The Strobist movement has brought a massive amount of attention to the lighting used in photography. This has had the result of inspiring many people to learn and improve their knowledge and their lighting equipment.
The starting point in this journey is predominantly with small flash usually due to cost. But the comes a point when the 11th consecutive series of America’s Next Top Model has been watched and the thoughts start flying “why are they used those lights?”
This is not to knock small flash, Joe McNally and his seemingly infinite amount of SB’s can do wonderful and amazing things. But the question is always there what can you do with more power? So with that said the next logical movement is on to “big” flash.
I made this move to bigger flash in December 2009, so I thought I would commit to the internet a summary of my thoughts on the subject and why I made the purchasing choices I did.
There has been some major writings on internet on this subject and I would thoroughly recommend reading the following posts by David Hobby (Strobist.com) on his particular purchasing decisions.
Firstly on Elinchrom
Secondly on Profoto
I have not included the third article written by David Hobby here as it is on Alien Bee’s which aren’t really an option in the UK due to availability.
I wanted a portable alternative to strobes which, could give the ‘America’s Next Top Model’ look anywhere.
So this ruled out all of the major mono blocs options e.g. Elinchrom Bxri’s etc due to the lack of portable power. As I also was not willing to look into portable power generators (Honda etc.).
So my shortlist was pretty much everything else at the £2,000 mark and I also wanted to make sure I had tried the products as well meant: -
Bowens with a Travelpak, Elinchrom Ranger, Elinchrom Ranger Quadra’ and finally Profoto Acute or 7B (at a push financially).
There are other options e.g. Broncolor but I have excluded these due to their cost and the fact I had never tried the product.
SUMMARY OF THE OPTIONS
Bowens with a Travelpak
Bowens are fantastic studio lights with a great range of modifiers that are cheap, available everywhere and made by a wide variety of manufacturers. However the recharge times suck when on a battery unit. (That said, for a fixed studio using mains I would buy Bowens in a heart beat!).
What you get for your money: – For circa £2000 you can get 2-3 monolights watt seconds dependant, and a battery (Travelpak).
Elinchrom Ranger Quadra
Only a 400w/s pack uses a maximum of 2 heads, modelling light that is great for HD-SLR’s video record and using for stills. The features and size and weight makes for a fantastic pack. The price is very similar to the full size (bigger and heavier) 1100w/s Elinchrom Ranger. The Quadra also has the Skyport system built in. Finally the Elinchrom modifiers aren’t as expensive as Profoto, are very well made and give great results. The one thing I did find confusing with the Elinchrom packs is the different types of head for flash duration.
What you get for your money: – one battery 2 head and a set of Skyports in a kit.
Profoto Acute (600w/s)
Smallest of the Profoto range good amount of power but super expensive for what it is as you can only use on head on the pack! you cannot use the bigger pro heads from the Pro’s (7a’s & B’s) but you can use all of the Profoto modifiers which are fantastic.
What you get for your money: – one battery and one head. (Profoto are throwing a certain amount of modifiers as a special offer at the moment, dependant on the pack purchased).
Great power, All-round a great unit. A lot large and heavier then the Quadra. Fast recycle only superseded for power by the Profoto 7B. Elinchrom modifiers are excellent and cheaper then profoto. Also access to the skyport system. As with the Quadra the Elinchrom packs have the same multiple head system dependant on application.
What you get for your money: – one battery and one head in a kit (some places are throwing in a set of Skyports as a sweetener).
A little bit better in terms or recycle then the Ranger more expensive all round in modifiers and base cost. Also an extra 100w/s of power over the Elinchrom Ranger. The most expensive pack and head option listed here. No built in radio trigger or radio power control options. The industry standard of pack and head flash packs.
What you get for your money: – one battery and one head in a kit at a push (Profoto are throwing a certain amount of modifiers as a special offer at the moment, dependant on the pack purchased).
From the summary above, I was tempted by the Quadra due to the size, weight, portability, Skyports, LED modelling light for HD video and other applications for still photography using the modelling light. But I decided that I was going to buy the Elinchrom Ranger (Full Size) purely for the power and the fact that I could use the Skyport system with it.
However, I saw a Profoto 7B second half in mint condition that was half the new price. This base cost reduction meant that the 7B was substantially cheaper then the Elinchrom which made it the ONLY reason that I moved to Profoto.
Otherwise I would now be the owner of an Elinchrom Ranger system and I know I would be as much in love with it as I am with my 7B.
That said the cost of modifiers is killing me, Profoto modifiers are quality but expensive.
(The final result, below)
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR OTHERS IN A SIMILAR POSITION
What I have learnt from the actual purchasing process is that the usage and application should come first e.g. pack and head vs. monobloc. Then the cost should be identified including all modifiers (being an additional cost which really adds up) and then the sync mechanism e.g Pocket Wizards or Skyports etc.
I really hope this helps someone with their individual ‘Big’ light decision.