Review: Tronix Explorer XT Portable Power Source
Studio strobes are expensive and when you need lots of light but when you want to use them on location somewhere you have to find electrical outlets and possibly use long unwieldy extensions cords. But what happens when there is no power available at all? Using a generator is not recommended unless you can find one with a true sine wave inverter and even then, the peak times of the strobes when recycling can put an excessive strain on the generator. Innovatronix has a solution with their Explorer XT portable power source.
I often see posts in different forums from people trying to figure out how to provide remote power for on-location shooting. I have seen everything from picnic coolers full of electronics to generators with expensive inverters strapped on. or the cost of building one of these picnic cooler power packs and your time to buy all the parts and assemble it, you are just as well off to spend the $349 for the Explorer XT and have a professionally built package that you know is going to work well.
The Explorer XT is rated at 350 watts of continuous power and 1200watts peak power. For studio strobes this can handle up to 2400ws. The Explorer XT is designed as a portable power source for most flash and power pack units to be used on location, away from available power.
The Explorer XT is equipped with two (2) 12V, 7Ah sealed lead acid batteries, with an auto volt-charging feature which accepts 100-240V. It also has a 14V car battery charging where an internal circuit converts the 12V/14V source to a 24V. It also has an auxiliary battery port, allowing the user to connect another battery in case you need extended battery life. Battery power level indicators with beeper and charging indicators allow you to monitor power consumption and charging status.
The Explorer XT comes with a handy carrying bag to make hauling it around easier. The bag opens on both ends to allow access to all of the ports without removing it from the bag.
- Power Output: 350 watts (continuous)/ 1200watts (peak)
- Number of output sockets: 2
- Battery: Two (2) 12Vdc, 7AH SLA provision for external battery pack
- Charging Voltage Input: 100V-240V / 14Vdc (car battery charger)
- Charger: Built-in
- Weight: 8.5 kg (18 lbs)
- Dimensions: 14.5″ x 5.5″ x 7″
- Available Models: 115V/60Hz (North American, Japan) 230V/50 Hz (EU, Asia-Pacific, Middle East
What setup? You take it out of the shipping container and its ready to go. The only thing you need to do is keep it charged up. According to the instructions, you should keep in plugged in even when not in use, this will keep the lead acid batteries in optimum condition as well as always being ready for use. This was a concern of mine since a fan is running and even though the instructions say it will use a trickle charge, I wanted to know how much power draw it was really taking. Using a Kill-A-Watt to measure to power draw I found that while the system is charging (charge light is blinking) was 80 watts, wow, that would be pricey to have plugged in all the time. However, as soon as the system hit a full charge (charging light went solid) then the power draw dropped to only 6 watts, now that’s more like it as I have numerous electronics around the house that use more than 6 watts when in standby mode so keeping the Explorer XT plugged in all the time.
The Explorer XT is designed to be dead-simple to use. Just turn it on and plug in your devices and use them like normal. The Explorer XT has two outlets on the front that output clean power from the Explorer XT’s internal pure sine wave inverter. Having a top-notch pure sine wave inverter is important as it helps protect the devices that you have plugged into it. Besides just being a portable battery solution, it can also be used in between your equipment and a low-cost gas generator. At first that may not make sense, why would you need the Explorer XT if you have a generator? The issue is that low-end generators can’t handle the peak demands that studio strobe lights require and they don’t have pure sine wave inverters. By using both a generator and the Explorer XT the Explorer XT will handle the load of the strobes while the generator will work to keep the batteries charged up.
The only way to really test out the Explorer XT was to hook up some strobes and start shooting. While the unit is rated for up to 2400ws, I don’t have anything near that power, nor do I need it in my home studio. I hooked up two PhotoBasics Strobelites (150ws each) and one PhotoBasics StrobeLite Plus (200ws) for a total of 500ws and started shooting away with all three lights on full power. The Explorer XT has three charge level indicator lights, High, Mid, Low, at 225 shots the light flickered between Hi and Mid and finally went solid on Mid at 250 shots. The only difference from being plugged into the wall socket is that the recycle time dropped from four seconds to five seconds, and if I was shooting as fast as they could recycle would creep up to about six seconds. A short pause in the shooting and the recycle rate would speed up again. At 250 shots and only having drained about 1/3 of the battery charge I finally ended the test since I don’t like putting unneeded wear and tear on my lights or camera but it did show me that I can easily do most any typical shoot that I do and still have plenty of power left to also run other accessories like a blower or laptop.
I am very impressed by the performance considering the small size and relatively light weight of the unit.