What Is a Monolight?
Look at a flashlight. It’s long, it’s round, and everything you need to operate it is right there. Now put that flashlight through that Honey, I Blew Up the Kid machine, add a few bells and whistles, make some of the key components interchangeable, and voilà! You have a monolight. When push comes to shove, a monolight should be no more difficult to use than turning on a flashlight.
Okay, maybe that’s oversimplified, but not dramatically so. Let’s begin by pointing out that a monolight, sometimes called a monobloc, is self-contained. By this we mean that, like your speedlight, all the controls, circuitry and the capacitor are centralized and integrated into one body together with the business end—the flash head.
What’s more, the monolight needs to be plugged in somewhere. Most are AC-driven off household current. Many are single-voltage; others may be dual-voltage, perhaps with auto-sensing circuitry (not something you’ll need for a home studio). Some monolights plug into a battery, and select AC units may have a battery option.