As a landscape photographer I am used to having a jam packed Backpack. Even rain gear, food and drink is stacked in it. It is totally different when you are going to work with models. Then you should also bring other flash equipment along with you. That is why it is important to buy a small but good set with the power of a studio flash. Elinchrom ELB is ideally suited for this. For years now, I work with his little brother, the Ranger Quadra, you can read about user experiences on my blog.
In reviews little is written about the experiences according to equipment to carry along. Here are several good alternatives, for example, I am totally hooked on the backpacks of Clikelite and in particular the Volt.
Good news, finally we have a good and reliable importer for Europe. The German company Globell.com. Globell is known for its good products and excellent service. They sell amongst others Mayer Gorlits lenses, camera bags, luxury Clikelite, Oberwerth Datacolor and Dxo, just to name a few.
No location too far
The Clikelite Volt was designed by the House photographer at Clikelite. Like many others, he was also looking for a good solution to be able to work on location with his Rangers. The ELB 400 comes standard in a Pelican-like case. Indestructible, waterproof, but big and heavy. The whole set, two heads, cables, batteries, everything fits in. Ideal for journeying by car or aircraft. But to be carrying this in outdoor areas a backpack is more practical.
The Volt has a light metal frame to increase the wearing comfort. The back features have a Clikstand. This is a unique system to handle the backpack when you put it down.You can reach easier for your items in the backpack, so the Volt is more like a real portable studio. At the top of the frame you have a handy bracket, which you can use as a tripod for a Flash head. This saves you bringing along extras and what’s more the bracket serves as a tripod for the “behind the scenes camera”.
By means of an ingenious system the entire front of the backpack can be opened in a jiffy. So you can quickly access your items. There are several useful compartments where cables and other equipment can be stored. If you are a smart packer, you might be able to pack in the DSLR, or a second Quadra.
As a standard I carry the following items in the backpack:
ELB 400 with two action heads and cables, an ECO Ring Flash with cables, an extra battery, exposure measurement devices, skyports, tripod, Deep octa 100 cm, a standard reflector, spare sync cable and Fuji XT-1, 56 mm, 85 mm and of course the necessary filters and peripherals. Really, everything fits in the backpack, it is not a light weight, but, I prefer to carry 15 kg in my backpack than in a suitcase and by doing so my hands are free. It is also essential to use a reflection screen of Sunbounce outdoors and that too is packed in my backpack.
In the picture you can clearly see the layout of the backpack. If you pay attention, you will see that it is a Ranger Quadra of the same size as the ELB. So, no need for extra photos of the backpack. You can still save some weight by using especially smaller and lighter tripods for the Flash units. It takes a while to get used to walking around with the Click elite, it carries a bit higher on the shoulders than a photo backpack, though, even fully packed this is far more comfortable to carry. There is even space for a Camel bag, so you will not dehydrate whilst working with this beautiful backpack. It costs approx. € 360.00 which obviously is a lot of money, but when you see what you get in return, it is worth it.
The new ELB 400 is rated at 7 to 425 Ws, divided over two channels A and B with two Flash heads the energy-capacity is a-synchroneously divided into A versus B as 66% versus 33%. which is an ideal combination to make portraits. By the a-synchroneous diffusion of light, this forms the proper contrast ratio for portraits. The color temperature is 5500 Kelvin and very stable. Even when power fluctuates, the capacity still remains at 5500 Kelvin. This is not so obvious, because there are many, much cheaper (read Chinese) flash units, that have a deviation of 15 to 20 percent. As a matter of fact, even good brands, such as Profoto, haven’t been able to stabilise this so easily, the B2 i.e. has a fluctuation of 6%.
Elinchrom has two types of Flash heads, Pro heads (green) and the Pro Action heads (blue). The huge difference lies in the Flash velocity, with the Action heads you can get up to a maximum Flash duration of 1/5700 sec at 1/3 of the power. With these Flash velocities, you can easily freeze any movement. To accommodate the ‘strobists’ amongst us, it is also possible to work with Hypersync, for which you will need the Pro heads and a trigger that supports HSS. I am not going explain how to use the HSS technique, it is possible that there are people who appreciate this method, to their advantage. I work in a different way, which is using the quick Flash duration to freeze the movement.
The Lithium battery has been improved, with 350 flashes versus the former 280 previous battery at full power. It is not usual to be able to work with a maximum output, this means practically that the battery has a longer life. Another important aspect for the capacity of the battery is the energy management. The ELB has totally renewed electronics, similar to the ELC. This means, that the power is distributed across different components. When you switch from full to half power, the remaining energy flows back into a kind of buffer, in such a way the energy can be reused. Elichchrom engineers have done a pretty good job on this technique and were even granted a patent on this as well. Other brands didn’t find a good solution on this topic. For instance, to be able to work quickly with a Broncolor Siros, I had to activate the Flash, to enable decreasing from full power to the lowest output. This is obviously a waste of energy. Charging the Lithium battery works very fast, within one and a half hours it is done. If you work in the studio or on a location where there is access to a powersocket, the battery can be recharged whilst working with your device.
The exterior of the ELB looks almost exactly like the Quadra. I too, believe there is no need for alterations. The Quadra has proven its capacity so why would you try to change that? But underneath the design-outlay a lot has changed, unfortunately, not recognisable on the exterior. The A and B ports are protected by a cap compared to the old series which was a screw-on CAP. As a new user you will think, huh…..what for?
But if you work with the Quadra you will be relieved, because sometimes, it’s very difficult to close these ports with a screw cap. I suppose that the new caps can also be ordered separately, your Quadra benefits from that because of wear and tear with the old screwcap system. Furthermore, the protective edge of the ELB is made of a different kind of material and fits much tighter which means a better protection against humidity. Under bad weather conditions the rangers work fairly well. Elinchrom doesn’t mention it, though the units are reasonably water resistant. I work a lot at the seaside and on the beaches and never experienced any problems. Even if it rains, but then I place them under a shelter.
The ELB with battery and a Flash head weighs 2.25 kg. The Quadra with lead-acid battery weighs approx. 3.35 kg. Since their new OLED menu the control has become much easier. Settings are faster, easier and more orderly set. The OLED menu is the same as the ELC, within a few seconds you will swiftly know how to work it out and you can throw away the manual. With the supplied Skyport (remote trigger) you can change many settings without having to walk across to the unit to alter them. Really, I am not sure it will be put on the market, but sincerely hope that the new Skyports will also get an OLED display. If so, special feature functionings of the ELB can also be set from the camera itself. The new skyport functionality is already built into ELB, which means a choice for the Skyport of 20 channels, and the flashsynchronisation time has also increased to 1/320 sec.
But, you do not need to purchase a new Flash just for an OLED display.
However there is more to come, the Flash recycle time has been brought back to 25% which enhances, that there are many more flashes in a row than you can shoot with. This is the reason why the ELB, also with a “strobe” feature, allows you to flash with 10 Hz power with a maximum of 10 Flashes per second on 140ws 1/3 power. In this way creative effects can be realized. As an example, if you compare the Profoto B1 and B2 you have 20 flashes per second, but only at the 1 or 2 ws. This, of course, is a joke, because it is not all that much you can do with 2ws outdoors. Many manufacturers are not honest when it comes down to specifying. I’m not saying that they are cheating, but they conveniently forget to mention important details. The Flash duration is usually mentioned, but not at what kind of Wattage. Therefore, always try to combine as much data as possible in order to get a better picture of a particular item/unit. It is more convenient to know the number of flashes per battery, but please be aware of how this is determined, whether it is at full power or at a least ability, with or without setting lamps etc. In addition the ELB has a 30 watt daylight powerled as modeling lamp. You won’t need it much outdoors, but indoors it is a good solution. So, for the filmproducers like us this is an ideal source of light.
Another new option of the ELB is “Delay”, which allows the Flash velocity be postponed, in such a way that there is only one Flash which goes off at first and a while later the others follow. This comes in handy in combination with the “strobe” function. Multiple flashes can occur one after the other, which is useful if you want to capture 3D images or special moves, like shooting sports and dance movements.
At the beach i.e. it can be tricky sometimes to be carrying your portable studio, like wanting to bring along way too many things. Determine in advance what you really will be needing. It makes no sense at all to bring along all your softboxes, because you probably will only use just one for all the actions, so it must be one that can handle almost anything. For the beach I usually take a Elinchrom Deep Octa and the standard reflector of the ELB 400, two Flash heads and depending on the light and the subject of the project just one or two ELB 400. Don’t forget the tripods and reflection screen and all your other items, such as light measurement device, spider checker, cube, camera and lenses.
See to it, that you can carry it all in one go, because walking back and forth during a shoot is a waste of energy. In the pictures you can clearly see that the Click elite Volt has everything in the unit and believe me, can be lugged along all day. Once you arrive at the location the set can be built up quickly.
At the beach, the sun got in the way, just when I wanted to darken my background. The left hand side was too bright, because of the sunrays. To solve this, I used a grey gradient filter by the brand NiSI, by doing so the background disperses the light more gradually. Afterwards the model can then be put into the shooting-position and the lamps are set up and the composition is ready. Then I determine the exposure, first without Flash, i.e. like the 1/125 f 8, then the sky looks as if it is normally exposed.
By diminuating the exposure time two stops lower (under exposure) the sky becomes a lot more dramatic, the exposure comes from f16 at 1/125. Now, here is the trick, if the Flash is set at 1/125 f16, then the model is well exposed and the background will be underexposed.
It takes a while to calculate and puzzle between these indicators, but in the end you will see the result. If your camera is a hybrid or a system camera like a Fuji or Olympus, then you can see the effect of the underexposure in the viewer. In this way you can judge whether the effect complies with what you have in mind and if necessary just adjust your Flash settings.
My wife always says: “Zeeland has no such thing as forests.” She comes from a place called Soest in the Utrecht province, with a totally different flora. Over there you will see forests, but you won’t find dunes like over here in this province called Zeeland. With the afore mentioned techniques you can darken daylight in a forest, but there is a third factor which is the freezing of movement. There are two methods, a fast shutter speed or a quick Flash, I chose the latter. The action heads, are ideal for this work. I made sure, that the power suits to a Flash duration of approximately 1/3800 sec, enough to freeze the movement. For a light modifiër I used an Octa 135.
Jump and action photos with the ELB 400 is a piece of cake. Just forget about HSS or TTL modes of your speedlights and slender along with a quick Flash like the ELB 400.
During a demo day, I took a shot of the model Kit for Elinchrom flag.
Now, here too, the sky is one stop under-exposed, as a modifier I used the Maxi spot. The advantage of this reflector is, it generates 1 stop more lightrays. In this case it was not necessary, but useful to know for future times.
In these kind of pictures the timing is the most important factor, by using the FujiFlilm X-T1 and a 10-24 mm lens which is easier to facilitate, because of the enormously bright and fast digital viewfinder, it can follow your subject swiftly. The auto-focus, must also have the necessary speed, otherwise it won’t work. It is also possible, to focus on the flag and then sharpen by a manual focus. The movement is partly frozen by the shutter speed though mainly by the Flash duration.
The renewal of the Ranger ELB is especially on the interior of the unit. The electronics are, just as the ELC, fully redesigned and together with the OLED menu, this is definitely an upgrade. The ELB is also faster in reloading and has lots of new Flash functions. This is a huge improvement especially for the sport, dance and action photographers, I have not compared all the other brands of flashunits, but by means of specifying in a list one clearly distinguishes the differences of the battery flashes. I am not sponsored nor paid by Elinchrom. Just like you, I have to work hard for my money. With this short review I hope I can convince you of two beautiful products the Clikelite Volt and the Elinchrom ELB 400. Both are for sale at the dealer of Elinchrom Photo Flash or other resellers in Belgium or The Netherlands. The backpack can be ordered via Globell.com.