Broncolor isn’t the first manufacturer to merge lighting with Wi-Fi, but their Siros monolight is one of the most ambitious integrations we’ve seen to date. Together with our frequent collaborator David Patiño, we tested a pair of Siros 800 S Wi-Fi/RFS 2.1 lights to see if this high-tech merger paid off.
The Siros line of monolights comes in both 400 w/s and 800 w/s varieties with support for either PocketWizard or Broncolor’s own RFS wireless transmitter system. Versions of both Siros models are also sold without Wi-Fi.
The 800 w/s model we tested is capable of flash durations as short as 1/500 sec (measured at t0.5) at minimum energy and 1/1,100 sec at maximum energy. If you spring for Broncolor’s optional HyperSync flash tube, you can achieve flash durations as short as 1/8,000 sec, though you’ll also need to use a PocketWizard transmitter to achieve these speeds. Flash intensity can be adjusted by up to seven f-stops in either full stop or 1/10-stop increments. Recycle times clock in between 0.14–1.9 seconds on a 120-volt outlet.
Flashes can be fired in a rapid sequence of up to 50 in a second for capturing stroboscopic effects. You’ll find a 300-watt modeling light plus a USB port for updating the Siros’ firmware.
Cutting the Cord
Beyond its performance specs, the major selling point of the Siros is its built-in Wi-Fi. You can operate the Siros using the bronControl app for iOS and Android (we tested the iOS app, as the Android app was not released during our review period). The app gives you complete control over the Siros’ main functions and lets you operate multiple units from a single app dashboard.
Out of the box, the Siros will create its own private Wi-Fi network, allowing you to make a direct connection between it and your mobile device—although you’ll lose your Internet connection while linked to the Siros. Alternatively, you can set it to “Enterprise” mode and connect the Siros to an existing Wi-Fi network so you can operate it without losing your connection.
Establishing a connection between the Siros and your iOS device is straightforward. As you add lights to the app, each is assigned a color code (blue, turquoise, green, pink and yellow) that appears on both the app and the light itself, where an LED at the rear of the light will glow with the appropriate color.
Once the app is installed, it’s a breeze to use. You can switch between lights, adjust power levels with a flick of a finger and quickly adjust settings such as firing frequency and audio controls. Working in Patiño’s studio, we would bounce between making adjustments on an iPad, the Siros itself and the Broncolor wireless transmitter and were very pleased with how quickly setting changes synced across all three devices. We were able to keep the Siros and an iPad connected even when about 35 feet and two floors separated the two.
It wasn’t a completely flawless experience, though. We would occasionally lose the connection between the Siros and our iOS device (in private mode) and would have to flip back into the iPad’s settings to re-connect. When the bronControl app was open on an iPad, it would prevent the tablet from sleeping, but when it was on our iPhone 5S, the phone would sometimes enter sleep mode, dropping our connection. This was not a frequent occurrence, however, and the app worked well enough that Patiño told us he wished Broncolor offered a desktop app as well. For tethered shoots, it would be easier to adjust light settings when you’re already at your computer, he said, rather than have to handle yet another device. Still, the app affords plenty of convenience, especially if you’re working with multiple units or have positioned them up high and out of arm’s reach.
Design & Performance
When we first powered up the Siros, we thought we’d struggle navigating the menu on the back of the light, especially in view of how simple the app is. Aside from the center scroll wheel, a modeling light and test button, there are no physical controls. Instead, you have to depress the center scroll wheel and toggle it to illuminate previously hidden menu options like speed, Wi-Fi and sync. Once you’ve made a selection, those functions stay illuminated but others will remain invisible so you’ll need to remember where everything is or scroll over them to illuminate them. That said, it didn’t take us very long to get the hang of it.
Esthetically, we loved the look of the Siros. Its tubular shape, glowing LEDs and blue display have a futuristic air about them. It’s sturdy and well-built, but at 7.9 pounds, it’s heavier than many competitive monolights—something to consider if you see yourself taking a few of them on a road trip.
Patiño used a pair of Siros monolights for several portrait sessions with Broncolor’s new softbox and umbrella, which were designed specifically for the Siros (though the lights will work with Broncolor’s existing line of modifiers). Running the iPad app with the RFS transmitter on a Canon EOS 5D Mark II, the workflow proved seamless.
The Siros, Patiño concluded, was a rock-solid performer, delivering consistent output throughout his shoots.
Broncolor’s 400 w/s and 800 w/s power options are not as common as the 500 w/s and 1,000 w/s options favored by its competitors, making a straight apples-to-apples comparison with other monolights more difficult. At $1,627 for an 800 w/s light, the Siros 800 S vies with products like the Elinchrom ELC HD 1000 and Profoto’s D1 for your studio strobe dollar. Both of those are more powerful by 200w/s and offer comparable recycle times. Neither of those options, however, incorporates Wi-Fi or are capable of the high-frequency flashes that the Siros delivers.
We found the Siros’ app-based operation remarkably easy to use and Patiño had nothing but good things to say about the light’s performance in the studio.
PROS: Consistent output; Wi-Fi functionality works well; beautiful design.
CONS: “HyperSync” mode requires accessory; no desktop app; heavy for transport.