Today I received my new battery flash system, the Elinchrom ELB400 HS Kit, along with the Skyport HS transmitter. The ELB400 isn’t a new battery pack, but the HS head is new, and so is the Skyport HS transmitter. I’ll talk about my initial thoughts, and you can watch an unboxing video at the top of the page to see what comes with the kit.
This new transmitter allows high-speed sync with the ELB400, and the HS head is a new head that’s been designed specifically to get the most out of the HiSync (as Elinchrom are calling it) technology. It does not allow wireless TTL, though. Some people might find this surprising given that it’s a technology available in Profoto flashes, and even cheaper alternatives like the Phottix Indra. To be honest, it’s not something that would be a consideration for me. I simply don’t use TTL for my work, and never have. It removes much of the creativity that flash usage provides you with in the first place. I can see why wedding photographers might like it when you have to move quickly and work dynamically, but otherwise, I don’t think it’s a great loss.
For these kinds of high-speed sync technologies to work well, you need a head with a long flash duration. It’s actually the opposite of what we used to look for in a flash head! Different flash heads have different flash durations and they also have different power output curves. Not all the flash power is dispensed simultaneously, and the way in which the power output varies during the flash duration is also different for different flash tube designs. What Elinchrom did with the HS head, is make a head that’s just right for their HiSync technology, and that’s something that hasn’t been done before. All other heads of a similar type have been designed with a more multipurpose design.
But why does it even matter you might be saying!? High-speed sync modes have been around for some time, but most of the fast shutter speeds come at the cost of flash power. You might set your flash to full power, but at higher shutter speeds, you’re actually getting nowhere near that much power in your images. Since Elinchrom has taken charge of the whole process, from the transmitter, right through to the head design, it should deliver a higher power output at these faster shutter speeds.
The fast shutter speed allows you to stop the motion of moving subjects, but also overpower the sun and really take control of the lighting situation. The ELB400 is a 400W/s pack, but because you can shoot at a much faster shutter speed, you can crush your ambient light levels by much more than you’d otherwise be able to, and the overall effect will be akin to shooting with a much larger and more powerful flash at a longer standard flash sync speed like 1/250 of a second.
Time will tell whether this will overpower the sun as much as my old Elinchrom Ranger RX 1100W/S pack, but I have a few more tricks up my sleeve and I’m pretty hopeful this will get into the very same ballpark but at a MUCH smaller size and weight.
I’ll definitely be talking a lot more about this in the future, as well as sharing these other tricks I have to maximise the power output. For now, I’ll just leave you with the unboxing video and a few photos of the kit.
I’ll post a first impressions post in the next week as well!
Can’t wait to read your first impressions. Does this replace the Phottix for you? Or is this an on-location light, while the Phottix is in studio?
Not sure yet! The Indra is built so well that it’s definitely a heavy beast for location use. So that might be how it pans out.
I’m looking to add a lighting system to my gear and have high hopes for this system for action photography. That is, just as soon as I can afford it. 🙂
I’m mighty impressed so far, Dan! Stay tuned for more coverage 🙂
Can’t find the HS kit with a skyport transmitter. In your video it appeared the transmitter came with the HS kit. Am I wrong?
There isn’t a kit available. My dealer simply packed the transmitter in the box. Oddly it does appear there is a space for it in the box but probably it is just the same packaging design as other kits? Or maybe they plan to offer it in the future.
Thanks for sharing your unboxing. I currently have the profoto b2 and it’s okay but at 250 WS, it really struggles when you throw on a modifier for portraits during high noon. I am looking for something small and portable with more punch to knock down ambient and I think this head might be the one. Looking forward to your first impressions!
I am considering purchasing this light but I am concerned that Hi-Sync is a fairly new technology. I read things about gradation at hi shutter speeds. Is this true? I am basically thinking between this and B1. this comes much cheaper than B1 but I am intrigued but the Hi-Sync idea.
I don’t think I have enough experience with this kit to answer that question yet. I would imagine there is some graduation at extremely high shutter, but I haven’t read anything too negative about it myself. It seems from what I’ve read in other posts, you’ll get a lot more useable power from this than a B1.
I am wavering over an ELB400 and I cannotdecide which head. Your review states ‘This new transmitter allows wireless TTL and high speed sync with the ELB400’
I have not seen any mention of Quadra being TTL capable anywhere else? Quite the opposite in fact. Can you calrify what you mean?
It was a mistake. Didn’t mean to say that…I must admit that at one point I assumed that it had it, simply because other rival brand flashes had the same feature. I never actually missed that it didn’t have it, simply because it’s not a feature I would ever use, so I never went looking for it and hence never discovered that it didn’t exist! I guess that’s a testament to how much of a useful feature I think it is… depends on your work, though. I can see why wedding photographers would want TTL so they can move quickly, but other than that, I struggle to see its usefulness.
Thanks for the quick reply and I appreciate your points. For me I have only ever used either Bowens studio lights or Speedlights, but I am looking to buy the ELB400 (or similar) for some location work. I am also hoping to use it for some cycle racing shots where currently I use speedlights so I am unsure of the best head to go for I like the idea of HS so I can use faster than 1/250 but I have been advised elsewhere to go for the action heads
What reasons were you given for going with the action heads? The only reason to do so is if you ever have to use a longer shutter speed than the duration of the flash that you require for freezing the action. An example would be if you needed to drag the shutter in the blue hour to add some ambient light, but still wanted to freeze the motion of a subject.
I wasn’t really given a reason, but it came via a shop who asked the distributor. Anyway, after fuurther reading I do like this but slightly concerned by the comment on Elinchroms site “The downside is that a light meter can’t be used to determine the correct aperture for exposure. At some point perhaps this issue will be solved but for now using the Histogram and the rear LCD display on the back of the camera will be the best guide for exposure settings.”
Are they referring to shutter speeds shorter than sync or for any shutter speed using the HS hads and Skyport?
My guess would be that light meters can’t work above normal sync speeds. Perhaps the new sekonic meter that was launched last week with built-in Elinchrom trigger was the solution?
Cheers Dan, I was kind of thinking along the same lines
Dan, any update on them? I’m on the fence with the ELB + HS head for my portrait work. Any more thoughts would be super helpful. Thanks, man! Love your site, especially the stuff on the 7Dii.
Yeah I love them, I just can’t share some of the work yet so I haven’t done an update on the site. You know for portrait stuff, if that’s all you do though, you’d want to be doing a large proportion of it outside, otherwise it’d be better to get one of the other head types. Thanks for the kind words 🙂
Dan, the HS heads wouldn’t work well for indoor portrait work? I know the flash duration is slower, but even if you have to drag the shutter to 1/60, would that be an issue for “smile and pose” portraits (opposed to a dancer jumping)?
Oh yeah if it’s just smile and pose kind of portraits you’ll be fine. As long as you aren’t using fans to blow hair and twirling around with big billowy garments the HS head will be fine.
Hi Dan, great blog, why don’t the HS heads work well for indoor portraits?
The HS heads have a long flash duration so they work best for freezing action when you are using them in HS mode and using a fast shutter speed to stop the subject motion, rather than relying on the flash burst. It’s not that they don’t work, it’s just that they aren’t the best option because it means you can’t really drag the shutter to include more ambient light if you are working with a moving subject because you will get blur from the long flash duration. If your indoor work is head shots of perfectly static people, no problem! But if it’s fashion with twirling gowns and blowing hair, it will be sub-optimal.
I have also read that it’s not recommended to use this head for strobo for the same reason. Good to know the limitations. Do you know if the 50w LED modelling lamp on the head can be lowered. I have not been able to do so.
No I believe it’s either on or off, which is a shame I agree.
Fantastic article Dan! This was the reason I purchased 3 of the ELB 400’s with the HS head. Love them so far. Strangest thing though – I can’t seem to get the modeling light to turn back on after a photo. It’s displaying the infinity symbol but always turns off after the strobe fires. is this normal?
I’m not sure, Kevin. I can’t say that I have used the modelling light yet so I haven’t come across this issue. I’d reach out to Elinchrom or your dealers and check with them. It sounds like a bug to me, though.
I purchased the pro head. I had the same problem but after updating the firmware on the pack and the transmitter (hs plus) no more bug.
Thanks for letting use know, Roel! Very helpful of you!!
Nice, remember that one needs to get the reflector adapter to use other reflectors and go for the Quadra Grid Reflector which is much better than the one that came with the kit.
Yeah you are absolutely correct! The grid reflectors are much better and that’s all I pack now, apart from the adapter and the giant sports reflector!
would you think mixing heads hs and pro or hs action or getting another hs head for my kit…first i wanted to get a speedlite for hair light behind emulating the sun with gel, then i thought with additional head comes back to same price and more power although less power from main light…any view
i shoot stilll portraits and environmental portraits , atmosphere wand space with fashionable woman in,,
I can’t think of many reasons why you would want to mix heads. If you are using HS with an HS head, your hair light wouldn’t show up in the photos if that was one of the other head types.
thanks a lot. i ll get my second hs then,
great work, i ll share my outcome on the site with you guys