Elinchrom Quadra Lighting kit first time out ~ pictures and behind the scenes

Aug 24, 2011 | Flash, Location | 49 comments

1. A smidgen of smoke, Holly our model for the test shoot and a Quadra flash pack down at Ladye Bay in Clevedon. The behind the scenes shots and the techniques used are detailed in the rest of the post.

My 2 ‘A’ head Quadra kit arrived on Wednesday last week and on Thursday morning I was all set to go out on my first test shoot with it. I charged both batteries in seemingly no time at all and tested the Skyport transmitter was set to the correct frequency. Photographer Andrew Jackson joined me on location. He is on my Evolve course and instigated the shoot to build his portfolio for post wedding bridal fashion shoots. I like to test new picture styles first, then plan the product offering and the customer experience in detail before rolling it out to clients once everything is ready.

2. Our shoot began at a local ancient orchard.

3. This is the shot without flash. I placed Holly in the shade, this gave me a great contrast between the lit and unlit areas when I added the light from a Quadra head in my Lastolite Ezybox.

4. Here is the behind the scenes shot showing where I placed the flash. It’s a very simple 1 light set up. Lighting with flash doesn’t get much easier than this. I set the exposure in manual mode on my Nikon D700 camera and adjusted the flash power to taste. The Skyport triggers worked without a glitch giving Andrew and I full remote control of the flash power at the touch of a button.

5. I shot this detail with this blog post in mind. Lovegrove Consulting now sell an adapter to attach a Lastolite Ezybox or Ezybox hot shoe to an Elinchrom Quadra. LC also sell the egg crate grid for the Ezybox too. Elinchrom make two heads for the Quadra, the ‘S’ head (Standard) and the ‘A’ head (Awesome?). The A head has a much faster or shorter flash duration and can easily freeze action even on full power. The difference in cost is minimal so I recommend you get the ‘A’ or awesome head kit.

6. The power set for this shot is 4 out of 6 (two stops down from full power or ¼ power.

7. I set up the next shot with the Quadra acting as a back light. The Quadra heads come with a frosted plastic removable lens and it is perfect for this kind of shot.

8. You can see my set up clearly here. I set the exposure to be normal without the flash and added the flash to taste. The sync speed with the Skyport system is 1/250th second – perfect for a shot like this.

9. The lake in the woods was our second shoot location just a few minutes walk from the ancient orchard.

10. We used the Quadra at power 5 for this shot using the Lastolite Ezybox. Still with a stop of power in hand the Quadra is a big step up from Speedlights. Speedlights are typically 55Ws and the Quadra delivers up to a whopping 400Ws. The back of the shot is in full sun and the Quadra coped really well. Far better than I expected actually. I’m used to the 1200Ws of the Bron Mobil kit and to be honest I hardly noticed the difference. Apart from the weight that is. The Quadra is so light by comparison. It uses Lithium Ion batteries rather than lead acid and this makes such a big difference.

11. Twenty minutes drive from the lake in the woods is Ladye Bay in Clevedon. It’s the perfect place to watch the sun set on a summer evening except if some photographers are letting off smoke bombs, Haha. The beach was deserted once the smoke had cleared. Seriously though it was clear before we started too. This picture was lit with a bare faced Quadra on power 5 or ½ power setting.

12. The set up shot for the picture above. Our shooting assistant for the afternoon was James Dalby, a graduate in media arts.

13. An ever so simple shot made fabulous by the light from a Quadra. Just one bare faced Quadra head set at power 5 and triggered with the new Skyport Speed trigger system.

14. With flash.

15. Without flash – dull and lifeless.

16. A scene from a science fiction film?

17. Smoke and flash make a dramatic combination.

18. Both Andrew and I shot all afternoon and we didn’t manage to exhaust the Quadra batteries. The kits we sell have two batteries and these will be more than enough for most users. James is setting off one of our smoke bombs in the back of the shot. The contrast ratio on Holly’s face is about 2:1 with the flash from the Quadra set at half power.

19. James teaches Parkour in his spare time and showed us a couple of jumps to test the freeze action of the Quadra A head. I should have been a bit lower with my camera to catch him in the clouds.

20. A behind the scenes shot showing the placement of the Quadra to illuminate James.

The Quadra kit is light, compact, powerful, convenient, easy and fun to use. Please feel free to add your comments on your experiences with the Elinchrom Quadra. The Quadra Ezybox adapter is here.

I am available for 1:1 tuition to help you develop a shoot style or show you how you can easily use flash on location.

49 Comments

  1. Clifford

    Damien,

    Excellent review and likewise with your shots!

    I just bought some Quadras along with the new Ezybox IIs. Was wondering how you gel your lights when attached to the Ezybox?

    Thanks in advance!

    Reply
    • damien

      Hi Clifford,

      I’ve never gelled a Quadra. Putting gels on flash is not an easy thing to do especially when they are inside a soft box. Big sheets of gel from Rosco or Lee come in 22″ x 24″ sizes for about £5. These could be trimmed to 55cm x 55cm (22″x22″) and taped to the front of the Ezybox I suppose. Where there is a will there is a way.

      kind regards,

      Damien.

      Reply
  2. Chris Montana

    Hi there,

    Under image 10 you mention that the Quadra uses Lithium-ion batteries. Is this correct as I thought they are Lead Gel – the Lithium-ion being released summer ’12?

    Regards

    Reply
    • damien

      Hi Chris,

      I am indeed ahead of myself. Lithium are due in very soon. Lithium batteries have to be carried in hand luggage on aircraft because they catch fire with a rapid pressure drop. I’ll be mixing lead gel cells with the new lithium ones to suit the job. Lithium has many advantages and may well last 3 years before replacement is required.

      Kindest regards, Damien.

      Reply
  3. John Harris

    Hi Damien, many thanks for your informative answer. I was interested to hear of the soft boxes you use. I did a quick search and the closest I could find was this one from Pro Kit with the 3 diffusers

    Assuming that’s the one you use I’m guessing you would favour this over the ezybox. Might you supply Chimera softboxes in the future?

    Reply
    • damien

      Hi John,

      I use a Chimera because I have speed rings for my Arri, my Lupos and my Elinchroms. I have a Video soft box because I use it with hot lights. I think these Rotalux softboxes are lighter, easier to rig and are a better option if you just use Elinchrom. My Chimera Video Pro plus softbox with grid is nearly £700 with the three speed rings. It will last me my lifetime so it is a good investment. We have a trade account with Chimera so we can indeed supply them on request.

      I hope this helps.

      Damien.

      PS: The Ezybox is amazing for the price and convenience. I like using the 55cm Ezybox when im out on location and it’s a bit windy or dirty. There is a dedicated Elinchrom adapter made for the Quadra too ;)

      Reply
  4. Jon Allen

    Hi Damien
    My question is the same as John Harris, I love the quadra but have been considering the Ranger, I would appreciate your comments.

    Reply
    • damien

      Hi Jon,

      I’ll gladly sell you a Ranger but it might be worth getting a second control pack for your Quadra kit. This gives 2 heads at 400Ws. If you need more power than that through one head then the Ranger is the way to go. It will partner up well with your Quadra as you know. If you want pricing on the second control pack Blaise will sort that out for you. We buy in two pack kits and split them to release the second pack for retail. Then we sell on the now ‘normal’ kit.

      Warmest regards,

      Damien.

      Reply
  5. John Harris

    Hi Damien thanks for your comments. I’m also looking at the Ranger RX set which has 1100w/s (similar to the Broncolor Mobils). Do you miss the power of the Brons? I seem to remember that you used to do some shots shooting directly into the sun which is probably only possible with something of the Broncolor’s power.

    Whilst the Quadra’s 400 w/s is a big step up from my SB-900s I want to make sure that the next big purchase has enough longevity to last me for a long time and cope with pretty much anything I throw at it

    Reply
    • damien

      Hi John,
      I must say the power drop wasn’t evident at the time I switched. I was expecting a 1½ stop drop in power but to my surprise I found very little drop. I use the Quadra in two ways: one is bare faced with the lightly diffused cap and the other inside my Chimera Video Plus softbox (small) with grid. In the first mode the Quadra reflector is very effecient pumping all the light forward. Contrast this to the ‘built in 60° reflector of the Bron that is anything but effecient. Yes the Bron head is compact but the reflector is not well designed so a lot of light is lost. When I’m using my Chimera is when the Quadra really shines. The highly polished reflector and the fact that the tube is right out there inside the softbox means I get a lot of light output for Ws input.

      The big difference is I only used to take my Bron out on prestigious jobs but now I take the Quadra to every job. It’s a third of the weight and so easy to carry. The batteries are really light and compact too. I’d stick with my Quadra if someone asked me to swap for a 1100 Ws Ranger. I will be adding a second control unit to use with the second battery that comes in the kit. We sell them on their own so existing Quadra owners can upgrade ;) Adding a second control unit also doubles the available power. No wires or faff as Skyport is built in and each unit can be assigned a different group and controlled from the camera independantly.

      I plan to run Quadra training days for location portraits and fashion in 2012. Customers who bought Quadra kits from us will get the workshops at a greatly reduced price. It’s one way we can add value and differentiate ourselves in the marketplace.

      I hope this helps.

      Kindest regards,

      Damien.

      Reply
  6. John Harris

    Hi Damien, this is all really interesting stuff & I’m considering purchasing a set but I’m still a little confused regarding the A versus S head pros and cons.

    There are a number of posts detailing the process of using the Quadras in high speed sync mode but this only seems possible with the S heads (an example is here … http://tombolphoto.com/blog/elinchrom-quadra-high-speed-sync-at-12500)

    Given that using HSS would seem to be useful at times and that I already own a set of TTL Pocket Wizards for Nikon, can you tell me what functionality/creative ability I would lose by buying the S heads over the A.

    Have a great Christmas
    John

    Reply
    • damien

      Hi John,

      The A heads have a faster tube making the flash duration much shorter and therefore more able to freeze action. The S head flash tube is the older one and it wouldn’t surprise me if they became phased out. They have a longer burn time and it is as a result of this that they are able to be used with a fast travelling shutter. As the shutter speed increases the effective flash exposure falls in equal measure so you are not getting something for nothing. I’ve yet to see an ‘S’ head shot that is amazing that could not be taken with an ‘A’ head with variable ND filter to limit depth of field. The A heads ability to freeze action is why I love it when shooting fashion.

      I used a Broncolor Mobil and Mobil 2 for many years and they too have long burn times. I was far too often caught out with subject movement for my liking. The A heds on my Quadra are a revelation to me.

      This is only my opinion for what it is worth.

      I hope this helps,

      Kindest regards, Damien.

      Reply
  7. Jarek Duk

    I have to admit that I wasn’t very clear in my above comment. What I’d like to point out is that Elinchrom heads are unique in the way that flush durations shortens as the power goes up. So you get the shortest flash duration at max power as opposed to all other manufacturers where you have to shoot on min power. This is the only lighting kit that lets you have best of both worlds (shortest flash duration and max power) at the same time. On any other brand you have to choose one or another. I hope that helps you decide if you were hesitating which kit to go for.

    Reply
    • damien

      Hi Jarek,

      This is all useful information. I must admit I have no problem freezing action with my RX600 heads.

      Thanks for takingh the time to comment. Kindest regards,

      Damien.

      Reply
  8. Terrence Bibb

    Damien,

    Would love to see more posts on the use of the quadra system. I am currently considering completely eliminating my profoto mono blocks as well as my Nikon sb900’s and pocket wizard system. Ease of use as well as power and portability in and out of studio.

    Any thoughts?

    Reply
    • damien

      Hi Terrence,

      As you will have noticed my Quadra came with me to Spain and is begining to play a big part in all my photography. Look out for my Studio lighting DVD due out this December that features several set ups using the Quadra both bare faced and with light modifyers.

      I hope you are well and not too cold in all those blizzards.

      Kindest regards, Damien.

      Reply
  9. Mark Dell

    I have been an avid user of the PW Flex TT5 and Mini TT1 with my 5D and have used it extensively at wedings.
    This year when we did have sun it balanced the foreground with the sun really well in a group shot – but I had to use two flash heads and most of the speedlights power.
    Must talk to Mrs D about next investment…………..

    Reply
    • damien

      Hi Mark,

      The Quadra is about 10 times the power of a Speedlight and recycles quickly too. It’s perfect for wedding groups, small, light and powerful. Get in contact if you want to try before you buy.

      Kindest regards,

      Damien.

      Reply
  10. CRAIG O'HARA

    Hey Damien. Great to see you working with the quadra which is my set up along with the deep octa. I bought a two head kit but sold one pack on which I now regret. But because you can mount the skyport on top of the mini TT1 PW and run a sync lead across I found I can operate the quadra as a key on manual, easily dialing in adjustments from camera and use two speedlights with the PW TTL as kicks or rims or whatever. Works a dream at 1/250th. Must get a ND. Lovin your work as ever.

    Reply
    • damien

      Thanks Craig,

      I didn’t think of that solution to the disabled PC socket on a Nikon when using the Mini :) Thanks for sharing. Damien.

      Reply
  11. Chris Alford

    Hello Damien I was wondering if is the elinchrom quadra now is going to be part of workhorse for your studio lights or alongside other studio lights you use like Lupo or Bowens?

    Is there fine control of power output like 1/10th stops?
    How difficult have you found the menu system on the powerpacks? Best Wishes Chris

    Reply
    • damien

      Hi Chris,
      The Quadra kit does indeed suppliment my Elinchrom studio flash heads. I will use the Quadra to provide contrast control or an effects light when I need more than the standard 5 heads. I did a job on Sunday where I used the Quadra, an Elinchrom BX500Ri and a couple of Lupo’s for the same shots. The menu is fine when you have the manual. I’m getting there now and I can do most things I need from memory.

      Kindest regards,

      Damien.

      Reply
  12. Darren Williams

    Maybe try something a little more dramatic next time. I should think grenades would do the trick!

    On a serious note, I’ll probably be using my quadras quite a bit this winter. I’d be interested in any courses you have which are wedding orientated involving the use of quadras (and maybe grenades).

    Cheers

    Reply
  13. Hamish

    yep, would love to know what smoke bombs you used? Most are totally inadequate.

    Reply
    • damien

      Hi Hamish,

      I use a 30 burn white smoke capsule from Pea Soup ltd for subtle effects in woods etc and the larger grenades from Paint Ball suppliers for the beach shots etc.

      Kindest regards,

      Damien.

      Reply
  14. Derek

    Hi D,

    Got a URL for the Smoke Bombs that you used?

    Reply
    • damien

      Hi Derek,

      I’ve used several Paint Ball suppliers over the years. I can’t remember exactly where I got these from as it was over a year ago now. All have been okay :)

      Cheers, Damien.

      Reply
  15. Helen

    slightly off subject .but relevant . On flash ( speedlight) is there any advice on how not to make your subject stand out too much from the background. I am thinking about a shot taken at the weekend at a wedding , group shots all fine ,grey sky, flash hand held with stofen/manual ( on your formula 60/f4 800) one shot made the edge figures look cut out and fringed .The next was acceptable. This was as the weather was closing quickly and changing..would aperture priority have served better? The images above with one light source and grey sky prompted the question

    Reply
    • damien

      Hi Helen,

      I’d not use ISO 800 for groups as the quality would be poor. The cut out is because the camera or subject moved during exposure. Use a tripod if you need to go down to 1/60th for groups. Then gesticulate to get everyone still. It sounds like it was way too dark to be shooting the groups outside. I also never include sky in my groups, dark backgrounds would have avoided the cut out scenario.

      My images with the Quadra are in bright conditions at 1/200th second and ISO 200 etc.

      I hope this helps, Damien.

      Reply
  16. Rufat Abas

    Stunning photos Damien. My favorites are #16 and #17. Thank you for the details. Really very helpful.

    Reply
    • damien

      Thanks Rufat :)

      Reply
  17. Jarek Duk

    Hi Damien,
    Great as usual. There is just one think i’d like to add/correct.
    The fastest, shortest flash duration Elinchrom heads achieve at the max power and not just Quadras but all their latest heads. That’s where Elinchrom is unique and not many people know about it. If you shoot fast moving action like sports, dance etc. their stuff rocks!

    Reply
    • damien

      Hi Jarek,

      Thanks for the heads up. The only ‘slow’ Elinchrom head I know of is the Quadra ‘S’ head. Cheers, Damien.

      Reply
  18. Tara Taylor

    Great images. The Quadra kit looks really good. I love my Bron kit but do find it heavy it I am shooting on my own or have to walk a long with it!

    Reply
    • damien

      Hi Tara,

      I’m selling my Bron kit on Ebay tonight and will be using my Quadra kit from now on. I’ll probably get myself a second pack at some point as they are excellent value. I’ll keep you up to date with how I get on. If you want to try out the quadra at any time just give Blaise a call :)

      Thanks for your compliments about the pictures. See you soon, Damien.

      Reply
  19. Jon Allen

    Hi Damien,
    Great post, I have seriously been looking the purchase the Quadra ‘A’ kit for a while now because I believe that portability and power output is a truly winning combination, especially when compared to my Lovegrove Bron kit which has seen very little use it just sits here in my office. So it looks like buying the Quadra :-) and selling my Bron :-(
    Your use of the lastolite soft box again is just perfect..

    Thank you
    Jon

    Reply
    • damien

      Hi John,

      I agree about the Bron seemingly heavy and not portable enough. My Bron Mobil kit goes on Ebay tonight and the auction end date is Sunday 4th September 2011. It might be worth taking a look at how much it goes for. I love using kit I know and trust like the almost indestructable Ezybox. I hope you are having a wonderful season.

      See you again soon I hope, Damien.

      Reply
  20. Peter Marin

    Great pics, nice to have a play with new gear after it arrives.
    I have had my RQ ‘S’ set since they were first released, and I haven’t regretted buying it one bit. I use them for all sorts of work, mainly location portraits and wedding gigs. They have been a real life saver, in that they are so light and portable and easy to setup and tear down. The one big thing for me is that when used creatively they help separate your work from your competition. I use a range of modifiers with the RQ including a beauty dish, a few softbox’s, barabolic reflectors and a EL Deep Octa. The Octa and beauty dish are most used in my work, and the Quadra makes them shine. I can’t recommend the system highly enough.
    Peter

    Reply
    • damien

      Hi Peter,

      Thanks for your kind words. I agree about the need to stand out from the competition with a distinctive lighting style. I used the Deep Rotalux 77mm Octagonal softbox without the front diffuser for the first time on Friday. It was fabulous giving a real sparkle to my models skin. I’ll be using this with my Quadra kit as a kind of beauty dish. As you know the Quadra kit needs this adapter to accept the world of big Elinchrom softboxes and lighting modifiers. I’m just at the start of my Quadra Ranger adventure and I can’t wait to shoot with it more.

      Kindest regards, Damien.

      Reply
  21. Thorsten

    I’ve heard other comments that the raw light from a standard Ranger Quadra head without any modifiers is very usable as is and your post seems to confirm this. It’s an interesting piece of kit which I am going to have to give serious consideration to.

    Reply
    • damien

      Thanks Thorsten,
      The supplied reflector comes with a frosted plastic cover that gives a wide spread diffused light. It is still quite a hard light source but about 6 times the size of a Speedlight head and just as importantly perfectly circular. See you in Dublin :)

      Cheers, Damien.

      Reply
  22. Kevin Cull

    Wow! you told me this kit was the best value and i can see the potential for a wide range of shots, Fab images Damien as always!

    Kevin

    Reply
    • damien

      Thanks Kevin,

      It will be great to use for interiors too with the ‘B’ output able to deliver just a blip of flash as required to balance the ambient.

      Best regards,

      Damien.

      Reply
  23. Murray

    A great series of shots. I had the “try before you buy” kit out for a day from my local dealer and was very impressed with the quality of the light, battery life and especially portability.
    In use I think you need to add sandbags or an assistant as the heads weight nothing and with a softbox fitted it will probably blow over quite easily. I would also suggest purchasing a longer cable to enable separation between the two heads. This kit’s versatility has developed since first released and the addition of an adaptor to Lastolite boxes is most welcome. it’s on my shopping list.

    Reply
    • damien

      Hi Murray,

      I agree that out and about on windy days it is worth taking someone to hold the stand just as it is with Speedlights or any other lighting kit using a softbox or beauty dish. I use a decent Lowel Grand Stand with it’s lazy leg. The Grand Stand can be pegged down on grass with standard tent pegs. A simple but effective solution in some situations. We supply 5m and 10m extension leads for the Quadra and some users might prefer to buy a second pack module to sit on the second battery. This avoids the need for extensions, allows a full asymetric balance and gives a total of 800Ws of power. I love the Ezybox and it partners the Quadra perfectly.

      Thanks for your kind words and blog contributions. Best regards, Damien.

      Reply
  24. TOM BARNES

    Great work out of the Quadra system Damien! I’m really taken with this system and I’m thinking of buying two packs so I can utilise full power from two packs rather than rely on the short cable length and asymmetrical power outputs.

    One thing that I thought you might have talked about the potential use of the ‘S’ heads rather than the must have ‘A’ heads. Talking to somebody at Elinchrom the other day, they tell me that using the Pocket Wizard Flex TT5 system and the hypersync tuning feature, it is possible to get the system to flash sync with the ‘S’ heads at up to 1/8000 sec. This can only be done with the S heads as they have a longer ‘burn’ than the A heads. In reality, it isn’t really hyper sync as the shutter is just taking a snap shot of a longer duration flash (therefore only a percentage of full power) BUT, it does allow some of the benefits of throwing the aperture wide open and still freezing action. I’m looking forward to experimenting with this option soon!

    Amazing photographs as always

    Tom

    Reply
    • damien

      Hi Tom,
      I agree about buying a second pack. I can supply a two pack, two head kit for you. (I will price match any UK stockists too). Just give Blaise a call on 01275 853204 and she can sort out a quote for exactly what you want.

      As for the S head V the A head discussion here are my findings: I had a play with the 1/8000th second flash sync with PW TT1/5 using my slow burn Broncolor Mobil kit a few months back and found that the flash power demished throughout the burn creating a slight gradient effect across the image from top to bottom unless the flash was set to full power. More annoyingly though the flash power seemed to cut at a slightly faster rate than the aperture gain. I concluded a variable ND filter like this one from 7DayShop. It is certainly a lot cheaper than a Pocket Wizard system and infinately variable too. With the ND option you can use the excellent Skyport trigger that allows you to adjust the flash power from the camera and you can use any power setting of the Quadra. The ratio of flash power to ambient can be set as required at a normal sync speed and will then remain constant as you choose your aperture to taste and adjust the ND filter to set the overall exposure. Simple and effective.

      The A head is excellent for freezing movement as the tube has a far shorter flash path length by design.

      I hope this helps. Do keep in touch and thank you for your compliments :) Best regards, Damien.

      Reply
  25. Simon Davis

    Damien, a wonderful set of images. I love the shot by the lake, maybe because of my love of reflections.

    Reply
    • damien

      Thanks Simon :)

      Reply

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