I just returned from teaching a lighting class in Las Vegas, and I was able to get my hands on the ELB 500 for the class. I think Elinchrom makes the best strobes in the business; their packs shine in all conditions and withstand years of hard use and abuse. They stand above in a market flooded with knockoff lights and sloppy construction. And at a reasonable cost considering you are making a long term investment for these beautiful Swiss made strobes.
The biggest question I had when the ELB 500 came out was how would it differ from the ELB 400. I love these lightweight portable lights, and use them consistently for travel portraits and remote backcountry shoots. The ELB 500 is just slightly larger and heavier, but still very compact. Obviously it has more power at 500 watts. But the biggest difference I saw was they are TTL lights. I normally use Hi-Sync with my ELB 400 and ELB1200, with great results. But TTL would mean I could work much faster calculating exposure.
In Las Vegas the ELB 500 advantages became much more apparent. First, the battery on this unit seems like it goes forever. Nothing survives having multiple workshop participants shoot all day using a strobe without changing batteries, but the ELB 500 just kept on popping. Next, the TTL mode produced perfect exposures. Everytime. If needed there were simple controls to increase or decrease flash exposure on the Skyport, just like exposure comp on your camera. And better yet, many of our models were moving, or the light was changing position, which normally would mean recalculating flash exposure. Not using TTL with the ELB 500. I have to admit I wasn’t that interested in TTL in a strobe pack; manual mode has worked fine for my entire career. But photographing fluid situations and moving models TTL was the way to go.
I plan to do a more detailed review of this pack in a future post. But one other advantage is worth mentioning. A workshop participant asked me about monolights versus pack and head systems. My preference has always been pack and head systems for these reasons. First, I work outdoors most of the time, and wind is a real issue on many shoots. With a monolight all the weight and entire flash unit is blowing in the wind at the top of my light stand. Imagine what happens when that blows over. The ELB 500 head weighs 1.5 pounds, you barely notice it attached to a light stand. Next, I can attach 2 or more heads to a flash pack, while monolights are one light. And finally, if I do need to check on strobe settings the pack is right at my feet, not way above my head where I can’t see any of the displays.
Stay tuned for more on this incredible pack. There are more exciting features I can’t wait to try out on the ELB 500.