Regular readers of this blog will know that I’m a big fan of my Nikon SB800 Speedlights for their portability and ease of use but no matter how much I love them, they do have their limitations when it comes to how much ‘oommpfff’ they can kick out. Now this power issue (or lack of) isn’t necessarily a big problem as I would generally schedule shoots for later in the day when the sun wasn’t at it’s strongest but then again scheduling shoots later in the day isn’t always a viable option for clients. So, what to do…
Just over a year or so ago I invested in some Paul C. Buff ‘Alien Bees’ Lighting; a R1600 head along with Vagabond II Battery Pack, 13ft air cushioned light stand and a few different sized softboxes; the same rig that I’ve seen Zack Arias use for quite some time.
Now, having 600 true w/s at my finger tips gave me a lot more options; being able to shoot earlier in the day and throw a lot more light into a scene when it was needed but as time went I began find myself yet again favouring my trusty speedlights.
For the majority of my work I tend to work in locations that are a little off the beaten track so portability is a big issue for me. Carrying the Alien Bees rig can be quite a task in itself; not just because of the weight issue but for the bulk too so I needed a solution; preferably a lighting rig that was as portable as my speedlights but with the power of the Alien Bees.
The Perfect Lighting Rig?
With a head weighing less than my iPhone, and light and build quality highly respected amongst the Photography industry the Elinchrom Quadra ticks every box. Seeing such respected photographers as Joe McNally, Frank Doorhoff and Tim Wallace to name but a few using them, investing in a kit myself was a ‘no brainer’. So having opted for a two head kit this past weekend I was out ‘in the field’ putting it through it’s paces and the verdict…I love it!
- Weight: With a head I believe weighing in at just 2lbs and a battery pack weighing not much over that of an external hard drive.
- Size: Ridiculously small ‘S’ Head making the kit very easy to transport.
- Power: 400 ws of consistent, quality light.
- Recycle time: Seems that even at full power, no sooner have I taken the shot that the recycling beep has sounded and the head is ready to go again.
- Modifiers: With the EL Adaptor I can now attach any of my Elinchrom/Westcott Modifiers.
- Modelling Light: Built in LED daylight balanced modelling light.
- Fast Charge: 2 hours to fully recharge one of the batteries.
- Skyport: Very small and very reliable.
- Shoulder Strap: Plenty of padding so the already light battery is extremely comfortable to carry around.
- Clips to attach battery: Joe McNally recommended in a recent Kelby Training video wrapping a length of Gaffa Tape around the join between the battery and the pack ‘just incase’ the plastic clips don’t hold firm. Now Elinchrom are no slouch when it comes to build quality so this may be a little overkill, however the fact that the clips holding the battery in place are plastic I’m going with Joe’s advice on this.
- Skyport Aerial: Works flawlessly but the aerial seems very delicate to me and looks like it could be snapped off quite easily (however I have heard no reports of this happening as yet)
Much more than just another lighting rig:
There is so much more to this kit than just being another lighting rig from Elinchrom, albeit much smaller and incredibly portable. There are functions within the menu system that I just know are going to be so useful in the near future; features such as the ability to learn pre flashes when using the Quadra in conjunction with small strobes such as my Nikon SB800’s and many more which I’ll report back on in due course.
A big plus for me though is the EL Adaptor which allows for the Quadra heads to be fitted into any of the Elinchrom / Westcott modifiers of which I have a few but haven’t used for some time now.
Now with any new kit I would normally go out ‘in the field’ and test it over and over to familiarise myself with it before considering going out on a ‘live shoot’ however this past weekend I decided to dive in the deep end and take it straight out to work; Saturday at a friend’s wedding that I was photographing and Sunday for a Portrait shoot and unsurprisingly the kit worked flawlessly.
As time goes on and I’ll be sure to report back here any findings…good or bad but in the mean time, if you are looking to upgrade your lighting and are looking for a kit that’s midway between Small Strobes and Big Lights, I would definitely recommend taking a close look at the Elinchrom Quadra.