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Review: Elinchrom 500/500 BXRi To Go Light Kit

by Travis Lawton on 02/01/2012

Product Shot Example 1

Product Shot Example 1

A few months ago I reviewed photographer Scott Kelby’s newest book, Light It, Shoot It, Retouch It. Mr. Kelby loves to use Elinchrom lighting gear which is evident by watching any of his videos or viewing his behind-the-scenes images. He’s even gone as far as to create special Light It, Shoot It, Retouch It Lighting kits that consist of Elinchrom BX 500 Ri monolights and light modifiers. In this post, we review the Elinchrom 500/500 BXRi To Go Kit that consists of everything you need to get started in studio lighting photography.

 

Tech Specs

Maximum Watt/Seconds 500 x2
Guide Number f/90 @ 1m @ISO 100, 1/250, with 48° Reflector
Recycle Time 115V:1.45 sec @ full power, 0.34 sec @ min power
230V:1.13 sec @ full power, 0.36 sec @ min power
Flash Duration 1/1558 sec.
Flash Variability 5 f/stops: 31 – 500 Ws
User Replaceable Flashtube Yes
Changeable Reflector Yes
Modeling Light Wattage 100W
Voltage Stabilization Yes, +/- .5%
Flash Ready Indicator Ready Light/Open Flash, Switchable Audible Beep
Operating Voltage 90-260VAC, 50/60Hz
Sync Voltage 5VDC
Built-in Slave Cell Yes
Circuit Protection 2.5A AGC Modeling Lamp Fuse, 8A AGC Flashtube Fuse
Fan Cooled Yes
Auto Dump Yes
Dimensions Each light: 10.24 x 7.5 x 5.5″ (26 x 19 x 14 cm)
Weight Each light: 4.5 lbs (2 kg)

 Design

Lightstand And Kit Cases

Lightstand And Kit Cases

If I had to choose one thing about this kit that I love it would be the overall size. I was blown away by the size of this kit. Everything fits into two very small, light, shoulder strap equipped, carrying cases. When I say everything, I’m talking about two 500 watt monolights, two power cables, two speed rings, two soft boxes, two Manfrotto light stands, Skyport wireless trigger, and sync cables for non-wireless triggering.

The monolights, soft boxes and miscellaneous items go in a custom, Elinchrom hard-shelled case. The light stands go in a separate custom case.

Transportation for on-location shooting is a dream with this kit. Normal camera pack on your back, then one case slung over each shoulder and you’re good to go.

Elinchrom 2x 500 BXRi Strobes

Elinchrom 2x 500 BXRi Strobes

The monolights themselves are nicely made. The size and form factor is typically for a monolight. One special note; even though these lights are just like most other monolights and have a fan built in to cool them off, they are almost dead silent while running.

Controls

Controls

Controls on each light give you several high-end abilities. Buttons to increase/decrease the flash power, increase/decrease the modeling light brightness, modeling light on/off, ready charge audible beep, photocell trigger on/off, and test fire. One of the biggest unseen features in the built-in wireless trigger using Elinchrom’s Skyport wireless triggers. The kit includes the hotshoe Skyport model to attach to your camera to trigger the flashes. Of special note about this Skyport is the ability to increase or decrease the strobes power output directly from the hot shoe module.

Skyport Hotshoe Module

Skyport Hotshoe Module

The ability to change the power remotely might sound silly but if you’ve shot enough to understand not having to walk over to each strobe to change the power setting is a big deal. Think about when doing initial test shots for a shoot; you might have to walk over to each strobe and change the power several times before you nail the lighting. To be able to do this without moving is quite nice.

Soft Box Inside

Soft Box Inside

The included soft boxes are simple collapsible, silver-lined, speed ring style soft boxes with a single diffusion panel. These are where my biggest issues with this kit lie. Although the construction of these soft boxes are top notch, the single diffusion panel on them doesn’t seem to diffuse the light as much as I would like. The light coming from them tends to create more shadows from your subject than I prefer. If I were to be keeping this kit, I would probably have to replace the included light modifiers with something else.

Usage

Product Photography Setup

Product Photography Setup

As mentioned above, it is so nice how small the overall size of the kit is while packed up. I used the kit for a client shoot in their home and to be able to take just one trip from the car to their house was very nice and even felt more professional. This instead of making multiple trips to carry in loads of gear that can overwhelm a client by seeing how much is needed for their shoot.

Using this kit starts from setup which is a refreshing breeze. From 2 unsuspecting small cases, to fully setup and ready to shoot can be accomplished in about 10 minutes. The hardest part is putting together the soft boxes but that is typical of most speed ring style light modifiers.

Once set up, everything else runs just as smoothly.

Product Shot Example 2

Product Shot Example 2

The Skyport wireless trigger system worked right out of the box without any frequency configuration. That includes being able to remotely change the power output of the strobes and modeling lights for different groups of lights. Again, to be able to change power output of your lights without moving from your shooting position or having an assistant do that that for you is a huge advantage.

During the entire time I had this kit, the Skyport system never misfired one me one time. Most wireless trigger systems, no matter how much they cost, will have some misfires.

Product Shot Example 3

Product Shot Example 3

I also found nothing really to complain about in terms of the quality of light this kit outputs. White balance required only minor tweaks in post and with the ability to pump out 500 watt/seconds of power times 2 strobes, you’ll have plenty of light when you need it.

Changing power by default goes in steps of 1/10 of a stop. Sometimes this small change is annoying when a change of several stops is needed however you can change this setting to go in 2/10, 3/10, 4/10, 5/10, and full stops at a time. One note about the ability to wireless change power output; there is no LCD display on the hotshoe module so there is no way to see exactly what the power output is on your lights. This can come into play when the back of the lights are out of your line of sight.

Self Portrait

Self Portrait - One strobe facing the mirror and one behind me face straight up for rim light. No soft boxes.

The included soft boxes just don’t have the diffused light that I wish they had. That would really propel this kit to the next level of recommendation. I found myself missing the light from the recently reviewed Photogenic soft box and unfortunately, the speed ring sizes were different.

Conclusion

When first getting into studio lighting, there are two paths you can choose. The first is to purchase the gear little by little and slowly build your kit up. The other way is to wait a little longer and save up to purchase a kit that will have everything you want. Personally, I went the first path but if I had to go back and do it again I would choose the second.

Purchasing a complete kit gives you several advantages over buying individually. One of the biggest would be knowing that everything will play nice together right out of the box. Oddly enough, I had a reader email me with questions about what kit he should buy with the budget he had which happen to be right around what this kit cost. I responded to him with a very strong recommendation for this kit.

The Elinchrom 500/500 BXRi To Go Kit is a perfect kit for someone looking to purchase their first lighting kit. It won’t destroy your bank account while giving you many of the features only available on much higher gear. Things like compact design and transportation cases, wireless, wired, and optical triggers, wireless power output control, audible beep to signify flash ready, and many more. Although the included soft boxes aren’t my favorite, I still strongly put this kit into my recommendation group.

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