Maxime Genoud in-line skating in an indoor skate park in Lausanne, Switzerland.Since the introduction of the Elinchrom Skyport Plus HS transceiver, and the new Hi-Sync capabilities of that transceiver, there has been a massive amount of confusion as to how this technology works even though Elinchrom and myself have put out a lot of in-depth information on the topic. As the photographer that shot some of the promo images for the new Skyport Plus HS, I am getting quite a few emails asking which flash heads to buy, how the Hi-Sync works and any number of other questions related to the latest Elinchrom strobes. Here in this blog post, my aim is to clear up some of that confusion and explain why you would want one setup or another in terms of the various flash heads offered for the ELB400 and the higher-powered Ranger RX Speed AS units.

The Elinchrom Skyport Plus HS on top of a Nikon D810.

Before we get started, I implore you to read the blog posts I have already written for Elinchrom and which appear on their website:

The Hi-Sync Experience: This blog post introduces the Elinchrom Skyport Plus HS and gives an overview of it’s capabilities.

HS or HSS: What’s the Difference?: This blog post goes into great detail to explain how High Speed Sync, Hypersync and Hi-Sync work and how they differ. Reading this article will help you understand why and how we decide which flash head to use and for which situation each would be best. Also, the diagrams in this blog post, created by Bram Dauw at Elinchrom, are incredible and really drive home just how each of these high speed flash systems work.

Now, getting down to it here. Basically, Hypersync and Hi-Sync are the same thing, but since PocketWizard has Trademarked the name “HyperSync” Elinchrom had to come up with a different name, which is Hi-Sync or HS for short. In theory they work exactly the same way. In reality, Hi-Sync works much better than Hypersync ever did or could because Elinchrom has dialed in their products to work together for the best possible results. If you want to shoot at higher shutter speeds than your camera normally syncs, like 1/1,000th second and above, then you will want to get the Elinchrom Skyport Plus HS transmitter along with the ELB400 and the new HS flash heads.

Choosing the correct Flash head

A big part of the confusion with the Elinchrom strobe system, especially with the ELB400 set up is that there are three different flash heads to choose from: the Pro head, the Action head and the new HS head. As shown below, these flash heads look nearly identical save for the Action, Pro and HS labels printed on the side of the flash heads. The difference between these flash heads is the flash duration. Here, I will show which situation would be best for each flash head and why you would want one over the others. Below are the Quadra Action flash head (left), the Quadra Pro flash head (middle) and the Quadra HS flash head (right) — all of which work with the Elinchrom ELB400 battery-powered strobe pack.

3-heads

 

The Action flash head offers the fastest flash duration of the three flash heads. At full power on an ELB400, the Action head has a t0.5 flash duration of 1/2,800th second. This fast flash duration can stop motion quite effectively when shooting at the standard flash sync of 1/200th second (Canon) or 1/250th second (Nikon). If you are shooting in low light and want to drag the shutter, i.e. use a slow shutter speed like 1/15th second but also stop the motion of a moving subject then the Action flash head is the one you want.

In the image below. I am showing an example of this type of image, where the shutter speed was set to 1/20th second and the aperture was set to f/5.6. The fast flash duration froze the mountain biker at the top of his jump. But, as you can see there is some ambient light bleeding through as well – this is the motion blur of the subject represented by the dark shading in front of him. He is sharp, stopped by the fast flash duration, but his shadow was tracked by the longer 1/20th second shutter speed. When shooting this type of image the motion blur is always going to be there no matter how fast your flash duration. Whether or not the motion blur is in front or behind the subject is a matter of how the flash was sync’d, either using front curtain sync (standard sync) or rear curtain sync (a.k.a. 2nd Curtain Sync for Canon shooters).

Anthony Solesbee downhill mountain biking near Lake Elsinore, California.Note that if you used a flash head with a slow flash duration, like the Pro head, which has a flash duration of 1/1,200th second at full power, then the cyclist would not be sharp because the flash duration was not fast enough too stop his motion.

Another situation where the Action head shines is when shooting with medium format cameras, which can sync with flash at up to 1/1,600th second with no games. For this to work well, a fast flash duration is required. In fact, a flash duration that is shorter than the shutter speed being used is required so that means you need a flash duration faster than 1/1,600th second and this is where the action head comes in handy. When shooting with my Hasselblad H5D, which can sync up to 1/800th second, I use the Action head.

The Pro flash head has a slower flash duration than the Action head but not as slow as the HS head. At full power on an ELB400, the Pro head has a t0.5 flash duration of 1/1,200th second. For portraits or where the subject is not moving this is a plenty fast flash duration to get sharp images. If the subject is moving then this flash duration will not be fast enough to stop the motion of the subject at normal flash sync shutter speeds, i.e. at 1/250th second or below.

The Pro head can be used in Hi-Sync mode but there will be quite a bit more gradation in the image than with the HS heads discussed below. If you don’t shoot action but want a flash head that can technically work with Hi-Sync and also create nice sharp portraits then the Pro head is an option. But, honestly, if you are investing the money in this system, I would suggest buying the Action head and the HS head so that you have the best of both worlds and can choose the best flash head for the scenario.

The HS flash head has a very slow flash duration and allows for the best possible Hi-Sync lighting options. At full power on an ELB400, the HS head has a t0.5 flash duration of 1/600th second, which is optimized for the least amount of gradation when shooting in Hi-Sync mode. This flash head is also designed to work at virtually any power setting and still provide very evenly lit Hi-Sync exposures. If you are looking to shot at high shutter speeds using the HS technique, this is the flash head you want.

mclark_nmdj_1015_187In the image above, I captured this image using the Hi-Sync mode and a shutter speed of 1/6,400th second. Using such a high shutter speed completely froze the subject so there is no motion blur at all. The BMX rider is tack sharp. Contrast this with the mountain biking image above to see how the Hi-Sync (HS) flash head can stop motion fully compared to the Action head.

As you can see, each of the flash heads provide different options. For myself, I find that the Action and the HS heads are the flash heads I use on a regular basis. When shooting with my Hasselblad or shooting with a DSLR at the standard sync speed or below, I use the Action heads. When I want to shoot in Hi-Sync mode to overpower the sun for a portrait or to stop the action completely (and overpower the sun) I reach for the HS heads. There isn’t any other flash system I know of that has this type of versatility.

Side Note: For the Elinchrom Ranger RX Speed AS 1,100 Ws strobe system, I would opt for the S (Standard) heads for shooting with Hi-Sync and the A (Action) heads when shooting with my Hasselblad or when shooting with a DSLR at the standard sync speed or below. With the S head and the Ranger 1,100 Ws strobe, there will be some gradation in the image because the S head has not been optimized for Hi-Sync flash techniques yet. This isn’t that huge of an issue but something to be aware of. Adding a graduated filter to the image in Lightroom can solve this issue very easily and quickly. For now, if you want the best possible Hi-Sync images use the ELB400 and the HS flash head.

Engaging the Hi-Sync (HS) Mode on Nikon and Canon Cameras

The Skyport Plus HS is not unlike your Nikon or Canon Speedlights in that it is a very powerful and complex controller for your Elinchrom flashes. In actuality it is much less complex than either of the Nikon or Canon Speedlights, but getting to know the Skyport Plus HS takes a bit of time and effort. Actually using the Hi-Sync flash capabilities offered by the Skyport Plus HS transmitter and the ELB400 and HS flash head can be a bit confusing. First off, I highly recommend that you download the Skyport Plus HS user manual and read it front to back. This user manual isn’t included with the transmitter but is available as a PDF download. It will fill in a lot of the blanks on how to use this transmitter.

Setting up HS mode for Nikon Cameras: Setting up Hi-Sync mode for Nikon cameras is very easy. Sadly, this procedure is not covered in the aforementioned user manual. To use Hi-Sync with Nikon cameras, set your camera to the Auto FP flash mode in the custom settings menu and the Skyport Plus HS will automatically engage the HS mode when you raise the shutter speed above the normal flash sync speed. To set the camera to the Auto FP flash mode go to the Custom Settings Menu (Pencil) > e Bracketing/Flash > e1 Flash sync speed > choose either 1/250s (Auto FP) or 1/320s (Auto FP) depending on your camera. For my Nikon D4, I set it to the 1/250s (Auto FP) setting and (as shown below) for my Nikon D810 I set it to the 1/320s (Auto FP) setting. I leave the cameras in this custom flash mode all the time.

IMG_1613

Now that the custom flash mode is set up in the camera,  the HS mode on the transmitter will automatically engage when you raise the shutter speed above 1/250th second. You will see the HS symbol show up in the top of the screen on the Skyport plus HS.

Setting up HS mode for Canon Cameras: Setting up Hi-Sync mode for Canon cameras requires that you actually engage the HS mode on the transmitter itself. To do this, push the button below Setup and then select SYNC Mode and choose HS Hi-Sync Mode. Your transmitter is now setup for Hi-Sync.

As I don’t work with Canon cameras, I have heard from a few that have tested it out and those photographers have indicated that for the best results the ODS (OverDrive Sync) settings need to be set between 2.0 and 2.5 ms. To adjust the ODS settings, press the button below Setup , then go down to the ODS Setup menu and use the scroll wheel to adjust the ODS setting to 2.5. Note that you may want to test various ODS settings with your Canon camera because each camera is a little different.

With Nikon cameras, I have found that no ODS adjustments are necessary.

That is it for setting up the Hi-Sync capabilities of the Skyport Plus HS transmitter. To get an accurate exposure with the flash I recommend that you calibrate your LCD screen on the back of your camera (to a calibrated monitor) and use the Histogram to check your exposure.

Speed Mode

With the Skyport Plus HS, there is an option to use Speed Mode or the Normal mode of the transmitter. This might be confusing, but here at the basics:

Normal Mode: In Normal Mode the backlit screen is glowing green. Use this mode when shooting at normal flash sync speeds or when shooting in HS mode. See the above section for how to engage the HS mode. The photo of the Skyport Plus HS shown at the top of this blog post is in the Normal mode, with a green backlit display.

Speed Mode: In Speed Mode the backlit screen is glowing red. This mode is designed to be used with leaf shutter lenses offered by Hasselblad or Phase One and allows for shooting up to 1/1,000th second with those camera platforms.

So, to clear up the confusion, most people will always be in the Normal mode. You do not need to be in Speed mode to engage the HS function.

Light Modifiers for the ELB400 Flash heads

There are a few light modifiers built by Elinchrom that can be mounted directly to the Quadra flash heads, but with the Elinchrom Quadra Reflector Adapter, all of the light modifiers that Elinchrom makes can be used with the Quadra flash heads. Even the largest light modifiers like the Elinchrom LiteMotiv Octabank can be used with the Quadra flash heads by using this reflector adapter. The Quadra reflector adapter snaps onto the Quadra flash heads as shown below.

quadra_adapter

I hope this blog post clears up some of the confusion surrounding Hi-Sync and helps you get rolling with this exciting new flash technique. Hi-Sync opens up a whole new way to shoot with strobes. Essentially, we can now choose any shutter speed and any aperture and get a correctly exposed image by powering the strobe up or down. It is a very exciting time for photography!

  • Craig Tull - Hi Michael,

    With your Nikon cameras do you lose any light at all shooting up at the highest shutter speeds like 1/4000th to 1/8000th?

    I notice shooting at normal sync speed and then going to high shutter speeds i lose about 4 stops of light on the subject i am shooting. The ambient i expect to drop as it should. Is that to be expected with this system? I ask because to me it isn’t much better than HSS at all because it loses nearly the same amount of light i am finding.

    Kind regards,
    Craig

  • Michael Clark - The way the Hi-Sync works you only get a slice of the light so you end up using a smaller and smaller slice the higher the shutter speed you use. With the ELB400 and a high performance reflector I can overpower the sun from around 20 to 30 feet away depending the situation. So, you do have less light at 1/4000th sec than you would have at 1/1000 sec. Generally, it just darkens the background and I just have to open up the aperture a bit to account for the difference. I am not sure how many stops of light is lost – that is very hard to measure accurately and varies with the shutter speed chosen but the background does get darker (as normal when using shorter shutter speeds). In my testing with the Profoto B1, I couldn’t get the HSS to work very well at all any more than five or six feet away from the subject, so I’d say the Hi-Sync is much more powerful.

  • Craig Tull - Thanks ever so much for your reply Michael. It’s much appreciated and i now understand the system much better now you’ve cleared it up for me.

    One last question though if thats ok. Do those high performance reflectors make a big difference for throwing the light further? As you yourself shoot action sports you will understand my predicament that you can’t always have the flashes super close and sometimes you really do need to overpower the sun from 10+ feet away so will purchasing them help me out a lot?

    Thanks ever so much for your time Michael.

  • Michael Clark - Yes, the high performance reflectors really help push the light out there quite a bit and they also focus the light as well. I use them often for sports photography. I highly recommend them. Of course, they are not the softest light source so if you need to shoot a portrait a softbox or umbrella might be a better tool. Just depends on your lighting needs.

  • Craig Tull - Thanks ever so much for your help Michael. You’ve really cleared some things up for me.

  • Alex Buisse - Thanks very much for this article, Michael! I am curious to hear your thoughts on best ODS settings to use, if anything other than “OFF”. Are you expected to work it out for each scene, using a stand-in for the model and trying different values until you chance upon the best exposure, or is there a more scientific method? I remember seeing a table with standard ODS values for cameras and shutter speeds somewhere but can’t find it anymore.

  • Michael Clark - Alex – You shoot with Nikon cameras so I would just leave the ODS setting off or at 0, which is off. I have never found the need to use the ODS feature with my Nikon Cameras. If you are trying to get a lower amount of light on the subject at a certain power setting you can move the ODS setting and move the strip of light being used to a lower part of the flash curve but that is a pretty specific use. The ODS settings will be very repeatable if you are using them. So you can try that out at home and then just know if you want to do XYZ then set the ODS to 1.x or whatever. I think this is more a feature for Canon shooters where they have to use this just to get the Hi-Sync to work at all.

  • Paul Kelly - Thanks for another useful article Michael, I was very excited to order my HS kit just before Christmas but have had mixed results so far in testing.
    How much does power setting affect any (potential) banding in your opinion? I ask as the first thing I did when I got the Skyport out of the box was to set the light/camera on stand/tripod pointing at a wall & go right through all full-stop shutter speeds at various power settings & I noticed significant but inconsistent banding right across the board with both a D810 & D4s. I played with ODS & could reduce it somewhat but it was definitely there.
    Also, I found that I had to go to speed mode by default as I was getting the lower banding if I went from 200th to 250th (again, Nikon so should have been fine at 250th) but I did read somewhere that anything above 200th required speed mode?

  • Michael Clark - Paul – Great point, I thought Elinchrom had fixed that issue with going up to 1/250th sec for Nikons with the Skyport Plus HS but apparently it is still there. I will amend the article. Thanks for pointing that out. As for the banding, there is still some but when not shooting a white wall it is very difficult to see in my experience. If shooting with the Pro head then there is a lot more than when shooting with the HS head. Either way, it can be dealt with in post by using a graduated filter. What were your settings with the D810 and D4s? So far, I have used a wide variety of power settings on the ELB400 and it seems to have very little banding at any setting. The higher power settings are cleaner than the lowest power settings. I’ll have to do some testing when I get back from this next assignment as I did not test it on a white wall at all power settings.

  • Alexander - Hi Michael,

    Great article, finally some in-depth explanations about the differences of the heads. but unfortunately, i’m still not sure which heads are the right for me.

    I’m planning to use it for outdoor sports and fashion.

    was thinking about buying the Pro head, so i can roughly taste both of the worlds with it (regular usage + abit of HS). but i’m not completly sure if im currect.

    Or on the other hand, buy the HS and enjoy its HiSync capabilities for sports – but would it limit me somehow photographing fashion?

    Maybe i should just buy Pro and HS and end the wondering :)

    Thank you for your time!

  • Michael Clark - Alexander – You could go with the Pro head but I don’t think you would be satisfied. I would just buy the Action head and the HS head and then you will have the best of both worlds.

  • Alex A - Hi Michael,

    Thanks for another really informative article. I’ve been really interested to read your previous posts comparing the ELB 400 and Profoto B1 (which had previously been my favoured option). Having read your articles and explanations around HS and those of Quentin Decaillet on Fstoppers, I’m about to jump in and purchase the ELB 400 HS system.

    One question – what can’t the HS head do ? It looks as though it’ll freeze motion really well through fast shutter speeds and HS and I can’t imagine that still portraiture will pose a problem either. Presumably studio work with splash / liquid photography may be more suited to the Action head ?

    Am I missing something or will I be OK with an all HS Head setup ?

    Thanks in advance for your wisdom !

  • Michael Clark - Alex – The ELB400 with the HS head can do a lot but if you need to shoot at 1/250th second or slower and want to stop action then you will need the Action heads.

  • Alex A - Many thanks for your reply Michael

    So unless I’m in a low ambient light situation and need to drag the shutter for the ambient exposure and use the flash to stop the action, the HS Heads should be pretty good for everything but that ?

    I’m on a fairly limited budget so as well as using the ELB 400 system for location portraiture, I will likely have to use the ELB 400 system as my makeshift studio lights too for the foreseeable future. May I therefore ask whether you think there would be any problem in mixing Action & HS Heads in a studio type setup for doing static portraiture ? For example, using 1 head to light a background, another for hair lighting and 2 for the subject ? Likely I’d run a pair of HS Heads off 1 pack and a pair of Action Heads off another. I can’t see that this would cause problems but would value your thoughts ?

    I’m very grateful for any advice you may be able to give me

    Thanks

  • Michael Clark - Alex – That could work mixing the HS and Action heads as long as you use the HS heads on the background. I typically don’t ever plug more than one head into the ELB400 packs but I typically am shooting outside. You’ll find out quickly if it works for you when you start shooting with them.

  • Alex A - Thanks for this further advice Michael

    Please excuse my ignorance on this matter – am I correct in presuming that the reason for using the Action Heads for the subject lighting and HS Heads for background is that the former will be better at stopping any subject motion at lower (more typical studio setting) shutter speeds whereas the HS Heads wouldn’t and in my hypothetical mixed setup would therefore be better used on the (static) background ? Or am I missing something here ?

    It would be really helpful if Elinchrom could publish a table comparing the suitability and pros/cos of all 3 heads for different uses/situations.

    Thank you one again for your guidance and advice. Some fantastically inspirational images on your site

    Best wishes

  • Michael Clark - Yes, Alex, that is exactly correct. the HS heads on the background because it won’t be moving in that scenario. Elinchrom is working on that blog post discussing the different flash heads as we speak so there will be one soon.

  • Alex A - Many thanks for calrifying this Michael

    I’m sure that such a blog post from Elinchrom clealry showing the pros/cons of each head type and best scenarios in which to use specific head types (but also what you can get away with) would be really useful to many of us – particularly those of us contemplating taking the plunge with the Eli ELB 400 system

    Thanks once again for your advice, great reviews and blog posts

    Best wishes

    Alex

Nikon_AFS_300mmf4E_PF_VROver the last month, I have been testing out the Nikon AF-S 300mm f/4E PF ED VR lens, which was loaned to me by B&H Photo and Video for review. This lens has been incredibly popular and it is very hard to actually find one of these to buy as every time this lens becomes available they are sold out within 24 hours. The name for this lens is a mouthful, but the important bits are that it is a 300mm f/4 lens with the same fast AF-S autofocus on the much more expensive f/2.8 version of this lens. It also is a Phase Fresnel design, which is what the PF stands for. The Phase Fresnel technology is what really makes this lens stand out. It also accounts for how small this lens actually is. It is lighter than the AF-S Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 lens and only a few millimeters longer than that lens, making it the smallest and lightest 300mm lens on the market.

What is Phase Fresnel technology? From the Nikon Website, “Phase Fresnel (PF) lens elements effectively compensate for chromatic aberration and ghosting when combined with ordinary glass lens elements. The PF lens element is based upon the Phase Fresnel lens, which appears to have a series of concentric circles engraved onto it. Utilizing a Phase Fresnel lens element allows Nikon engineers to use fewer lens elements, resulting in a more compact and lightweight lens.” As shown in the image below, this lens is incredibly small and lightweight for a 300mm optic.

mclark_nmlc_1215_011Above, from left to right are the Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8, the Nikon 300mm f/4 PF and the Nikkor 85mm f/1.4 lenses. As you can see here, the 300mm f/4 PF lens is not much bigger that the Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 and even though it is a few millimeters longer it is actually lighter than the 24-70mm f/2.8 lens. Tech Specs: Weight: 26.6 oz. (755 g), Size: 3.5 in. (89 mm5.8 in. (147.5 mm), Minimum Focusing Distance: 4.6 ft. (1.4 m), Filter Size: 77mm

The 300mm f/4E PF ED VR incorporates the Nano Crystal Coatings found on all the modern Nikkor optics as well as an aspherical lens element and extra-low dispersion (ED) glass. It also includes a Flourine lens coating on the front element to repel water and oils. The VR moniker refers to Vibration Reduction, which works incredibly well with this lens. While all of this technobabble might sound confusing, the reality is that all of these features work together to make this lens one of the best Nikkor lenses I have ever shot with.

Before we get rolling here, I’ll just say this: I didn’t send this lens back to B&H. I called them up and gave them my credit card number instead. I couldn’t even think about not having this lens in my arsenal. It is that good.

Image Quality

From my testing so far, the Nikkor 300mm f/4E PF is incredibly sharp from corner to corner. Even wide open at f/4, it is sharp corner to corner, which is very rare in any lens. I’d say it is up there with the legendary 300mm f/2.8 Nikons as the sharpness I have seen out of this 300mm f/4 lens is as good or better than any of my other Nikkor lenses. I don’t have test charts or graphs to measure this but I am pretty sure it will be among the sharpest Nikkor lenses when DXOmark gets around to testing this lens.

Of note, because of the Phase Fresnel design, there are some issues that can appear when shooting directly into the sun or when the sun is just out of the frame but still hitting the front of the lens. This is the result of the Phase Fresnel lens element which is created by using stair-stepped engraved concentric circles on one side of the lens element. From the Nikon website, “Due to the characteristics of a PF (Phase Fresnel) lens that utilizes the photo diffraction phenomenon, when there is a strong light source within the frame or when light enters the lens from outside of the frame, ring-shaped colored flare may occur according to shooting conditions.” In my testing, I never noticed this phenomenon. Even when photographing the full moon (as shown below),which was quote bright, I did not notice any ghosting or abnormal diffraction. If you plan to shoot silhouettes straight into the sun, then this may not be the lens to use. Regardless of this issue, the positives of this lens far outweigh this one possible problem.

mclark_nmsf_1215_0136In the image above, I captured a series of five images and stitched them together in Lightroom using the Panorama feature. All of the images are shot at f/5.6 and were sharp corner to corner.

Vibration Reduction

I haven’t been blown away with the VR technology built into my current Nikkor lenses, like the AF-S 70-200mm f/2.8 VR, but the VR in the 300mm PF lens is nothing short of amazing. The image below shows just how good it is. This was shot at ISO 100 handheld using a shutter speed of 1/80th second and it is pin sharp. I am not the steadiest guy when it comes to handholding lenses at slow shutter speeds so that fact that I could handhold this lens at 1/80th second and get a sharp image is pretty impressive. If I were to shoot with the 70-200 at that shutter speed with or without the VR on, I would be guaranteed a fuzzy image.

The Nikon literature states that the VR technology will allow you to shoot at 4.5 stops lower than you normally would be able to when shooting handheld. Seeing how the image below turned out at 1/80th second, I’d say they are correct. Normally I would not even consider shooting at anything lower than 1/1000th second with a lens of this focal length, but because of it’s small size and weight, and the incredible vibration reduction technology, going down to 1/100th or even 1/80th second for stationary objects is no problem. For moving subjects it will depend more on the speed of the subject than how low of a shutter speed you can handhold with this lens.

mclark_nmsf_1215_0488There were some service advisories with this lens early on. Apparently, there was an issue when shooting with the D800 or D810 cameras where the vibration reduction didn’t work at shutter speeds around 1/80th second up to 1/250th second. I can say pretty decisively that this issue has been dealt with as the image above, shot at 1/80th second on a Nikon D810, clearly shows. I had no issues whatsoever in my testing with the vibration reduction not working as advertised. The lens has been out for over a year now, so it appears that whatever VR issues the lens had early on, Nikon has solved those issues.

Autofocus Speed

As with all of the latest Nikkor lenses, this one has the AF-S Silent Wave Autofocus Motor (SWM) built into the lens. I have found lenses with built in motors to focus much faster than the those without. After shooting with this lens for a month now, and having shot a fair number of moving subjects like deer and snowboarders, I can say that the 300mm f/4 PF has stellar autofocus. I’d say it is on par with the AF-S 300mm f/2.8 VRII lens, which has superb autofocus. I will have to keep testing the autofocus over the next six months or so to know just how well it does in a variety of conditions but so far I am very impressed.

The autofocus accuracy is extremely good as well. Even in tough conditions like the snowy image of the frosted trees shown below, the lens was easily able to lock onto the tree trunk while it was snowing heavily. I have not had to make any AF Fine Tune adjustments to my Nikon D810 with the 300mm f/4E PF and the autofocus seems dead-on accurate. It remains to be seen if this lens will be able to keep up with surfers on a wave, but from what I have seen already I have little doubt that it’s autofocus will have any trouble keeping up with surfers.

Build Quality and Construction

As with a good portion of the Nikkor “gold series” lenses, which are their top-end lenses, the 300mm f/4E PF is clad with a very hard resin outer shell. The 300mm f/4E PF uses the same outer shell materials as my other Nikkor gold series lenses and they have held up very well. This lens looks like it can take some serious abuse. It also has a rubber gasket on the lens mount, which helps to keep water out when shooting in rough weather. The focus ring is also perfectly placed and your fingers naturally fall right where the focus ring is located.

The 300mm f/4 E PF does not have a tripod collar built into the lens. One is available but honestly, you won’t ever need it because the lens is so light it is like shooting with your 24-70mm lens on a camera. The lens feels comfortable in the hand when attached to both my Nikon D4 and D810. The lightweight nature of the lens makes it incredibly portable and usable in a variety of situations where I would not think of using a 300mm lens. It is also so light that leaving it attached to a DSLR and carrying it around all day is easier on the body than any of my f/2.8 zooms, all of which weigh more than this new 300mm lens.

This new 300mm f/4E lens is also a new design that incorporates an electronic diaphragm. Because of this design, it is only compatible with newer Nikon digital cameras from 2007 forward.

mclark_nmsf_1215_0297nEven in tough snowy conditions, as shown in the image above, the 300mm f/4E PF did just fine. Of note, the autofocus did exceptionally well in these tough conditions where it was snowing quite heavily and it was difficult to pick out the tree trunk that I wanted to focus on through all of the falling snow.

Versatility

One of the big reasons I was interested in this lens is that it is so light, agile and incredibly sharp. I have tested it out using the AF-S Teleconverter TC-14E III, which is a 1.4X teleconverter and makes this lens a 420mm f/5.6. The autofocus speed still seems quite fast and accurate with the 1.4 teleconverter, which makes this lens incredibly versatile. My big reason for testing this out is that I can use the Nikon D810 in DX mode, which applies a 1.5x crop factor, making the 300mm f/4E mated with the 1.4x teleconverter combination a 630mm f/5.6 lens, all of which weighs only four pounds total! That means that for photographing surfing I can leave behind the massive tripod and shoot handheld with a 630mm lens that weighs only four pounds, still has excellent autofocus and also has vibration reduction. And with the Nikon D810, I can shoot at 7 frames per second (fps) with the MB-D12 battery grip attached. This combo will be a revolution in terms of traveling with a long lens and also in terms of freedom while trying to capture a fast-paced sport like surfing, skiing or mountain biking.

Conclusion

Well, let’s put it this way, from the time I first shot with this lens I knew there was no way I was sending it back to B&H. This Phase Fresnel version of the 300mm f/4 is by far the most amazing Nikkor 300mm lens I have used. I have owned previous version of the Nikkor 300mm f/4 (all of which felt lacking in some way or another) and I have used several versions of the 300mm f/2.8 Nikons, which are absolutely amazing but also quite heavy. It seems that Nikon has finally gotten the 300mm f/4 right, and even better it is so small and lightweight that I can carry it as a standard lens along with my 14-24, 24-70 and 70-200mm f/2.8 lenses.

The other fact I want to make very clear here is that this lens is so small and lightweight that you will actually carry it with you. It will always be one of my main four lenses that I take on every assignment now. Because it is so lightweight, I will end up shooting with it more often than I did with any lens I have ever owned that was longer than 200mm. It fits vertically into my camera bag, which means it takes up the same space as my 24-70 or my 14-24. In comparison, my 70-200 has to lay horizontally in just about all my camera bags and takes up a ton of space. The 300mm f/4E is so lightweight that I will be taking it as one of my two lenses when I hike across the Patagonia Ice Cap next month along with a 24-105 mm lens. The size and weight make this the most usable telephoto lens I have ever owned.

With fast autofocus, crisp and amazingly sharp images, and the best implementation of Vibration Reduction I have seen on any Nikkor lens the AF-S 300mm f/4E PF ED VR is a winner. If you are looking for a 300mm lens, and don’t necessarily need the extra stop of light offered by the 300mm f/2.8, then this is the lens for you. I cannot recommend this lens highly enough.

Compared to other Options

I have previously owned the Nikkor AF-S 200-400mm f/4 VRII lens and I have shot with previous 300mm lenses (both f/4 and f/2.8) as well as the new 80-400mm Nikkor lens. I have also shot a fair bit with my Nikkor AF-S 70-200mm f/2.8 VRII and the TC-14E III 1.4x teleconverter. The image quality offered by the 300mm f/4E PF lens is equal to or better than all of these options. Even with the 1.4 teleconverter, the 300mm f/4 PF is better than these other options in terms of image quality.

Don’t get me wrong, the Nikon 200-400 was a great lens. I loved it for it’s versatility. And it was sharp but the autofocus wasn’t as fast as I would have liked when using it with a 1.4x teleconverter. It was also a huge beast of a lens, especially when compared to this lightweight 300mm. The 200-400 might have been a bit more versatile than the 300mm lens, but the small compact size of the 300mm PF lens more than makes up for any versatility factor. And the fact that I can use the DX cropping in my D810 along with the 1.4x teleconverter to get a handhold-able 630mm lens that weighs only four pounds is incredible. If the autofocus proves to be as good as I have seen so far, for sports like surfing, this lens will be a revolution for my work.

For more information or to purchase the Nikon 300mm f/4E PF ED VR lens, click on the link to go to the B&H website.

2015 was yet another incredible year both creatively and personally. It was also another stellar year in the business and one that had quite a few moments of recognition. I gave more talks and presentations this past year than I ever have and for companies like Nikon, Elinchrom and National Geographic. Along the way, I also managed to create a few amazing images. Folks that have heard me speak know that I am hypercritical of my own work so I don’t say that lightly. So, without further ado, here are what I consider to be the best images I have created this past year. If you are interested in the best of the best from prior years check out the 2013 and 2014 blog posts.

Hypersync Ice Climbing Project – Dawn Glanc
Ouray, Colorado

Dawn Glanc climbing a WI 5 pillar in the Ouray Ice Park in Ouray, Colorado.The above image is by far my favorite from 2015. To create this image I used fairly complicated Hypersync lighting techniques, which Elinchrom subsequently discussed and highlighted on their blog. I worked with Dawn Glanc back in 2013 and created another amazing image using standard flash techniques at that time but this image is what I really wanted to create and it epitomizes the image I had in my head when I started this project.

Along with this image, I was also able to create a variety of other images to complement the image above and show the ice climb from several different angles, as shown below. My thanks to Dawn, and her sister Kristy who dutifully belayed for us all day, for all their hard work climbing any and everything I asked for.

Dawn Glanc climbing a WI 5 pillar in the Ouray Ice Park in Ouray, Colorado.For the image above I used a tilt-shift lens to create the narrow depth of field. To gain a different perspective, in the image below, I walked down canyon from the ice climb and photographed Dawn with a longer lens. The lighting in all of these images never changed.

Dawn Glanc climbing a WI 5 pillar in the Ouray Ice Park in Ouray, Colorado.

This project was a personal project that basically set up the rest of my year. Elinchrom and several other manufacturers saw these images and immediately wanted to use them. These images also showed me the possibilities with this Hypersync technology, which leads into the next image from my Hypersync Surfing project.

Hypersync Surfing
North Shore of Oahu, Hawaii

After the Hypersync Ice Climbing project, I kicked into full gear with the Hypersync lighting techniques and Elinchrom came through and sponsored me for the Hypersync Surfing Project. For this project, I wanted to see if it was possible to light up a surfer on a wave from the beach – about 500-feet away – AND overpower the sun in the middle of the day. It had never been done before, but that didn’t stop me. The resulting image, showed below, is not one of my best surfing images ever but it is a solid image.

mclark_hans_0215_2584_newcFor the full story on how we shot this and all the technical details, head on over to the Elinchrom blog. It is pretty exciting to see the possibilities with these advanced flash techniques. To this day, it boggles my mind how many things had to come together just perfectly to actually get this image.

Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation – Cattle Drive
Rio Grande Del Norte National Monument, New Mexico

This summer I got an interesting assignment to photograph a cattle drive in the northern part of New Mexico. As an adventure sports photographer, this assignment certainly wasn’t the norm, but it turned out to be fairly interesting. The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation hired me to document the last cattle drive within the Rio Grande Del Norte National Monument, which is a huge swath of land that has been purchased by the Federal Government to protect the 7,000 Elk that migrate through this area each year. This was one of those assignments where you get the call because you live nearby and I happened to be around and available when this was happening. There was certainly a feeling of being out on a huge expanse of land a 100 years ago and I tried to convey that in the images. My thanks to the Mestas family for letting me tag along on their cattle drive.

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The Mestas family driving a herd of cattle on the Mestas Ranch in the middle of the Rio Grande National Forest near the Colorado/New Mexico border north of Taos, New Mexico.

The Mestas family driving a herd of cattle on the Mestas Ranch in the middle of the Rio Grande National Forest near the Colorado/New Mexico border north of Taos, New Mexico.

Grand Teton National Park
Grand Tetons, Wyoming

This summer I had the opportunity to shoot in Grand Teton National Park while teaching a photography workshop with the Mentor Series Photo Treks. This is one of the rare photography workshops where I can actually shoot along with the participants. Needless to say we all got some incredible images during this workshop.

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The Tetons reflected in the Snake river at Oxbow Bend in Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming.mclark_wygt_0615_0010

Elinchrom Hi-Sync Promo Image
Lausanne, Switzerland

This fall, I was invited to speak at the Elinchrom distributor conference in Switzerland at the Elinchrom headquarters and got the chance to shoot with the new Elinchrom Skyport Plus HS and the HS flash heads, which work with the ELB400 power pack. During that presentation I created the image below of Maxime Genoud in-line skating in an indoor skate park. I realize in-line skating isn’t a huge sport here in the USA but in Europe it is still practiced right alongside skateboarding. Elinchrom liked the image so much that they ended up using it for their marketing materials when the Skyport Plus HS was announced. I also wrote two technical blog posts for them that highlights the Skyport Plus HS and the Hi-Sync technology built into this new transmitter.

Maxime Genoud in-line skating in an indoor skate park in Lausanne, Switzerland.

While in Switzerland, I also had the chance to run over to Chamonix, France. Originally, I intended to do some climbing with a friend that lives there but the weather did not cooperate. Instead of climbing, I was able to hike around and get some pretty amazing landscape images, as shown below. I have to say, the Alps surrounding Chamonix are some of the most amazing mountains anywhere on Earth. I need to get back to Chamonix soon!

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Elinchrom Hi-Sync Downhill Mountain Biking Shoot
Telluride, Colorado

After coming back from Switzerland and France this fall, I headed up to the Telluride Photo Festival where I was a Keynote speaker. I took along with me the Elinchrom Skyport Plus HS and my ELB400 strobes and worked with some local athletes to create a few more images for Elinchrom. As this was my first experience using the Hi-Sync capabilities of the new transmitter in the outdoors, I was completely blown away by what it allowed me to do. With the riders in mid-afternoon sunlight, I had full creative control to make it look like night in the middle of the day as shown in the second image here. This one day of working with the new strobe system from Elinchrom changed how I think about all future assignments where I will be using flash. This new technology also allows me to differentiate my work from other photographers by constantly pushing the technology to the limits of what it can do.

Mountain Village Bike Park near Telluride, Colorado.

For the above shot I had Aurelie Slegers pause for a moment while hiking her downhill mountain bike back up the hill at the Mountain Village Bike Park near Telluride, Colorado. In the image below, Andrew Merrill is catching some air at the same point where Aurelie is standing in the image above. For both of these images, I set up a light trap (i.e. a lighting setup where the lights are pointing at each other) with the lights 20-feet away from the athlete on each side.

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Yellowstone National Park
Wyoming

In late October, I taught another Mentor Series Photo Trek in Yellowstone National Park. At one point I took a crew of folks who were willing to hike up an adjacent hillside and we snapped photos of the Grand Prismatic Spring at Midway Geyser Basin from above. This spot isn’t a secret by any means and many, many photographers have photographed from this perspective but still it was an amazing vista and one that offers up a host of creative opportunities.

mclark_wyys_1015_1595The Grand Prismatic Spring at Midway Geyser Basin in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming.

Elinchrom Hi-Sync BMX Project
Santa Fe, New Mexico

The last major shoot I had for the year was to create a behind the scenes video for Mac Group and Elinchrom. We photographed three BMX riders near my home in Santa Fe, New Mexico using the new Elinchrom Hi-Sync lighting techniques and the ELB400 strobes. We captured quite an array of images but the one below was my favorite from the photo shoot.

mclark_nmdj_1015_187Above, Daniel Coriz rides off the wall at the Santa Fe dirt jumps just off Highway 599 in Santa Fe, New Mexico. The behind the scenes video for this image should be out soon. Stay tuned.

Hasselblad H5D 50c WiFi Test
Tent Rocks, New Mexico

In the last few weeks, I have had the chance to test out the Hasselblad H5D 50c WiFi along with two incredible Hasselblad lenses. I also had the chance to test out the new Phase One XF camera along with the IQ350 back. After testing the two cameras, I chose to purchase the Hasselblad H5D, and I am still assembling my Hasselblad kit along with that camera.

As you might expect from a medium format camera, it has astounding image quality. The H5D, with it’s 50 MP CMOS sensor, has very little noise all the way up to ISO 6400. At ISO 6400, the 50 MP H5D has roughly the same amount of noise as my 16 MP Nikon D4. While testing out the H5D I took it out to Tent Rocks just south of Santa Fe, New Mexico and shot some landscapes as shown below. As you can see, even in this low res version of the 50 MP image, the image is wicked sharp from corner to corner. You never see that with any 35mm DSLR image. The Hasselblad lenses are off the charts sharp.

I haven’t been this inspired by any camera in a long, long time – perhaps not since my last Hasselblad 503CW purchase fifteen years ago. I loved that camera but got tired of scanning film. It is great to have another Hasselblad to work with and I look forward to working with this camera quite a bit in 2016!

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Once I have shot with the H5D for a while, I will definitely be doing a review here on the blog and in the Newsletter.

Thanks for taking the time to check out some of the highlights of the year for 2015. Feel free to comment on any of these images and tell me which one you think is the best of the best from this year. Happy New Year to you all. Here’s hoping 2016 is a year filled with adventure and amazing experiences!

Michael Clark navigating a narrow path in Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument near Chochiti, New Mexico.Over the last several months, I have had a chance to test out the Lowepro Whistler 450 AW backpack designed for adventure photographers that need a go-anywhere, do-anything backpack. Having worked with Lowepro in the past as one of their sponsored photographers, they were kind enough to send me the Whistler 450 AW. So, to be upfront, I didn’t pay for it. Regardless, here I will give my honest opinion of the pack. As shown above and in other images in this post, I have taken the Whistler 450 AW to the desert and the high mountains and it has handled everything with ease. I have skied with it and scrambled through narrow canyons, scraped it against rock walls and tossed it into the dirt, mud, snow and grime. It still looks brand new after four months of hard use.

Before we get started, I just want to say that I already love this pack. It has some things I would like to see improved, but it is by far one of the best camera bags that Lowepro has ever produced. I would go so far as to say that it might be one of the best backpacks any camera bag manufacturer has ever produced – and I am not just saying that because I got it for free or have an allegiance to Lowepro. Read on to see why I love it and how I feel it could be improved.

First off, the Whistler comes in two sizes, the 350 and the 450, with the 450 being the larger of the two sizes. It is designed primarily for snowboard or ski photographers who need to lay their pack down in the snow or mud and access gear through the back panel of the pack. As such, it offers a solution for a very specific genre of photography but can also be used for a much wider variety of sports and those types of photography where you need to haul a lot of gear into the backcountry – and don’t want to get the back panel really dirty when you set the camera bag down.

To clear the air here, the Whistler series is very similar in design to the F-Stop backpacks, which have become quite popular the last few years among adventure and outdoor photographers. While they are similar in design, they are slightly different in execution. The Whistler is a heavier, beefier pack than any of the F-Stop backpacks I have seen. There are also three separate compartments in the Whistler and the rigid camera compartment, which is removable, is incredibly rigid. The camera compartment is made so that if you fall and hit the backpack on something, as when skiing or snowboarding, your camera will survive that encounter. Just a few days ago, I crashed while skiing in deep powder and had $50K worth of camera gear in the pack. My cameras were fine, I was a little sore. The pack didn’t even blink.

[Side Note: Don’t get me wrong, F-Stop gear makes some great camera bags as well. They have been pushing the design of camera backpacks for a while now and it is great to see them and Lowepro drive some innovation in this genre of camera specific backpacks. I’ll point out that Lowepro has manufactured camera bags with an access panel that sits against your back for a long time. Lowepro created the Flipside Sport models, which had this style of entry, many years ago and before that they had other packs where the gear was accessed via the back panel. I have an ancient Lowepro backpack that I have used for over 10 years in my closet, the Lowepro CompuPrimus AW, which has two separate back panel access sections. I have held onto that backpack because it works perfectly for carrying my Elinchrom Ranger RX Speed AS strobe kit when skiing or hiking way back into the backcountry. I say all this just to make the point that they have been creating these style bags for quite some time, even before F-Stop gear even existed. Regardless, F-Stop has certainly perfected and improved upon much of what Lowepro did way back when and has also innovated more than any other camera bag manufacturer in this category.]

Back to the Whistler, I chose the 450 AW model as I am 6’3” tall and the longer back length fits me better. The Whistler 450 AW is a great size and form factor and it is fairly comfortable. It also allows for extremely easy access to your camera gear. The outer fabric on the back and sides of the backpack is a tough waterproof fabric that can take some serious abuse. You could literally drag this bag behind you on the trail and it would be fine. Hence, setting the bag down in the snow or mud isn’t an issue.

The camera insert is a one-piece shell built with a stiff material, like the Lexan used in Lightware cases, and it is wrapped in a very soft, plush padded material making it a bombproof compartment. I have put all of my body weight onto the edges of the camera insert and it doesn’t deform even a little bit, which gives an idea of how stiff the sides of the insert (and the pack) are and the level of protection afforded to the contents. The top lid has no padding so that it can flip over without adding any bulk, leaving the camera insert accessible when in the backpack (as shown below). The insert is deep enough to carry a pro-level camera like the Nikon D4 or the Canon 1Dx, or a medium format rig like the Phase One XF or a Hasselblad H5D.

WhistlerBP_450_3

One of the biggest drawbacks to the bag is that the width of the pack and the camera insert is only 10 inches. So, when you look at the image of the camera packed on the Lowepro website (as shown above) you’ll notice two things: there are no lens hoods on the lenses and the lenses are mostly lower end smaller diameter lenses. I found it impossible to fit my pro-grade f/2.8 lenses into the pack with the lens hoods reversed and have the 70-200mm attached to my D4 in the middle of the pack as Lowepro shows on their website. There just isn’t enough room for that to happen. With my Lowepro Vertex 300 AW, fitting my D4 with an attached 70-200 f/2.8 lens down the middle and the other lenses, with their lens hoods attached on either side is not a problem because that pack is 12-inches wide instead of 10-inches. I point this out because it might come as a shock to you that the pack doesn’t hold as much as other Lowepro packs. I am guessing that Lowepro designed this pack to be narrower so your arms wouldn’t hit the pack while skiing or hiking, especially if you are carrying skis lashed to the sides of the pack. Regardless, I reconfigured the pack insert dividers (as shown below) and I can still get two camera bodies, my three main f/2.8 lenses (14-24, 24-70, and 70-200) into the camera insert along with an 85mm f/1.4 and a Nikon Speedlight. That is still a lot of gear, but when I first got the pack I was a little thrown off by the width.

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There are many reasons I like this new pack. The three biggest reasons, which I have already mentioned, are that it is made for the outdoor photographer specifically, the camera gear is easy to access through the back panel and it is made to be set down on it’s back. There are a host of little touches that really make it stand out:

  • Well thought out pockets and other zipper pouches to hold accessories, clothing, food, water, passports, wallets and mobile phones.
  • The padded back panel is beautifully crafted and the padding is comfortable.
  • It is easy to lash a tripod, skis, snowboards, ice axes or any other outdoor gear onto the pack.
  • Because the compartments are separated, and the camera insert is completely sealed so that water can’t get into it from the other compartments, I can confidently carry water in any of the other compartments, which was a huge issue with previous camera backpacks.
  • It comes with a rain cover, but the outer fabric is pretty weather resistant so you won’t need it in anything other than a full on downpour. Snow isn’t an issue with the tough water resistant outer fabric.
  • The large pocket on the back of the pack is expandable to allow for a laptop in a Pelican Case or that huge puffy jacket and some extra food. It can also hold a snow shovel and has a pocket built into the back compartment to hold an avalanche probe.
  • Skis fit on this pack better than any other I have ever owned. The beefy ski loops on the side of the pack lock in the skis and the tough outer material means you have no worries about ski edges cutting into your pack or your camera gear.
  • Lastly, one of the most critical and important features for me is that it fits into the smaller regional jet overhead bins, which is a huge deal when travelling out of smaller airports.

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My main complaint against all backpacks made by camera bag manufacturers is that they are essentially a brick with straps on them. My back has a curve to it and all of the backpacks made by outdoor companies (like Arc’teryx, Osprey, Black Diamond, etc.) have stays built into the pack to allow you to custom shape the pack to your back. This makes those packs a thousand times more comfortable than any camera backpack, which is why if I have to carry a pack any real distance, I opt for my Arc’Teryx or Black Diamond packs and load my camera gear into the individual camera and lens pouches and carry them inside my backpack along with my outdoor gear.

[Lowepro did make the Rover Pro, which had a stay and curvature, a first for them, but it was lacking in several other ways. I still have the Rover Pro AW but rarely use it.]

The Whistler has a flat back panel and no way to conform the back panel to your curved back. It does have stays on either side of the camera insert that smartly helps to put the load onto your hips. Even though the Whistler is a brick, it is still decently comfortable, especially if you are wearing a lot of clothing—as when skiing or hiking in the winter. If it is loaded with 45 pounds of gear, which isn’t difficult to do, and I have to carry it for an hour or so, then the bottom of the pack starts to dig into the top of my butt. I have been asking and pleading with every camera bag manufacturer for years to go out and buy an Arc’Teryx Arrakis 50 and copy that pack and add a camera insert accessible from the back panel. So far, no one has done that yet. To their credit, Lowepro is listening and they are working on new designs continually.

Lastly, it is great that Lowepro offers two sizes so that the Whistler fits a wide range of back lengths, but it would be even better if there was an adjustable torso length, i.e. adjustable shoulder straps so you can dial the pack in for a custom fit. I have already given this feedback to the designers at Lowepro and they are aware of how it can be improved, but they also had very good reasons to design it as it is currently. They thought through all of these issues before coming out with the Whistler, so you know it was a difficult task to design this thing.

In the last four months I have taken this backpack all over the world. In fact, it has become my go to backpack for just about every adventure save for those where I need to take a lot of gear and just a few pieces of camera equipment, as on a climbing expedition. It is incredibly well thought out and tough enough to last for a long, long time. This might end up being the camera bag that will never die, which is a good thing. Sure, it could be lighter, it could be a bit wider, and well, if it had a curved back panel and adjustable torso length it would be perfect. As it is, it is very nearly perfect. I have been hard on it here in this review but regardless of the areas where it could be improved, this is currently the state of the art in camera backpacks for adventure photographers.

For more information on the Lowepro Whistler AW backpacks, visit the Lowepro website.

 

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The Summer/Fall 2015 issue of the Michael Clark Photography Newsletter is now available for download. If you’d like to sign up for the Newsletter just drop me an email and I’ll add you to the mailing list.

This issue includes an editorial about why this issue of the Newsletter is so late, a review of the Elinchrom Skyport Plus HS transceiver, an article detailing my HyperSync Surfing portfolio shoot from earlier this year, an editorial entitled “The Hustle Never Ends,” and much more.

The Michael Clark Photography Newsletter goes out to over 6,000 thousand photo editors, photographers and photo enthusiasts around the world. You can download the Summer/Fall 2015 issue on my website at:

http://www.michaelclarkphoto.com/files/summerfall_2015.pdf

If you’d like to check out back issues of the newsletter they are available here.

Please note that the newsletter is best viewed in the latest Adobe Acrobat reader which is available for free at www.adobe.com.

Maxime Genoud in-line skating in an indoor skate park in Lausanne, Switzerland.

Over the last few months I have been working closely with Elinchrom on marketing materials for the release of the new Skyport Plus HS transceiver and the ELB400 HS flash heads. Elinchrom flew me over to their headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland where I was introduced to the new products, given a quick tutorial and was allowed to test them out. The next day I put on a demo for around 80 Elinchrom distributors from around the world, which resulted in the image you see above of Maxime Genoud in-line skating in an indoor skate park.

The Skyport Plus HS has made a big splash but I suspect that for many photographers they won’t fully understand the level of freedom and creativity this new product allows for when shooting with strobes until they try it themselves. Over the last few months I have been shooting with the ELB400 kit, the HS flash heads and the new Skyport on just about every shoot I have had. This new product has completely changed the way I think when using flash because it allows for complete freedom.

The Elinchrom Skyport Plus HS on top of a Nikon D810.

As part of the marketing materials for the launch of this product, I wrote two in-depth blog posts for the Elinchrom Blog. The first, entitled Hi-Sync Experience, went live on the Elinchrom blog with the announcement of the new Skyport and HS flash heads. The second article, entitled HS or HSS: What’s the Difference, went live a few days ago and explains how the Hi-Sync technology built into the new Skyport Plus HS works and how it compares to High Speed Sync (HSS) and HyperSync.

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Above is an image I shot of downhill mountain biker Aurelie Slegers while in Telluride, Colorado at the Telluride Photo Festival. These images were shot with the ELB400 Pro flash heads showing that even with the existing flash heads amazing results are possible using the Skyport Plus HS.

In my experience, Elinchrom exceeds in all of the technical aspects of strobe technology. It isn’t always easy to communicate the advantages of their technical approach to lighting, even though they are doing a great job with their communication. The new Skyport Plus HS will be a revolution in a few key genres of photography, mainly the action adventure genre and also for portraits and fashion because using high shutter speeds allows for stopping the action and also using large aperture, thereby creating a very shallow depth of field.

Because there is a lot of confusion with Hi-Sync and HSS technology, I will be doing a fair amount of testing on my own to show exactly how Hi-Sync compares to the competition. Stay tuned for future reviews, blog posts and articles on this exciting new technology. For now, check out the two blog posts linked to above on the Elinchrom website for more information.

My thanks to Elinchrom for bringing me over and showing me all of the new products – and also for providing the gear to try out this new technology. I was massively impressed with everyone at Elinchrom. I also got a few hours to go deep into the thinking behind the products with the head R&D guys. I came away from my time in Switzerland incredibly excited about Elinchrom as a brand and the new products.

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To get the ball rolling for the fall holiday season, I am happy to announce a 30% off sale on all of my fine art prints until December 31st, 2015. How this works is very simple, just take 30% off my standard fine art print pricing, which can be found here, and contact me to order the print. If you have any questions about print sizes or available images please don’t hesitate to contact me.

These archival prints are painstakingly created by yours truly on some of the finest papers available. We print on Epson printers and work with a variety of papers including both fine art matte papers and Baryta Photographic papers. The printer and paper combination is chosen specifically for each image so that each image will be rendered with the highest possible resolution and the widest color gamut. Our main papers are Ilford Gold Fibre Silk, Ilford Gold Cotton Textured and Ilford Fine Art Smooth papers.

Note: This is a limited time offer and I will only be offering up to five (5) Limited Edition Prints at 30% off for each Limited Edition image. You can see which of my images are Limited Edition or Open Edition on my website. Also, please note that 30% off prices do not include shipping. 

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