Welcome back! I have an exciting blog for you this installment, and since I’ve been silent for so long I think everyone deserves it. This blog is about a NEW Light from Elinchrom, the Elinchrom ELB500ttl. Exactly as the name suggests the light is 500ws of power with TTL and High Speed Sync and for all intents and purposes its same size as the Profoto B2; but twice as powerful. (250ws for the B2, and 500ws for the Elinchrom).
Before we get into all of that though I would like to point out that at the time of this writing neither Roberts Camera or Elinchrom are paying for this blog, or review. Elinchrom sent me TWO ELB500ttl two head kits to use for 3 months to really push to their limits, and now thousands flashes later I’m posting my review. As it turns out I cannot even BUY the two kits they sent as they are stamped ‘NOT FOR SALE’, and I am in fact shipping them back in the next couple of days. (Full Disclosure, I also agreed to represent Elinchrom at a few events in my area since they had no one available during my time with the lights. Part of the reason for the length of the loan). That all said, let’s continue.
As I mentioned the ELB500ttl kit is about the same size and form factor as the Profoto B2 kits. The B2 is a fantastic kit, which actually came much later than the original Elinchrom Quadra in this form factor (which I owned about 10 years ago). The B2 can take the standard Profoto modifiers, which is admittedly really nice. With the Elinchrom ELB500 you have the same setup as you would need with a Quadra or ELB400 in that you need an Elinchrom MKII adapter to put the standard Elinchrom Modifiers on an ELB500 Head. Years ago I was annoyed by this (except then it was the MK1), and I couldn’t believe I would need an extra part. Admittedly I sold my Original first generation quadra about a year after I got it due to having broken it a number of times and it requiring repair. Turns out I was the problem with my early quadra and if it was built like the ELB500 is built I’d still have it today. With that, it is worth pointing out that the MKII adapter takes all the weight off of the head of the ELB500/400 or Quadra and puts it on the stand, which is marvelous for both the longevity of the head AND the modifiers. The MKII stand adapters base is now made of metal (as is the ELB500 head foot as well). Speaking of modifiers, Elinchroms new Speedring is amazing. Here it is inside of their 39″ Deep Octa.
The speedrings have articulating hinges, allowing a very quick setup and takedown, as well as the poles can come out to allow them to lay completely flat. All in minutes, if you know what you are doing. It admittedly took me a little longer to assemble the first time than I thought it would, but once I got the hang of it, I can take it fully disassembled with speedring out, to fully assembled in minutes. My Phottix Strip boxes are NOT anywhere near as easy, and my Phottix 39″ Deep Octa cannot lay flat no matter how much I take it apart due to the ribs between the poles. Not only is the assembly process is better, but to be honest the Elinchrom Modifiers are the best ones I have ever used. There is an intangible quality to the light that they produce. I’ve heard a lot of pros or people say, “light is light, you have to know how to shape it but modifiers are all pretty similar”. I agreed; until now. These Elinchrom modifiers have been so easy to light with, that Elinchrom is not going to get them back from me. I’ve already made arrangements to buy them when I am done. Lighting with the Elinchrom modifiers is just easy. With my Phottix, or Paul Buff octaboxes the light is consistent, but I always have to change how I feather the light depending on my subject. I feel that with the Elinchrom Octa (and squarebox) the light is so evenly distributed and diffused it’s almost impossible to light something poorly with it. Again, an intangible quality that you would have to see and try to believe. Not only that, but Elinchrom has speedings in this fashion for almost ANY mount. Bowens S Type, Profoto, Paul Buff…… all of the above so their modifiers can be used on almost ANY light.
The Pack and heads of the ELB500TTL create an almost perfect system in my opinion. This is coming from a Phottix user, but regularly I come into contact with and use Profoto B2 units, D1 and D2 units, Speedatron packs and heads, and also obviously my Phottix Indra500s. I really LOVE my Indra500 heads and packs for a number of reasons. The 500w/s is plenty of power in almost all situations. The Odin2 transmitter is flawless with the ecosystem of speedlights and big lights, and the system is expandable. The Elinchrom ELB500TTL also works inside of the Phottix ODIN2 ecosystem. With a Full Power recycle time of 1.9 seconds, and the ability to charge from 0% battery to 100% in 100 minutes (vs 3 seconds and 240 minutes for the Phottix) let’s just say that the Elinchrom stands apart from the rest. The Elinchrom is also capable of Active charging which means you can plug it in and shoot with it WHILE IT CHARGES. With my Phottix kit, I have to choose whether I am on wall power, or battery; and I would have to buy an adapter to be able to make that choice.
As you can tell from the image above the Elinchrom kit is pretty small. In fact, I found that I can fit BOTH two head kits into ONE of the supplied Elinchrom bags. You cannot fit any light stands, so you’ll have to get yourself a Tenba for that, but fitting both kits into one bag it means I can carry FOUR, 500w/s heads and two packs in a bag small enough to not require folding the seats in my car down. That includes MKII adapters, reflectors, and chargers. Whoa baby.
The Elinchrom heads are about the size of a speedlight, but are 10x more powerful. The pack is (as I said before) about the same size as the pack for a Profoto B2 which means that with that combination you can put a head on a stand, sling the pack over the shoulder of your 10 year old kid, and they can carry the thing around for you only complaining that they have to help and not that the pack/head is getting heavy. The packs are weather sealed too. READ, Not waterproof, but weather sealed meaning a little bit of rain and weather shouldn’t bother you. (Michael Clark reportedly put a pack under a waterfall and then shot with it without malfunction, but I was not there for this, OR brave enough to try such a thing myself but he was very alive when he showed me pictures of this. You can also read Michael Clarks review of the ELB500 HERE).
The Pack and head are powerful enough to overpower the sun without too much trouble, granted you wont be doing it at any great distance. The shot above was shot at full power but not a lot had to be done to the RAW file to get it to where it is. The punchline is thought that 500w/s is enough to do some serious lighting. Can you imagine what would happen if Elinchrom puts TTL and HHS with Phottix ODIN2 Control into their ELB1200?! (my wallet just trembled).
The beautiful part for me (and likely many others) is also that the Elinchrom ELB500ttl also fits perfectly into the Phottix ecosystem. The ODIN2 transmitter works with full functionality when controlling the ELB500. Each ELB500 pack can have two heads on it, and the heads can be separated into two groups on your ODIN2. One head can be TTL the other can be manual, or you can turn them on and off using your ODIN2. Plus, you can mix your Phottix gear (Indras, or Mitros+ or a speedlight controlled by ODIN2 receiver) in with the ODIN2 and ELB500 without missing a beat. This means that if you already own a bunch of Phottix gear, and are interested in the Elinchrom gear for the active charging, smaller heads and faster recycle time, you can ADD an ELB500 to your kit instead of having to part out the old one and convert everything over. The photo above has a pretty complicated description of the setup. You can find a BTS photo HERE.
Elinchrom also makes their own series of Transmitters, but the backward compatibility does not work both ways meaning they can only trigger the Elinchrom stuff. If you have an Elinchrom Skyport Pro you do have certain advantages over the ODIN2, but currently, I personally feel like the ODIN2 is the superior transmitter thanks to its ability to simultaneously control the Phottix gear and independently control both heads on each pack. The Skyport Pro currently can only control both heads per pack in a ratio which if you ask me is a bit of an oversight as I want FULL control of the heads independently from each other. That said, the Skyport does give you full 10th stop power adjustments on your ELB500 heads as well as what they call Manual Lock. Manual Lock is a feature where if you make a photo set to TTL and it comes out perfectly, you only need to switch the pack to Manual power from the Skyport. It will retain the settings from your TTL frame. Which the ODIN2 cannot do. Manual Lock is super dope. Something else that is nice with the Skyport is that when you set the ELB500 packs to different groups the color of the Menu on the pack changes so you can tell what group each is from a distance. Super nice touch.
Even though I had almost 3 months with the ELB500 packs and heads my time with the ELB500 seemed too brief. The ELB500 packs have a shot counter on them and when I received the packs they each had around 600 pops on them. Now they are almost at 4,000 each so I definitely used them while I had them. Knowing how much I used them, and what I think about them it should be obvious as to why these are now first on my shopping list for gear to buy right now. Very rarely do I review a piece of gear that I know I will miss immediately, but this is one. The power of being able to pack 4 heads and two packs into what amounts to a suitcase the size of an airline carry on is as an early 2000s MasterCard commercial would say: “Priceless”. When I will be able to get my hands on one is a whole other story, and my Phottix stuff is definitely not going on the block for sale but these ELB500s have earned an immense amount of respect in my eyes and a definite place in my kit.
The Elinchrom ELB500 is once again a product that reaffirms Elinchrom’s top place in the photo industry. When I was learning photography ALL of the photographers I admired shot with Elinchrom. Every single one. The market in the last 15 years has been flooded with incredible products from Profoto, Phottix, Broncolor, and many others; causing some shooters to jump and try new things, and you cannot blame anyone for that. The ELB500 is such an incredible light in such a small size that anybody looking for a one-stop shop should seriously consider it. Lots of folks like the Profoto B1x’s all in head design, and so do I although I find it a little top heavy when outside. My Phottix Indra500 heads can be the same way. The B2 is a great alternative for on location with the same head and pack design but 250ws is a little lacking for power in my opinion. The beautiful part of the head and pack design of the ELB500 is that the head is incredibly small getting the center of gravity very low on the stand. In fact, the pack can even be used as a sandbag or counterweight to the head making traveling with fewer sandbags possible. This really might be the most perfect light kit I’ve used to date for general photography (I haven’t used the ELB1200, but I think I’m going to find a way to try it out in the near future after this experience). I wish I could post more of the stuff I have shot with it over the last three months, but I can’t scoop any of the magazines I’ve been shooting for. They wouldn’t appreciate you seeing their cover images here before the magazines are on the stands.
So there you have it. My impressions and review of the NEW Elinchrom ELB500TTL. At the time of this writing, these units are starting to pop up available at different camera stores. If it is something you are interested in, you should give the folks at Roberts Camera a call, they definitely have some of the 1 head kits in stock the moment I wrote this, but I think the 2 head kit is by far the way to go. If you have any questions you can feel free to email me through my contact page, my Instagram, or even my facebook page. I’m happy to help. More soon.