If you like the look of studio-style lighting but don’t want to be tied down to electrified locations, consider investing in lighting equipment that allows you to take studio lighting out into the world. These battery-powered lighting options include speedlights, LEDs, monolights and pack-and-head strobe systems.
Monolight Strobe: Profoto B1X
Every photographer I know who has used the Profoto B1X 500 AirTTL monolight gives it glowing reviews. An integrated Li-Ion battery delivers up to 325 full-power flashes at the head’s maximum 500ws output. At lower output, however, the head really shines with short durations down to 1/19,000 of a second for freezing fast-moving action and a Quick Burst mode that can trigger up to 20 frames per second.
What makes the B1X most unique, though, is its integration with the optional AirTTL Remote, which provides through-the-lens metering and automatic output adjustments from more than 300 feet away—a dream for a photographer who works on large-scale scenes such as architecture or industrial assignments. The only drawback is the steep price: $2,299 each. For more information go to profoto.com.
Pack-and-Head Strobe: Elinchrom ELB 400
A compact kit that’s also low weight, the ELB 400 Quadra pack and head system from Elinchrom uses a lithium-ion battery to provide up to 424 watt-seconds of power across a nearly 7-stop range. That’s enough power for a lot of location lighting scenarios—I use it regularly for location portraiture, and it excels in scenarios where a photographer wants to balance the strobe with natural light.
A high-speed option is available, allowing for short-duration flashes and high shutter speeds when shooting sports. When AC electricity is available, the system does operate while simultaneously charging. The Pro To Go kit includes a carrying case, one strobe head and a wireless Skyport Transmitter Plus for $1,499. Visit Elinchrom.com for more information.
Compact Flash: Godox AD200 Pro
The AD200 Pro is what manufacturer Godox calls a “pocket flash” because it packs studio-strobe-like features and output into a speedlight-sized package. Sized like a speedlight, the AD200 Pro delivers an impressive 200ws output, ideal for photographers who want the power of a larger strobe with the capability of dialing it down to just under 1ws—perfect for shooting wide open or balancing with low levels of ambience.
The built-in X1 receiver provides TTL control when paired with an optional X1 transmitter on the camera, and the removable rechargeable Li-Ion battery provides up to 500 full-power flashes. This update to the original AD200 features a more consistent color temperature, faster recycling time and an integrated umbrella mount for easier light modifications. Best of all is the strobe’s low $349 price. Learn more at godox.com.
LED Panel: Litepanels Astra 6X Bi-Color
The best thing about the new 6X Astras from Litepanels is that they’re 50 percent stronger than the company’s previous 4X 1×1 LED panels. That makes it easier to balance the continuous light with stronger ambience. It’s still difficult to balance with direct sunlight, but open shade and light overcast are certainly within reach for portrait and lifestyle photographers who prefer to shoot outdoors on location and balance their own light with what nature’s made.
These bi-color panels can be dialed in from daylight to tungsten or any white balance in between. I use them regularly when shooting at wide apertures and blending between indoor tungsten, window light and outdoors.
Because they’re continuous light, they’re a perfect choice for photographers who also shoot video. Out of the box, they’re built for AC, but an optional battery plate makes them perfect for remote locations with the type of V-mount or Gold-mount batteries that are standard in the video world. The Astra 6X Bi-Color LED panel retails for $849 alone (before battery or mounting plate). Check out litepanels.com for more information.
Hybrid LED: Rotolight NEO 2
Still photographers who prefer flash but also want the functionality of a continuous light source may want to look into the NEO 2 LED from Rotolight. This small, round fixture is in many ways a typical panel-style LED, though it can mount to a camera’s hot-shoe too. It provides variable color temperature from 3150k to 6300k, covering tungsten to daylight and then some, and a special effects mode can mimic flashing police or fire lights—something creative filmmakers are sure to appreciate.
But it’s the light’s strobe capability that makes it most unique. When continuous lighting is the thing, the NEO 2 functions just like any other LED panel. But for still photographers who want a short-duration burst of light, flash mode increases the light’s output by 500 percent (to provide an exposure of approximately f/5.6 at ISO 100 at a distance of 3 feet) and provide strobe style control. Integration with the optional Elinchrom Skyport makes remote adjustments and triggering a snap. And at $280, the price is right too. For more information, visit rotolight.com.
Battery Powered Inverter: Photogenic Ion
Photographers who already own the strobes or LED lights they’d like to carry on location can look to another alternative for remote power off the grid, and that’s a battery-based sine-wave inverter system such as the Photogenic Ion. In the old days, a photographer who wanted to take studio strobes on location used a gasoline generator to do so. They were large, loud, cumbersome and expensive.
These days, though, the same idea can be accomplished with a rechargeable battery-powered sine-wave inverter. The Photogenic Ion weighs just 3.5 pounds but packs a whopping 300 full-power flashes from a 1,000ws strobe. And any strobe that uses a traditional AC Edison plug will work. That’s where the inverter comes in—converting the direct current from the battery to the type of 120v alternating current that comes out of a traditional household outlet. (The “sine wave” references the inverter’s ability to produce an ideal smooth waveform like alternating current.)
Additional batteries can be purchased for the Ion, making it easy to expand the portable unit’s capacity. It retails for $399 with one battery included. Also included is a charger, clamp for mounting the unit to a light stand and a shoulder strap for extreme mobility. More information is available at photoflex.com.