It was a sunny Saturday morning and we had organised a swimsuit shoot over at Rottnest Island (for those of you who don’t know, it’s kind of the party island for people in Perth, Western Australia) to test the Elinchrom Ranger RX To Go Sets. Elinchrom with the help of their Perth stockist Camera Electronic were kind enough to supply us with the Pro Set – A Heads To Go Set, stands, umbrellas, and a softbox for us to play with.
When I first saw the video of this kit I was intrigued by the size of the heads. For once, it actually looked like a portable lighting kit that didn’t require some kind of pack horse to move everything around. Being the guy that I am I was skeptical about the power of these little lights. I mean something must have been sacrificed, and my guess was the power output. Another thing, I was slightly worried about was how long the two batteries were going to last. I picked the set up a day before we were heading out and put everything on charge. One thing to keep in mind if you buy the Quadra is that you need to put the fuses into the battery yourself. Apparently this is a common troubleshooting issue that many camera stores seem to have. I guess I’m not the only one out there that doesn’t bother to read the user manuals when getting something new.
With one battery charging away it was time to have a little test setup. Elinchrom also supplied me with the Reflector Adapter which allows you to attach Elinchrom Reflectors, EL Reflectors and Rotalux softboxes. In other words if you want to use anything other then an umbrella or the supplied diffuser caps you’re going to need this Adapter. One thing I would like to comment on is the build quality. As soon as you open the hard case you can tell that it’s a high quality piece of equipment and if you treat it well, it will last you for many years. Now this may have been because the Ranger I was given was brand new but I found the locking mechanisms for the reflectors actually very tight, it was a struggle to get the standard reflector off so I could attach the Adapter and then the softbox. Having said that, I did prefer the tight locking mechanism compared to something loose, at least this way you don’t have that feeling of “is it going to stay on”.
Skipping forward now, everything is charged and it’s Saturday morning. Everyones confirmed, we only had 1 model drop out so I was happy with that. We were a little late at leaving then we had anticipated, however, it wasn’t long after arriving at the yacht club that we were on our way to the island. Not wanting to waste too much time, we went to the closest, not so busy beach and final touches to the models makeup were done, while Mona and I scouted for the perfect location for the shoot. It was time, Elinchrom Ranger RX let’s see what you have.
Unfortunately it was very windy already so I wasn’t game enough to use the giant kite (softbox) or parachute (umbrella) because it was just going to cause too many problems, plus I really didn’t want to have to ring Elinchrom and let them know that their fantastic lighting kit had been taken out into the ocean during a gust of wind while one of the assistants weren’t paying attention. I decided to leave the diffuser caps on which came with the standard reflectors. I found the reflector/diffusers actually worked really well together, which I was surprised about.
Let’s get the technical aspects out the way
The AS in the title actually stands for ‘asymmetrical’, which means one flash-head can fire at 66% power and the second head at 33%, for a true 2:1 lighting ratio. If your like me you’ll initially wonder what that means. So RAW interviewee Dan Himbrechts set about explaining it in an easy to understand way, have a read if you are confused. One of the great features is the inbuilt skyport radio trigger/receiver system which allows you control over the power settings from your camera. Coming from a more strobist setup of running back and forth altering my speedlight power this was a God send.
Digging a bit deeper into the technical side of things the Quadra RX is less powerful then the larger Ranger RX at 400Ws compared to the 1100Ws of the Ranger, however this thing is more mobile. It’s lighter, smaller and I found the 400Ws to be more then enough power.
There are two heads available, the standard “S” or the high speed “A” heads which freeze action with a 1/6000s flash duration. We were lucky enough to have been given the “A” heads however we never got to really give them ago. Maybe Elinchrom will let us have another play with the Quadra.
Now to the power side of things. The 12 volt 3.2Ah battery charges in just 1.5 hours and delivers up to 150 shots. That might not sound like a lot but keep in mind that is at maximum power. In most cases you don’t need to have it at max, for those interested at min power it will provide 2000 flashes. So with those figures you would probably be looking at around 800-1200 shots in the mid power range. The kit they provided us with had two batteries so thats a fair few shots.
One more thing to mention in the technical side of things is the 50w led modelling lamp. This can be set to stay on permanently if your inclined to shoot video.
So how did it go on location
The beach is probably the worst place anyone could want to shoot with camera gear. Not only do you have exposure issues with white sand but for some reason it always seems to be windy. Like a mentioned above I didn’t get to use any modifiers because it was just to windy. Sand was blowing everywhere and it got everywhere, so this would be something that you need to think about a little more carefully.
Apart from the weather issue which wasn’t the fault of the Quadra. I performed better then I expected. I really thought battery life would be an issue, which is wasn’t. I thought because of the wind, not using the umbrella or softbox was going to effect the quality of the photos. However using the standard reflectors and diffuser caps worked really well.
One thing I would love to see and maybe you can get this as an accessory is longer power cords. With the two light setup you could create some real interesting effects by placing them in seperate locations, however I think the cord length would cause a few problems.
If you want to see more shots from the shoot they are available on flickr.
Finally, would I buy one?
To be honest with you, yes I would. I’m still raving about it to people I talk to. The skyport, the mobility, the power and the way it is packaged ticks all the boxes. This is an amazing lighting kit that would keep you going for years to come. The fact that you can get an attachment ring to place any Elinchrom modifier you want on it opens the doors for unlimited possibilities.
Is the Ranger RX better? Maybe, but if your starting out and you find yourself shooting on location ie, studio, real estate etc, portability coupled with some decent power is probably your best bet. I think it’s a kit that would serve you well for many years to come.
If you want to know more about the kit or your inspired to buy it then you can get all the information you need here.
UPDATE: Head cables are available in 1.5, 2.5 (standard), 3.5, 5 and 10 meter lengths.