Portable Light Kit Roundup
August 22, 2013
There was a time when using studio strobes on location would have meant renting a giant gas generator, but these days, professional photographers have a growing selection of battery-powered studio light kits to choose from. With an extensive range of power, speed, size and pricing, these kits fill the gap between on-camera speedlights and AC-powered studio strobes.
The UNI400JRg monolight is at the core of Dynalite’s portable studio offerings. It features a 400 w/s head, with full, 1/2, 1/4 and 1/8 power settings in 1/3-stop steps (dropping down to 320 w/s when run on battery power). Dynalite offers two portable power packs, the Jackrabbit II and the XP-800 Pure Sine Wave Inverter. Claimed to be the smallest high-voltage power pack available, the Jackrabbit II provides the UNI400JRg with 140 full-power pops. It has a 5.6-second recycle time at full power, and charges in three hours. At 14 pounds, the XP-800 weighs significantly more than the three-pound Jackrabbit II, but since it’s an inverter, rather than just a battery pack, the XP-800 allows the UNI400JRg to operate at its full 400 w/s capacity. With a 1,400-watt peak output and 12000 mAh lithium-ion battery, the XP-800 also brings full-power recycle time down to 1.4 seconds, while maintaining the three-hour charging time. The battery and inverter are designed to be easily separated. Though batteries are not available separately at this time, we hope that when they do become available, Dynalite will offer two different options: both lighter, lower-capacity batteries and heavier, higher-capacity ones, so that photographers can choose the option that best suits their needs.
Jackrabbit II: $478
Photoflex’s TritonFlash is a 300 w/s head with 19 power settings in 1/3-stop increments. Weighing in at under two pounds, the Photoflex TritonFlash power pack provides 750 full-power flashes on a single charge from its included lithium-ion battery, and has a three-second recycle time at full power. The TritonFlash power pack was designed to be a versatile unit with the on-location photographer in mind. The TritonFlash battery can be charged while still connected to the power pack, and the flash can be used while the battery is charging with no adverse effects. The battery can also be removed from the power pack, allowing it to be charged while the flash is still being used with a spare battery.
TritonFlash head: $880
TritonFlash battery: $530
battery kit: $863
Quantum’s Qflash T5dR has long been a staple of the on-location photographer who is looking for power and durability. Sports shooters love them because they can be fired at full power continuously for as long as needed. Portrait and lifestyle photographers appreciate their bare-bulb and optional TTL capabilities. At 150 w/s, the T5dR is not the most powerful portable studio strobe out there, but it has proven itself as a workhorse in the photography industry. The T5dR is powered by Quantum’s Turbo line of batteries. The newest of these, the Turbo SC, offers 250 full-power flashes, full-power recycling in two seconds, and a 1.5-hour recharge time.
Turbo SC: $275
Lumedyne has an extensive array of options for the photographer looking to build a portable studio lighting kit. There are two different Lumedyne heads to choose from. Signature Series heads have a lightweight metal frame allowing for the support of large modifiers. Signature Series Deluxe models have a ready beep tone as well as TTL for some cameras. Signature Heads use separate Head Cords while the Next Generation Heads have a built in cord. The Next Generation heads are made with ABS plastic bodies, reducing their weight by half a pound in comparison to the Signature Series heads. There are also two power pack series (plus a third, “Action” series, aimed at action/sports photographers). Each series is available in 200 w/s or 400 w/s versions, and offers “Fast” or “XTRA Fast” recycle settings. Both series of packs recycle a full-power flash in 2.5 seconds at 400 w/s or 1.3 seconds at 200 w/s. Recycling times stated are “XTRA Fast” times; using the “Fast” setting increases available flashes by 30 percent.
Lumedyne also offers a range of battery options. Both the Signature Series Basic and Deluxe Power Packs have seven stops worth of power adjustment, and the Deluxe Packs provide the ability to trim down the power up to one stop as well as offering a TTL option (for some cameras). The Next Generation Packs have four stops of power adjustment. Looking for even more power? Add on one of Lumedyne’s booster modules to increase your power pack by 200 w/s or 400 w/s at a time. Boosters are stackable all the way up to 2,400 w/s—that’s a lot of portable power. Lumedyne has four different battery options ranging from 100 to 600 full-power flashes at 200 w/s. Charging time varies according to capacity, but ranges from 3 to 18 hours using the Quick Charger and 1 to 6 hours using the Hyper Charger.
Signature Series Head: $396
Next Generation Head: $360
Signature Series 200 w/s Pack: $1152
Next Generation 200 w/s Pack: $550
Paul C. Buff
Paul C. Buff’s studio lighting products have long attracted fans with their low price point. The Alien Bees line, and the E640 Einstein, with its short flash duration, are Buff’s most popular on-location strobe head options. The Alien Bees B800 is a 320 w/s head with six stops of stepless power adjustment. It weighs in at under three pounds and is available in seven different housing colors. The E640 Einstein is a 640 w/s head with nine stops of power adjustment in 1/10 steps. It also features a rear LCD screen that displays the current settings. For the price of many battery packs, Buff’s Vagabond Mini Lithium portable power source gives you a pure sine wave inverter that can power any of Buff’s studio strobes. It will recycle a full-power 320 w/s strobe in 1.5 seconds and a 640 w/s in three seconds. It provides 400 to 500 full-power shots per charge (when connected to a total of 640 w/s) and recharges in three hours. Spare batteries are available and can be charged externally.
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