Einstein or Elinchrom?

Hey guys!  Let me start of by saying that this is a blog post reflecting my thought pattern over the last few months, and is not necessarily up for debate, but I am happy to read some of your comments if you want to give me your thoughts too.  So, I’ve been chasing a mono-light for a while now.  It is an off-camera flash that is a lot more powerful than my little AA-battery operated flashes, and is predominantly used for lighting big objects or in brighter light.  Your options for studio lights consist of monolights and pack-and-head systems.  Monolights have all the guts inside the head/flash – but can be connected to a battery for location power.  A pack-and-head system consists of a flash head (usually a little smaller, lighter and in some cases, more powerful), and a pack.  The pack can be a battery or require a connection to the wall.  The pack controls all of the power settings etc and distributes the current to the flash heads connected to it to fire them.  I wanted a monoblock for convenience, ease of use and simplicity.  There were two options for me, as I am restricted by my budget.  The first, Alien Bee, made by Paul C Buff in the States.

AlienBee have offered great bang-for-buck lights in the past and have a huge following, but they are not without whingers too.  The pros:

They are cheap

They are powerful (B1600 = 640ws ~8x more powerful than my little flashes)

They are now shipped to Australia and the distributer, Colin, is a great bloke.  Paul Buff has probably the best customer service in the industry.

They have cheap, and a good range of modifiers.

To have the above, some sacrifices must be made – these include:

Flash duration – they time it takes for the flash to discharge – is not the quickest.  It does increase as you stop down in power.  This is useful for ‘freezing’ action

Colour consistency – as you power down, the colour temperature of the strobe changes – this can be problisome if you are mixing lights/power ratios etc and need accurate colour.  Some of this can be corrected in post – and some of it is really not that applicable at all

Exposure can vary from pop to pop

Build quality – though they are built pretty-darn well (better than some 3rd party lenses, that’s for sure!), they are not designed to be knocked about like the Profoto’s et. al.

Flash power is controlled by a slider – you don’t have EXACT power output options

Elinchrom, the BXRi500 to be specific, was going to be my other choice.  The pros:

They have a fast duration of flash

They are colour balanced and consistent – exposure is consistent too

They are built a bit better than the AlienBees

The cons:

They are more expensive

Everything else is ridiculously expensive – e.g. replacement parts, modifiers, batteries

(Obviously, both lights/systems have more pro’s/con’s but this is what I looked at the most – you can get spec sheets off both manufacturers websites)

So I was stuck in a little dillema.  What to do?  Until… the Einstein was announced and it is coming to save the day!  The Einstein is the new type of light released by Paul C Buff and is designed to combat the complaints about some of the other AlienBees.  It has a ridiculously fast flash duration (especially in Action mode), it is colour and exposure consistent, it is built well (I played with one on the weekend), it has 1/10th of a stop control over power, all digital with an LCD and everything else I would want.  It is the most versatile flash available – it can go from 640ws of power, down to about 2.5ws – that’s a lot better than anything else!  I can power it from approx 8x flash units to 1/32nd of a flash unit!  Finally, the Einstein has a ridiculously powerful modelling lamp, so for someone learning like me, that will provide a much more accurate and obvious visual of what my light is doing before it fires.

Basically, it compares up to everything else offered at the same level, and provides even more.  There really is no other flash like it in this power range, and especially at this price-point.  I still wasn’t sure if I wanted an Einstein or a BXRi500.  But after much research, this is what put me off the BXRi500 and made me choose the Einstein.

1) I can’t buy a BXRi500 on it’s own – they are mainly sold in packs of two with stands/modifiers/etc etc (okay okay, you can buy 1, but it’s way overpriced as a single) – but I don’t want 2… I only want 1.  And what if I got 2, and wanted another?  Do I keep buying pairs of them?  It seems silly!

2) Elinchrom are made in Sweden and I would be dealing with a distributor i.e. Kayell all the time – the Einstein is made in the States and I would be dealing with Colin – who is a great guy who I already know – and I’ve seen the service he provides and I want to support him, and Paul Buff for making the move into the international market – it’s great for us Aussies who struggle for variety in every market!

3)  I got the Vagabond II portable battery to run the Einstein (it could also run the BXRi500 too).  The Einstein is 95-240 V so I can plug it in the wall if I want

4)  The Einstein will take a few weeks before it’s available over here, so Colin has given me a B1600 (same power as the Einstein) to play with until then – free of charge!

5)  I already have CyberSync transmitter/receivers for my small flashes, so the system is fully compatible without me purchasing any more triggers/receivers

6)  I can practice with all sorts of affordable modifiers until I KNOW them – the quality of everything might not be AS good, but I’m not sure if anyone can notice – certainly not any non-photographers!

7)  I have bought only 1 strobe – therefore, if I want to buy more in future, I don’t have a massive investment in the system, and can either get more Einstein (if I want them), or change system and only need to sell the Einstein – which will probably be pretty easy in Australia as there won’t be that many for sale on the 2nd hand market – and I can keep my Vagabond as portable power for my next units

8)  The fact of the matter is, I can now learn even more without going crazy on my budget.  At the end of the day, I’m not a working photographer (yet) and if I ever need to change or add something, I can (or I could rent if I really needed to!).

9) The final nail the Elinchrom coffin (for now, at least), was the fact that Elinchrom units have a 7mm umbrella shaft.  The industry standard is 8.  You know how useful my 8mm industry standard umbrellas and Westcot Softboxes are with the Elinchrom range?  About as useful as an oil-spill in the gulf to a pelican (too soon?)

Here are my latest modifiers.  My 2 Westcot Apollo softboxes – 1 x 28″ and 1 x 50″ (big Mamma).  Check out the light from these guys – it’s like gorgeous window light!  Excuse the photos from inside my tiny apartment, and I didn’t have a helper. The great thing about these sofboxes is that they fold down like umbrellas and are extremely portable. Sure they aren’t as strong – but I take care of my stuff, so they should last a while!

(28″ folded)

(28″ folded, next to the 50″ folded)

(28″ setup – perfect for singles and when you want control over the light)

(The 50″ setup in front of the 28″ – perfect for groups or when you need a large light source)

(Me standing next to the 28″, but being lit by the 50″ – it’s like standing in front of a giant window – the light is so soft and wraps around you!)

(So you can see how big 50″ really is!)

The B1600 is plenty powerful – which is good, because it means my Einstein will be too!  At full power, in a big softbox, I can get 250th/F32 about 1 meter away @ ISO200.  I only need F16 to overpower a bright, bright sun.  That’s 2 extra stops of light that will allow me wiggle room and wider compositions in the middle of the day – but I don’t like sweating too much, so hopefully I don’t need to shoot in the middle of the day too often.

(With a softbox – the 28″ I think it was – F22 – I have another one with the B1600 on full and I have F32 – but I have a bit too much head-tilt going on, so I didn’t upload it)

(No softbox, just the 8.5″ high output reflector about 2m away – not sure the power setting, but probably either full or half)

Basically, the point to the post was to let everyone know how excited I am to have some more toys (part birthday, part tax return) to play with and how excited I am to be able to use a Monoblock whenever I want! I occasionally hit the upper end that my speedlights can handle, so it’s good to have a more versatile system. And finally, I plan to include setup shots and/or details of all (most hopefully) of the shots I post, in an attempt to appeal to like-minded bloggers and hopefully teach some other amateurs while I learn as well.

Thanks for reading – I hope you’re as excited as I am. More to come…

3 Replies to “Einstein or Elinchrom?”

  1. good post! yes I did read it 🙂

  2. Hi,
    very nice review ! I am also hesitating between the two…

    But elinchrom are made in Switzerland (well not exactly, in India to be precise but thought the Swiss way lol ?)

    Another thing is the 7mm umbrella shaft. The industry standard WAS 7mm BUT then Chinese came in (and you may or may not have noticed the all have the bowens mount and the 8mm shaft) and so more and more manufactures went to 8mm (don’t ask me why).

    I have one major problem, I really don’t like those softboxes…They really look cheap and too floppy but that’s really the only down side.

    Thanks again for you review !

    1. Hi Menel,
      Thanks for the input! It looks like you’re in Manchester – so you aren’t too far from Switzerland and probably good support with Elinchrom – but I know the Alien Bee line has just arrived in the UK so it could work out well for you too. Yeah that 8mm vs 7mm seems like a bit of a myth to me – not sure why there HAS to be a difference.
      With regards to the softboxes – they are designed to be extremely portable, more so than a monoblock – so they can work with hotshoe flashes – which is great! They also don’t require any additional mounts or brackets with hot shoe flashes – there really is nothing else like them on the market (except the lastolite ezybox, I think).
      I haven’t been able to test the durability of them, but I will definitely post here if I get a chance.

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