Product Review: Elinchrom ELC PRO HD 1000 'To Go' Set

The purpose of this post is a simple review of the latest Elinchrom studio flash heads I purchased for myself and my classroom. I felt it was important to have a real world look at these lights as all my purchases consider, reliability, durability and most of all, affordability and after using these lights in the classroom setting as well as in a working environment, I had a lot of things I liked about these lights, a lot I hated and a lot I absolutely loved.

Let’s look first at affordability.

The lights I purchased was a To Go Set of the 1000/1000 flash heads – This includes a carrying case, two 1000 watt second heads, cables, two wide reflectors and a skyport trigger. I was lucky to have purchased these lights when Elinchrom offered a free Square 44cm reflector with a grid valued at $240 Australian dollars. All together, the kit cost $3,450 plus $35 delivery. Now you are probably thinking, affordability, you must be insane, that is definitely not affordable. I will agree with you. My reasoning behind the purchase was getting a Flash head with a short flash duration, stroboscopic features and also, I needed a 1000 watt second head for my personal work. For me, this was the best Elinchrom has to offer currently and if it also meant my students had access to strobes that can potentially freeze water, dancers and more, then as an Educator, I am more than happy to let my students play with these lights.

Should you get these lights just to freeze action?

Well, yes and no… If you have dedicated Elinchrom modifiers and BRX or RX units from a few years ago then the ELC units are the only upgrades available. I did think about the Quadra units and the new ELB units but for me, I was also looking for more power. I own a set of Canon Speedlights, then I moved to a set of 500 watt second BRX lights. Now I have the 1000 watt second ELC lights and I bought them as my needs expanded. So again, if you already own Elinchrom products, to me these lights make a lot of sense.

So why shouldn’t you buy these lights?

Well, they are far and away the most expensive units, and there are cheaper and more effective options. If you can find a way to import them out of the USA, Paul C Buff sell Einstein units which are legendary for their price and flash duration. For the rest of us outside of the USA, we have Profoto and Elinchrom as the main brands. There are others like Priolight, Bowens, Indra and a range of Chinese brands which I regret purchasing years ago, but right now the best bang for buck are the Elinchrom ELC units.

If you want flash duration to freeze your subjects, you can use speedlights but if you need power you will end up spending more on these small things they are annoying to set up, and the battery doesn’t last very long. If you get the Elinchrom BRX units, they offer power but have disappointing flash duration. Quadras and the ELB units are great but again you only get them for a little more power and for portability. The ELC PRO HD units are perfect (for ME!)

Elinchrom claim a Flash duration of 1/5260 on the 1000 head and 1/5000 on the 500 head at t.05.

In reality, you are getting something around 1/1800 which is amazing but not enough for someone who relies on tack sharp movement for things like splash photography. The Stroboscopic and Delay features are fantastic to use as I occasionally shoot dance, but for the vast majority of photographers out there, we will only use these features sometimes. Try not to base your purchase decisions on features like these unless you are in dire need of such features.

When I think of reliability, I expect two things from a flash head.

Consistent output and most of all, longevity. I have been using Elinchrom for almost 3 years now with just two BRX lights and I have never had to replace the modelling lamps or the flash tubes and I use these lights regularly to do demonstrations and my students use them for practicals and experience. After 3 years the modelling lamps are getting some black stains on the glass and I have seen two or three misfires since buying them, but they have always maintained the same white balance across all the power settings. I should expect the same from my ELC units and after some tests and real world uses, they just feel like the same old lights I’m used to, just fancier and more expensive. I never had to worry about them during work.

The new OLED screen is crystal clear, and I think they should have made the screen larger but it works and I have no serious game breaking issues with them. I kind of wish the Skyport triggers would get an update soon. Now, I know that Skyport recently got updated with the new Skyport Plus HS trigger that addresses the main issues I have with Skyport in the past. I wanted a screen read out and something made of less flimsy material. Which we are able to get, but it does not detract from the fact that the new Skyport Plus HS is an additional cost of $400 Australian Dollars plus shipping. My biggest annoyance with the original Skyport is how unreliable the up and down buttons are when you want to change the power of the lights. After some simple testing, my lights would go up and down together, and then suddenly they started to go out of sync. One light was at 3.2 and another was at 3.6 after about 10 presses. It was quite disappointing and since using Skyport 3 years ago, I have ALWAYS changed power settings directly on the heads and the Skyport is just a simple trigger. So anyone wanting to get lights that have an integrated trigger system and purchase a bundle, at the time of this review, you will be sorely disappointed and will probably shell out the extra cash for the new Skyport Plus HS.

Here is where I get a little negative, but only because I love Elinchrom so much and I feel they need more users complaining about these things because it’s getting to the point where some things are going backwards or, they are not listening enough.

Firstly, durability. The Skyport triggers are old and I think the electronics are not reliable and they are not durable as I mentioned earlier about how having a screen readout will allow a better remote experience instead of pressing the button 10 times and hoping each head got the signal. I dislike how weak the antenna is and how it is made of cheap plastic. The switches wobble and one Skyport switch does not stay where I want it to any more. (To be fair, I have used it at least 3 times a week for 3 years.) But I want to control groups, I want to control channels better and, sometimes, my Chinese triggers from Apeuture feel better built for half the cost.

The build quality of the heads also makes me just want to throw my new purchase out the window in protest. I want to take a flight to Europe JUST to complain. When I bought my first Chinese strobes, they felt like plastic to hold, but it was coated in a soft rubber like material that gave me confidence in my grip and felt like quality plastic. Then my BRX heads arrived and the Handle was amazingly sure of itself but I was upset the gap didn’t allow my whole hand through so I always felt like I only had half a grip on the lights as they hung from my fingers as I couldn’t fit my knuckles through. The body was made of a smooth plastic and so I was also never confident holding the light with both hands, and I sometimes I get stressful jobs and I don’t want a little sweat on my hands to be the end of my lights. This was all minor complaints as these BRX lights were middle of the range. I was pretty sure the Pro line would be amazing.

So when the ELC PRO HD units arrived…

Sad to say I was quite disappointed, very disappointed, as my first impression. The gap allowed my whole hand to get in and the handle was made of rubber. Unfortunately the handle is thin which means that I still hold the light with just my fingers (I have medium sized hands) and the rubber spins around the handle, which almost made my drop the light when I pulled it out of the bag for the first time ever.

My thumb touched the back panel and it creaked… the OLED screen creaked and moved with a bit of pressure which scared me half to death as I thought I broke the screen. I checked the other light and felt the same – there is no support behind the back panel and I worry each time I lift out the lights because my thumb rests on the back panel for stability as I pull the light from the bag.

The ends of the handle has sharp corners so it is not comfortable and the entire body feels so slippery and the top of the unit creaks a little (I noticed when I put an umbrella in.) Also, it feels like the umbrella no longer has a friction fit… it grinds against something now – no more rubber, it is now a stiff bump that scrapes along the umbrella shaft now which feels like I’m damaging my umbrella/head and is difficult to remove smoothly.

I feel that the modelling lamp now is backwards and the glass dome, as the President of Elinchrom admits, is designed for protection lest the lamp explodes… Which is not comforting. The only saving grace is that the dome is made of thick glass with vents in them and you can get frosted domes and the clear dome has a nice quality to them as they don’t have a hotspot like my BRX units tend to have when unmodified.

That being said about Elinchrom’s build quality, I still love the brand.

The quality of light is consistently amazing, the features are exactly what I need and cheaper than most of the competition that offer less and the modifiers are, for the price, the best in the industry and to quote Zach Arias when he talks about beauty dishes, the modifiers they offer have something about them, they seem like they are made with “Unicorn Tears… Whatever it is, its beautiful.”

My students and clients love my lights, I love my lights, but I just wish for the money Elinchrom asks, I want a little more sturdiness in the body and better materials where it matters, like the OLED screen and the handle.

Would I recommend the ELC 1000 lights? Well… not really. Mostly no. But if you had a choice between what is on offer currently outside of America, You can get one nice B1 500 watt second light and TTL trigger from Profoto, or you can get a D1 500 watt second light with umbrellas and trigger from Profoto, or you can get TWO Elinchrom 1000 watt second ELC units, a free modifier, umbrellas, stands, trigger, reflectors, bag for two lights for the same price for the Profoto units I mentioned.

Compared to other expensive brands you get more bang for your buck, and Profoto and Broncolor modifiers are just far too expensive compared to Bowens and Elinchrom. However, like I said earlier, if you already are invested in Elinchrom, then you should get these new lights. They are great and you will save more money in the long run. But if you are still deciding on a new system to jump into there are so many choices out there… if you have the money, then Profoto might be a great choice – You can always get adapters for Elinchrom modifiers too… but you still spend almost double just to get a set of two nice heads than the Elinchrom.

I guess for me, Elinchrom works.

It is the old house I grew up in but needs a huge renovation and it needed it years ago. But I know just how to open that back door that sticks a little, and the window you have to jiggle the right way to get it to open. This is how I see Elinchrom. I love it, I get annoyed by how it was built, but I know it, it does its job and in the end, my clients love what I did with the place.

An example of work that my students can put together, once they learned how to set up this splash shoot. Clarity and contrast was punched up, the exposure of the fruit was pushed and shadows brought down. Light was high up, back lighting the glass. A simple set up and the kids had a blast trying to get that one shot. They now want more lessons doing this with dye, balloons and more fruit!

Posted on October 31, 2015 .