elb400-b1

 

With the introduction of the Elinchrom ELB 400 last week, I thought I would add to my review of that unit and compare it to it’s main competitor, the Profoto B1. I will also add some comments on the Profoto B2 sporadically and at the end of this article. It isn’t often that I compare and contrast two pieces of photo equipment here on the blog (or in my Newsletter) but the marketing hype surrounding the Profoto B1 is so over the top that I feel an honest appraisal of these two units will shed some light on the tech specs that really matter to working photographers. Hence, I am going to be very frank here with my comments on both of these units. Many of you know, especially if you read my previous review of the ELB 400, that I am sponsored by Elinchrom. I am not writing this comparison to bash Profoto. They make some stellar products. So do Broncolor and Hensel for that matter. I have used the high-end Profoto B4 battery-powered strobe on a shoot where I had to rent some gear (since I didn’t have enough Elinchrom gear for that assignment) and I was mighty impressed with the build quality and ruggedness of the B4. The B4 was a bit on the hefty side for my needs but still it was impressive in its capabilities. The Profoto B1 is another excellent product. A big part of what I want to demystify here is the over-the-top marketing that has been so craftily sculpted on the part of Profoto.

For this comparison, I am going to delve into a number of topics and compare the ELB 400 and the B1. I have used both of these strobes – and at this early stage I might be one of a handful who have actually used both of these strobe kits since the ELB 400 isn’t even available yet. I have owned and used the Elinchrom Quadras for five or more years, and I have shot with the Profoto B1 as well. I will admit, I have a lot more experience with the Quadras and the ELB 400 than I do with the B1, as you might have surmised from the last sentence. I have spent the last two months testing the ELB 400 for Elinchrom and because of that time and my previous experience with the Quadras, I know that system quite well. The topics I aim to talk about here are more on the tech side of things and are readily apparent to the educated strobe user. Nevertheless, if you are an owner of the Profoto B1 and find that I have made any mistakes please feel free to drop me a note in the comments section below.

Below is a chart showing the various specs of the ELB 400 and the B1 and B2. I have noted in this chart the best specs in red for each specification, though I have left the B2 out of that comparison since it is a strange bird in terms of light output. I’ll be referencing these specs throughout this article. Dig in, this is going to be an in-depth, long winded comparison.

comp-chart-v3

 

Through-The-Lens (TTL) Flash Metering

Right off the bat, I have to acknowledge that Profoto was pretty inventive when they introduced TTL (Through-The-Lens) flash metering capabilities with the B1. For a few years prior to the B1’s introduction, I had thought that it was only a matter of time before a major strobe manufacturer incorporated TTL into a high-end strobe. Having tried it out on the B1, I was pleasantly surprised at how well it works. But it is still TTL. I know for many folks out there, having the option to use TTL with the Profoto B1 is the main selling point of these strobes. That is why I am putting this topic right up front here.

As anyone who has used TTL before knows, it leads to inconsistent flash exposures depending on your framing and how your camera communicates  with the flash. So the big question here is, “Is this a useful option?” Indeed, I can think up a few scenarios where having TTL capabilities would make life easier. If the subject is moving very quickly towards the camera and I want to light them accurately, then TTL flash metering could be very useful though the jury is still out on how well I could trust the TTL metering capabilities of the B1.

For many years now I have been working with all manual strobes and creating amazing images without any issues. One reason I would be afraid to use TTL in instances where something is going to only happen once (as in a sporting event) is that I don’t know what it will do when it pops the flash. In other words, automation makes me worry because I am not in full control of the flash head. As a pro, who shoots adventure sports, where athletes are often risking life and limb, we are in the business of limiting our risk of failure. When using strobes, I am always in Manual exposure mode on the camera. When I set the strobe to fire, I want to know it is going to give me consistent output from flash to flash so I can nail down the exposure. If I am using a wide angle lens I will also set up the shot so so that I can use a hyperfocal distance setting on the lens and have everything in focus – and then I will turn off the autofocus so I can concentrate on getting the image. It is the same thing for the flash output, once I get it dialed in, I don’t want it to change.

TTL-imageThe TTL capabilities of the Profoto B1 are not built into the strobe itself, instead the TTL is controlled via the Profoto Air Remote TTL transceiver (above, middle right) that sits on top of the camera. Elinchrom’s Skyport Transceiver (above, far right) is due for an upgrade if it wants to keep up with Profoto so I wouldn’t be surprised if at some point TTL and other capabilities are incorporated into a new Skyport transceiver to give the ELB 400 more advanced functionality and possibly TTL capabilities. Note that this last comment is just a guess on my part. I have no knowledge of Elinchrom pursuing this.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying having the option to shoot in TTL is a bad thing. It is just another option. There are only one or two other strobes on the market that even have TTL as an option. The ELB 400 does not have this option. One thing to note is the actual TTL capabilities are not built into the Profoto B1 but in the Profoto Air Remote TTL transceiver that controls the B1. That is why there are separate models of the Air Remote for Nikon and Canon. I can see Elinchrom (and every other manufacturer) following suit on this TTL push and adding TTL capabilities into their transceivers. Or, if Elinchrom doesn’t add it, I can easily see PocketWizard adding TTL functionality into the ControlTL system transceivers.

Score one here for Profoto.

Flash Durations

[A quick note here before we start this section. When I reference flash durations I am referencing the t0.5 flash durations. As this is the most common flash durations nomenclature, I will use this to compare the B1 and the ELB 400.]

Let’s get down to brass tacks here and talk about flash durations. Profoto has been advertising their super fast flash durations for quite a while now starting with the B4 and continuing with the B1 and B2. With the Profoto B4, released a few years ago, the ad, which ran in all the photo mags, talked about a blazing fast flash duration of 1/25,000th second. The image used to communicate this fast flash duration was of an athlete standing in the dark and having water thrown at him from both sides. Now, first off, it’s a cool image. No doubts there. But, if you didn’t know much about strobes and how they work you may not have realized that you could have saved yourself $10,000 and shot the exact same image with a few Nikon or Canon Speedlights. How you ask? That crazy fast 1/25,000th second flash duration is pretty slow compared to my Nikon SB-910. As you can see in the image below, pulled straight out of my trusty Nikon SB-910 manual, it lists the flash durations and they are mighty impressive. Note that at 1/32nd power I can get a flash duration of 1/20,000th second. At the lowest power setting on the SB-910 I can get a flash duration of 1/38,500th second!

sb-910-flashduration-comp

Now, this example of how fast your Speedlights are compared to the Profoto B4 isn’t to say that the B4 is a bad product in any way. It is just that the marketing leads you to believe you can’t get these fast flash durations without spending $10,000. The interesting fact here is that at the power setting on the B4, where the super fast 1/25,000th second flash duration resides, I am getting about the same amount of light output as a couple of Nikon SB-910 Speedlights can put out at 1/32nd power for 1/10th the cost of a B4. Because there is only a tiny amount of light being output by the flash you are now starting to understand why that ad with the athlete and the water was shot in the dead of night — because they needed very dark ambient lighting conditions to make it work. The B4 can’t really stop motion at all because of it’s long flash duration at the full power setting. The speed mode on the B4 doesn’t kick in until you drop the power down to the 5.8 setting, which is over four stops down from full power, meaning you have less than 125 Ws of light output at that setting.

By now, you might be wondering why I am going on and on about this flash duration business and why I am talking about the Profoto B4 instead of the B1. The reason I went though all this is that Profoto talks about how fast the B1 is, just like they did with the B4. But in reality the B1 (and the B2 for that matter) have a flash duration of 1/1,000th second at their highest power settings. Sure it has a flash duration of 1/19,000th second at it’s lowest power settings but I can get that same flash duration or faster with a Speedlight. As for the full power flash duration of 1/1,000th second on the B1, the image below, shot with the ELB 400 and the Pro Flash Head, which has a flash duration of 1/1,200th second, shows how the 1/1,000th second flash duration on the B1 and B2 is going to be worthless for action photography.

John Fullbright skiing at the Taos Valley Ski Area near Taos, New Mexico.

For my work, and for most photographers working with strobes, even if they are just photographing models, the more important flash duration specification is how fast the flash duration is at the highest power settings. This is where the ELB 400 is going to blow the doors off the B1 and the B2. In fact, there is a reason that so many sports photographers use Elinchrom strobes as many of their strobes (all of their Pack and Head type strobes at least) have the option to use “Action” flash heads with very short flash durations at the full-power settings. The ELB 400 with one Action flash head has a flash duration of 1/2,800th second at full power in the A port. If you plug in two Action heads, you can get an even faster 1/4,000th second flash duration at full power. Since I regularly have to light an athlete from 20 to 60 feet away while they perform I need the shortest possible flash duration at the full power setting.

With the Elinchrom ELB 400 you have the option to get the Action head with a fast flash duration at full power or to go with the Pro head, which has a flash duration of 1/1,200th second at full power. Here is where the statement in my review of the ELB 400, where I said it is one of the most versatile strobes in this category starts to prove itself. If I want to shoot at 1/250th second shutter speeds and below but want a fast flash duration to stop action, then their is an option. With the Profoto B1, which has a 1/1,000th second flash duration at full power, your options are limited. You could buy or rent more B1s and line them up to get more light output and faster flash durations at the lower power settings but this is a cumbersome option at best. You could also use High Speed Sync with the B1, which we will talk about in the next section, but that isn’t always a viable option depending on how far your subject is from the strobe.

So if you bought a Profoto B1, this is likely where you are going to be let down – with the slow flash durations. Score a big one for the Elinchrom ELB 400 here.

Hypersync vs. High Speed Sync (HSS)

The Profoto B1, and B2, both have the option to use a High Speed Sync (HSS) mode. This technology is similar to how Speedlights from Nikon and Canon work. When you push your shutter speed higher than it’s normal sync speed (usually above 1/250th sec) the flash will emit a continuous burst of low power flashes to illuminate the entire image as the slit opening of the shutter moves across the frame. Of course, to do this, the flash must emit much lower power flashes because it is firing so rapidly. Below is a diagram showing how HSS works.

high_speed_sync_illustration

In the diagram above, you can see how High-Speed Sync works. The top part of the diagram shows how a flash works when the shutter speed is at the highest sync speed or below (i.e. < 1/250th sec). The bottom part of the diagram shows how the flash emits a high speed series of low power flashes to illuminate the entire image when a shutter speed above the sync speed (i.e. > 1/250th sec) is chosen.

The Elinchrom ELB 400 has the ability to use Hypersync when paired with the PocketWizard ControlTL transceivers. For those who don’t know what Hypersync is, it is the ability to shoot with DSLR cameras at shutter speeds above the normal sync speed except in this case the strobe needs to have a slow flash duration allowing the transceiver to time the flash so that your exposure takes a slice out of the brightest part of the flash. For example with my Nikon D800 and D4, the normal flash sync speed is 1/250th second. With Hypersync technology, I have been able to shoot at shutter speeds up to 1/4000th second with my Elinchrom Ranger strobes and very close to that with the ELB 400. In effect, you get a smaller amount of the light illuminating your image because you are only using a slice of the full light output, but since you can use a higher shutter speed and darken the background this allows you to overpower daylight with less light output. With Hypersync, the flash is not emitting a burst of low power flashes but one big burst of light. In my experience, you get a lot more light power when using Hypersync as opposed to HSS. With the ELB 400, Hypersync is available when using the Pro Head and the PocketWizard ControlTL transceivers. The old Quadras have been able to work in Hypersync mode for quite some time now so this isn’t anything new on the ELB 400.

Not having used the Profoto B1 in HSS mode, I can’t say how well they perform in this mode. But from what I have seen, if you are relatively close to the subject or in shaded or darker situations it works quite well. Also, by combining the TTL and HSS modes, just like a Speedlight does, you have a very easy to use HSS option. With either brand here you have the option to use shutter speeds above your normal sync speed.

I’d say in real world experience, Hypersync is going to be more useful than the HSS technology in the Profoto B1 and B2 if you need to light a subject that is far away from the flash head. If the subject is close, within ten to fifteen feet, then both units will perform similarly. When you get the flash head farther away than that, only the Hypersync will be able to overpower daylight in full sun. Because of this, I’d give the edge to the ELB 400 using Hypersync.

[Note: In terms of useful light output when using Hypersync, if you need to light something far away, like say 60 to 70-feet away, and overpower daylight, then you are going to need more power than the ELB 400 can provide. That is where the Elinchrom Ranger is in a class of it’s own. I have lit athletes over 100-feet away with one Ranger RX Speed AS pack and head using Hypersync.]

How they deal with the Elements

I have yet to see any other strobe on the market (save for strobes made for use underwater) that are as weatherproof as the Elinchrom ELB 400, the Rangers and the older Quadras. I have taken my Elinchrom battery-powered strobes into some very hostile environments and they have seen it all and kept on performing shot after shot. Profoto makes some bomber-gear. Their strobes are incredibly well-built and that is why rental houses across the United States predominantly rent Profoto strobes. Even so, I have known a few adventure photographers that used to shoot with Profoto strobes who moved over to Elinchrom gear because they killed Profoto power packs while shooting in snowy or wet conditions. I realize this is a small point, but these are battery-powered strobes meant to be used outside the studio or home and as such the new ELB 400 continues the tradition of being extremely weatherproof.

mclark_nmts_0315_0065

While I haven’t tested the Profoto B1 extensively in tough weather conditions, the way the battery attaches to the side of the head and the slits on the rear and sides of the flash head would give me pause in inclement weather. As you can see in the images above, I have had the ELB 400 in some wet snow and seriously cold weather and it didn’t skip a beat.

Battery Life and Recycling Speed

When it comes to battery-powered strobes, the battery life and recycling speed of a unit is a big deal. In terms of battery life, the new ELB 400 wins in this comparsion. It allows for 350 full power flashes while the B1 only gets 220 full power flashes and the B2 allows for only 215 full power flashes. What that boils down to is you can keep on shooting for longer periods without having to carry or buy extra batteries.

In terms of recycling times, the ELB 400 comes in at 1.6 seconds at full power, which isn’t bad at all for such a compact unit. The B1 by comparison takes 1.9 seconds but having 76 Ws more power than the ELB 400 I would call this a draw. The B2 recycles in 1.35 seconds, but we are only dealing with 250 Ws of power so that seems a bit slow compared to the ELB 400. The reality is these are all fairly fast when it comes to recycling speeds.

Monobloc Design vs. Pack and Head Design

One of the other big marketing buzzwords Profoto is using is that the B1 is an all-in-one setup, i.e. there are no cords to connect, which makes for an easier setup. While it may take a few second less to plop the B1 onto a light stand, you still have to set up the light stand and attach a light modifier to the strobe just as with any other setup. Sure that is a feature to talk about but anyone who has ever used a big strobe knows that the flash head itself, is just a small part of the dog and pony show known as lighting. The five extra seconds it will take to screw in a flash head to a separate power pack isn’t going to mean you miss the picture. Slowing down is what strobes are all about.

I am very happy that Elinchrom has chosen to keep the separate pack and head design with the ELB 400. I own a few monobloc strobes and while they are great in the studio, once you put them up high it is a pain to have to lower the flash head and modifier to change a few settings on the back of the unit. I realize that many settings can be changed on the transceiver on top of the camera but in all cases there are some settings that can’t be changed anywhere but on the monobloc. Monobloc designs are also quite a bit heavier when it comes time to mount them on a light modifier, like inside an Elinchrom Octabank. I wouldn’t dare mount my monobloc strobe inside an Octabank as it would stress the mount quite a bit and be a beast to lock down. With the separate power pack and head design of the ELB 400, and especially the lightweight nature of the Pro and Action flash heads, they are so lightweight that you can get away without even using a stand and they don’t require a big, hefty light stand to put them on. Since this is meant to be a fast and light strobe system, this is a critical fact that you may not think about when debating which brand to go with.

I have also used the Elinchrom Quadras on a number of assignments where the assistant hung the power pack over their shoulder and held the flash head attached to a medium sized softbox with one hand. On those assignments, we dispensed with light stands all together for greater mobility. Try holding a 6.6 Pound mono bloc with a two or three pound light modifier over your head for five or ten minutes and you’ll think the ELB 400 starts to make a lot more sense.

Portrait of John Fullbright shot at the Taos Ski Area near Taos, New Mexico.

Above is a portrait shot with the Elinchrom ELB 400 and the Pro Head. When shooting subjects that aren’t moving the slower flash durations of the Pro Head (or the Profoto B1) are not an issue. This is a close up of expert skier John Fullbright taken at the Taos Ski Valley near Taos, New Mexico. 

Stroboscopic, Sequence and Delay Modes

The ELB 400 has three additional advanced modes that offer very specific options but are not available on any other strobe out there save for the Elinchrom ELC Pro HDs. These modes are great for getting creative and creating images that are way outside the norm. See my review of the ELB 400 for a run down on these advanced features.

Looking at the Profoto B2

In this review, I have only mentioned the B2 here and there as an afterthought for the most part. It seems like a copycat product that resembles the ELB 400 quite a bit but with one major distinction – the fact that it is only 250 Ws. I have a hard time seeing who is going to buy the Profoto B2 as 250 Ws of light output is not a whole lot to work with, especially with a price tag of $2,195 for a one head kit. Of note, a similar kit with the older Quadras is only $1,500 on B&H and you get 400 Ws of light output.

speedlight_strobe_comparisoncropped

Profoto has been marketing the B1 by saying that it “has ten times the power of the average Speedlight.” I don’t know which Speedlights they are talking about but my Nikon SB-910 Speedlights can put out about 80 to 100 Ws of light, so their math is a little off, or perhaps they are talking about much cheaper Speedlights. Either way, if two Nikon SB-910 Speedlights or two Canon 600EX-RT Speedlites put out around 200 Ws let’s say – and are quite a bit cheaper than the Profoto B2, then why would anyone by the B2? The Nikon and Canon Speedlights have TTL technology and High Speed Sync (HSS). You could buy four top-end Speedlights from Canon or Nikon for the same price as one B2 setup and have 300 to 400 Ws of light, four separate flashes and all for about the same weight as the Profoto B2. So, I don’t understand why anyone would buy the B2. This fact is also the reason that I compared the ELB 400 to the Profoto B1 instead of the B2. I think it is fairly obvious that the ELB 400 is a much better unit than the B2. The Profoto B1 is a closer comparison, and one I am sure more people will be considering if they are looking for this level of lighting gear.

Conclusion

From what I can tell, Profoto has been suffering from the influx of amateur photographers into the photography industry. With the high price of their top-end products the new “Off-Camera-Flash” line up seems aimed to grab some of that amateur market share – and their marketing campaign contains just the right buzzwords like TTL and HSS to get a pretty good chunk of it. This is a smart move on their part but as you can tell by now, some of their marketing ploys have stretched the truth a bit in my view. In this comparison, my aim was to level the playing field and compare the specs to give a more rounded and fuller perspective on these two units.

And the results? Both the Elinchrom ELB 400 and the Profoto B1 are excellent products. Which one will be best for your work depends on what you need. If you need a long battery life, a unit that can deal with the elements and especially fast flash durations at full power then the Elinchrom ELB 400 is definitely the way to go. If you are always in a rush and feel the TTL capabilities of the Profoto B1 are more suited to your style of shooting then that is one of the only options on the market and a good one at that. If you don’t shoot with either Canon or Nikon DSLRs then you won’t have TTL as an option with the Profoto B1 or B2.

For myself, I prefer the versatility of having two different flash heads that allow me to get both fast flash durations at full power and the ability to shoot using Hypersync techniques with the slower Pro Head. Hypersync also allows me to throw the light a long distance (with a high performance reflector) and still overpower mid-day sun. I also love that the ELB 400 can deal with the elements and keep on ticking like few other compact strobe setups on the market. I don’t feel like TTL is something I need in a strobe. In fact, I love the manual nature of strobes and the consistent light output. For my work, setting up the strobe and crafting the light is a slow process, not something that I want to slap together at a moments notice. When I do get everything set up and dialed in I don’t want it to change. Of course, the Profoto B1 can be used without the TTL technology. But if we eliminate the TTL factor, then in my opinion the ELB 400 is definitely a better option than the B1 because of the faster flash durations with the Action head.

Let me know what you think in the comments.

  • Stan Olszewski - Nicely written article, Michael. I am a current owner of the Quadras and older Lead Gel batteries. I love the packs, power, weight (lack their of), and reliability, but my only problem is my replacement (3 months old) Lead Gel batteries only last about 80 full power pops in Fast Recycle, then they kick into Slow Recycle mode.

    Would moving up to the Lithium batteries change this performance (saving me lots of money)? Does the new ELB 400 prevent the pack from automatically switching into Slow Recycle mode?

    Thanks for your help in advance.

  • Bernard van Dierendonck - Dear Michael

    thanks a lot for your comparison! It’s a relief to see that using the Quadras is still one of the better options in the market. I started to feel uncertain after all the hype around the B1s. Aren’t they also very top heavy on a light stand? Wouldn’t they tip over pretty fast – this especially when working outdoors on uneven surface? And when they fall…

    The point I don’t get in the promotion of strobe ads (and with your explanation as well) is the raving about flash duration. E.g. also the photo of your skier. You get him sharp with a high shutter speed (say 1250/sec is enough for an off piste skier). If filling in with a strobe has to be done: you use Hyper Sync (with PocketWizard Flex/Mini) and a Pro Head, former S Head and presto. The guy is tack sharp. The only limiting factor is the power of the strobe. With my cameras I tried up to 1/4000s. So why is fast flash duration needed at all? Just to do another photograph of the bullet shooting into an apple?
    Perhaps I missed the point but I’m thinking of changing all my A-Flashheads into the slower ones – because they offer more options…

    Thanks again for your post

    Berni

  • Michael Clark - Stan – sounds like there is something wrong with your Quadra pack or the new batteries if they are lasting only 80 pops. I would send them into C.R.I.S. Camera, which is the Elinchrom certified repair shop in Arizona, and have then looked at. As for the new Li-ion batteries, they are awesome. It might be time to upgrade.

  • Michael Clark - Bernard –

    Yes, the Profoto B1s are quite top heavy. I alluded to this in my review and a little bit in the comparison.

    On the flash duration craze, when you are shooting indoors and want to stop motion it isn’t always possible to use Hypersync. Also, with Hypersync you are typically using a fast aperture, like f/4 to f/5.6. If you want to use a smaller aperture like f/8 to f/16 then in many cases you won’t be able to use Hypersync.Hypersync can also be difficult to get set up because you can’t use a light meter, so if you are building multi-strobe lighting it is very nice to be at or under the sync speed so you can balance the lighting a bit easier. With enough experience it can be done via Hypersync but it is just more complicated.

    Also, there are many sports like Kayaking where things are moving so fast that to get the action tack sharp you would need a shutter speed of at least 1/1,500th second, which is certainly possible with Hypersync. For long distances, as noted in the comparison, I usually go for the Ranger packs with 1,100 Ws since I need the power to throw the light a good distance.I need to do more testing with Hypersync and the ELB 400 to really gauge how well it does in general. I might need to compare it to the Profoto HSS and see how they differ in real world use to complete this review.

  • Tony Bonanno - Well written and covers a lot of ground. If I’m in the market, I’ll probably be thinking seriously about the Elinchrom. Thanks for doing the comparison Michael. Very helpful.

  • Brent Allen Thale - Michael, thanks for taking the time to post this in-depth comparison, it’s helpful.

    To play a little devil’s advocate, though, the Profoto B1/B2/Air TTL system is integrated pretty well with TTL, HSS, modern remote control, etc, all in one package. For the ELB 400, you have to decide if you want fast flash durations or Hypersync in advance, or purchase double the number of heads and swap them out when you need them. Plus to use Hypersync, you need PocketWizards which are expensive, require additional batteries, and are an additional point of failure. And although Hypersync can be nice in some situations, since it’s really a third-party hack there are no guarantees about even illumination of the frame, illumination from frame to frame, or color temperature.

    One thing you didn’t mention is the built-in spill-kill reflector the Profotos have which on the surface seems to limit their usefulness for certain modifiers, it looks like the Quadra heads don’t have that issue.

  • Michael Clark - Brent –

    You are right. To get all the features of the ELB 400 you do have to buy two heads and the PocketWizard set up. That definitely adds to the cost. The PocketWizards are about the same as the Air remote TTL or even cheaper but they are an extra expense. And the HSS and TTL working together in the B1 is very easy to use – easier to use than figuring out Hypersync which takes some testing to dial in. I haven’t had that many issues with uneven illumination of the frame when using Hypersync. I tend not to push it so I do have even illumination. I think that issue is a bit overblown. It works very well. And in terms of color temperature, I haven’t noticed it varying much at all.

    I did test out the spill kill built-in reflector. That was my first major concern about the B1. But after testing it and comparing it to the ELB 400 heads and with my Ranger heads (both of which have the flash tube sticking out), I really didn’t find the light output that different or any different really when you have either in a softbox or a beauty dish. Hence, I don’t bring it up here since my testing didn’t show any noticeable difference.

    Both units are very good. My review is slanted because of the types of images I produce as a sports photographer and my flash duration needs. If I were a wedding photographer, then this review might have been a little different.

  • John Onysko - I have used a Ranger Quadra setup for years with a love/hate relationship. I now have two Profoto B1s and will never look back. You work for Elinchrom, so it is unfair for you state that you are unbiased, especially after this “comparison”. Allow me to point out a few things.

    You use a standard marketing ploy to first complement all of the players in this arena. You then follow that up with a complement to Profoto for TTL and then write it off as an unnecessary feature. Slick. After that you spend paragraphs comparing the entire Profoto line (not just the B1s) to SB910s, but never do that for Elinchrom. Subconsciously you are attempting to have the reader think that the B1s are in a class with SB910s. Um, no.

    Next you compare HSS vs. Hypersync, but you have never used HSS on the new B1s. Seriously? It works flawlessly and with ZERO setup. Write a blog post on how to set up Hypersync using PocketWizards. It’s one step shy of voodoo. Setting up hypersync in the field actually requires that the PocketWizards hang off of the sides of the Quadra head while being tenuously connected via 1/8″ audio cables! Hypersync takes up either one or both of the PocketWizard two configurations, actually requires two PocketWizards, and on and on. Here, Profoto takes the day.

    You then compare the number of full power flashes and proclaim Elinchrom the winner. You should work for the government. If you dial down the B1 to Elinchrom’s max power, the number of flashes is about the same. That one was pretty slick.

    Lastly, you use the word amateur twice when referring to the Profoto units. Again, pretty sly, but totally untrue and you know that.

    Setup of the B1s is literally instant. There is ZERO configuration and the units work exactly as advertised. There are no power packs and hence, no cables. Moving around the Elinchroms was a beast for years. Moving the B1s around is cake.

    I am not paid nor endorsed by any camera or lighting company. For me, the B1s are the winner by a landslide. For the sake of competition, I hope that Elinchrom fires back with something even remotely close!

  • Michael Clark - I was waiting for a B1 user to write in. Thanks for your comments John. I didn’t mean to compare the SB-910s to the B4 except for the flash duration. The B4 is a stellar setup, but my aim was to debug the “marketing speak” on Profoto’s part with the flash duration. I don’t actually work for Elinchrom – I just get some gear from them, for free admittedly on occasion. I haven’t actually ever received any money from them.

    Good to hear a user’s perspective who started with the Quadras an moved over to the B1s.

  • JH Photo - I appreciate your input on the new quadra system, I am contemplating a pack system, as is at least one other guy I know but it probably won’t be elinchrom or profoto i’m fairly certain of that.

    I own B1, not many because they are expensive but they are extremely well made, profoto did a lot of post release R&D debugging. The B1’s seem to be working very well. I’ve tried TTL based shots, they seem to do a fair job of it. HSS works excellent, I shoot with Nikon, the wait was worth it.

    Saying that a field capable studio head is top heavy is just silly, of course it’s going to be heavy compared to head with no battery or electronics inside it. That being said, it’s not much heavier than an Einstein light.
    Due to the fact that it’s got all that electronics built into the head, its inevitable that bouncing it off a boulder is going to have very a expensive downside. :D

    Portable field pack systems do have a purpose that they fill better than stuff like the B1, which is my motivation for investing in one for the future. Space savings, weight etc. I don’t regret buying the B1 at all. B1 is plug and play, hope the same for elinchrom.

    Elinchrom continues to offer some very compelling options, I hope they continue to work on it. I’m considering Broncolor for my pack, Hensel has a really nice offering too with their Porty L that is in the same price range as the Quadra. My short list for choices, is Broncolor Move, Porty L and whatever I find to fit the third.

    Cheers!

  • Luke Szeflinski - Grate review! But it would be the best all around with added to comparison Broncolor Move.

  • RVN - i love both elinchrom quadra and profoto B1. in HSS/hyper sync application on both elc/B1, elinchrom quadra is the real winner because it can work with not only canon or nikon camera, but other camera who use leaf shutter camera (sony RX1, RX100, fuji X100 series, sigma DP, phase one, all) can use hyper sync ability, B1 can’t.
    and i just realize that ELB400 can use pocket wizard or phottix trigger for hyper sync, so we have another option if we on budget.
    http://www.theflashcentre.com/Elinchrom%20ELB%20400%20Pack.html?category_id=972

    about battery profoto B1 had small and light weight battery but low capacity than elinchrom, but i like it because the battery easy to carry.

  • Frederik - Nice piece, although I feel it’s a bit biased towards Elinchrom. First of all I do admit I have a relation with Profoto and like you they do send me some kit now and again.

    I do have to agree with John on some points that you went a bit quick and borderline dismissive on the key feature of the Air TTL system being TTL and HSS. Having not even tried the latter.

    I love the fact that I can use my B1’s with TTL or Manual if I choose to so. I shoot both commercial and editorial work and depending on the setup and the time available I can choose between them.

    I this the HSS function is more interesting for me because I love to shoot wide open at 1.2 or 2.0 even in bright sunlight… and HSS allows me to do so.

    If power is what you need Hypersync may be more effective but that will set you back another €400 and of course you can also use it on the B1 if you want to.

    You dismiss the B2 very quickly als not powerful enough. have you actually used the unit? I have and 250 WS isn’t as useless and you think it is. It’s actually just one stop les powerful. Equalling turning down the power op your B1 500 down to 9. It’s smaller then the Quadra and both its ports are completely independent. You dismiss it as a copycat product. Although I see some visual resemblance. I think that saying this is a bride to far how else would you design a two head pack. Worth mentioning that the B2 head fits all Profoto modifiers without the need of an adapter.

    If power is what you need Hypersync may be more effective but that will set you back another €400 and of course beause of the price of the PW’s. you can also use those on the B1 if you want to.

    Profoto is working on Sony and Olympus remotes with hopefully other brands following soon.

    … Not all just a marketing ploy. It actually works and I use it on a daily basis.

    To end it although I’m biased as a long time profoto user I do love Elinchrom kit and think they make some good stuff and have use a lot of it in the past.

  • Nicolas Meunier - RVN : B1 can PERFECTLY be used with leaf shutter camera. hypersync has no utility with leaf shutter.

    I shoot with my B1 or B4 with leaf shutter camera like PhaseOne or Fuji X100S withour any problem.

  • Nicolas Meunier - “In terms of recycling times”

    The B1 is always charged completly (500J) and use only the power you ask it to deliver… that means if you select 50J, you can fire 10 flashs of 50J as fast as your camera can. And during this time (1sec if you shoot at 10 fps) the B1 will have recharge itself for something like 300J and will continue a bit to deliver 50J flash if you continue to shoot.
    Meanwhile, with the Eli, you have to select 50J, wait to the capacitor to discharge to 50J, take a picture, wait to the capacitor to recycle the 50J… and so on.

    By the way, it’s because of this capacity to use only a part of the power available and change instantly it’s power setting, that the B1 can do TTL… so yes you need a remote BUT also a flash that can do that. So, no, the EL400 will never be able to achieve TTL with a new remote.

  • Joris Casaer - Hey Michael,

    I bought the B1’s half a year ago. Doubted then between the quadra’s and the B1’s. The main motive to work with the Profoto B1’s is setup. They are plug and play… wait, without the plug. The most time consuming part is unfolding the tripods.

    Moving them around is a breeze. Yes they are top heavy, but indoors that is not an issue. Outdoors you need to protect your heads with sand bags. Still prefer a properly heavy sandbag over a battery pack to stabilise the tripod.

    If you want to be shooting in no time, then you go for the Profoto B1’s. That is the real choice. For most pro’s the TTL is not relevant. It’s like a pro camera with fully automatic function on the dial button.

    As far as HSS: On the Profoto it’s just a push on a button and again, you’re shooting.

    Good comparison, but you’ve only done half the math. Do yourself an honest favour: Get a pair of B1’s and put them to the test.

    PS: The 100 Watts extra power of the B1’s can make just that difference shooting against the sun.

  • Nicolas Meunier - A SB910 at full power has only a flash duration of 1/880s
    at the same power the B4 in speed mode as a flash duration around 1/18000s. That’s the goal of a 10000$ Flash.

    If you want the same flash duration with the SB910, you will have very very little power.

    I have also a B1 and FujiX100S. B1 at 50J, I can shoot at 1/4000s. With the SB910 I will never have this power or flash duration at the same time.

  • Dimitris Servis - Very well written and informative article. I am not in the market for either set, I am an amateur, happy with my Elinchrom home studio and only carrying a speedlight outside :)

    I am more interested in the technique and I wonder why for your application you consider t.5 more important and not the tail of the distribution, wouldn’t that create undesirable effects? Also doesn’t the hypersync cause stripes and gradients for moving subjects?

    Thanks

  • Michael Clark - Luke – the Broncolor Move is a great setup but in a different league than the B1 or the ELB 400, which is why I didn’t bring it up here.

  • Michael Clark - Frederik –

    Thanks for your comments. You did bring up a very good point about the B1 being able to achieve Hypersync capabilities when using a PW ControlTL transceiver plugged into it. I forgot about that option. I have a feeling few will ever go to that length to get Hypersync. I am sure it would work quite well. I will have to add that fact into the main article as a possibility.When I tested the B1 there was no HSS option for Nikon, which is why I didn’t try that feature out.

    I did use the B1 in TTL mode as stated in the article. TTL is a great option – I think I also said that in the article.

    On the B2, my point was that two speedlights will give close to 200 Ws so why would someone buy a much more expensive system? I am sure they are cool – but they would have been much nicer if they were 500 Ws.

    It seems many people have missed the issues that are key for me: fast flash duration at full power, weatherproof nature of the ELB 400 and a decent battery life (which both do ok in that department).

  • Michael Clark - Nicolas – Interesting note on how the B1 recharges. Thanks for this info.

  • Michael Clark - Boris – I did actually use the B1 before using this review. HSS wasn’t an option for Nikon when I tested the B1. I tired out the TTL with a Canon and the HSS hadn’t been introduced yet. If I really need to overpower the sun, I need more power in general and that is when I pull out the bigger packs – 1000 Ws or more.

  • Michael Clark - Dimitris – The t0.1 flash duration times would be much more informative but the manufacturers don’t tell us those so I had to go with the t0.5 flash durations for the comparisons. I haven’t had any issues with Hypersync and stripes or gradations.

  • David - Interesting review, I have a full size Ranger AS Speed pack that i attempt to drag around but its so heavy dragging that and my camera gear around i’m getting back injuries so i’ve been looking at how to replace it. The options are few and far between, the Broncolor Move and Priolites came to mind, and obviously the B1 was a definite option, as you say in a comment above, not many people will use hypersync with the B1’s, but before HSS was incorporated and on day 1 the B1 became available I ran half way across switzerland to the Profoto dealer with my D3s and 2 TT5s to test the hypersync. Because of the way hypersync works, it only sync’d perfectly at 1/8000 at power 10 and power 9 and with a shutter speed of only 1/2000 at power 8. any lower then this (power 7) the flash duration was too quick and I got no sync even using 1/500.
    I believe (but could be wrong) that the HSS implementation by Profoto has the same restriction, only useable at full power 10 and power 9 (maybe not even power 8) this means that the option of working only in the shade or from close by may not be that accurate because the flash will be near full power.
    I decided that as much as I love the b1 because it “just worked” (my ranger never “just works” its always effort) I couldn’t afford to replace my Ranger at the time so that what i’m still using. I like the idea of the Quadra ELB, ie a nice update of the cool Quadra system, but if you could PLEASE use your Elinchrom contacts to tell them to get on with updating the full size Ranger into a Ranger ELC, a battery pack and head version of the awesome ELCs with lightweight lithium batteries, all of us longer distance shooting action sport photographers will be a lot better off because quite frankly thats EXACTLY what we need!!!!!!

  • Michael Clark - David – I am right there with you. Thanks for the info on the Hypersync with the B1. I too am patiently waiting for an upgrade to the Rangers. They are 10 years old at this point. Fingers crossed sometime soon they will see an upgrade. I used my Ragners 90% of the time and the Quadras only here and there because they aren’t powerful enough for most of what I shoot.

  • Michael - I own a set of quadras and have been debating a switch to profoto since the release of the B2’s. For me it’s not so much about the technical differences between the two lights, as both perform very well. It’s more about a few practical issues:

    Elinchrom Negatives

    – The speed transmitter is awful in my opinion and well overdue for an update. Yes it’s small, light weight and does the job but the operation is fiddly and turning the modelling light on/off is hit and miss. Most of the time you end up accidentally adjusting the power setting whilst trying to turn it on/off. Never understood why these issues never got addressed during test usage and rectified prior to its release. Always amazes me how they sponsor so many excellent photographers and obviously don’t take product feedback seriously.

    I just hope that when they do release an update it works with the older Quadra sets and its functionality is not limited/reduced.

    – Not being able to see the power setting on the remote is really annoying, especially when a large number of cheaper competitor products have this feature.

    – Different head specification. This could be seen as a positve as I appreciate it provides specific application choice but for me it’s just another potential GAS symptom.

    – Having to buy additional brackets to support the extensive range of elinchrom modifiers. The brackets increase the weight of the heads considerably and are quite expensive for what they are. You also have to be careful about which modifier you use because of weight limitations. I personally had to modify my brackets for use with heavier modifiers.

    – The range of specific Quadra head modifiers is small and hasn’t really changed that much since their release.

    – 66/33 power ratio is quite limiting when you want to use just one pack. I would much prefer the ability to spit/choose the ratio myself. +1 for the Profoto B2’s here.

    – You don’t get a protective cover with the flash head. Again this is an additional expense and when you consider most people would like to leave the elinchrom bracket on it becomes essential for travel. I appreciate you can remove the bracket and put the smaller reflector with diffuser panel back on, but to me this is just more faffing about during setup.

    Profoto Positives (B1/B2)

    – The heads don’t require any additional brackets to support profoto modifiers. Same modifiers fit all profoto heads.
    – The flash tubes are protected to a degree by the frosted diffuser panel without the need to putt a protective reflector on/off.
    – Good range of specific OCF modifiers off the bat.
    – The TTL remote is a wet dream and a real example to all other manufacturers
    – Power can be independently controlled for each head
    – TTL functionality – Not a big issue for me but again this is nice to have.
    – very lightweight
    – 2 x B1’s combined with a B2 would be a great portable setup allowing you to use a boom arm for overhead or high angled shots and the B1’s on standard light stands.
    – B1 modelling light power can be adjusted

    Profoto Negatives

    – Very expensive price point when you consider the competition. For me this is probably the biggest negative because most people who buy the Quadra’s will probably want to add a studio monobloc to their equipment list in the future and this is where Elinchrom have a serious advantage with a great range of very inexpensive options that all support the same wireless trigger system.

    Profoto’s range of lights are considerably more expensive when compared like for like and this will definitely be a deciding factor for many people when they make that final decision on which lighting system to go with.

    Just a few thoughts from me.

  • Michael Clark - Michael – Excellent comments. Thanks for the notes. You can bet the folks at Elinchrom are reading this blog post and taking note of all these comments. They do listen to feedback. Profoto might even glance at this as well so hopefully both manufacturers will use these comments to improve and refine their already excellent products.

  • Mike - As an Elinchrom retailer i’m not going to express an opinion on either system, because unbiased debate is fantastic, an my opinion would of course be biased. But just to respond to a couple of points made by Michael above. At Photkina last year Elinchrom announced that there will soon be a protective head cap that fits on the heads without the need for the reflector. Hopefully we should see this in the coming months, and i’d be surprised if it wasn’t cheap, it’s just a piece of plastic after all. Secondly, the Quadra to EL Mount Adapter Mk II is now available which will allow the heads to attach to all Elinchrom accessories, including all the heaviest soft boxes. It’s great to see such interesting debate from both Quadra an B1 users, though and hopefully some of the major concerns (skyport, full sized ranger etc.) will be addressed by Elinchrom in due course.

  • Andy Schulz - Have you ever Heart of phottix indra 500. I dont know why all you bloggers Never Write about this interesting Product. System like the Quadra , IGBT technique, hss, ttl. And megaprice. Any clue why no comparison? http://Www.phottix.comcheers Andy photographer minich germany

  • Michael Clark - Andy – I have heard of it but I have never seen one so I have not been able to use it to compare it….

  • Michael - I just checked out the new Quadra to EL Mount Adapter Mk II and it’s currently retailing for around £80. Obviously this starts to get quite expensive when you need 2-3 of them.

    I wish Elinchrom made the heads slightly bigger so you didn’t need an adapter. Again this is probably a personal thing but I’d prefer less bits n bobs to carry about especially with a system that’s aimed/designed at portability.

    The indra 500’s do look really nice but the problem with a lot of these cheaper competitor products is that their kit just doesn’t get enough “air time/exposure” on the professional circuit. It takes a long time to become an established brand in this market and is difficult for the smaller less known companies to breakthrough as a real viable alternative to the big names. Any advantage they have usually gets absorbed into the next product release from the major brands.

  • RVN - to frederick

    HSS and TTL on profoto B1 can’t work on sony or other camera because it air remote TTL C/N just can work only for canon and nikon, of course you can still use manual setting on profoto B1 with air remote sync to operate it but can’t in HSS and TTL.. and as far i know leaf shutter camera like sony RX1 can’t work in HSS mode,

    i would love if profoto make TTL air remote for sony

  • andyschulzphotography - Michael, quiet easy just get in touch with Phottix they send bloggers a unit no problem. why always showing the first rows:-)) there is even a phottix indra 360 and 500 to have. Its everywhere shown in the internet. So I see no Problem to feature it.

  • Michael Clark - Andy – I am sure it is easy to get a unit to test but it is not one I would consider. Hence, that is why I didn’t test it.

  • Andy Schulz - And why ? Mai thought this Blog is for photographers Looking for the Best Option in affordable Location Kit lighting. I would love to see a comparison of B1,quadra, Indra 500. The Indra has Hss , TTL, both AC And Accu in one light, no others have that, Okay it’s a new company , bowens mount, IGBT like profoto . It’s not this typical Chinese stuff in my opinion. But I have to test it also for more Infos.

  • Xoán San Martín - Hi Michael,

    Excelent review, I may be on the wrong forum (because it seens like eveyone is a sports photographer) but you explain really well and I will take the opportunity to ask you.

    I want to buy a kit of two strobes to do portrait, nude and dance photography indoors and outdoors.

    Right now I’m using canon speedlights and available light for this.

    I got two different Elinchrom kits for this and need your advise please:

    a)The ELB 400, not sure if with Pro or action heads (or a mix of box, can I do that with a single battery or should I buy two?).

    b)A kit of two ELC HD 1000 (on a first read it seens to beging more power, but do I really need it?).

    *One important aspect to consider is that I will like to overpower the sun on some of the portraits and nudes.

    Thanks in advance for your help and support.

    Kind Regards,

    Xoán.

  • Michael Clark - Xoan – Hard to say with what you are doing what you will need. The ELB 400 may not be enough power to overpower the sun depending on how far away the light will be from the subject. If you can get it close then you will have no problem overpowering the sun. For what you are doing, the Action Head will be a better fit. A Ranger RX Speed AS pack with two heads might be a better solution to your problem. If it were me I would get the ELC Pro HD 1000 Ws kit and then use a generator or an external battery to power those on location. If you need to put a flash head into a large octabank then a lighter flash head will be needed. Getting an ELB 400 and the ELC Pro HD would be a good combo as well. I recommend that you rent them first if you can. Hope this helps.

  • Xoán San Martín - Thanks for your answer Michael,

    Yes having both (The ELB and the ELC) sounds like a great option but I could not afford both.

    I’m considering buying the ELC + an external battery (but I had seen that it cost around 750 Euros (Godox), do you know a cheaper option for a battery capable of a 1000 watts strobe?

    The ELB’s looks like easy to carry and fast to shoot with but also like easy to brake, do you think I got the wrong idea?

    The ELC’s look a little more robust.

    I had considered also the Ranger RX Speed AS pack as you also told me but someone told me they are old technology, do you think Elinchrom it’s going to update this? It could be a great option for me, more power and better build.

    Again thanks for your help, support and patience.

    Kind Regards,

    Xoán.

  • Michael Clark - Xoan – The ELB 400 is not as fragile as you might think. It is a great kit. The ELCs are nice as well and faster when plugged in. I haven’t used any batteries with those so I can’t necessarily recommend anything. I have heard of people using the Alien Bees batteries with the ELCs. It works but the strobes won’t fire really fast like they do when plugged in. As for the Rangers, I bet the Elinchrom folks are working on it but I don’t know when they will come out with a new option. If you got the ELCs you could always rent a little Honda 2000 Watt generator to use them outdoors. That isn’t a great options as it is heavier and loud but it would function well. Hope this helps.

Disclaimer: I am sponsored by Elinchrom and have received some of my lighting gear as part of that sponsorship. Regardless of my sponsorship, I look for the best equipment that suits my needs and I was already using Elinchrom lighting equipment before receiving any gear as part of my sponsorship. I was not paid to test out the ELB 400 and give feedback to Elinchrom and I was not paid to create and post this review of the ELB 400.

Over the last few months, I have had the honor of testing out the new Elinchrom ELB 400 before it was announced this morning. The ELB 400 is an updated version of the venerable and well-loved Elinchrom Quadra Hybrid RX. Elinchrom has simplified their naming convention to make all of their product names more uniform. The “ELB” portion stands for “Elinchrom Battery” and the 400 signifies that it is a 400 Watt/second (Ws) strobe. With this update, Elinchrom has added quite a few new and exciting features into this lightweight strobe, which in my mind makes it one of the most versatile and advanced strobes anywhere.

150129-10412-ELB400-One-Action-Head-To-Go-frontBefore we get into this review, a little background on my experience with the Quadras, which I have used since they came out almost six years ago. I currently have both the Elinchrom Li-Ion Hybrid Quadra and the first generation Lead-Gel Quadra and both have served me very well. I have taken the Quadras to the extremely humid jungles of the Amazon, on ice climbing shoots where they sat in freezing snowy conditions for hours and I have used them in Patagonia in some wild, wet weather. They have survived it all and my units barely even have a scratch on them. They have also been incredibly reliable. I have never had one of my Quadras go down on me, ever.

The reason that so many adventure sports photographers use Elinchrom strobes is that they are (in my experience) the most weatherproof strobes on the market – and they can deal with a fair amount of abuse and continue to keep on firing. As in the image below, a little rain or snow isn’t a big deal with the ELB 400 (or with my 1,100 Ws Rangers). I know that Elinchrom doesn’t like me to say that these units are water resistant but in my experience they can deal with a lot. In fact, I have never had a unit go down due to getting wet. The Elinchrom battery-powered strobes are in my experience the most weatherproof of any strobes on the market, bar none.

mclark_nmts_0315_0065

Above: While on this shoot with the new ELB400, I gave it the full snow test. As you can see in this image, there was quite a bit of snow and moisture sitting on the pack. Here there are water droplets all over the side of the power pack. The ELB 400 didn’t miss a beat and reaffirmed my belief that these the Elinchrom battery-powered strobes are the most weatherproof units on the market.

The first thing you will notice about the ELB 400 is the new OLED display on top of the power pack (see the image farther down in this blog post). This new OLED display is very similar to the one on the back of the ELC Pro HD monolights that Elinchrom released last year. The new OLED display is very easy to read and shows just about every bit of information you could ever want. It also makes diving into the custom settings and menus a much simpler and easier task than with any previous version of the Quadra.

Aside from the new display and a cleaner, easier to understand button layout on top of the pack, the build quality and form of the ELB is reminiscent of the Quadra Hybrid RX Li-Ion. I know for many that the amount of plastic in the flash heads was a point of concern with the Quadras. The flash heads for the ELB 400 are practically identical, though the cables that connect the flash head to the power pack have been slightly refined. After traipsing all over the world with my Quadras for the past five years, I have yet to damage a flash head. I am not crazy hard on my gear, but I don’t pamper it either. I love the lightweight nature of the flash heads and when they are mounted onto a light modifier like a softbox they are really easy for an assistant to hold and the flash head itself seems to mold into the light modifier.

John Fullbright skiing at the Taos Valley Ski Area near Taos, New Mexico. Shot with the Elinchrom ELB 400 and the Pro Flash Head. Since I wasn

Above: Expert skier John Fullbright skiing at the Taos Valley Ski Area near Taos, New Mexico. Shot with the Elinchrom ELB 400 and the Pro Flash Head. Since I wasn’t using Hypersonic with the Pro Head, I instead opted to create a motion blur of John flying by my position. Image Data: Nikon D4, Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 lens @ 24mm, ISO 100, 1/250th sec at f/7.1.

To test out the ELB 400, I headed up to the Taos Ski Valley, where they have received over four feet of fresh powder in the last week, to shoot some skiing with my buddy John Fullbright, who is an expert skier and whitewater kayaker. I had the ELB 400 along with a Pro Flash Head with me on this shoot. It was a bluebird sunny day at the Taos ski area, which meant with 424 Ws we headed into the trees not only for the shade but also for the bottomless powder. The ELB 400 easily lit up John in the trees (as can be seen above). The amount of light power these little units have is incredible, especially when considering the weight.

One thing you will notice about this ski image, which I have to say isn’t a phenomenal ski image by any means, is that John is blurred in the frame. This is because I had the Pro Head, which has a t0.5 flash duration of only 1/1,200 second at full power (424 Ws). Because of this limitation, I chose to create a motion blur of John as he skied by my position. If I had used the Action Head, I would have had a much faster t0.5 flash duration of 1/2,800 second, which would have frozen John’s movement completely. And if I had used two Action Heads, one each plugged into the A and B ports, I could have gotten an amazing t0.5 flash duration of 1/4,000th second at full power. Note that for this shoot, with the Pro Heads, I could have used the PocketWizard Control TL transceivers to trigger the ELB 400 in Hypersync mode at a shutter speed up to 1/4000th second with the Pro Heads, but I didn’t have those with me for this shoot.

Portrait of John Fullbright shot at the Taos Ski Area near Taos, New Mexico. Image Data: Nikon D4, Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 lens, ISO 200, 1/200th sec at f/14.

Above: Portrait of John Fullbright shot at the Taos Ski Area near Taos, New Mexico. Image Data: Nikon D4, Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 lens, ISO 200, 1/200th sec at f/14.

To test out the ELB 400 for portraits, I shot a few portaits of John in another location, also in the trees. Since John wasn’t moving for the portraits, I could easily freeze his motion and the images are tack sharp. Also of note, since I was able to get the flash head closer to John, I also had to turn the power output down to less than half power. At full power, I could have easily overpowered the sun in this scenario by moving the flash head in closer and cranking up the power.

Portrait of John Fullbright shot at the Taos Ski Area near Taos, New Mexico. Image Data: Nikon D4, Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 lens, ISO 100, 1/80th sec at f/6.3.

Above: Portrait of John Fullbright shot at the Taos Ski Area near Taos, New Mexico. Image Data: Nikon D4, Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 lens, ISO 100, 1/80th sec at f/6.3.

Along with the new display on top of the pack, Elinchrom has also added some very advanced flash modes and extended the battery life even farther than the Hybrid RX model. Here is a list of some of the new exciting new features of the ELB 400:

OLED Display: The new OLED display on top of the ELB 400 makes it very easy to see what is going on with the unit. Changing powers settings is much faster and very responsive. Diving into the menus is easy and very straightforward when it comes to changing settings. I didn’t even need a manual to figure out the custom settings menus. Hurray for not having to pull out the manual to change custom settings!

150127-10279-ELB400-FrontPanel

Extended Battery Life: At full power, the ELB 400 will give you 350 flashes on a fully charged battery. At minimum power it can put out up to 6,000 flashes on a fully charged battery.

Faster Recycling Times: The ELB 400 recycles at full power in 1.6 seconds, almost a half second faster than the Quadra Hybrid RX. At lower power settings the recycling times are much faster — nearly instantaneous.

424 Watt/seconds (Ws): The new ELB 400 actually puts out 424 Ws of light.

Strobo Mode: The ELB 400 has a “stroboscopic” mode where it can fire up to 10 flashes per second (10 Hz) within a single frame. For the best results, you will need to use a lower power setting in a dark location and use the Action flash head, which has a very short flash duration to stop the movement of the subject. Below is an example of the stroboscopic effect, created using the Elinchrom ELC Pro HD strobes, which have the same Stobo Mode capabilities. For this image I had the shutter open for 0.8 second at ISO 50 and let the flash fire five times in that period.

mclark_nmst_0814_0769v2

Sequence Mode: This mode allows you to sequentially trigger up to 20 separate ELB 400 packs so that you can shoot at a high framing rate, like say 11 fps with a Nikon D4.

Delayed Mode: This mode allows you to shoot in a “second curtain” or “rear curtain sync” mode with cameras (like Canon cameras) that don’t have this feature built into the camera.

Two different Flash Heads to choose from: Elinchrom offers the Pro Head and an Action Head. The Pro Head is the standard flash head while the Action Head offers significantly faster flash durations. If you are trying to stop the movement of a subject you are better off with the Action Head. If you are using Hypersync techniques, then the Pro Head is the way to go.

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Easy to use new Strobe Port Closures: The new port closures on the top of the power pack are much easier to open and close than the old screw top closures and also stay out of the way while trying to screw in a flash head.

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Fast Flash Durations: With two Action Heads plugged into the unit you can get flash durations as short at 1/4000th second (t0.5) at full power. With one Action Head in the B Socket you can get down to 1/5,700th second (t0.5). While 1/4000th second flash duration may not sound that fast realize this is at full power. Most other units out there (like the Profoto B1) are down around 1/1000th second (t0.5) at full power, which is not fast enough to freeze motion as can be seen in my ski image above.

Consistent Color Temperatures: As with all Elinchrom strobes they are extremely accurate and vary only plus or minus 150 °K from flash to flash.

Hypersync: Using the Pro Flash Head and the PocketWizard ControlTL system you can shoot at much higher sync speeds with the ELB 400 than normal. With my Nikon D4 and D800, I can get up to 1/4000th second shutter speeds using the Hypersync function, which really comes in handy when trying to overpower daylight with only a 400 Ws strobe in those situations where you can’t move the flash head close to the subject – as when shooting adventure sports and your athlete is launching off a cliff.

With so many new features, and advanced capabilities, the new ELB 400 is bound to be popular. It is the most advanced battery powered strobe that I have used and certainly the most versatile as well. After testing this unit out, I am definitely going to have to upgrade my older Quadras. Shooting adventure sports, the key features for my work are the lightweight yet durable construction, the fast flash durations at full power and the ability to use Hypersync. Because the ELB 400 offers two different flash heads, that opens up a lot more options when it comes to creating the image in mind. I just pop on the Pro heads if I want to shoot using Hypersonic or I can choose the Action heads to freeze the motion. Of course, it is also awesome to have the new Strobo mode, an easy to use display on top of the pack, a faster recycling time and 350 full power pops on such a small rig. I still can’t believe we can get 350 full power pops out this unit and it weighs only 6.02 lbs (2.7 Kg) with the flash head and the cord. That is incredible.

“In my view, the Elinchrom ELB 400 is the most advanced battery powered strobe that I have used and certainly the most versatile as well.”

On top of all these new features, Elinchrom still makes, in my view, the best modifiers in the business. There is a reason you see so many Elinchrom Octabanks on other manufacturer’s strobes. With the addition of an adapter, the ELB 400 can use any light modifier Elinchrom makes and this is a huge reason to go with Elinchrom strobes, since they are all optimized to be used with their light modifiers.

Lastly, I know another manufacturer (Profoto) has been making a big deal out of the fact that their latest battery-powered flash is an all in one style mono bloc design with no cords. I am very happy that Elinchrom has chosen to keep the separate pack and head design with the ELB 400. I own a few mono bloc strobes and while they are great in the studio, once you put them up high it is a pain to have to lower the flash head and modifier to change a few settings on the back of the unit. I realize that many settings can be changed on the transceiver on top of the camera but in all cases there are some settings that can’t be changed anywhere but on the monobloc. Monobloc designs are also quite a bit heavier when it comes time to mount them on a light modifier, like inside an Elinchrom Octabank. I wouldn’t dare mount my monobloc strobe inside an Octabank as it would stress the mount quite a bit and be a beast to lock down. It would also weigh a ton. With the separate power pack and head design of the ELB 400, and especially the lightweight nature of the Pro and Action flash heads, they are so lightweight that you can get away without even using a stand (see the image below where I mounted the flash head on my ski pole) and they don’t require a big, hefty light stand to put them on. Since this is meant to be a fast and light strobe system, this is a critical fact that you may not think about when standing in the camera shop debating which brand to go with.

John Fullbright skiing at the Taos Valley Ski Area near Taos, New Mexico.

Above: For some of these lit images I simply put my ski pole into the powder snow and mounted the flash head on the bottom of the ski pole (above left), which was also anchoring my pack to the steep slope. this allowed me to quickly set up without having to pull out a lightstand. 

My thanks to Elinchrom for allowing me to test out the ELB 400 and give feedback. For more information on the ELB 400 visit the Elinchrom website, which has also been completely redesigned.

Bonus Material: Stay tuned for an in-depth comparison of the Elinchrom ELB 400 and the Profoto B1. I will add that to the blog here in a few days. 

  • Earle - Hi Michael, thanks for the fairly comprehensive review (I’m guessing written just before Profoto introduced its shot more clearly aimed at the Quadra market, the B2).

    One obvious question (as the owner of two Quadra RX packs), did Elinchrom give you any indication what the USB port is primarily designed for? Phone charger socket? Future firmware updates?

    Also, Elinchrom frowned upon Quadra use in more challenging weather conditions. Does the new ELB400 actually have better weather sealing?

    My first reaction to reading about the B2 as hope that Elinchrom would come out with a more refined Skyport trigger system and tackle TTL (primarily for HSS on its own) and stop relying on a third-party trigger.

    I bought my Pocketwizard TTL triggers primarily for Hypersync and have never been thrilled about the reliability. But it looks like the next bit of the news will be the ELB1100.

    Thanks again for a nice review.

  • Michael Clark - Earle – I wrote this over the last few days, which is after the Profoto B2 announcement. Stay tuned as I am going to post an in-depth article comparing the B1 and the B2 to the ELB 400 tomorrow.
    I believe the USB port is for Firmware upgrades — especially for use with their software that you can add to your phone, iPad or laptop.
    I have had my Quadras in very challenging conditions, i.e. rain,snow, humid conditions and it has done very well – never had an issue. I know they don’t like me talking about the weatherproofness of their battery powered products but they are more weatherproof in my experience than any other product on the market.
    I don’t know if Elinchrom is working on a new Skyport but I’d be surprised if they were not working on it. I would love to be able to use my Skyports for Hypersync.

    Stay Tuned for tomorrow’s blog post – comparing the Profoto B1 and B2 to the ELB 400.

  • Devaka Seneviratne - Hi Michael,

    I’ve been a long time user of the Ranger Quadra system myself and am looking forward to trying out the ELB 400. Is it compatible with the previous generation cables and heads?

    The image of the power outlet socket does look a bit different. It would be a pity if one would have to buy an entire new set of cables and heads to get the most out of the system.

    Please let me know.

    Thank you

  • Johannes - Hi Michael, thanks for the very informative review! Do you already know when the article comparing the B1 and the B2 to the ELB400 will be published? ;-)
    Thanks, Johannes

  • Michael Clark - Johannes – I will have it out here later today.

  • RVN - Hello sir, great review there.
    i just buy elinchrom quadra a 2 month ago and realize that it’s hyper sync can’t use on sony camera.. i use sony camera A300 and mirrorles sony A7 series

    when i read some spec of the new ELB 400 on this site http://www.theflashcentre.com/Elinchrom%20ELB%20400%20Pack.html?category_id=972
    they said this lighting had internal/build in sky port radio system that allowed hyper sync on canon, nikon and sony camera, with additional pro head and pocket wizard or phottix trigger system. is that true sir? can you test it on you next review sir?

    i also notice this new ELB 400 can use LED modeling lamp set to continues mode, how long it work if we use modeling lamp LED from full battery?

    can it ELB 400 do a burst mode shot like profoto B1/B2? profoto B1/B2 can make 20 burst flash shot a second

    thank you sir :)

  • Michael Clark - RVN –

    Hypersync is only achieved using the PocketWizard ControlTL transceivers with the Quadras – and I don’t think those can actually do Hypersync with Sony cameras. They only work with Nikon and Canon cameras. The Skyport cannot do Hypersync. You have to have the correct PW ControlTL transceivers (one plugged into the pack and one attached to the camera – Nikon or Canon only).

    Both the ELB 400 and older Quadras can have the modeling lamp turned on continuously. On the older Quadras, Pressing and holding the modeling light button down for 2 seconds will leave the modeling light on for as long as their is power in the pack. Not sure how long it will last with the Modeling light on.

    The ELB will shot at 10 fps in a burst mode or in strobe mode at lower power settings.

  • RVN - thank you sir for your reply, i will try it again on my older elinchrom quadra :D
    really love your hardwork and your great review about elinchrom :D god bless you sir

  • The Elinchrom ELB 400 vs. The Profoto B1 (and B2) » Michael Clark Photography - […] comments on both of these units. Many of you know, especially if you read my previous review of the ELB 400, that I am sponsored by Elinchrom. I am not writing this comparison to bash Profoto. They make some […]

  • Gavin McGregor - Hoping for an ELB1100 announcement!

  • Joel - Thanks for the great review Michael. What settings on the TT1 and TT5 do you use when hyper-synching with the ELB400 or the Quadra? I have been trying out several combinations of settings and can’t nail down the best results. I know Pocketwizard has a guide here:

    http://wiki.pocketwizard.com/index.php?title=HyperSync_Setup#How_to_Configure_the_ControlTL_Transmitter

    But what works for your setup? (I guess a D4?)

    Thanks again for the great review.

  • Michael Clark - Gaving – You and me both. The Rangers are my main go to pack since I usually need more power than the ELB 400. I can’t wait to see an update.

  • Michael Clark - Devaka – Yes, the ELB 400 can use older Quadra flash heads and they go into the sockets just fine. No worries there….sorry for the late reply.

  • Michael Clark - Joel – My settings for Hypersync are generally to set it up for Maximum Output in the software. I think the options are Maximum Output or Reduced Clipping. In the Reduced Clipping mode I can shoot at up to 1/4000th second with my Elinchrom Rangers and Quadras with the D4 and D800. In Maximum Output I start to see clipping at around 1/1600th sec on both cameras – this will be highly dependent on the cameras you use. I generally go for maximum output and shoot at around 1/1000th sec up to 1/1250th sec for the shutter speed. I also put the Hypersync on the C2 channel on my MiniTT1 and FlexTT5 units. I often just use two TT5 units as the reception between those units seems to be better. If you are a Canon shooter, then I have heard and seen that Hypersync doesn’t work as well for many Canon cameras. Hope this helps.

patagonia-ice-cap-1I am very excited to announce a new type of photography workshop – an expedition style photography workshop organized by Vertical Shot Expeditions. On this adventure six participants and I, along with two local guides, will traverse a section of the Patagonia Ice Cap over the course of seven to eight days. We will start in El Chalten, Argentina and make our way to the back side of the Fitzroy group and come off the ice cap near Cerro Torre. The workshop will last 11 days total. At the end of the trek, we will spend one full day in El Chalten editing, working up and critiquing our images.

This is going to be a once in a lifetime opportunity and I hope you can join me on this incredible journey. Below is a brief description of this expedition. For the full description with all of the details visit the Vertical Shot Expeditions website.

Across the Patagonian Ice Field – Life on the Ice, Southern Argentina

January 25 – February 4, 2016

Location: Patagonia Ice Cap, Argentina

CLICK HERE TO REGISTER

As far as we know, a photographic workshop has never before been held on the Patagonian Ice Field. We are extremely thrilled to announce this first-of-its-kind expedition for photographers.

You have surely seen thousands of images of the iconic mountains Cerro Torre and Fitz Roy. But how many photos have you seen shot from the other side of these mountains? That’s right – not many. Yet the views from the ice cap are far more striking than those from the easily accessible viewpoints by the road. The Patagonian Ice Field is the third largest mass of ice on Earth and is a virtually untouched remote wilderness area.

The adventure will be led by two highly experienced mountain guides and the American outdoor photographer Michael Clark. Michael’s work is used by many notable organizations. The expedition is eleven days long, and you will spend a week of this trekking across the ice cap and photographing the stunning Marconi glacier, Cerro Torre, Fitz Roy and numerous other majestic peaks rising straight from the ice. The experience may be similar to landing on the Moon, in that the landscape will be unlike anything that you have photographed before.

This workshop is limited to six participants. At the end of this expedition, we will spend an entire day recovering in El Chalten, working up images and critiquing the images created on this expedition.

For a detailed itinerary and much more information on this exciting workshop visit the Vertical Shot Expedition website.

Workshop fee: $6,100
Please Note that this expedition is being run by Vertical Shot Expeditions, which is a European company so payments will be sent to Europe.

This is a strenuous trek in a harsh environment. No technical skills or previous glacier walking experience are required, but participants must to have camping and trekking experience prior to starting the expedition. When completing the booking form, please outline your previous outdoor experience. You should be fit to hike with a 50 pound (25 kg) backpack for 6-8 hours per day (unless you wish to hire a porter and trek just with your camera gear).

winter_2015_newsletter_cover_smThe Winter 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 about making goals and thinking about long-term ambitions, a review of the Other World Computing ThunderBay 4 RAID enclosure, an article detailing my recent assignment with the Red Bull Air Force in the Fisher Towers, an editorial entitled “Are you Indispensable?,” 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 Winter 2015 issue on my website at:

http://www.michaelclarkphoto.com/files/winter_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.

bh_header_newyearsLate last year, I was asked by B&H if I would work up a blog post in the style of New Year’s Resolutions. Over the course of two weeks I assembled ten topics that I wanted to work on in 2015 on both a professional and personal basis. These resolutions included everything from shooting more personal projects and motion projects to getting less stressed out on asignments. What follows are a few clips from that blog post.

Shoot more personal projects: The past few years have shown me that the images I produce when shooting for my portfolio are quite marketable and often end up being licensed to a wide range of clients. In light of this fact, and because shooting personal projects and portfolio images allows me to push the envelope creatively, I need to free up some time to shoot for myself. For 2015, I need to plan some photo shoots that continue this tradition and push me on a technical and creative level to create something new and noteworthy.

Meet with clients in person: Some things never change. In the end, working as a pro photographer comes down to relationships with clients, athletes (for a lot of my work), models, and everyone else that I work with. I have found that meeting with people face to face and showing them my print portfolio in person is not only a fun exercise, but it is also still the best form of marketing.

Continue having a grand adventure: One of the reasons I photograph adventure sports is that I love being adventurous. Having an adventure is inspiring and makes me feel alive. On my trip to the Amazon this past year, we had a discussion about what constitutes an “adventure.” Some of us talked about risk, some of us talked about things not going as planned, but I think the best summation was that an adventure begins when the outcome is unknown and you step out of your comfort zone. I hope to be out of my comfort zone quite a bit in 2015.

My thanks to B&H Photo & Video for including me in the mix alongside thirteen of my peers. To see all of the blog posts visit the B&H website. You can read my New Year’s Resolutions on the B&H Explora blog.

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MC_141028_fishertowers_1129“People ask me if I am crazy. If you aren’t doing what you love then I think you’re crazy!”Miles Daisher, from the Miles Above Series

Over the last five years, I have had the honor of working quite a bit with the Red Bull Air Force. Last fall, I got the call to work with them again. For this assignment, Miles Daisher and J.T. Holmes were looking to jump off several of the biggest formations in the Fisher Towers near Moab, Utah. The Fisher Towers are giant sandstone pillars that rise up to over 900-feet tall above the canyons below them. These are pillars of mud and for climbers these formations make up some of the scariest climbing anywhere on Earth. Only the extremely brave and most experienced climbers attempt the bigger routes on these towers.

The idea for this shoot was that Miles and JT would be climbing the towers to jump off them. Chris McNamara, a well-known, hard-core Yosemite climber who has also done several routes in the Fisher Towers, was on board to set up the ropes. Andy Lewis, known by his nickname “Sketchy Andy,” also joined the team as he had jumped from the towers before. Over the course of three days the athletes jumped more than half a dozen times each from two separate towers.

As a climber, the Fisher Towers have always been a mystical and beautiful place for me. They are much more majestic than many of the formations in the nearby National Parks. While I was only ascending ropes with mechanical ascenders , a.k.a. “jumars,” and not actually climbing the formations directly, it was still a wild experience to get on top of these famous formations and see Miles, JT and Andy leap off.

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Top Image: Andy Lewis and JT Holmes fly around the Titan while B.A.S.E. jumping in the Fisher Towers. Above: A shot of the Titan, the largest formation in the Fisher Towers, which rises nearly 1,000-feet above the surrounding canyons. To ascend the Titan, we climbed ropes set on the left side of the Tower and rappelled the main route on the right skyline of the tower. Below: JT Holmes, Andy Lewis and Miles Daisher launch from the Kingfisher Tower. 

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During the shoot, Andy Lewis made a successful attempt to jump off the top of a nearby mesa and land on top of the Kingfisher Tower. After repacking his parachute on top of the Kingfisher, he then B.A.S.E. jumped off it. This is only the second time anyone has ever landed on the Kingfisher Tower and it is was quite a small landing zone with an extremely high risk factor if anything went wrong. Andy ended up landing on the smallest part of the tower’s summit, which was about four feet wide. His feet were right on the edge of the cliff when he touched down and luckily his parachute continued forward, pulling him farther onto the top of the tower. In the image below you can see Andy zeroing in on the landing.

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On the second day Miles Daisher, always one to push the envelope, did a wingsuit B.A.S.E. jump off the Titan. As you can see below, he didn’t just jump off it, he did a full gainer (backflip) off the exit and flew into a nearby canyon. For this shot I was stationed on a rib of the Titan with a 400mm lens and blasted away at 11 frames per second to create this composite image showing his movement. In the shot below (left) you can also see Miles ascending a fixed rope en route to the top of the Titan.
MC_141028_fishertowers_wingsuit_comp_1v2_flat_crop2MC_141029_fishertowers_2611Above: Miles Daisher checks out an alternate take off spot on top of the Titan. Below: Miles Daisher launching from the Titan near sunset after climbing up the fixed lines. MC_141029_fishertowers_2681

On this assignment I was shooting stills while the Red Bull video crew was working on the last episode of the Miles Above series, which is a ten part video series that gives insight into the Red Bull Air Force. Below, you can watch the last episode of that series, which showcases the Fisher Towers and all the action depicted here.

For part of this shoot I was stationed up high above the towers with a 200-400mm lens and a big tripod. As always, when working with a video crew it is a partnership where we try to stay out of each others way. As a climber, I was often in places that the video crew wasn’t willing or able to access. In the image below, I am situated above the Kingfisher Tower setting up the shot for Andy and Miles’ attempt to land on top of the Kingfisher.

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As with many of my photo shoots, it is hard to tell the complete story in a short blog. This shoot was incredibly taxing and difficult, as are all B.A.S.E. jumping shoots. You generally have only a second or two to catch all the action before the jumpers are just a dot in the sky below you. In the case of this shoot, ascending close to a 1,000-feet to get to the top of the Titan was a four hour ordeal that took it’s toll physically as well. As always when shooting with the Red Bull Air Force, and especially with Miles, whose passion is effusive, there is never a dull moment and I relish the time I get to spend with them. Look for a full accounting and more images from this incredible assignment in my forthcoming Winter 2015 Newsletter.

“Seeing is not enough; you have to feel what you photograph.” - Andre Kertesz

2014 has been yet another banner year both creatively and professionally. This year marks the 18th year I have been working as a full time pro photographer and I am very much looking forward to 2015. Before we cross over the threshold I thought I would share some of the best images from 2014 and also some of the career highlights this year. Please let me know which images you think are the best ones from this selection in the comments.

For any photographer, pro or amateur, creating a dozen top-notch images is a very good year. I have added several new images to both my online and print portfolios this year. In fact, I have added more images to my main working portfolio this year than ever before in a single year. Hence, without further ado, here are what I feel are my strongest images from 2014.

Red Bull Air Force – Phoenix, Arizona

Red Bull Air Force - ActionIn early January I got a call to photograph the Red Bull Air Force out in Phoenix, Arizona at a training camp. This marked the first time the entire team had been together in quite some time. I was able to get a wide variety of images over the course of two days with the Air Force. I shot everything from portraits to action images, and along with Andy Farrington’s help, also managed to get some “in flight” images of the team as seen above. One of my favorite portraits from that shoot was built from a series of studio portraits of the athletes in their wing suits, as shown below.

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Walt Disney Theater – Los Angeles, California

mclark_cala_0514_0317While teaching a workshop in Los Angeles for a former client and his students earlier this year we set out to photograph the well-known Disney Theater in downtown Los Angeles. It was a heavily overcast day which, as it turns out, were the perfect conditions to create moody, dark images of the theater showing all of it’s nuances. I got so many incredible images on this shoot that it was very difficult to choose which ones I liked best. Which one of these three to do you like the best?
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Vale do Javari – Amazonia, Brazil

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This summer, I spent three weeks deep in the Amazon with Céline Cousteau and some close friends working for CauseCentric Productions while documenting indigenous tribes for an upcoming documentary film entitled Tribes on the Edge. It was one of the most intense experiences and expeditions of my entire career. I captured so many incredible images on that expedition that I can’t possibly share them all here – and I am not able to share many of them as these images are part of an ongoing project. Suffice it to say that this expedition was the highlights of my year and one of the highlights of my career. We are scheduled to head back to the Vale do Javari in May 2015 so there is a lot more to come. For more info on this trip, check out my Summer 2014 Newsletter.

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In the Studio – Santa Fe, New Mexico

mclark_nmst_0814_0616_comp1Working with the brand new Elinchrom ELC Pro HD strobes this summer, I set up a studio in my offices and experimented with these amazing new strobes. The results were eye opening in terms of the possibilities and the power of of these new strobes. They were so fast in terms of flash duration and recycling speeds that I had to rethink how I normally shoot. The resulting images are quite different than anything I have ever produced and inspired me shoot in the studio more often – both to create new and exciting images and also to continue working on my lighting skills.

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mclark_nmst_0814_0769v2Queen Charlotte Sound – North Vancouver Island, Canada

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While on assignment this fall for Red Bull Photography and Nokia, I photographed sea kayaking up in the Queen Charlotte Sound near the northern tip of Vancouver Island. The image shown above is the best image from that assignment and might well be the best image I have created in a number of years. Every time I look at this image I like it more and more. It certainly has a mystery about it that you rarely find in adventure sports images. Below are two others from that assignment that also favorites. The other sea kayaking image shown below was shot with the 20 MP Nokia 930 mobile phone. I was blown away that a cell phone could create images of this quality.

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We also shot a behind the scenes video on this sea kayaking expedition, which shows many of the difficulties we faced and how e captured images with both high res DSLRs and the Nokia 930 mobile phones. Check out the full video on Vimeo.

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Apple Computers – Retina 5K iMac

This fall, it was an honor to see Apple use a few of my images to promote the new Retina 5K iMac. One of my surfing images was featured quite prominently on the Apple website and it is great to work with them again. This surfing image was one of the images I featured in last years Wrapping up year end blog post. The new 5K Retina display is ground breaking and images on this display are absolutely stunning. Apple needed extremely high resolution images to show off the display and luckily this surfing image was shot with a high-enough resolution camera to work for their marketing.

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There you have it. Thank you for taking a look. I hope 2015 is even more creative than 2014 and I can continue to push the limits of my creativity and create new perspectives and stellar images for all of my clients. My thanks to all of the clients who hired me for assignments in 2014 and to all of the athletes I was honored to work with. Happy New Year!

  • Russ Bishop - Congrats on a stellar year and a fantastic collection Michael! Love the series on Queen Charlotte Sound. Wishing you all the best in 2015.

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