Ok, let ‘s start this off with a few disclaimers here. First, hell is not freezing over, pigs are not flying, and the world is not coming to an end, although many of you may think so since I am going to be talking about some studio lights rather than speedlites. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE speedlites! The small size, battery powered, ultra portable boxes of magic that they are just brings a smile to my face. However, speedlites, for all their goodness, are lacking in one very particular area….raw power! When you need just pure lighting horsepower, no speedlite can match a good quality monolight. As Tim Allen would say “More Power! arr arr arr!!”. I was first introduced to Multiblitz studio lights at the 2012 WPPI show and instantly fell in love with their lighting kits. The good folks over at Multiblitz were kind enough to send over a kit for me to review and to use for some upcoming lighting tutorials.
At First Glance
I am one of the last people to get excited over something as general as a monolight, even so, I walk around, get the pitch from different vendors and then move on. Multiblitz stopped me dead in my tracks, by the end of the show I had dragged half a dozen people to their booth to see if I was crazy or if they actually had something worth being that impressed by…the later being the final decision. First off, the Multiblitz studio lighting products are made in Germany and they feel like it. The monolights are solid, well built, and have a nice industrial design. The buttons on the rear are solid and have LED indicators. The power control is a digital control that, instead of setting a fraction of full power like 1/4, 1/2. etc) it goes from 1 – 5 stops (in 1/10 stop increments) which I think is much more intuitive for an experienced photographer (Deb..turn that light down 1/2 a stop please). There are a number of other interesting features built-in, but I will get to those during the rest of the article.
The specs below tell most of the story and I have already mentioned some of the features above as well so let’s take a tour around the back of the strobe head and see what all it does. Starting on the top left is the Slave Cell. In my studio tests this worked flawlessly but I would have preferred to see it on top where it would be more likely to pick up a remote flash in less than ideal conditions. The next item is the Test button which simply fires the flash at the current setting.
The next button toggles the ready beep on/off. The button at the bottom will switch the modeling light into full power while the one to the left of it will switch the modeling light into proportional mode which changes as you adjust the flash output power. The next button to the right is the power on/off button. The last button is the Slave Mode On/Off toggle while the middle of the panel is occupied by the power output dial.
|Flash Power||250 Ws||500 Ws|
|Guide Number 2 m
ISO 100, Reflector FILNOS/50°
|Control Range - F-stops
(In 1/10 power increments)
|Recycle Time (Seconds)||P 1/16 = 0.1
P 1/1 = 0.9
|P 1/16 = 0.5
P 1/1 = 1.7
|Color Temperature(Max Output)||5,500°K +/- 150°|
|Flash Triggering||Slave Cell, Sync Cable, Test Button, InfraRed, Radio (Sold Separately)|
|Dimensions||12.8″ x 4.9″ x 7.5″|
The Quick Start Guide contains a rather interesting start-up procedure that I haven’t seen on any flash unit before. After speaking to the guys at Multiblitz, they tell me that all flashes should go through this process (when not used for more than 3 months) for maximum efficiency although through regular operation they will eventually come up to full power. Leave it to the Germans to document it and help get you to maximum output right out of the gate.
FORMATION OF FLASH CAPACITORS
It’s just precaution if the unit is in stock for a longer period of time
- Connect the supplied power cable to a power outlet and power up the unit.
- Increase the energy output in 15 min. intervals over the five f-stop range (1.0 – 5.0).
- Do NOT fire any flashes during the formation process!!!
- Leave the unit set to full energy (1/1) for about one hour.
Formation of the flash capacitor is completed after one hour and the unit is ready for use.
After the formation process I setup a quick setup in the studio and plugged in a wireless radio receiver I had laying around and grabbed a light meter to get the exposure dialed in.
With the 500ws head as the key light, I am really glad I grabbed a light meter because I would not have guessed just how bright these lights are. Even at the lowest power setting I had to really move the lights back and then still had to use a rather small aperture to get the light down enough. At a 4′ distance with ISO 100, and the power setting on 1.0 I had to go down to f/16 to get the right exposure.
Do you really need this kind of power? Well, this is a tough question. I used to use only studio strobes that were rated at 200ws and I used those for several years. Later on I switched to speedlites for their portability, ease of setup, and battery powered operation. When I needed more light, I simply added more speedlites. The downside of this is when you want to use certain modifiers, Trying to deal with certain modifiers and a large clump of speedlites can be a serious pain in the ass. Having a single powerful monolight can actually be easier to setup and save time over a more complicated speedlite setup.
Who Is It For
This kit is most certainly geared towards a photographer who does a lot of location shoots such as family portraits in people’s homes. For me, this is a perfect kit as I travel around and do seminars, workshops, and speaking engagements.
The backpack kit normally comes with two 250ws heads ($1,299) while mine had an upgrade to one 250ws and one 500ws head (about $150 extra).
While you can certainly put together a nice Strobelite Plus for about half the price, you are also getting about one third of the amount of light. The Multiblitz lights are simply not designed, nor priced, for your typical hobbyist, student, or enthusiast. These are professional quality lights designed for constant use in a professional environment.
Price-wise the Profilux lights sit right on par with Elinchrom and Bowens. This puts them a little more expensive than Alien Bees but a lot less expensive than Profoto. Given that I rate the quality and features as good or better than Elinchrom or Bowens I have to say the Multiblitz lights are an excellent value for the price.
The Final Verdict
Look, I know it seems like a pretty trivial thing that the dial controls the output in stops versus a fraction of full power but to me this simply makes sense. I don’t have to even think about my lighting ratios now. Let’s say I am doing a fairly dramatic portrait setup so I want a 1.5 stop difference between the highlights and the shadows. Once I get my key light setup, at 2.5 as an example, I then dial the fill light down 1.5 stops down to 1.0 and I have my lighting ratio.
Is it SOOOO much harder to use power fractions? Not really, but let’s imagine our key light is at 3/4 power, not too many people can quickly calculate what setting you would need to be at to go 1.5 stops lower. Is this a true game changer? No…but it is most certainly a big convenience factor.
The Profilux lights are not all bubble gum and roses either. If there is one thing I would change it would be for them to use a standard accessory mount. While they use a 4 prong bayonet style, it is their own design so a good amount of my existing modifiers will not work unless you purchase an adapter which is available for only $50 from Multiblitz. If I had a huge investment in softboxes, this would likely be a source of frustration. However, my favorite modifiers are the Westcott Apollo, Halo, and Parabolic umbrellas which work beautifully with the Multiblitz Profilux lights. I wish all lighting companies would standardize on one mount style.
One last thing worth mentioning is that Multiblitz provides a 3 year limited warranty on their products.
The Multibltiz Profilux are quality, professional lights that will perform exactly how you need them to with every shot.