A few months ago Elinchrom sent me a couple of their brand new strobes, the ELC Pro HD 1,000 Watt-second (Ws) monoblocs. As I have been traveling quite a bit this past summer I didn’t get around to shooting with these new strobes until last month. Because the Elinchrom ELC Pro HD strobes are designed for the studio I set up a studio space to shoot with them and invited a wide variety of athletes to come over and help me test them out. Over the course of two days, I shot with a boxer, a Kung Fu martial artist, a yogi, a skateboarder, several cross-fit athletes, an Aikido club, and an ex-pro MMA fighter. For the shoot, I used a variety of strobes, including several Elinchrom battery-powered strobes, a ring flash and of course the new ELC Pro HD units. During these two days, I wanted to play with new lighting techniques I hadn’t tried out before and I also wanted to give the ELC Pro HD strobes a good workout and see what they were capable of.
As many of you might have guessed from my adventure sports images, I tend to work with battery-powered strobes like the Elinchrom Ranger and Quadra systems. It is extremely rare that I use mono bloc style strobes on location because that would require a generator and many of my location shoots are fairly remote. In the case of the ELC Pro HD though, it has some very advanced features that are making me rethink how I use strobes on location – or at least for locations that are somewhat close to the car. As an example, the ELC strobes can fire at up to 20 frames per second. At one point I shot with my Nikon D4 at 8 frames per second for 346 shots and the strobes never missed a beat or hesitated for a second! The shot at the top of this blog post was created from this series of fast actions shots and later put together in Photoshop to create a composite. Because the strobe can fire at such a fast frame rate (at low power settings) it also allows me to capture the height of the action, as in the image below.
The ELC Pro HDs also have a stroboscopic setting, which is very interesting and allows the flash to fire at up to 20 flashes per second. To test out this mode, I had an ex-pro MMA fighter come in and punch the air while moving side to side (see images below). To create these images, we dimmed the lighting in the studio, and I set up the two ELC strobes to fire at 10 Hz (10 times per second). I set the camera’s shutter speed to 1/2th second, which resulted in 5 flashes while the shutter was open. This resulted in an image that looks like a multiple exposure, and in reality it is a multiple exposure that was created with the strobe instead of multiple shots. You can also see that there is a motion blur of the fighters arms, which was created by the modeling lights that were on during the exposure. I don’t know of any other flash that can actually achieve this look.
I also shot quite a few “standard” type portraits as well as action shots with the boxer and an Aikido club. For these shots, since the athletes where in motion, the fast flash duration of the ELCs came in handy to freeze the motion. The fastest flash duration of the ELCs is 1/5260th second (t0.5), which is more than enough to stop most motion. The other nice thing about the fast flash duration of the ELCs is that this fast flash duration is not at the lowest power setting but up at around 80 Ws, giving you a bit more power to play with. At full power, the ELCs still have a decently fast flash duration as well. The ELCs also have a 300 Watt modeling lamp that can be used in a variety of ways: video lighting, showing the motion in a still shot, etc.
All in all, these new mono blocs from Elinchrom are incredibly powerful and wicked fast. The recycle speed at full power (1,000 Ws) is 1.2 seconds, at lower power settings it is pretty much instantaneous as already discussed. Add to that the integrated OLED screen on the back of the unit, several other customizable modes and the compact nature of these mono blocs and you have a top-end strobe, comparable to any other mono bloc on the market. If you compare specs on 1,000 Ws mono blocs from Profoto, Broncolor, and several other manufacturers, the new ELCs are at the top of the pack or at least on par for most specs.
Look for a full and more complete review of these new mono blocs in the Fall 2014 issue of the Newsletter coming out later this year when I have had more time to test them out and shoot with them .