continuing theme, because the RX range has gone the longest since an update. The RX units have a relatively lightweight casing compared to the rest, however, the stand mount is top quality and will stand a good deal of abuse and over tightening.

So, how hard can you work these units? I've given up counting how often I'm asked how long a flash tube lasts. The answer is of course a vague cloud involving how often you use it, the power put through it and many other things. The rest of the flash head is governed by the same rules, but, there are various features that help it survive the work you put it to.
D-lite it - The first line of D-lites had no fan cooling, a tiny case and a tendency, therefore, to overheat fairly quickly if put to hard use. To be fair, they were only ever meant to be used by amateurs in 'low stress' situations. The latest iteration however has added intelligent fan cooling and more breathing space in the chassis and now they'll do much better under stress. However, we still wouldn't recommend them to anyone making money from their photography. It's pretty embarrassing to have to tell your client they'll have to wait 5 minutes while your lights cool down.
BXRi - Intelligent fan cooling and a nice big case mean these units are well suited to studio work.
RX - Constant fan cooling might be loud but it does it's job and these units will work hard all day.
At this point, it's worth pointing out that no monoblock can match a pack an head for durability. There's still a big advantage to be gained by separating the source of heat (modelling bulb and flash tube) from the electronics. Any hard working studio or rental house would do well to consider packs and heads as their workhorse units.

Skyport, triggering and control:
Elinchrom's Skyport system adds many convenient triggering and power control features. Each product, however, utilises different features and it's important to know the differences between them.
D-Lite it - The update to D-Lite added built in Skyport receivers, however, these are only for triggering, there's no power control to be had here. When bought as a kit (as 99% of them will be) they come with the Skyport ECO Transmitter. This has no power control features but also no group feature, even though the D-Lite it supports this. Both the D-Lite it and the ECO transmitter do sport the new 'Speed' mod allowing for faster sync speeds, this works by shortening the encryption so the side effect is reduced range. If used with the ERS remote software and USB transceiver, D-Lites can be triggered. The ECO transmitter also only supports 4 frequencies, these are the same though as the first 4 on the standard transmitter.
BXRi - These units also have built in Skyport  (hey were the first in the range to have this). They have the Speed feature, can be remotely power controlled, but, don't work at all with ERS and the USB transceiver. Kits come with the Speed transmitter, which unlike the ECO, does have power control and group features.
RX - Although they lack built in Skyport, when allied with the Skyport RX Transceiver these are the most fully featured in the range. The transceiver is a small, light, unit that plugs into the head's remote socket. It is powered by the head and therefore needs no battery. It has all the feature available, including power control, groups and fully featured ERS USB control. This gives full remote control with a copy of the head's readout on you computer screen. You can also access information such as the shot count and the number of power cycles.

Flash Duration:
When shooting with flash the duration of that flash is an important consideration. In low ambient light, the burst of flash effectively becomes your shutter. Just like the actual shutter, the faster it is, the better you'll capture action. You also need to consider your camera's sync speed. There's no point having a camera that can sync at 1/1600s when your flash is 1/100s long.
The table below gives Elinchrom's published figures, they are measured at full power using the t0.5 standard (more on that later).

Flash Duration
D-Lite it





Within a range, you'll see that lower max power means faster flash duration. However, as you go up the ranges, you'll get more power and get faster durations. For example, the RX 1200 has a faster duration than the D-Lite 200, despite putting out 6 times as much power. 
As you can see, you get what you pay for on this one. 

Recycle time:
How fast your flash recycles between shots can be a huge factor on how you use them. Granted, if you shoot still life, it's probably not high up in your wants list, however, if you shoot fashion, or kids, it can be very important. You don't want to be left hanging just when that perfect facial expression happens.
The figures below compare the recycle times, to full power of Elinchrom's current range. Remember though that these figures show how fast you can shoot, not how fast you should shoot. To use an analogy, if your car revs to 8000rpm, it doesn't mean you should drive around at 8000rpm, your engine won't last long, and neither will your flash if you keep firing it continuously at it's fastest rate.

Recycle time
D-Lite it





Again, just like flash duration, you get what you pay for.

As a side note, picking up the point on punishability of packs compared to compact units. The Elinchrom Digital RX1200 recycles to full power in 1 second, nearly half the time of the RX1200 head. It also has a minimum flash duration of 1/3700s (with 2xA heads). Packs still lead the way when when you need the fastest, hardest working kit.

Well hopefully that's given you a much better idea of the differences between the units in Elinchrom's range. 
I'll keep this post up to date as the range changes.
Please feel free to leave a comment below If you feel I've missed anything out.


Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Elinchrom Quadra Umbrella Modification

I know a lot of people want to fit other makes of brolly to their Quadra head (but they don't fit in the 7mm holder).
By removing the lower half of the stand adapter you can mount the head on a Manfrotto litetite.
The knurled ring is acting a a nut on top of the spigot, you could use a real nut, I didn't have one to hand.
The new brolly holder is not quite as central as the original but, it is tilted, so the head should still illuminate the brolly evenly.
Obviously the usual caveats apply, it's not my fault if you break something, electrocute yourself, void your warranty or start a global thermonuclear war.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Super Cheap Lighting!

I just ordered one of these Draper 59111 500W Halogen Lamp on Telescopic Stand. I'll be using it in the garage and garden but it will also make a great constant light for photography.

£22 for a 500W light, cripes, I know some places that sell the bulb for nearly that ;-)

I'll post again once it's arrived and I've tried it out.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Quite Possibly The Best Two Days of Photography and Learning Ever

At TFC we're doing a really cool 2 day workshop at Studley castle next month.

I have to admit that I just can't wait. There are so many cool photographers coming it'll be a great chance to catch up with them and introduce some of them to each other.
On the second day there will be a round table discussion which I'm very tempted to record.

If you're interested check out the flyer here or book it here.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Easy File Sharing Finally Comes to MobileMe

A long time ago, in a keynote speech far, far, away, a feature was shown.
That feature was part of the newly relaunched .Mac service, hitherto known as MobileMe.
A file, sitting on a server (that we now know as 'the cloud') was selected, a button was pressed and an e-mail was sent. That e-mail, it was promised, would let it's recipient download the file, regardless of their OS, technical expertise and even gender.
Limits could even be set on the amount of time the file would be available. For extra security, a password could be set.

This feature never made it to MobileMe. It languished for a while but eventually every trace was removed from It was as if the demonstration had never been given.

But somewhere the feature festered. Hidden in the drawer of a developer, in a minimalist cubicle in Cupertino. It waited, growing stronger by the day, feeding on the energy emmited by a thousand angry Apple discussion forum posts.
Until, one day....
Apple let loose this spawn of usefullness and productivity and e-mailed all it's MobileMe subscribers to announce the birth of an amazing new feature.

So if you have a MobileMe account, go to , select a file, click 'share', choose a friend and hey presto! No more need for yousendit or any of those other weird services.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Simpsons - Mapple Store

The Simpsons finally get Apple!

Sent from my iPhone

Sunday, November 30, 2008

How to deal with Irate People

In retail we have to do this all the time (late deliveries, declined cards, DOA goods etc). Reading this, I realized it's exacly what I do, empathize, make sure the customer knows you're inconvenienced too, then, bring things down to a normal level of sanity.

Open Loops: How to Deal With An Irate Person