This brief article is really aimed at users of Elinchrom strobes, but the principle is good for any brand. Photography technology is very competitive. just like the once popular Blackberry got left in the dust by the iPhone and the Android, Elinchrom was in danger of losing market share to Profoto. One of the main reasons was the capability of Profoto to use high speed sync, allowing for shutter speeds up to 1/8000th of a second and quick refresh rates so photos could be taken quickly in sequence and even a strobo mode that lets you fire many times per second and capture movement. A pretty impressive list.
Of course, the Swiss are not known for technical incompetence, so they have matched the competition with their new HD series and have also matched the high power output of Profoto by releasing a 1000 watt-second strobe. It offers even quicker refresh rates than Profoto, as well as matching features like shutter speed and strobo mode. Regardless of the brand you use, very likely you will note a marching of technology that will offer you greater and greater control over lighting.
At 1/8000th of a second (or any very high speed) the ambient light becomes quite negligible as a factor in a photograph. Only the flash will determine the exposure and lighting. If you like the natural light and just want to modify or fill it a bit, use a long enough exposure to capture ambient light. Obviously, at very high speeds, motion is stopped. A high resolution camera and lens can sometimes benefit from this ability to eliminate motion blur. A 1/600th of a second exposure is very fast and adequate to stop most action.
The Elinchrom EL-Skyport Transmitter Plus HS (for Canon in my case) is required to make high speed sync a reality. It works with Elinchrom heads new or old, though the new HD heads have greater capabilities. You’ll want to spend some time with the manual for this unit. It will work right out of the box, but you can get the most out of the tool if you learn how to use the features, just like you had to learn the features of your camera body. You do have to select the HS sync mode, or else the unit will take a manual setting as fast as 1/8000th and actually shoot at 1/200th in order to get a picture that has no curtain. It can apply some automatic correction even though the camera is in manual mode.
So Elinchrom users can stop a splash of water, freeze water droplets in midair and so on just like those with new Profoto heads. Profoto is a great brand with many advantageous options, but if you own Elinchrom already, this is an inexpensive alternative to a complete change of lighting. Given that every brand has its own speedrings to attach modifiers, transmitters and so on, it saves a great deal to get the needed functionality out of existing equipment. And for a brief time, you can feel a bit superior in that the refresh rates on the Elinchrom are terrific. Their HD head is unsurpassed.
Any brand will likely have a similar story. My Android phone has a better battery than an iPhone and a bigger screen and a slightly faster processor and so on. But the next generation will always bring some advantage or other to a particular brand. They hope you will buy them over and over chasing “the best”. But generally, if it works and serves you well, you can go about 2 years with a phone before making a genuine upgrade.
With strobes, I think you can go much longer than that. With all the major aspects covered, you can get just as good a picture as with any new strobe. Built in batteries are nice, but my inverter has excellent power and recycle rates so I can do a long day’s shoot and it is no problem. So save some cash and upgrade your Elinchrom system by purchasing the EL-Skyport Transmitter Plus HS.