Elinchrom ELB400 with High Sync Head and El Skyport Plus trigger and other kit

Elinchrom’s portable lighting solution: the ElB400

High Speed Head  and the El Skyport Plus (for Nikon)

Kit explored on its own and combined with other flashes and triggers and even with a Fuji X100

 

 

Introduction 

I captured the photos below around noon on a grey day in Newcastle UK. I used an El Skyport Plus to trigger a D-Lite 4RX and a D-lite 4it both powered by a bulky but effective Tronix Explorer generator.

High Speed Sync Photography with shutter camera: a parkour adept in Newcastle

High Speed Sync Photography with shutter camera: a parkour adept in Newcastle

 

 f4.5 24mm 1/2500th of a second, manual pre-focus, ISO 400, Nikon, Elinchrom D-Lite 4RX and Elinchrom D-Lite 4it heads triggered by Elinchrom El Skyport Plus on a Nikon D750. Taken around 12:00 on a grey day.

 

Happy with this first series, I invested in the less cumbersome EL B400 High Speed To Go kit. I decided to test the system extensively to understand what it can and cannot do. I discovered that there is a lot more to high speed synchronising  than I initially thought, even more than I was sure and/or aware of at the time I took these portraits of my young friend Yamato, adept parkour runner. I not only tested the ELB400, High Speed Heads and El Skyport Plus but also looked at how they could work with other systems at both normal and high sync speeds, including the Fuji X100, a leaf shutter camera.

I had fun and I learned a lot. I hope this article helps others.

                        Christophe

 

High Speed Syncing in a few words

Hi-Speed Syncing refers to synchronising flash with fast(high) shutter speeds, which is particularly challenging with curtain-shutter cameras like  DSLRs. Being able to use flash at fast shutter speeds has many advantages, especially when using flash to complement continuous ambient light . For example, it opens the way to using flash to ‘overpower’ the sun . Surprisingly, High-Speed Syncing has in theory neither more or less power to freeze movement than standard speed syncing. The best way to truly freeze motion with a curtain and even a leaf shutter camera is to use flashes with very fast ( short) durations, where they are the only source of light. Will look at this further along.

 

Elinchrom’s  ELB400, High Speed Flash Head and El Skyport Plus Radio Trigger for Nikon 

 

The ELB400 and flash-head: A Battery Powered Flash Head on a Lead

The concept behind the ELB400 is simple: it’s an intelligent battery shell, coupled to a rechargeable  battery that can power and control one or two flash-heads at a time. No battery and battery shell make for a very light weight compact flash head that has a reasonable size flash tube and even an LED modelling lamp.

Definite pros:

  • You can power one or two heads with one unit.
  • You can work away from mains.
  • You can purchase heads with different characteristics.

Two main cons to this two-heads-powered-by-one -battery concept:

  • You need cables to run from the flash heads to the ELB400.
  • When using two heads, the power settings throughout the range are proportional, not independent: when you modify the power, both heads’ outputs are modified proportionately. If you want fully independent control, you’ll need another ELB 400!

Elinchrom currently offers three types of head: Action (freezing motion), High Speed  (to ‘over power’ the Sun and to a degree freeze motion) and Pro for classic work like portraiture.

 

Alternatives to ELB400 and High-Speed Heads

New, the ELB 400 with a High-Speed Head and El Skyport Plus trigger doesn’t retail cheap. Maybe you already have most of what you need to enjoy high-speed sync. Here are two alternatives, the small flash-gun and the P

 

A power generator

Get a portable generator to use your mains powered flash heads anywhere: the D-lite 4it and 4RX are high-speed sync capable.

A bulky but very cost effective alternative if you already own some high speed compatible heads, all you’ll need is an El Skyport Plus. The Quadra HS head appears much bigger as at the front of this wide-angle frame.

ELB400 vs Tronix explorer

 Tronix explorer

The Tronix has two standard led-batteries that are user replaceable, a bit of a carry-on but easy to do once you know how, which means that as long as the hardware is working, it is easy to source good value replacement batteries.

If you already have a couple of mains powered EL D-lite 4  flash heads, paired with El Sky-Port Plus, the Tronix or similar devices will be your cheapest, but not your lightest, option to explore high speed sync away from mains.

 

The Flashgun Alternative

A different concept is the flashgun, where battery, battery shell and flash head are built into a single unit that connects directly to the camera: a sort of add-on. With the right tools, a flashgun can be operated off camera.

 

The Nikon SB-900

If you have some Nikon SB- 900s, they are designed to sync at high speeds with Nikon compatible cameras and can offer a good alternative to the Elinchrom system. Canon has equivalent flashguns for its cameras.

Nikon SB900 vs Quadra High Speed Sync Head

 

Nikon’s SB-900, for example, is tailored made to offer high-speed sync with Nikon DSLR’s. Here it is next to a Quadra High Speed Sync Head

 

The Sb-900’s are not as powerful than the 400W of the ELB, have a much smaller flash tube and coverage but when used with other Sb-900’s, light-shapers, and high speed off-camera triggers like the Phottix Odin, they are very effective at normal and high speeds, including with respect to cost when sourced on the second-hand market.

Set to their highest zoom, the SB-900 is only around two stops less bright than the ELB 400 at full power. On the other hand, it’s recycling time is painfully slow and even then, the overheating protection is quick to kick in. But of course, when grouped with other units, it is possible to use them at less than full power to benefit from equivalent exposures, faster recycling times and less overheating shutdowns.

Furthermore, inherent to the principles of their power control systems, small flashguns like the SB-900s produce ever shorter flash durations with lower power settings which make them unbeatable when it comes to freezing motion..

four SB900 flashguns mounted on a Lastolite bracket

With small flash guns ,effective power and fast recycling speeds comes with numbers.

Mounted on a Lastolite bracket, four Nikon SB-900s, each with a Phottix Odin dedicated Nikon receiver.

 

 

D700 f13 1/640th of a second, ISO 200, three SB-900s, two on camera left, one camera right, that’s about on par with direct sunlight

The light was fading fast, D700, ISO 200, 1/250th of a second (normal sync speed) at f9, slightly less than for direct sunlight. Three SB-900s, two camera-left, one camera- right (but closer than before).

 

The Profoto’s B1 AirTTL, which is basically a giant expensive intelligent battery powered flashgun.

Obvious pros to the B1:

  • no cables from flash head to battery
  • fully independent power settings
  • a fair size 

The obvious con

  • It weighs 3 kg! That’s 3kg (per unit ) you must lug around to your location. It is more crucially, before you even add a light modifier to it, 3 kg of kit to attach to a stand, or possibly, dangle from the end of a boom arm. You’ll need heavy cumbersome stands and booms to position your heavy flash units.

You might be tempted to write off the B1s there and then, but remember each unit is self-contained:no cables to worry about. But on the grounds of ease of use and stability alone , I prefer the lighter flash-head approach ! You can use the battery unit to weigh down a stand if need be !

What came with a HS (High Sync) To Go kit (from Wex UK)

Elinchrom ELB400 HSS To GO

 

1x ELB400 shell,

1x Quadra HS Head

1x 18cm Reflector

1x Quadra Protective Cap

1x 2.5m Cable

1x Shoulder Strap for the ELB 400

1x Lithium Ion Battery

1x Lithium Ion Battery Charger

1x Sync Cable

1x ProTec Location Bag

1x ProTec Shoulder Strap

1xProtect rain cover

4x Straps to attach kit to the bag (could only find three when I took the picture).

Elinchrom ELB400 HSS To GO

 All this and more (an extra head and cables) fits perfectly in the high quality well thought-out bag.

 

You can use the straps to attach stands and other items to the bag.

 

The rain cover won’t last, I just use it to keep flash heads from rubbing against each other in the bag.

 

You also get some literature but not much to go on for newbies.

ELB400 Instruction Manuals

Lots of literature on compliance and warranty.

 

Elb400 Quick Start Guide

The quick start guide hasn’t been updated for the El Skyport Plus.

 

What you don’t get

A light stand

A radio trigger (except you do! The El Skyport Plus when on offer with the HS head*)

Other light modifiers

An up to date complete manual.

(*)Bonus kit: at the time I purchased the HS Kit, Elinchrom was throwing in the Elinchrom’s El Skyport Plus for free: it’s their only trigger that offers High Speed Sync with compatible Elinchrom flash heads. It also works with all Elinchrom flashes that can be radio triggered .

 

The High Sync Flash head:

All three Elinchrom Quadra heads are built on the same model: it’s the flash tubes that differ along with the internal  electronics in the body of the head.

Elinchrom Quadra HSS Head

 

The head is so compact that it holds in the palm of my hand. It is mostly made of robust plastic. Including the bracket and fitted with the basic 12.5cm Standard Reflector and Frost Cap (not supplied in the To Go pack) it weighs a lot less than a Nikon SB 900 flashgun.

It has a built-in umbrella / deflector holder: careful, this is the Elinchrom version accepting 7mm diameter rods. The bracket element is robust and allows for secure fitting to a stand and the possibility to swivel and/or incline the head towards the floor or the ceiling.

Protective Cap is plastic. You need to push a ‘button’ to slip it on or off the bayonet mount. The cap is symmetrical in design which makes for less hunting around when fitting it than with other accessories. Proceed with care so as not to damage the flash tube in the process.

 

Once the cap removed, flash tube and modelling lamp are unprotected; no transparent dome to guard from shocks so take care.  

 

Modelling lamp in such a small head: incredible !

The tube is user replaceable: great, remember to get the right one for your head (Action, High Speed or Pro).

Basic Quadra reflectors

A few Elinchrom modifiers are specific to the miniature Quadra bayonet. The 12.5 cm, that comes as standard when the Quadra head is purchased on its own can take an umbrella or a deflector. It can also be fitted with a frosted cap that can act as a protection or a modifier. Once the frosted cap is in place, you can use the secondary umbrella holder.

The 18cm basic reflector can accept an umbrella, a deflector or can be fitted with a honeycomb grid.

The 18cm with honeycomb and the 12.5 cm with frosted cap

Quadra fit soft boxes, one square, one octagonal are available. The  dedicated Quadra accessories can help keep weight and bulk well down . There is also the option to get a Quadra to Lasolite adapter to benefit from that brand’s numerous and cheaper accessories, mostly designed for flashguns, thus reasonable in size and weight.

Lastolite to Quadra adaptor on strip box

A Lastolite Quadra mounting ring: t’s made of rather pliable metal but can be bent back into shape quite easily.

 

An Elinchrom adaptor will allow you to mount your classic Elinchrom modifiers whilst taking the strain off the Quadra.

 

It is expensive but robust and well-designed; it adds to the weight and the bulk of your kit but allows you to use any Elinchrom compatible modifiers on the Quadra .

 

Quadra Head with Elinchrom mount adaptor

 

The Cable

It’s the 2.5 m cable that’s supplied. Think that’s a lot? Think again because it’s not. You can buy at astronomical prices cables of either 5 or 10 m, the 10 m being better value for money. There is also a shorter 1.5 m for shouldering the ELB 400.

Quadra Head Elinchrom Cable

Elinchrom says daisy chaining is possible but to expect an impact on performance:  diminished flash power and longer flash duration. I didn’t test this but is makes sense.

Daisy Chained Elinchrom Quadra Cables

The end that fits to the flash head has a right angle. It fits rather snugly and can also be ‘locked’ in. I feel like a dentist pulling out teeth when I remove the cable from the head: my units are brand new and maybe in time it’ll become easier. The right angle makes for a neater design and helps easily distinguish the ends but stops you from inclining the head back as far as you potentially could; swivel the head and that limitation is no longer an issue. Both ends are fool-proof and easy to line up: ELB-side, the cable plugs straight in to either the A socket or the B the socket. If you do this when the ELB is on, it’ll give you a friendly beep.

 

The Battery

 

Elinchrom ELB400 Battery

 

 The ELB Lithium Ion battery is relatively light weight at 720g. The battery comes with two fuses lodged in their on-board storage slots. The battery only works with the fuse in place. This feature meets current security requirements for transportation by plane. The battery has an array of symmetrical contacts: no need to match a side of the shell to attach it: fool-proofing I appreciate.

 

 

The battery has a built-in power gauge. You can almost miss it if you’re not looking for it: pressure on a button lights up for a few seconds one to four LEDS to indicate level of charge (no need to hold the button down as I’d initially thought). According to Elinchrom, the battery level display on the OLED is not reliable with the new generation of Lithium Ion batteries.

 

 

ELB400 and Battery

 

 

The connector to the charger is next to the power gauge: before the development of a dedicated Lithium Ion Battery, the shell accepted also a Lead Gel battery. Be aware, the chargers are incompatible. You can charge a spare battery independently from the shell and you can use the ELB400 when charging it which is a great feature.

charger ELB400

Printed on the charger a handy reminder of how to read it: a nice helpful detail.

 

 

 Battery autonomy

There are two things to consider with respect to battery autonomy:

  • How many full power flashes you can produce on a single charge.
  • How many flashes you can rattle off before the overheating protection kicks in.

You can set the ELB 400 to eco-mode which slows down ( lengthens) recycling time to delay overheating.

Elinchrom boasts 350 full power flashes on a single charge. In eco mode the overheating kill switch kicked in after triggering about 125 flashes in a row with a recycling time of around 1.7 seconds.

I didn’t bother checking if it really delivered 350 full power flashes. You may want to check it out and consider purchasing another battery for extra autonomy.

The Shell

It’s the brains and heart of the system. It is robust. It has two ports A and B for the flash heads, one OLED display, one USB connection port, one sync port, one slave photo cell, and six buttons for control of power settings, modelling lights and to manage an array of and features. There are also two rings to attach the should strap.

ELB400 Shell

 

 

Power settings are modified simultaneously on both ports: the power ratio doesn’t change when both ports are in use : Port A uses around 63% of the available power and port B 33%.

 

 

Complete with USB connection for updating firmware and support for a physical connection via a PC cable. The slave photocell is lodged between the two.

How powerful is the ELB 400?

At standard Sync speed of 1/250th or below

In my less than perfect lab conditions, the EL B400 with HS flash head and 12.5 cm reflector produced correct exposures at full power Port A for ISO 100

              f90         1/250th  ( or slower ) of a second  at 0.5 m

              f45         1/250th  ( or slower ) of a second  at 1 m

              f22         1/250th  ( or slower ) of a second  at 2 m

              f11         1/250th  ( or slower ) of a second  at 4 m

              f5.6        1/250th  ( or slower ) of a second  at 8 m

At the highest Sync Speed of 1/8000th

Measuring the effective power at high speeds is not straightforward: this is because of how highspeed sync works.

The Elinchrom method of synchronising at high shutter/exposition speeds:

The Elinchrom El Skyport Plus dedicated transmitters are designed to trigger EL flashes at the optimum position of the shutter’s window as it transits across the sensor or the film and at the optimum time in the flashes cycle. It works best with slow flash heads or units. As the synchronisation speed rises, the flash’s light appears to behave increasingly like a continuous light.

I tested this by comparing the output of the Elinchrom High Speed Synchronising Head measured with a flash-meter to a visual estimate of its effective output as registered by the camera. (By the way, the flash-meter reading is taken in a test shot before each shot, at identical power settings and placed in the image as a reference).

I used a Nikon D810 in Auto FP mode with Nikkon  85mm f1.8 lens   and  El Skyport Plus Trigger.

ELB400 HS Flash Head      Port B Power at 1.3 with Basic Reflector, 50cm away from subject  f16 1/250th of second

 

  f16 1/500th of second

 

f16 1/8000th of second

Although the flash meter records identical flashes, the frame gets darker and darker as the speed rises  or gets brighter and brighter at the same speed as the aperture widens ( no surprise there ).

 

f11 1/8000th of second

 

f2.8 1/8000th of second

f2 1/8000th of second (  very shallow depth of field )

At a similar speed of 1/8000th of a second opening the aperture raises the exposure.

 

Let’s compare the two closest exposures:

 

16 1/250th normal sync   

 f2 1/8000th of a second High Speed Sync

 

What we observe is that the Elinchrom method works and allows high speed synch up to 1/8000th of a second with curtain shutters. It appears as far as my flash meter can be trusted that the output of the flash head at a given power setting doesn’t vary with shutter speed, what changes drastacilly is the amount of light of the flash cycle that is captured: the higher the shutter speed the lesser the amount- as if working with continuous light. To compensate for the loss of effective power you must open the lens wider and wider to achieve a correct exposure: nothing unusual there) Other difference : the pattern of illumination changes :it appears inverted and unequal.This is manageable and can  even be exploited.

To be clear, we’re not measuring the absolute power of the flash head here, but evaluating its effective power when used at high sync speeds to produce a correct exposure.

At f2 and 1/8000th of a second is on par with the exposition values on a sunny day, but this was the flash head in port B at minimum power. Using port A at full power, the settings below produce equivalent exposures:

          

50cm distant from flash to subject : f16 1/8000th speed sync  Port A Power 6

 

The EL B400 with HS flash head produces at full power port A, ‘correct enough’ exposures for ISO 100 at f16 at 1/8000th of a second at 0.5 m, with still an inversion in the lighing pattern that deepens the shadows here as less light reaches the reflector out of the frame camera left to open the shadows of the Zeiss.

So, we can expect the following parameters to produce ‘correct enough’ exposures

f8      1/8000th of a second at 1 m

f4      1/8000th of a second at 2 m

f2      1/8000th of a second at 4 m

 

Let’s look at some figures to get an idea of the ratios (direct sunlight versus flash) we can create on a sunny day.

At f16 ,1/8000th  of second for ISO 100  is an incredible 64  ( 6 stops ) more times powerful than the sun light illuminating our subject. Wow! Wow except that’s at 50 cm. Move back another 50cm and your light is now only 16 ( 4 stops ) times brighter than the sun. Move back another meter and your only 4 ( 2 stops ) times brighter than the sun. Move back another 2 meters and you are now on par with the sun. So basically , your useful range to ‘overpower’ the full sun is within 0.5 to 3.5 m, maybe a bit more as you’re mixing flash and ambient.

Of course if you’re working in the shade or on a grey day then you’re ratio range vastly expands. When it’s a bit covered at midday in the North East, an ambient incident light reading gives f5.6 at 1/125th of a second for ISO 100, expanding scope to add flash to my scene.

 

 

Power Range for Port A alone

Range for Port B alone

 

So you’ve got power, but factoring in the real-world effective loss at high sync speeds, don’t expect loads of reserve to play with distance or modifiers. And anyway, if it’s people your photographing, you don’t want to be flashing light much brighter than the sun into their eyes!

 

The El Skyport Plus

It works with all radio triggered Elinchrom flashes and syncs at classic shutter speeds (even up to 125th, 1/200th ,1/250th and even with some bodies syncs at 1/320th and to speeds all the way up from there to 1/8000 in High Speed Mode with compatible flash heads and cameras.

This transceiver is intelligent: you need one that is specific to your camera brand. It has all the classic features (choice of channels, organising devices in groups, remote flash power and modelling lamp settings). It also has an auto-focus assist light: good stuff!

 

It’s a great tool to control your flashes whether you use it for High Speed  or not, but you absolutely need it to break the 1/250th of a second barrier with compatible Nikon cameras.

If you’re working on a stand with the camera up high, then accessing the screen and controls of the unit becomes a problem. A simple hack is to connect it via a compatible intelligent cable and dangle it from your hot shoe: you lose the AF assist, no big deal.

High Speed Sync: mixing Elinchrom compatible flash units

Elinchrom ELB 400 and Elinchrom mains powered D-Lite 4RX and D-Lite 4it

I have some Elinchrom mains powered D-Lite 4RX and D-Lite 4it kit: Elinchrom says these are a 100% high speed sync capable. The El Skyport Plus is perfect for the job. It recognises the RX units, allows groupings and control of power and of modelling lamp, and syncs. Although it doesn’t recognise the simpler D-Lite 4it, it does trigger them.

Elinchrom El Skyport Plus

The El Skyport Plus detected both the ELB and the RX units. Note the DRX2 is not compatible with High Speed Sync.

When working with Nikon bodies selecting the camera’s the highest Auto FP flash sync speed available automatically allows high speed syncing. For other camera makes, it appears you must set both the El Skyport Plus  and the ELB 400 to Speed mode and the D-Lite Units to High Speed also.

Remember to set the Elinchrom Speed Mode to Speed when working with Canon and Sony Versions

 

Mixing Nikon SB-900, the ELB400 High Speed Head and D-Lite 4RX an 4it at High Speed : yes, you can  !

Nikon SB900 vs Quadra High Speed Sync Head

 I have a small collection of SB-900 flashguns that I control remotely with a PHOTTIX Odin Wireless TTL Trigger and corresponding receivers. This combination works a treat in TTL and in normal and in high-Speed Sync when used alone with the either the D700, D750 or the D810. I was hoping to blend both systems and mix brands at high speeds.

Nikon Hotshoe Splitter

Dedicated Nikon Hotshoe splitter complete with locking pin

 

Skyport Plus and Phottix Odin commanders sharing the splitter

Whilst crossing my fingers to not damage any electronics in the process, I connected both the El Skyport Plus and Phottix transceivers to a hotshoe-splitter on the camera. No damage ensued, but no collaboration either: the camera simply can’t hold two intelligent conversations at a time: they cancel each other out. Take note that at one point the El Skyport Plus froze and my only solution was to take out the batteries to get it to hopefully set itself right, which it did.

What does work is pairing the Phottix and older generation El Sport Speed on the splitter taking care to:

  • On the ELB400: turn off the photocell
  • On the Nikon Camera body, select auto FP flash sync speed.

 

Phottix and El Skyport Speed on a hotshoe splitter

 

This is a very surprising combination indeed as the El Sport Speed of old does not synchronise at  speeds faster than 1/320th on its own!

In the images below the D810 was lit by a D-Lite 4it, the Fuji X100 by an SB-900 and the Brownie by the ELB400 with a high-speed flash head in port B. Each flash had a honeycomb grid.

 

 

Some of the unedited shots below.

A flavour of the set-up: on the left, the D-lite 4it, in the middle, the SB-900 (you can see its flash lighting up the honeycomb grid) and on the right, looking massive because on the edge of a wide angle frame, the El HSS Flash head with an 18cm dish and honeycomb ).

 

 

El Skyport Speed and Phottix Odin on hotshoe splitter: all flashes fire. The SB-900 was at full power, and the other two flashes powers adjusted to deliver similar exposures. ISO 100     f16     1/250th of a second

 

El Skyport Speed and Phottix Odin on hotshoe splitter: all flashes fire. The SB-900’s effective power is most affected.  ISO 100     f16     1/2000th of a second

 

 

El Skyport Speed and Phottix Odin on hotshoe splitter  ISO 100     f2.8    1/8000th of a second Similar in overall exposure to the frame taken at f16 1/250th of a second

 

Remarkably for some reason or other the El Skyport Speed collaborates with the Phottix Odin first generation to allow syncing of D-lite 4, ELB400, Nikon Camera and Nikon SB900 flash guns at high speeds consistently. Most ‘disconcerting’ is to observe that shutter speed at high speed synchronisation impacts on exposure as it does in continuous light.

A frame at 1/250th of second at f16 received an almost identical exposure to the frame taken at 1/8000th of a second at f 2.8 (5 stops), which is what you’d observe in continuous light.

The Nikon SB-900 goes into High Speed Sync mode, firing off a succession of flashes in this scenario, which probably explains its greater drop off in effective power than that of the Elinchrom heads.

 

What also works is mounting directly the SB-900 on the camera taking care:

  • on the ELB 400 to turn on the photocell and set it in pre-flash mode.
  • on the SB-900 to be in TTL/FP mode
  • on the camera to select auto FP flash sync speed

I wonder if the newer D5 or D500 paired with the SB 5000 would cope with both the Phottix and the El Skyport Plus. That’s something I’ll not be trying anytime soon: for the price of three SB 5000 you can buy an Elinchrom High Speed To Go kit (and El Skyport Plus as long as the offer stands), and of course, you’ll need a D5 or a D500 to run the SB 5000!

 

Mixing Flash Makes and Brands at normal speeds: yes, you can!

If you can trigger them simultaneously, there is no reason you can’t mix flashes of any brand or make under the Sun: it’s as simple as that. You might not be able to get the most out of them but overall at normal speeds, it’s a doddle to mix brands and a blessing for those of us who have accumulated various kit.

For example, when mixing the ELB400 and Nikon’s SB-900, the splitter works perfectly when only one of the triggers is intelligent. Both the intelligent Phottix transceiver and the older and simpler El Skyport Speed that shared the splitter without bother for high speed syncing, shared it also at standard synchronisation speeds.

Background is an EL Softbox on the HSS Flash Head, camera left an SB900 from above to light the hat and ear, camera right, another SB900 to light the face

The Nikon SB-900 can also be set in remote mode and be triggered by their photocell. The ‘simple’ Wein SSR trigger is perfect for synchronising the SB-900s and anything else that has a slave cell, like the ELB400 and the El D-Lites, as long as you’re working at normal sync-speeds.

Wein SSR Trigger

Wein SSR Trigger

 

It’s a bit more complicated, but easy, to get the SB-900s to optically trigger the ELB400, remember to factor in the flashguns’ pre-flashes.

 

Another combination: Lencarta Safari first generation and the ELB 400

Do you have some Lencarta Safari (portable) kit? Remember that the ELB400 has a built-in photo cell, and if you can get the Safari’s flash to trigger the cell you’re in business. If the Safari’s light doesn’t reach the ELB 400’s cell , the Wein RSS trigger reaches every corner of a small studio and you can use it to trigger both the Safari ( equipped with a Wein compatible slave) and the ELB 400.

You can also mount the El-Skyport Plus and the Wein on the hot-shoe splitter. You could also use the El Skyport Plus and a traditional PC sync cable running from the camera to the Safari…and so on and so on.

Similar systems but the Safari is not high-speed friendly with curtain shutters.

 

 

lencarta Safari battery versus ELB400 batter

Side by side, the replaceable batteries of the ELB400 and the Safari: how long will they be available?

 

 

High Speed Sync Super Hack of sorts: The Fuji X100!

Remember leaf shutter cameras ? Well it so happens that the Fuji X100 (the digital rangefinder that Fuji commercialised a few years ago) has a leaf shutter. As long as your flash duration speed is faster than your leaf shutter’s speed (they open and close like a pupil), the full amount of light produced by your flash head should reach the sensor. You can synchronise at any speed the shutter can offer, but leaf shutters also have physical limits: to get the maximum even exposure and depth of field,  you need to stay within a range of speeds where the leaf shutter completely opens (that’s often quoted as being 1/1000th of a second) and a flash duration that doesn’t exceed the duration of that opening.

FujiX100 Wein Trigger SB900 and ElB400 HSS Flash Head

 

The combination Fuji X100, Wein SSR trigger, D-Lite 4 and ELB 400 High Speed Head and SB900 worked incredibly well demonstrating how the leaf shutter synchronized at all speeds without the dedicated El Skyport Plus trigger. It also revealed how the SB-900’s extremely fast flash duration at 1/16th of its power was no match for the slower Elinchrom’s and how the SB-900’s effective illumination was barely affected by the leaf-shutter’s speed.

 

Set-Up

  • Studio
  • SB-900: remote mode, SU4 activated in menu to be triggered by the Wein RSS.
  • D-Lite 4 it: photocell on.
  • ELB400: photocell on.
  • Fuji X100: exterior flash on in menu.

 

Some of the unedited shots below:

Fuji X100 and Wein RSS optical trigger ISO 200 f2.8 1/250th of a second . A bit over exposed! D-Lite 4it ,SB-900 in remote mode, in manual at 1/16th of its power and ELB400 with High Speed Head.

 

Fuji X100 and Wein RSS optical trigger ISO 200 f2.8 1/500th of a second Exposition is better

 

Fuji X100 and Wein RSS optical trigger ISO 200 f2.8 1/1000th of a second. Exposition is better but still over. All flashes appear to be affected in equal manner by the demands of syncing at 1/1000th .

 

Fuji X100 and Wein RSS optical trigger ISO 200 f2.8 1/2000th of a second.

 

There appears to be no difference in the output of the SB900 although synchronizing at 1/2000th of a second; all the light delivered by the Elinchrom’s slow flash cycle isn’t completely captured at this fast shutter speed.

 

 

Fuji X100 and Wein RSS optical trigger ISO 200 f2.8 1/4000th of a second

The SB-900 is making the best of its ultra-fast duration that gives the leaf shutter plenty of time even at its highest speed to capture the SB900s flash cycle in its almost entirety. This is because the SB-900 is not in High Sync Mode and is firing one unique flash at the power setting, instead of a rapid succession of smaller flashes.

 

If you’re only using Elinchrom, the El-Skyport Eco, the El Skyport Speed and the El Skyport Plus will each synchronise the Fuji X100 at any speed when attached to its hotshoe and the Fuji is set to exterior flash. Remember to not attempt to lock in pace the El Skyport Plus as there is no hole in the Fuji hotshoe to accommodate its locking pin.

El Skyport Plus, El Skyport Speed and El Skyport Eco

 

Some Conclusions:

The EL400 is a robust high quality portable flash solution which combined with the HS heads triggered with an El Skyport allows for syncing up to 1/8000th of a second with compatible curtain-shutter cameras. it is also compatible with all Elinchrom modifiers There are trade-offs in terms of power and evenness of exposure across the frame. It works too at classic sync speeds and with a bit of patience and trial and error can be paired with other flash systems, in some configurations at high speed. Like any flash system paired to a leaf-shutter cameras, it will sync at high speeds with ease and no noticeable loss of power at all but the highest available speeds ( where the shutter doesn’t completely open and behaves  like an aperture ) . In terms of getting the best out of syncing at high speeds, leaf-curtain cameras are the way to go really but when you’ve got a high-end DSLR system,  using either the High Speed Head of the ELB400 or the Elinchrom mains powered high speed compatible units with the EL-Skyport Plus trigger is a great solution to work around the limitations inherent to curtain-shutters.

To sync at the highest speeds possible, long flash durations are best suited for curtain-shutters and short flash durations for leaf-shutters. Finally, it’s important to understand that syncing a flash at high shutter speeds has little to do with freezing high speed motion with curtain-shutters. If that’s what matters to you, your best option is  flash-guns with incredibly short flash durations and although you may need more units to ocmpensate for their lower power, they can remain a very cost effective solution.