ZEUS Lighting System; Power Pack Systems Page 2

Testing
When the ZEUS equipment arrived, I set up the 1250 ws pack and the standard Z2500SH flash head for some preliminary tests. The pack arrived with rubber caps protecting the two flash outlets. If these are really needed for protection, it would have been better if they had been attached in some way to the outlets because they immediately disappeared.

Connecting the head was a little bit of a challenge the first time and a few times subsequently. This was especially true when the light level wasn’t high and my close vision was failing. There is a small molded black dot on the black flash head connector that was very difficult for me to see in my dimly lit shooting space. It needs to be pointing to the top of the power pack to align the pins correctly. I added a white dot on the black connector and a similar dot on the control panel to make my life easier.

The Octabox produces a beautiful portrait light with round catchlights in the eyes. (Model: Aubrey.)

Once I got everything connected, the performance is far better than you would expect from such a reasonably priced system. When I adjusted the power level slider by carefully aligning it with the spacing for the full-stop settings, the output adjusted exactly in full-stop increments. At each power setting, repeated flashes were exactly repeatable, +/- 0.0 stops! Recycle time varied for 1.5 seconds at full power to about 0.2 seconds at 1⁄32 power. The only disappointment was color temperature. It increased 500? Kelvin from 1⁄32 to full power. While this will change if you use a different light modifier in place of the reflector, I always look for a less than 100? Kelvin variation throughout the adjustment range.

Shooting
When I tried to attach the 47” Octabox, I found myself with a battle on my hands. You must secure accessories, other than umbrellas, to the flash head with four spring-loaded clamps. With my AlienBees, there are two levers at the top of the head that you squeeze together for mounting and unmounting accessories. With the ZEUS heads, there is a single lever at the bottom front of the head for this purpose. It was a struggle for me to quickly attach anything but a reflector with this arrangement.

With the Octabox as main light and a 60” white umbrella as fill, exposure was even within 1⁄2 stop across the white seamless background. This allowed the model to move around without my worrying about adjusting exposure. (Model: Aubrey.)

Once I was finally set up and shooting, all this was forgotten. The Octabox gives a beautiful portrait light that is soft but directional with excellent contrast for head-and-shoulder portraits. If there is a downside to the system for portraiture, it is that it may be too powerful for some photographers! Even with two heads connected to the Z1250 pack and the power dialed down to 1⁄32, the lowest setting, my meter read f/11 at ISO 100. Personally, I’m happy to have more power than I need because I can always gel the light or the lens with neutral density. And that power is there if you need it. But even after adjusting the lights back to shoot full-length views of the model, I was exposing at f/16 at ISO 100 with the Z1250 set on 1⁄4 power. Recycle time was never an issue.

When I first acquired my AlienBees, I was a little concerned about whether their plastic bodies would hold up to the tests my assistants would put them through. It turns out that durability or performance has never been an issue. So I fully expect the ZEUS pack, which seems to be made of similar material, will be able to handle the wear and tear. I like how the top folds and secures to become the carrying handles while protecting the connectors and controls inside. I just wish the little “shelf” built into the top were slightly wider so I could stuff the power cord into it for storage when I go on location.

The Octabox/ZEUS combination was an ideal system for a brochure for Canadian jewelry designer Christine Montgomery. I used Nik’s Silver Efex Pro to convert the color information in the model to monochrome. (Model: Amelia.)

Conclusions
I am very impressed with the design, build quality, and performance of the ZEUS components that I tested. Even more impressive is the pricing. MSRP of the Z1250 pack is $599.95 and the Z2500 is $799.95. The Z2500SH standard flash head is available for $299.95 and the Z2500BTH bi-tube head for $399.95. Other ZEUS system components as well as accessories are available directly from Paul C. Buff, Inc. through either the White Lightning (www.white-lightning.com/zeus.html) or the AlienBees (www.alienbees.com/zeus.html) websites.

Stan Sholik is a contributing writer for NewsWatch Feature Service. He is also a commercial photographer with 30 years of large format studio and location experience.

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