When I heard about the new Skyport Plus HS from Elinchrom that supported lightning fast shutter speeds with flash photography, I got sweaty palms. I’ve long been a user of High Speed Sync flash in speed lights, and Hypersync using strobe packs. I’ve shot underwater Hypersync in frothy rapids photographing kayakers, and shot volumes of portraits at F1.4 around 1/2000 and faster for silky backgrounds and underexposing daylight.
But the new Skyport Plus HS promised dedicated Elinchrom performance with extended range, and no visible banding (dark bands caused by the shutter curtain blocking the light) and easier control of strobes via the new LCD interface. And that wasn’t all. The new Skyport Plus would work seamlessly with existing packs and receivers, no special transmitters needed. Since I work on location, I have a fleet of Ranger, Quadra and ELB 400 packs. Did this mean right out of the box I could just attach the Skyport to my D810 and shoot at 1/8000 of a second with no banding? The short answer…YES! The portrait at the top of this post was taken at 1/8000, F2.8 and ISO 100 in full midday sun. I used three Rangers with ‘S’ heads and the Skyport Plus HS. Incredible! Even better, I was shooting my Rangers around half power, I had power to waste!
Let me take a step back and start with the range. To start things off with this Skyport I naturally needed to do something outside of the box to test the range. One of my favorite sea kayaking images is loading up a boat with lights and firing them at twilight. For this test I placed a Quadra Hybrid and two ELB 400s into a kayak and had the kayaker paddle way out into the water…much further than I would want to shoot. Every frame the lights triggered flawlessly. Honestly, I got impatient trying to get the lights to misfire. At one point my paddler was at least 400 feet away, further than I would ever shoot the lights. And they didn’t miss a beat.
Since I was on the water theme, I decided to shoot the Skyport underwater. I love shooting over/under images, so I rigged up my underwater housing with the Skyport enclosed in a waterproof flash housing connected to the camera via waterproof cable.
Still on the fishing idea, I busted out my tilt-shift lens to see if I could add fill light to the backlit fisherman. Since I was using F4 in bright sun, I shot at 1/3200 using my Ranger on shore about 30 feet away from the fisherman. What was really incredible was I had to dial down my Ranger and ‘S’ head to half power to get the right exposure. If I had shot at full power, I’m guessing I could easily illuminate a subject 100 feet away or even further (stay tuned, I’ll test this idea later.)
At this point I could see the Skyport Plus was living up to its name. But what about the banding’ issue that plagues fast shutter speeds and strobe flash. The true test would be to shoot the flash against a white seamless background at 1/8000 and see what happened. Take a look at the picture above. 1/8000, F4, ISO 200, Ranger with ‘S’ head and standard reflector about 20 feet away from the background. Amazing, no banding at all. And this is just putting the Skyport on your camera and shooting, no special settings for adjustments. The Skyport Plus HS does have a way to adjust for flash banding if it occurs, but at least with my D810, I don’t see the need.
Another thing I was curious about is how Hi-Sync (what Elinchrom calls this technology) worked shooting through big soft boxes. My experience with High Speed Sync systems showed that the strobic mode that is used in HSS really gets absorbed by diffusion in soft boxes. Since Hi-Sync uses one burst like a traditional flash, I expected it would perform well in a big octobox. I set up my Ranger using the enormous 74″ octobox and an ‘S’ head for some fall lifestyle shooting.
And as expected, Hi-Sync worked perfectly, and with power to spare. These portraits were shot at 1/2500 at F1.4, ISO 125. No uneven light, just beautiful smooth light coming out of this octobox to wrap around the model.
Some readers will no doubt ask me about how the Skyport Plus HS works with the Quadra and ELB 400. I am waiting to test this when I get the new HS heads. These heads are designed to be specifically used with the Skyport Plus HS. I would expect amazing results based on my testing of the Ranger and ‘S’ head.
If you are an Elinchrom user, this is a no-brainer purchase ($250). Elinchrom has detailed information of their lighting system and what works with the new Skyport Plus HS. You are going to love the nice display and intuitive user interface. The Plus takes AA batteries, a nice touch.
Shooting flash with speeds faster than 1/250 used to produce inconsistent results and some flash banding, all depending on the camera and flash used. I’ve received numerous emails through the years about how to get the best performance for flash and lightning fast shutter speeds like 1/2500 and higher. Now I have a new, simple answer; use the Skyport Plus HS.