The Perfect Location Lighting Rig?

Written by: Glyn Dewis

Published: August 3, 2010

Category: General

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.

Why?
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!

  • Likes:
  • 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.

  • Dislikes:
  • 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.

Enjoy 🙂

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24 Comments

  1. Neal Hibbert

    A wise choice mate and a good write up!

    Reply
    • Glyn

      Cheers mate, and yeah definitely a good decision me thinks 🙂

      Reply
  2. David Kelly

    Thanks for the sharing your experiences with these Glyn – was hoping, nay expecting you to post something about these babies very promptly 😉 Always thought big things about these units but then given the price (well for us non-pro’s anyway) I would expect it.

    I presume you must’ve taken some back up strobes with you on the day, just in case Murphy’s law struck?

    I know Joe pushes his equipment hard so if he says he puts gaffer tape on the plastic clip then it seems like good advice to me. One bit of advice I can share with you relates to the pre-flash learning feature. At his recent seminar in London, Joe noted in the field he had an issue where sometimes they stopped firing after initially learning the pre-flash signal. He found that this occurs after he made power adjustments, so now he get the unit(s) to learn the pre-flash signal again after each adjustment.

    Look forward to becoming more envious, sorry, looking forward to seeing more postings on your experiences with them……Freudian slip there I think 😉

    PS Did you use one or both of the heads in the example shots above?

    Reply
    • Glyn

      @David…Needless to say I’m really happy with the Quadra’s for their portability and light quality etc… Well worth it! I did take along strobes just incase of any ‘issues’ but they never saw the light of day.

      Re the Gaffer tape, like I said it may well be ‘over kill’ but I’d rather go with the advice and put it on there than have the battery drop to the ground and give out a very expensive sounding ‘thud’! 🙂

      Cheers,
      Glyn

      ps> Only used one of the heads in this series of shots mate; whenever possible I’m a one light guy 🙂

      Reply
  3. Scot Baston

    I thought I had given up on Gear envy and concentrating on improving my skill set with existing equipment… but after your recent mini seminar and reading about these lights… I’ve had to add these to my wishlist. I really like the portability/power of these lights. time to start putting more money in the piggy bank

    Thanks Glyn, as if I needed another reason to spend 😉

    Scot

    Reply
    • Glyn

      @Scot…They’re every bit as good as people say they are mate; very pleased indeed 🙂

      Cheers,
      Glyn

      Reply
  4. Jürgen

    Glyn,

    nice tool, you got yourself. Having that bit extra power and faster recycle time will be useful, especially when you have to deal with brighter light situations.

    Let us know, on how things work out. I might have to add one of these beasts to my shopping list 🙂

    Reply
    • Glyn

      @Jürgen…I’ll definitely keep you posted on how things work out but I get the feeling it’s gonna be ‘all good’ 🙂

      All the best to you,
      Glyn

      Reply
  5. Frank DelValle

    Good review and great pics as usual. Thanks Glyn.

    Reply
    • Glyn

      @Frank…Cheers Buddy; really appreciate you dropping by and leaving a comment…thanks 🙂

      Reply
  6. Rick Wenner

    Great review here Glyn. I would definitely agree that the Quadra is an excellent piece of equipment. I love the portability of them, especially when I’m shooting “off the beaten track” as you put it. One issue that I do have is the strength of the EL Adapter in that it has a hard time holding up the 39″ Deep Octa unless I put a little extra torque on it. I’ve seen modifications that can be made to the adapter though, so I might have to try that out. Have you seen this problem yet?

    Reply
    • Glyn

      @Rick…I was wondering about the 39″ Deep Octa and was sooooo close to grabbing one at the time. Aside from the EL Adaptor issue (which I haven’t experienced just yet) how do you find the Deep Octa mate?
      Would love to know you’re thoughts on that.

      Cheers,
      Glyn

      Reply
  7. Tim Skipper

    I watched Joe McNally review this lighting system and I was highly impressed with it. I really like using strobes on location and having more control over the light vs just using natural light. I am looking forward to collecting my own set.

    Reply
    • Glyn

      @Tim…It really is every bit as good as Joe says; the weight, fitting all the Elinchrom/Westcott range and the power just make it a re al winner.
      Cheers,
      Glyn

      Reply
  8. Andrew Hart

    Hi Glyn, congrats on your new purchase, these puppies have been on my wishlist for a while, along with a lot of other items. Unfortunately times are hard and the list just gets longer or remains the same! (I did pick up some new tr-332 radio triggers off ebay recently but they’re still on the way from China but looking forward 😉
    Was wondering if you tried out the Rangers before going with these, are they much heavier than the dinky Quadras?
    Did you use modifiers for the photos? How’s the oomph in a softbox in bright sun?
    Lovin the German Shepherd(?) picture, very wolf on the prarie looking, great stuff!

    Reply
    • Glyn

      @Andrew…Yeah I’d tried out and used Rangers before and although they’re great, the kit itself is still quite weighty when you take the battery into account whereas this Quadra kit is just incredibly light and still packs a punch. For the photos in this post I used a 1m x 1m Elinchrom Softbox; with the baffle removed for the ‘wedding shots’ because of the sun and not wanting to lose roughly a stop or so.

      Cheers,
      Glyn

      ps> Bella is German Shepherd / Husky cross; looks the part but is such a gentle, good natured dog.

      Reply
  9. DaveT

    Thanks for the write up Glyn – I have been wondering abuout these for a little while after seeing them at Focus in the spring.

    Have you had chance to shoot with them in bright sunlight yet? If so I was wondering how they cope in overpowering the ambient?

    Look forward to hearing more about your ventures with the Quadras.

    Dave

    Reply
    • Glyn

      @DaveT…Yeah I was shooting in bright sun for the ‘wedding photos’ and although I was using a Elinchrom 1m x 1m softbox I just used it without the internal baffle and it coped just fine.

      I’ll be sure to post up more about these superb units as I use them.
      Cheers, and all the best to you,
      Glyn

      Reply
  10. Darren Newbery

    Nice write up Glyn, was looking at this setup myself as an extra power boost over location SB-900 / 800 setups…. sounds and looks like it does the job! Look forward to hearing more as you use it.
    Cheers

    Reply
    • Glyn

      @Darren…So far so good mate; I’ll definitely ‘keep you posted’ 🙂

      Reply
  11. Rick Wenner

    Glyn :: I LOVE THE 39″ DEEP OCTA! I use it all the time really. There’s just something about the light it produces that has made me fall in love with it. I use it along with a hooded diffuser to control the light a bit more although I do wish there was a grid made for it. Either way, it’s an amazing light modifier.

    Reply
    • Glyn

      @Rick…Sounds like I’m gonna have to think about adding this bit of kit to the tool bag then; cheers Buddy 🙂

      Reply
  12. Brian / p4pictures

    Glyn, I’m looking at these, and wondering did you go for the A or S heads for your quadra and why?

    Reply
    • Glyn

      @Brian…Went for the ‘S’ heads mate purely on a ‘you never know’ basis that they’ll be good for most if not all shoots; that’s my excuse anyway 🙂

      Reply

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