Gear review: Elinchrom ELB 500

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$49.99.

That’s the cost of the Ikea coffee table that was crushed by my tumbling Profoto B1 monolight. While I quickly got over the damage to the table, the incident got me thinking about my lighting kit situation. I enjoyed using B1s for the most part, but they’re heavy — 6.61 pounds to be exact, and they’re not as portable as they seem. I did some research on powerful, travel-friendly lighting options and discovered the Elinchrom ELB 500 TTL Dual To Go Kit. After selling my B1s, I decided to give Elinchrom a try and picked up the ELB 500 and a couple of flash heads.

How does the pack perform? Am I happy with my decision to switch kits? Read on to find out.

Size and build quality

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The ELB 500 is as portable as it gets for a pro lighting kit. The pack itself weighs 5.5 pounds, but its flash heads weigh a mere 1.5 pounds apiece. How’s that any better than my old B1 setup?

Unlike the Profoto B1s, the ELB 500 is a pack and head kit, meaning the power pack and flash heads are separate but attached by a cable. Most of a pack and head system’s weight lives in the pack, which typically sits on the ground or attaches to a light stand. On the other hand, the flash heads are small and lightweight. In the case of the ELB 500, its flash heads weigh about as much as a typical speedlight, yet they can produce 500Ws of power individually, or up to 250Ws each when powered by a single pack. The heads also work perfectly with my 59″ Rotalux Inverse Octabox and 39″ Rotalux Deep Octabox.

Adjusting a boom arm rigged with a 1.5-pound flash head and modifier is a lot easier and safer than it is with a monolight that weighs over 6 pounds.

Battery life and power options

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The ELB 500’s battery fires up to 400 flash bursts at full power; lower the power, and you’re good for thousands of flashes.

Another great thing about the ELB 500 is that it can trickle charge. If you’re out on location all day and run down the unit’s battery before heading to your studio for an indoor shoot, plug your pack into an AC outlet and keep shooting without pause. No more running out of power in the middle of a shoot — and feel free to leave your modeling lights on.

Because the B1s don’t have trickle charging, the only workaround is to buy more batteries, and at $304 a pop, that option is far from ideal.

Two heads, without the hassle

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Unlike with the ELB 400, shooting with both ports works seamlessly. The ELB 500 offers full asymmetry, meaning both ports can be controlled independently. Also, I’ve found that 500Ws split between two heads provides enough power for my style of studio shooting. The only downside to using both ports is that the flash head cables are quite short, so without an extension cable, head placement is limited.

Unknown potential

Because I shoot with a Fuji camera, I’m not yet able to use some of the ELB 500’s biggest selling points: HSS, HS, and TTL. However, Elinchrom recently announced that the Transmitter PRO for Fuji hits shelves this September.

While I’ve always used manual instead of TTL flash and don’t plan on using the ELB 500’s TTL functionality, I’m excited to pack up my kit, head outside and shoot with HSS.

I currently use a basic Skyport trigger, and it works well, but the Transmitter PRO looks a lot more sophisticated. I’ll provide an update once I get my hands on the Fuji version. That being said, the Profoto Air Remote was probably my favorite part of the B1 system, and I think it’d be hard for the Transmitter PRO to beat its ease of use.

Thoughts? Questions? Let me know in the comments.

Portrait photographer Brennan Anderson’s work combines classic photography and lighting technique with modern elegance and style. Brennan utilizes dramatic lighting and striking poses to emphasize form. He has been shooting portraits for over a decade. Brennan is available for bookings in his studio and throughout Chicago.

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