by Michael Clark
Last month, I had the distinct honor of meeting with the fine folks at Elinchrom, at their headquarters in Switzerland, where they showed me the new Skyport Plus HS and the Quadra HS flash heads.
Over the last few weeks, I have tested these new products on a variety of action and adventure shoots and the results have consistently surprised me. It is rare that I see a product open up whole new worlds of possibilities.
Working with HyperSync this past year, I have seen the possibilities of that technology, but it was still difficult to work with.
With the new Hi-Sync gear from Elinchrom, that once experimental technology is now greatly refined and perfected. Personally, I have not been this excited about a new product in a very long time.
For this image of I chose a high shutter speed to darken the background and used the HS technology to sync the flash.
1/8000th sec. f/3.5 ISO 800
Whether or not this product is "game-changer" I leave to the masses to decide. There is a huge list of new features that have been packed into the Skyport Plus HS transmitter.
It is more reliable than the older Skyport models, offers full control over all of your Elinchrom strobes and includes a host of technological advances that have been perfected to a degree that has to be tried to believe.
Below is a list of the key new features:
Using the Skyport Plus HS you can now sync any Elinchrom flash with EL-Skyport capability at up to 1/8000th second. This will work best with the new HS flash heads but can still be used with any Elinchrom flash head.
The new transceiver can now trigger strobes up to 200m (656 feet) away when used outdoors and up to 60 m (196 feet) indoors. In my experience so far, the Skyport Plus HS never missed a beat. On a recent mountain biking shoot, the ELB 400 was placed 30 meters (100-feet) away from my shooting position in a forest behind the subject—and over a hill so it wasn’t even a line-of-site situation—and the strobe fired every single time.
The LCD display shows each strobe unit, power settings and allows for full control of all strobes right on top of the Skyport Plus HS. With all this information on top of the transceiver you can now control the power on each strobe individually as well as many other functions. The individual strobes also show up automatically and you can adjust the settings on top of the transceiver or on the strobe itself. You can see and control up to 10 different EL strobes with the HS transmitter.
The Skyport Plus HS runs on two AA batteries, which makes it easy to find new batteries and change them out.
The ODS setting allows for customization of the Hi-Sync (HS) timing to change where the slice of light is taken out of the flash curve. This means that we have the ability to customize the HS lighting by moving the slice of light from the max light output to a lower light output farther into the flash curve. This could be especially useful when shooting portraits with a wide aperture where the lighting needs to be subtle.
The Skyport Plus HS also includes an autofocus assist feature to help cameras focus in low light situations. While it may seem like a small thing, there are tons of situations where I have had to turn on the modeling lamp to focus. When running on battery power, as with the ELB 400 or the Rangers, using the modeling light just to autofocus the camera drains the strobe batteries quite a bit faster. It is a feature that many of us will find extremely useful and another example of how well-thought out the new Skyport Plus HS is.
At full power, it has a long flash duration of 1/600th second, which makes it perfect for Hi-Sync photography. The new flash head also makes it easier to shoot at lower power settings while using HS technology, which was not possible before with HyperSyncTM.
The HS flash head is designed to give you more light when using HS technology than the standard ELB 400 Pro head. When mated with the Skyport Plus HS transmitter, the result is that you can overpower the sun from 20-feet away in full daylight—all with only 424 Ws.
Read that last sentence again!
At normal sync speeds overpowering the sun with 1,200 Ws is barely possible from 20-feet away. With the new HS technology in the ELB 400 and Skyport Plus HS setup, you can now take smaller, lighter gear and over power the sun from unimaginable distances—all while stopping the action with a fast shutter speed. This is the “game changing” aspect of this new system I referenced above. This combo allows for unparalleled versatility with flash photography.
Using the Hi-Sync function of the HS heads with the Skyport HS, I was able to darken the background significantly so it looks like the image was shot in late evening light, when in reality it was shot in the middle of the day.
1/2500th sec. f/2.8 ISO 200
The Elinchrom Hi-Sync technology works similarly to HyperSyncTM in that it takes a slice of the light out of the flash curve. Because it is the Elinchrom in-house system it is optimized to work much better than HyperSync ever has and it is also much easier to use.
Besides being able to overpower the sun from phenomenal distances (with only 424 Ws), Hi-Sync can be used for other creative effects including: freezing motion, darkening backgrounds using high shutter speeds, shooting at large apertures for shallow depth of field, having full control over shutter speed and aperture choice, and getting sharper images with high resolution images.
In my view, this implementation of Hi-Sync is a huge revolution in flash technology. I have been waiting for this technology to be implemented into strobes for many years. Hi-Sync makes everyone else look archaic! If you are looking to push the envelope with your lighting then look no further. Elinchrom has perfected a method for shooting with strobes at high shutter speeds and they have also created an amazing transceiver for any and all uses.
SKYPORT HS COMPATIBILITY & FAQ
What Elinchrom unit is compatible with the Skyport Plus HS? Is the Hi-Sync feature available with old units? All your answers can be found here.
HS - HSS? WHAT'S THE DIFFERENCE?
HyperSync, HSS, Hi-Sync, all these flash techniques are misunderstood. Let’s overview these technics to shoot at shutter speeds higher than the standard flash sync speed of DSLR cameras.
With the Skyport Plus HS, you can control and visualise power settings of your Elinchrom units along with Hi-Sync.
WHAT HEAD FOR YOUR ELB 400
With the ELB 400, you have 3 different flash heads, let us explain the differences between the various flash heads offered for the most portable battery pack you’re about to use.