While you canâ€™t really mess up too bad by buying inexpensive tungsten lights like the Dynaphos lights we have reviewed in the past, buying a flash system can cause you all kinds of grief if you buy a weak unit. The lack of decent specs makes buying an inexpensive unit purely a guessing game. If the unit doesnâ€™t sync well or if it isnâ€™t bright enough you have just wasted a chunk of change. Can the dirt cheap SL-150 be worth plunking down your hard earned pocket change? Letâ€™s hook one up and check it out.
The SL-150 is a flash strobe (master/slave) system that can be triggered by either PC Sync or infrared, or optical sync. The SL-150 is equipped with a test button, on/off button, 75 watt modeling light, model light on/off, and variable power output. In the box you will get the strobe head, the power cord, a long PC Sync cord, and a manual. The strobe head has a built-in light stand clamp and integrated umbrella holder.
We purchased the SL-150 from studio4less on eBay for $49.99, which just seemed like it was going to be too good to be true. A few days later the unit showed up, we powered it up, and tested the modeling light, fairly decent, but it is only 75 watts so we werenâ€™t expecting much. We fired off a few photos but the unit would not flash using the optical flash. We next tried the PC Sync connector, nothing. Next we just tried the flash test buttonâ€¦nothing. We sent studio4less an email, and soon had the unit heading back. A few days later a replacement unit arrived that worked fine. Since the camera didnâ€™t have a PC Sync connector, we used the Cactus PT-04 wireless flash trigger connected via PC Sync cable, this proved to be a really good combination. The PT-04 fired the SL-150 very reliably. The modeling light was sufficient for the auto focus to work well.
I am really tempted to simply scan the specs from the manual and post the image as it is about as useless as an old wart. Since it is actually rather humorous, I will include the text of the manual in parenthesis for your reading pleasure (Hint to manufacturer – we would be happy to rewrite your manuals in exchange for some free product!).
Output Power: 150ws
Guide Number (Index that glisten): 36GN
Recycle Time (Time of calling back): 0.5 – 3 seconds
Flash Time (Time of flash): 1/500 – 1/800
Light Dispersion (Angle to illumination): 55 degrees
Modeling Lamp: 50 watt
Color Temperature: 5500k +/- 200k
Flash Voltage (Touch off the voltage): 12v DC
Flash Methods (Touch off the way): PC Sync, Infrared, Optical, Test Button
For the test shots, we aimed the SL-150 up into a silver umbrella as a key light and snapped off a few. The light looked clean and consistent but was casting some harsh shadows. To balance the light, we put a hot shoe flash behind a shoot-thru umbrella and used an optical sync adapter to sync to the SL-150. This was much better but still casting a bit too much shadow so we simply dialed down the SL-150 until it was right where we wanted it.
For a flash that is only supposed to be 150ws, the SL-150 is certainly quite capable, it may not have the power of more powerful systems like even the entry level Alien Beeâ€™s 800ws lights. Indoors, the SL-150 should be a fine entry level flash kit, outdoors it may not have the wattage you may need. For the price, you just canâ€™t go wrong. If you are just starting out, consider the SL-150 to begin building your lit kit.
Now go out and start shooting!