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Testing the Skyport HS, Quadra HS, and ELB400 by Elinchrom

I do not think that there is a tool that can adapt itself to all and to everything. You have to choose the ones that fit your needs.

We do not work the same way, and our visions of photography differ. For me, the most important thing is: « Can I get the job done ? Am I able to achieve what I have in mind with the tools that I have ? ».

I'm an action & dance photographer (at least that's how people qualify me when they look at my portfolio). When it comes to working with artificial light, I've always worked with Speedlites. They're simple to use and easy to carry. The only problem is their lack of power and the slow recycling time. I had in my hands more powerful lights, but they're often too heavy and bulkier.

A few weeks ago, I had Elinchrom's ELB 400, the brand new Skyport HS and the quadra HS. A kit that, now, has its place amongst other contenders in the hyper sync portable strobes department. No comparison will be made here. We will only focus on this kit. I only had them for 2 weeks. I've used it recently on a boxing photoshoot with fighter Steeve Valente, but I needed to test it further out in the field with the regular work I make.

Anna Maria Maas - Place de la République in Strasbourg (France - November 2015)

Finding different artists and performers in winter for outdoor shoots and getting authorizations for indoor locations wasn't simple. But we managed to sync our plans and got at least, one hour with each one of them to play with the kit. This will not be a geeky technical review, but just my return of experience on what this kit has to offer for a photographer like me.

Virginia Danh - Aubette in Strasbourg (France - November 2015)

What was my first impression?

First of all, the built quality. I'm going, to be honest, here, It feels a bit too plasticky for me. I want to be reassured. I want it built to last, and not be afraid to break it every time I have it in my hands. It didn't break during these 2 weeks, so the whole thing is sturdier than it looks like, and people around me know that my stuff goes through a lot on my shoots. But I just wonder if this would last through time.

The second thing that comes to mind when I hold it is: « Wow, this thing is lightweight and small, and my back will sure be thankful for that ». Unlike other well-known brand, head and unit are separated. Connected by a cord, you can use the ELB400 and its battery as a counterweight on your light stand, avoiding having all the weight on top of your light stand.

Set up is quick and easy and, with the new Skyport HS, you can control and see everything you do on all the strobes connected to your device! No more traveling back and forth from your shooting point and strobe, you can see and manage everything from a distance on the Skyport's screen, and that's a huge plus.

I wanted to try multiple consecutive shots at a high output power to see how it performs. The intensity and reaction diminished progressively and this was not a surprise, but it also dramatically changed the color temperature after 5 to 6 shots. I rarely do this, but for those of you who do and need to shoot in burst mode, you might consider this.

I didn't have any problems with my muay thaï shoot, remote and unit behaved perfectly. But misfires can happen if your ELB400 is not visible. I kept it under 50 meters from me, but sometimes the unit was hidden by a wall because I didn't want it in my shot. This caused a loss of signal, and I had to rescan for my ELB400 to make it work again. Fortunately, it happened only on a few shots because I still haven't found a strobe capable of working through walls.

In this picture, the Rotalux deep 70 and ELB400 are hidden behind the 2nd wall.

Fanny George - Barrage Vauban in Strasbourg (November 2015 - France)

So why is this kit so appealing for photographers like me?
Is it just the fact that I can carry it everywhere?
What is all the fuss about?

I said it earlier, I often use Speedlites. If you do too and need more power, I believe that this kit is for you. With bigger lights, we used to be stuck at around 1/250th of a second. Our camera was unable to sync with the flash above this shutter speed. If you went higher, it would cause unwanted black bands on your picture. (Understanding Hypersync)

With the Skyport Hs, Quadra Hs, and ELB 400 you can go up to 1/ 8000th! This opens a new world of possibilities where you can play with aperture, shutter speed, and ISO.

Robin Ohl - Aubette in Strasbourg (November 2015 - France)

Shot at 1/1000th F2.8 ISO 800

I used a 70 – 200mm on this picture at 3.2. I wanted to have that dark contrasted environment. With that aperture, I had to avoid having too much light coming in so I raised my shutter speed at 1/500 :

Valentin & Monica - Pavillon Joséphine (November 2015 - France)

Another use of this is to keep the details of a nice cloudy blue sky. To have a correct exposure on Fanny and to keep the sky like it is on this picture. The use of a strobe for such a result is inevitable :

Fanny George - Barrage Vauban in Strasbourg (November 2015 - France)