Elinchrom Quadra ELB 400

Elinchrom con­tin­ues to re­fine its por­ta­ble stu­dio flash prod­ucts, and the latest Quadra bat­tery-pow­ered lo­ca­tion pack is the most com­pact and ca­pa­ble yet.


The latest in­car­na­tion of Elinchrom’s Quadra on-lo­ca­tion flash pack is smaller and lighter, but at no loss of flash power or ca­pa­bil­i­ties.

AN IN­DI­CA­TION OF JUST HOW FAR the de­vel­op­ment of bat­tery-pow­ered stu­dio flash packs has come is to com­pare Elinchrom’s orig­i­nal Ranger por­ta­ble mod­els with the latest ver­sion of its Quadra com­pacts. The size dif­fer­ence is very sig­nif­i­cant, as is the weight – even com­pared to the first in­car­na­tion of the Quadra, shav­ing off in the order of a kilo­gram – yet the Quadra ELB 400 still de­liv­ers up to 424 joules of flash power.

This rep­re­sents a pretty ap­peal­ing com­bi­na­tion of porta­bil­ity and flash power, not to men­tion the var­i­ous en­hanced ca­pa­bil­i­ties that Elinchrom has given the ELB 400 and which are de­signed to in­crease its versatility when shoot­ing, par­tic­u­larly in out­door lo­ca­tions. As per the orig­i­nal Ranger phi­los­o­phy, the ELB 400 has a ruggedised de­sign, in­clud­ing very sub­stan­tial rub­berised bumpers along all ex­posed edges, a mem­brane-cov­ered con­trol panel, and stop­pers for the flash head out­lets, sync cable con­nec­tion and mi­cro-USB port. With the bat­tery pack fit­ted, the unit’s to­tal weight is still a very man­age­able two kilo­grams, while the Quadra heads weigh in at a mere 280 grams. A two-head kit is avail­able with its own cus­tom hard­case (soft bag op­tions are avail­able) and the pleas­ant sur­prise is just how easy this is to carry around even over quite long dis­tances… no need to go into train­ing be­fore­hand.

The bat­tery it­self is a 14.4 volts lithium-ion pack (thank­fully gel cels are be­ing con­signed to his­tory) with an im­proved ca­pac­ity which now gives up to 350 flashes at full power. If you’re us­ing a lower out­put this num­ber now climbs into the thou­sands. Lithi­u­mion also al­lows for faster recharg­ing… now just 90 min­utes for a full tank. The bat­tery unit clips quickly and eas­ily to the base of the flash pack so if you are on a long shoot, the in­ter­rup­tion while chang­ing packs is min­i­mal. The head kit in­cludes a spare bat­tery.

Power Play

The ELB 400 has two flash head out­lets with 2:1 asym­met­ri­cal power dis­tri­bu­tion. The flash power can be wound down all the way from 424 joules down to just 21 joules across the two out­lets – or 14 from Out­let A and just seven at Out­let B.

When the Quadra Ac­tion head is used, the short­est flash du­ra­tion is 1/2800 sec­ond at max­i­mum power us­ing Out­let A, but 1/4000 sec­ond when us­ing two heads. It’s even shorter – at 1/5700 sec­ond – when us­ing just Out­let B’s max power (i.e. 140 joules). Re­cy­cle times can be as short as 0.17 sec­onds. Ex­po­sure and colour bal­ance sta­bil­ity are ex­cel­lent across the full power range.

Clearly Elinchrom has Pro­foto’s B2 in its sights here, giving the ELB 400 sim­i­lar sport­ing cre­den­tials for shoot­ing fast-mov­ing sub­jects. Auto dump­ing means lower power set­tings are re-ad­justed vir­tu­ally in­stan­ta­neously. There’s a new, con­trastier OLED-type dis­play panel which in­cludes a six-

stage level in­di­ca­tor for bat­tery power, but con­ve­niently the bat­ter­ies also have their own LED-type ca­pac­ity in­di­ca­tors so this can still be checked when they’re off the pack. De­spite the in­creased ca­pac­ity, ob­vi­ously bat­tery power is still pre­cious so there are a num­ber of man­age­ment op­tions for set­ting stand-by and auto switch-off de­lays, the mod­el­ling lamps in the heads and the recycling time. A handy ‘Sta­tis­tics’ dis­play op­tion shows the flash count (for mon­i­tor­ing tube life) and pack’s to­tal run­ning time.

Op­er­a­tions are per­formed en­tirely via push-but­tons with eas­ier-to-nav­i­gate menus, and the ELB 400 also gets a new set of flash modes – strobo (from one to ten flashes per sec­ond for up to five sec­onds), se­quence (up to 20 units) and de­lay (i.e. for sec­ond cur­tain sync). The stan­dard cable and pho­to­cell sync op­tions are pro­vided (the lat­ter ad­justable for pre­flash­ing), but ad­di­tion­ally Elinchrom’s EL-Sky­port ra­dio fre­quency re­ceiver is built-in and pro­vides up to 20 chan­nels in four groups. The ELB 400 is sup­plied with an EL-Sky­port Speed RF trans­mit­ter, which also al­lows for the re­mote con­trol of power set­tings. Im­por­tantly, the built-in re­ceiver is com­pat­i­ble with the next-gen EL-Sky­port Trans­mit­ter Plus which has an ex­tended range of 200 me­tres, much-im­proved con­trol­la­bil­ity, a tilt/swivel head and uses stan­dard AA-size bat­ter­ies (this trans­mit­ter is sup­plied in some of the kit op­tions of­fered by dis­trib­u­tor Kayell Aus­tralia).

Heads Up

As noted ear­lier, the Quadra flash heads are re­mark­able for their light­ness of weight, and this is par­tially achieved by re­plac­ing the con­ven­tional halo­gen mod­el­ling lamp with an LED source. Rated at 20 watts, this is the equiv­a­lent of a 50 watts halo­gen lamp and its run­ning time can be pre­set from the pack for du­ra­tions of one to 60 sec­onds (the de­fault is 15 sec­onds) or, more con­ve­niently in some sit­u­a­tions, left on con­tin­u­ously.

Flash tubes are user-re­place­able and here there’s the choice of a stan­dard Quadra Pro head or the Ac­tion head, which has a fully-cir­cu­lar tube for shorter flash du­ra­tions up to 1/2800 sec­ond at full power. The Ac­tion head is not just for high-speed ap­pli­ca­tions, it works with the latest leaf-shut­ter lenses in dig­i­tal medium cam­era sys­tems which al­low for flash sync at speeds of up to 1/1600 (Phase One) or 1/2000 sec­ond (Has­sel­blad).

The Quadra heads have a shal­low bay­o­net-fit re­flec­tor dish which, in turn, can be fit­ted with a clip-on dif­fuser (that also dou­bles as a pro­tec­tive cover). Al­ter­na­tively, an adap­tor ring – which also in­cor­po­rates a re­flec­tor – can be fit­ted to pro­vide com­pat­i­bil­ity with Elinchrom’s stan­dard range of light­shap­ing ac­ces­sories.

The Ver­dict

While the ELB 400 is smaller, lighter and faster than its pre­de­ces­sors, it’s still more of a dual-pur­pose unit than, say, the Pro­foto B2. While the lat­ter of­fers the dis­tinct ad­van­tage of TTL ex­po­sure con­trol, it’s pri­mar­ily de­signed for the great out­doors and, more specif­i­cally, shoot­ing ac­tion with very short flash du­ra­tions. Thanks to its higher power (and hence wider out­put range) and in­creased bat­tery ca­pac­ity, the Elinchrom pack works equally as well on lo­ca­tion or in the stu­dio. The ca­pac­ity to fit stan­dard ac­ces­sories also helps in the lat­ter sit­u­a­tion while, in ad­di­tion to the sheer porta­bil­ity, the avail­abil­ity of ex­ten­sion ca­bles (up to ten me­tres in length) fur­ther in­creases its po­ten­tial versatility in the for­mer. The pric­ing is also com­pet­i­tive.

Pro­foto is cur­rently the big deal in this sec­tor be­cause of the sheer con­ve­nience of hav­ing TTL ex­po­sure con­trol, but the Elinchrom ELB 400 still rep­re­sents a vi­able al­ter­na­tive to both the B1 and B2. It’s much more pow­er­ful than the B2 and more flex­i­ble in a multi-light set-up than a pair of monobloc-style B1s. It’s also very easy to use with a re­al­is­tic bat­tery life, fast flash du­ra­tions at use­ful power lev­els, and con­ve­nience fea­tures like be­ing able to run the mod­el­ling lamps for as long as they’re needed. As a highly ca­pa­ble all-rounder in por­ta­ble pro­fes­sional light­ing, the Elinchrom ELB 400 is hard to beat.

The ELB 400 pack is more com­pact than that of the ear­lier Quadra models and a whole kilo­gram lighter.

Asym­met­ric power dis­tri­bu­tion is pro­vided across the two flash head out­lets. Pro­tec­tive stop­pers now sim­ply push-in rather than screw.

The con­trol panel has been re­designed along with the menus and a new OLED-type dis­play screen.

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