Trends In Mobility And Economy

Surprisingly, one or two companies I'd seen at PMA the previous year were noticeably absent this time around, but in their stead were several distributors and manufacturers displaying new studio products. Mobility stood at the forefront in some booths, economical studio flash alternatives in the form of the ever popular but more modestly priced (e.g., amateur friendly) self-contained monolight (monobloc) in these and others. In some instances, the emphasis was placed on providing these lights in kit form, which makes them even more appealing to the budget minded and starter studio.

The systems shown were not dramatic departures from what we'd seen earlier from the competition or necessarily from the companies showing these products, but they did not fail to grab my attention nonetheless, often because of their styling or some novel feature. In a number of cases, strong emphasis was placed on lights being digital camera friendly, which immediately sparked my interest. (Note: While a 6v triggering voltage may be a theoretical safe limit, check with the camera manufacturer or your photo dealer before using any studio/mobile strobe system with your digital camera.) And admittedly, anytime someone shoves a digital display in front of my face, I'm always enamored of it and want to play with whatever it's attached to.

Almost hidden away toward the back, amid booths showing off odds and ends, was Innovatronix. This company was new to me, but the product appeared interesting enough for me to lead off with it. The Tronix Explorer 1200 Pure Sine Wave Inverter is a fancy name for a portable battery pack capable of driving up to two studio monolights or power packs totaling 1200 ws in output. Its affordable $230 price tag adds to the allure. Featuring short circuit and overload protection, this battery can drive a 300 ws strobe for 1000 full-power flashes, with recycle times as low as 2 seconds (recycling increases with higher output). The unit comes with a carry handle and has audio and LED battery level indicators--recharging in as little as three hours. It is currently available only online, directly from the manufacturer.

As we move to the Bogen Imaging Inc. booth, and so it doesn't get lost amid the clutter of studio strobes to follow, we'll begin with the new Gossen Digipro F ($255, street), a new twist on flash meters. As expected, this handy meter boasts a precision digital/analog LCD read-out, and reads both flash and ambient light by reflected and incident light--but here's where it takes a turn from the norm: In place of a swivel head, this meter features a tilting head, which, Bogen explained, adds to the meter's long-term durability. (The advantage to a moving head is that it allows the display to face you while the incident dome is pointed at the light, making meter readings faster and more efficient.)

We next move on to news from Elinchrom, beginning with monolights, with a focus on mobility: the Style 400BX is a 400 ws portable compact monolight boasting a five-stop range and weighing only 4.3 lbs. These lights incorporate the latest innovations in cutting-edge multi-voltage technology with all the accessories necessary to plug-in anywhere, with a rapid recycle time of 1 second. Available in two kits, each kit contains two Style 400BX heads, carrying case, and accessories varying with kit configuration, with prices starting at $1140 (street).

New Elinchrom multi-voltage Ranger RX ($2050) and RX Speed AS ($2270) battery packs were also introduced, weighing as little as 13 lbs. The upgraded Ranger RX (with symmetric output) and newly designed asymmetric Ranger RX Speed AS both deliver up to 1100 ws. The RX now recycles to full in 5.5 seconds, delivering 140 flashes, whereas the RX Speed AS brings recycling down to 2.9 seconds, for 250 flashes. Full battery recharging is achieved in about three hours, with enough juice to drive a modeling lamp for short periods.

Booth Photographic debuted the Aurora Fusion plus (Fusion F-300, $1150; Fusion F-1200, $2135). These dual-voltage 300 and 1200 ws monolights come with a wireless remote control and feature a digital LCD read-out. They each sport a 1000w halogen modeling lamp, strong enough to be used for continuous-light setups and video, with proportional and independent output. Remote triggering via cable, optical, and infrared sync. Triggering voltage of 12v may be high for many popular digital SLRs.

Dot Line Corp. displayed the RPS Studio monolight line-up, consisting of an economically priced 300 ws ($261), 500 ws ($450), and 1000 ws ($533) monolight, available individually or in kits. Sporting a handsome matte black finish, each light features continuously adjustable output over a five-stop range (four stops on the smallest unit), infrared triggering, and proportional modeling light (250w quartz on larger monolights). The kits feature a deluxe roller case to hold all items, including stands.