I Moved From Small Flashes to Big Lights
Speedlights (photo by garyhebding from flickr)
I made the Leap!
Speedlights are the flash unit that attaches to your camera which can also be used off camera on manual or automatic mode using a trigger.
Being a fan of artificial lighting I have always been on a quest to get the most out of the the on camera speedlights for the last two years, since it was only I could afford and practically it just works for what I do. I did all my portrait with them using softbox, umbrellas, home made grids and snoots. Them major benefit of using these speedlights is portability. You can pack 3 of them in your camera bag, Pocketwizards, 2 lenses, 1 body, a softbox, spare batteries, a lunch bag then carry a separate bag of lightstands, grip and you’re golden, and since they’re so small you can basically put them anywhere you want. You’ll have 3 independent light sources available to suit your lighting needs.
However there are times when I wished that those little suckers could do more. Shooting at broad daylight can run into some problems such as power and perhaps limited variances of maximizing depth of field. You’re also limited with the time of day you will be shooting so you’d likely resort to a shaded spot or move indoors. Bye-bye blue skies and high contrast backgrounds! Flash to subject distance is greatly reduced and it is hard to play around with the the flash-ambient ratio; the speedlight just don’t have enough juice to compete with the blistering sun. I was able to cheat this though using Canon’s High Speed Sync but it isn’t very rewarding after using light modifiers.
The last 4 months I’ve been looking around for an alternative to speedlights, something with more power and still portable (I should define portability before I end this blog), and found one.
The Ranger RX with S Head is a battery operated flash system from Elinchrom. It is suited to work outdoors or in the studio and has a power of 1100Watt/sec of light. Compared to my speedlights which has about 100Watt/sec at full power. That is no doubt the speedlights could match. It is seriously powerful, it scared the hell out of me when I tried popping it at full. Recycling time is at 5.5 sec at full power but I don’t mind, it gets faster at lower settings and I don’t even think I’ll be spraying all those 1100Watt/sec every time I go out to shoot. It also gives out 140 pops at full power and goes down to 3800 pops at minimum power per battery charge. Elinchrom is also known for its color consistency and superb light quality at any power level. That beats AlienBees in that matter. That’s important because I mainly shoot portraits most of the time, skin colors should be properly rendered at all costs. Another big plus is that it can deliver performance at any demanding weather as it is weatherproof and is built rock-solid. I read from a ski photographer that he used the Ranger that got buried under the snow while he was shooting and had dropped the thing around several times and it is still working. Well, it is great piece of equipment but with all its advantages aside it has a single of downside: Ready?
It weighs about 20lbs for a head and a battery pack. A single speedlight would have been 19.17lbs lighter. So clearly it is a lot heavier than the average speedlight+stands and my camera bag combined but it delivers 1100Watts of studio quality light anywhere, anytime at any day without the worries of being strangled near a wall outlet and not be able to shoot better locations. Autonomy. I love that. And back pains, I’ll learn to love that too.
Not having a photo studio means your studio is.. well.. everywhere. lugging around your equipment is gonna burn you out long before you start the shoot especially without an assistant. I chose the Ranger RX for its durability, quality and efficiency although it is not that portable but the rest of its qualities makes up for the weight issue. So the back pains will stay with me too.
In conclusion, its advantages outweighs the disadvantages so it is a keeper and is worth every penny (I sold my 70-200 2.8 IS L for it plus with a little push from my dad). The speedlights has its place and purpose and both can be used together as well so no loss for me, they will all be used. I am happy with this set-up overall.
Here’s the ranger at full power, underexposing the sky about 2 stops at 2 PM on a clear sunny day.
1/200 sec, f/14, ISO 50
It’s a Leap! For the light and for my 1st real written blog!