Interfit’s EXD200 Lighting Kit; Small But Powerful Monolights For The Digital Age

I 'll admit to it--ever since I was first introduced to the Interfit flat panel strobes a few short years back, I've become enamored of this company's products. And I still use those lights. Every year since, Interfit would introduce new lighting gear, but these newer monolights were either too big or too basic for my needs. Then along came the EXD200. Compact, lightweight--just what I needed, especially considering that a two-light kit came in a package I could easily schlep around, should the need arise. I found that these 200 ws units were surprisingly efficient for a variety of subjects, from tabletop to portrait.

On sunny days, I rarely see anyone else using flash and yet, the extra burst of light can be very beneficial in such conditions particularly for people pictures. It's often useful for lightening faces, moderating high contrast, adding a sparkle to the subjects' eyes and in some lighting conditions, also for enriching colors.

Digital To The Core
A quick glance at the EXD200's back panel tells quite a bit about this monolight--namely, that it's digital all the way. When you start to introduce microprocessor control into a light head, you open up a world of possibilities. The numerical LED display moves in 0.1-step increments to indicate output. There are also function indicators--audible as well as visual. The buttons themselves have a positive, tactile feel to them and are easier to work with, I believe, than touch pads. What you won't find are rotary dials and mechanical switches (well, except for the on/off switch). If you miss these mechanical controls, Interfit offers other more conventional designs.

Sync voltage on the EXD200 is 5v. That means that it's safe to connect these lights directly to the X-sync terminal on most digital and film SLRs. That paved the way for me to plug the supplied sync cord into my EOS 5D and 20D.

Next, we have an interesting feature. Occasionally, we'd like to bypass the use of the PC cord and find a more expedient way to trigger the EXD200. When using TTL flash, whether external or built-in, the dedicated strobe may emit a pre-flash burst to help gauge the exposure. That short burst is enough to trigger any studio strobe with built-in photo-optical slave sensor. The EXD200 cleverly provides a workaround. It can be set to fire after a first (conventional flash sync), second, or even a third preliminary burst to prevent false triggering. In this way, you can use the TTL flash as fill, combining the illumination from both light sources. If you don't want the accessory shoe-mount flash to contribute, simply aim the flash head away from the subject. And if push comes to shove, use a remote triggering system. Interfit offers an optional single-channel and four-channel radio transmitter set. Out of the box, the EXD200 comes with both optical and IR slave sensors built-in, although an optional Interfit IRX transmitter is required for infrared triggering. Slave sync can also be switched off.

The combination of opaque and transparent subject qualities required a slightly different approach than normal. I positioned my still life inside a diffusion tent for tighter control over the lighting and reflections, and employed both EXD200 heads. One head provided a soft light from the left and behind--that helped to bring out the glassware and give shape to the fruit. The other light was bounced off the ceiling for fill. (Camera: Canon EOS 20D with 24-105mm IS lens; exposure: 1/125 sec at f/13, ISO 100.)
All Photos © 2007, Jack Neubart, All Rights Reserved

What's In The Kit?
The kit normally includes a padded case. I'd recommend the roller case they sent me, to add to the kit's mobility. The case I got is large enough to hold two lights, stands, and all the included accessories. The circular flash tubes came pre-installed. Two 60w tungsten bulbs, used as modeling lights, also came in the package. Be careful when screwing these into the heads--avoid getting finger oils on them, as that will shorten the life of the bulb (use cotton gloves such as those used in the darkroom). Also, don't substitute other bulbs as the efficiency of the flash output revolves around these bulbs. The kit also included two standard umbrella reflectors. The standard reflector (dish) fits easily on the flash head and is designed to be used with or without umbrella attached. In addition to the electrical and sync cords, there was a shoot-through umbrella and a small softbox in the package. Softer than a typical bounce umbrella, a shoot-through umbrella provides a soft light that wraps around the subject, whereas the softbox produces a soft light with a harder edge but practically no spill, so it largely goes where directed. That's enough to handle quite a bit.

The EXD200 uses a different fitting from that used on the Stellar lights that preceded the new compact series of monolights, which includes the entry-level EX150 with analog control. Still, there are enough options to keep you busy, among them a barn door kit (to control light spread/spill) and snoot (which provides spotlighting)--both come with a set of lighting gels (tinted acetate sheets).

For a portrait of this beautiful young model, I placed one EXD200 head with square softbox attached to my left (her right). I next aimed the second head at a Photek PeoplePopper backdrop, allowing some of the light to feather off onto the model's left side for fill. And for a bit more fill on the model's face, I added a silver reflector from the same side as the background light. Constantly adjusting the lights in response to a model's movement on a set is not practical. However, the variable lighting effect prevents the shots from looking stylized. (Camera: Canon EOS 5D with 24-105mm IS lens; exposure: 1/125 sec at f/8.)

Practical Observations
These lights were a joy to use. Okay, I would have liked a handle to make them easier to grab hold of. But given that they're small enough to practically fit in the palm of your hand, a handle would only add to their size. Enhanced by the head's light weight, a rubberized exterior gives the head its modern-day allure and helps you get a firm grip. Mounting the EXD200 on the light stand was quick and easy and attaching the standard reflector simply required a twist of a knurled collar to lock it in place. Aligning and securing the square softbox to the head requires a bit of careful maneuvering, but this well-crafted light modifier is well worth the effort. Assembling the softbox took practically no time.