Flashpoint XPLOR 600 (Godox AD600) VS Profoto B1

There has been a lot of buzz around the new Chinese battery powered strobes lately. I bought into the frenzy early and initially I bought  Jenbei HD-600V because it was the updated version that supposedly had a better trigger. You can see my review of that light here. I wound up selling that light in favor of the Flashpoint Streaklight 360 bare-bulb flash when they went on sale. They are currently on sale for $279 (12/05/2016). The 360 had less power but it had the ability to adjust the power from the remote, which is the main reason I sold the Jenbei HD-600V. 

I've used the Flashpoint Streaklight 360 almost exclusively, except for studio shoots, for several months now. I am impressed, to say the least. Paired with the Godox S-type bracket the combination is hard to beat especially since they have released the 2.4Ghz triggering system to achieve HSS and TTL with a single trigger. It's a lightweight package that is powerful enough to tackle 90% of situations that you may encounter. This photo is from a shoot with the Flashpoint Streaklight 360. 

 

Godox AD360 with an 18" white beauty dish. 

Recently Adorama put their XPLOR 600 TTL on sale so I decided to try one out. I don't typically use TTL but I reasoned that it's there if I need it otherwise I can chose to ignore it. Having some experience with the Profoto B1 I was anxious to compare the performance of the XPLOR 600. I didn't compare the two lights head to head on the technical aspects but here is an interesting video that does a better job than I ever could. 

Interestingly the performance of the XPLOR 600 matches, and even exceeds, the Profoto B1 in some instances. But that is not the entire story. Having dropped a Profoto B1 I can attest to their build quality. The controls and the mounting system the B1 has are also far superior to the XPLOR, but that is to be expected with the difference in cost. The XPLOR does have the option of using AC power, with an adapter, as well as a remote head setup. 

I have only used the XPLOR 600 once since receiving it. I volunteered to take a portrait of architectural photographer Mike Duernickx. I went to his house and set up. He also happens to own the Profoto B1 that I have experience using. My initial impressions are that the XPLOR 600 is an improvement in every way to the manual Streaklight 360 that I have been using except in one area, weight. I have a very large boom stand that weighs around 36lbs. When I mount the Streaklight on it I don't even have to use a counterweight. But with the XPLOR I used 2 10lb weights as a counterbalance. It made raising and lowering the stand a chore. Not to mention mounting the XPLOR is a little trickier. You don't want to have all that weight on the plastic mount, which I will discuss next. So I turn the mounting spigot down and let the light hang upside down. Back to the mount on the XPLOR. I may be spoiled form using the Profoto but the mount on the XPLOR is absolute junk. It's plasticy and notchy operation is frustrating, to put it mildly. Aside from the physical attributes of the light it operated almost flawlessly, with a few misfires. Here is a photo from the shoot. 

I used an 18" white beauty dish for this shot and a Godox V850 on a stand the the left with a 7" reflector and diffuser disc using the S-type mount. 

As stated above the XPLOR is a good light and will work fine if you have a really solid stand and weight it down. For most of the location work I do that is just not practical. There is the option of using the remote head and rigging up a way to mount the flash head lower on the stand. This idea appeals to me. mainly because the light would act as a weight and negate having to carry around sandbags. But there are some claims that the extension head reduces power, making it just about 1/3 of a stop more powerful than the Streaklight 360. So the real question is what do you really gain from the extra weight of the XPLOR 600? Aside from having a modeling light, I can't think of anything. 

If I were going to do a shoot indoors with one setup I wouldn't hesitate to use the XPLOR but for everything else the Streaklight 360 will be my go-to light. I do appreciate the functions of the XPLOR, like changing to HSS automatically when you go over the sync speed of your camera, and in the rare event I want TTL it's there. Luckily for me Adorama just put the Streaklight TTL on sale! After I have used it on a few shoots I will follow up with a review and maybe even a video? Stay tuned. 

Gym Session

I had the chance to photograph a personal training session so I decided to shoot a video at the same time. 

Model: Chanelle Greene

Trainer: Julio Ybarra

Location: The Garage Personal Training

Behind the Scenes Fitness/ Lifestyle Shoot

This is a behind the scenes video of a recent fitness/ lifestyle shoot I did. I have been thinking about how to shoot photos as well as doing behind the scenes video at the same time. This is my first attempt made possible by using my cell phone on a Glide Gear Cellfie stabilizer. It was very windy, which made it difficult to keep the video steady. I may make a video about the stabilizer sometime? I also picked up something called the RavPower file hub, which allows you to offload video files from your phone onto an SD card or a USB drive wirelessly. I may do a video about that in the future as well?

 

Jenbei HD-600V HSS Strobe review

I have always been primarily an outdoor photographer. I started out taking landscapes in my home state of Colorado way back in 1995. I loved the things natural light would do depending on the time of day ect... But as I have progressed I began to realize you can't always find the perfect light. So several years ago I began to experiment with off camera lighting and I became hooked. The main problem with adding off camera lighting was, without spending a fortune your only option was a cord connecting your camera to your light. But about 5 or 6 years ago inexpensive radio triggers started to appear, like the Cactus triggers ect... I still have a set of those somewhere. Within the last few years there has been an explosion of radio triggers and battery powered off camera lighting. If you follow the websites Lighting Rumors or Flash Havoc I am sure you are aware of the dizzying array of products available now?  

Like most of you I am not independently wealthy or sponsored by a manufacturer..., yet.  So I purchase all of my own gear and I try to be as honest as possible in reviewing it. Like a lot of people I bought one of the manual Yongnuo flashes and radio triggers that came on the market a few years back. I showed those in a previous blog post. They worked fine for testing and experimenting and are totally reliable flashes. But they lack the ability to adjust the power without walking back and forth to the light and setting groups. I found the Godox line of speed lights intriguing because they operate off a lithium battery pack instead of AA or AAA batteries. Also, they have a decent trigger system that allows you to adjust the flash from the camera, set different groups on different channels, as well as adding their popular Winstro line of bare bulb flashes. But even their AD360 bare bulb flash doesn't fair to well with power output when used in HSS mode, which is becoming increasingly important to me. See this HSS test done on Flash Havoc. 

I consider the Profoto B1 to be the holy grail of location lighting on the market currently. Unfortunately the cost of these is a bit out of most peoples' budget. Enter the Jinbei HD 600-V, also known as the Flashpoint Rovelight offered by Adorama. There are some minor differences I will cover later. The HD 600-V is basically a 600 watt lithium powered studio strobe, pretty much like the Profoto B1. The HD 600-V is an upgraded version with a new trigger. There had been a lot of complaints about the previous triggers not working. You can read the initial review of the HD 600-B / Flashpoint Rovelight here

 

Even though the HD 600-B seemed like the perfect alternative to the Profoto B1, the complaints about the trigger put me off on this light. Once I read that they had designed a new trigger, that apparently works on a different frequency, I decided to go ahead and order one. I got mine from eBay and it had to be shipped from China since no one in the US currently carries this model.

My initial impressions are that this light is a great value! I did an impromptu shoot to familiarize myself with the settings, ect.. before I used it in a real world situation.  This shot of my dad was taken in mid-day sun in the shade with the light set on about 1/4 power. I underexposed the ambient light in the background by about 2 stops. I was using a 48" octagon soft box without the diffusion baffles. 

 

I really like this light for several reasons. 

  • It is very portable

  • It comes with a nice carrying case

  • It is easy to learn to use

  • The battery lasts a long time

  • The trigger is functional and simple

  • It has a Bowens mount

  • It comes with a handle to make it easy for an assistant to handhold

  • It is built well and feels solid

  • The bulb and battery are replaceable and readily available from Adorama 

  • It has HSS!

There are a few things to note about this light however. It is fairly heavy. So you should have a sturdy stand with some sort of counterweight to keep it from being top heavy, especially of you are using a large modifier like a 48" soft box. The trigger is functional and minimalist but I would prefer if it had an LCD display to let you know what power you were on, setting groups, ect... The trigger and light do go to sleep after a few minutes and you have to press the power button on the remote to wake them up. Getting HSS to work is somewhat of a science fair. If you shoot with Nikon you can get a Yonnuo YN-622N, mount that to your hot shoe then mount the TRS-V trigger on top of that. This supplies the pre-flash signal to the light. Or if you shoot Canon you can use 2 YN622s, one on camera and one connected to the sync on the back of the light with a cord and just use the supplied remote to adjust power. I plan on making a BHS video soon of a shoot I have been planning. Keep checking back or watch my Twitter account for notices and updates on this light. 

Update: Current owners of the Flashpoint Rovelight can exchange their trigger for the new version of the trigger. See details here

S-Type Bracket

Using speed lights has it's benefits but using them with light modifiers is not one of them. Up until a few months ago I thought the only options I had was one of those umbrella brackets with a thousand adjustments. Other than being like a Rube Goldberg device their main drawback is that the center of the flash is not aligned to the center of the modifier. But I recently discovered a nifty little item that has changed that. 

One day while I was browsing  on eBay I came across something called the S-type flash bracket. It's a one piece flash attachment that will mount to pretty much any light stand. For the modest price of around $30 I had to try one out. After a few clicks and a week of waiting on shipping I had one in my hands. 

My initial impression is that it was well made, even though it is made out of plastic. But as I discovered this bracket has many advantages. As I noted before it keeps the flash center aligned with the center axis of the modifier. If you recall from college algebra it's important for any parabolic device to have the light source in the center and at the right depth, which brings me to my next point. You can adjust the depth of the light into the modifier, with the length of the flash head being the limiting factor. 

The next thing that I love about this bracket is that it will accept any Bowens mount modifier! So any studio equipment you have can now be used on location. Keep in mind a speed light may not have enough power to fill a 7' softbox but you could theoretically use it. You will want to use sand bags or some other means of making sure your stand doesn't fall over. If you have umbrellas you can still use those too, and the head of the flash will align with the center! 

Another cool thing I discovered about using this bracket is, by mounting the flash on a clamp around the head of the flash you aren't stressing the foot of the flash. This is especially true if you also use a wireless trigger. 

I discovered with my old bracket that the triggers I had wouldn't fit with the flash in the correct position. So, I mounted the flash backwards which made it difficult to adjust or see the power settings on the flash. I have only used this bracket with the small pressure mounted softbox I got to use with the first type of bracket I bought but I plan on ordering a Bowens mount octabox soon. I will update this post with the results. 


So to summarize, I would highly recommend using these brackets if you use speed lights. For about $30 you can't go wrong!


Think Tank Review

The options for gear can become overwhelming at times so hopefully I can shorten your learning curve? One of the most important aspects to shooting, as well as most things in life, is to be organized. If you can’t find your gear, or access it easily, you will be less productive and quickly become frustrated.  When shooting on location you may be in harsh conditions in distant locations probably the best way to carry gear is in a backpack. It allows you to carry all of the gear you will need while staying pretty much out of the way when it’s not needed. Just as many things in life, deciding on gear is a matter of personal preference and there are tradeoffs.  The biggest mistake most people make is to start small with the idea of testing the water then upgrading later. Obviously, there may be a specific purpose to getting a smaller pack but in general get a pack one size larger than you think you currently need. This will allow you room to expand later and usually the cost is very minimal. It also keeps you from being stuck with equipment later on that you won’t use and will actually save you money in the long run.

 

A perfect example of the type of pack you should consider is the StreetWalker® HardDrive from Think Tank Photo http://www.thinktankphoto.com. It allows you to carry a full size pro body with a 70-200 f 2.8 installed and ready to shoot plus a variety of other gear. Having used just about every brand of pack in the market, and after spending some time looking this pack over, I can highly recommend it. 

 

The pros:

  • Its very light for the amount of gear it carries, which helps reduce the total strain on your back.

  • It has a very clean uncluttered design without a bunch of places to get snagged up on.

  • Infinitely adjustable interior plus a step down for a pro size body with battery pack.

  • Very stealthy looking. Keeps shady characters from identifying it as something worth stealing.

  • It has a very well thought out tripod holder that tucks neatly away when not in use.

  • Included rain cover and straps to secure tripods.

  • Belt is modular and interchangeable for various different scenarios.

  • Belt tucks away under pad when not needed.

  • Lockable main compartment with large heavy duty zippers.

  • Thickly padded shoulder straps and back pad with ventilation channels.

  • Big and well placed identification holder for business cards ect…

  • Adaptable to various other Think Tank products, easily tailored to your specific needs.

  • Carries up to a 15.4” laptop in a dedicated compartment.

 

 

Wish list:

  • Weather sealed zippers.

  • Adjustable top shoulder straps.

  • Interior key ring clip

  • Second handle on the side

  • Mesh stretch pockets instead of material on side pockets and shoulder straps.

  • Dividers in see through lid storage for filter ect…

Like I said, most everything is a trade off and this bag has many more excellent attributes than not. In a perfect world we could design our own bag from scratch but this pack comes pretty close to being ideal.

On a scale from 1 to 10, I’d give it a strong 9. It retails for $189.75 from http://www.thinktankphoto.com. The site is also a great resource for information important to photographers and the issues we encounter.