Which is the best Elinchrom battery flash unit for you


In the world of professional photography, lighting is everything. It can make or break an image, and having the right tools at your disposal is crucial. Elinchrom has been at the forefront of this industry, consistently delivering innovative and high-quality products. Today, we’re going to explore three of their battery flash units: the Elinchrom FIVE, the Elinchrom ONE and the Elinchrom ELB 500 TTL to see the advantages of each and which one is the best for you.

Common Ground: Shared Features

Before we delve into the unique aspects of each unit, let’s talk about what they have in common. All three units are battery-powered, offering photographers the freedom to shoot anywhere without being tethered to a power source.

No need for a cable or power source. The ONE, Five, and ELB 500 TTL are powered by a battery and can be used anywhere!

They all support TTL (Through The Lens) metering, so getting a great exposure on the first shot is easier than ever. HSS (High-Speed Sync) is another shared feature, enabling photographers to use flash at any shutter speed. This is particularly useful when shooting in bright conditions where a fast shutter speed is required or if you want to shoot with a widen open aperture outdoors with your strobe.

Transmitter Pro

All three units can take advantage of TTL and HSS when used in conjunction with the Transmitter Pro.

All three units excel in terms of color accuracy and exposure consistency, ensuring that your images are as accurate as possible shot to shot. They also all benefit from the wide range of Elinchrom light modifiers, providing photographers with endless creative possibilities.

portable flash units

The three units are compatible with almost all Elinchrom light shapers.

Elinchrom FIVE: The portable studio strobe

The Elinchrom FIVE is essentially a cordless version of the Elinchrom ELC 500, a studio strobe. They have very similar technical specifications, and for many, the FIVE could even replace the ELC 500 in the studio.

ELC 500 and Elinchrom FIVE

If you are used to the ELC 500 or 125 in studio, the FIVE will be second nature to you: they are almost perfect twins.

It’s the perfect tool for photographers who want the power and functionality of a studio strobe but with the flexibility to shoot on location. Weighing 3 kg, it’s not the lightest of the three, but it packs a punch with a maximum power output of 522 Ws.

Elinchrom FIVE
Elinchrom FIVE Panel Control

The FIVE packs quite a bit of power! At max power it delivers 522Ws.

The FIVE is best suited for studio work or on-location commercial shoots where power and versatility are key but where you don’t want to worry about where to plug your unit, having long enough power cords, or people tripping over the cable.

Even if you need to charge it while in use, you don’t have to worry about cables as you can strap a powerbank to your lightstand and plug it in using a USB-C cable to charge the FIVE. Being able to charge a strobe using USB-C may seem anecdotal, but once you get used to it, it’s hard to go back to the traditional power cords or power bricks.

“The Elinchrom FIVE has become my go-to for high-stakes, high-energy on-location shoots”

As a photographer, I’ve found my Elinchrom FIVE to be an invaluable tool, especially when shooting on location. I recently was shooting in a bustling restaurant kitchen, the lunch service was in full swing, and I was tasked with capturing images of the new menu. The tables were filled, the staff was rushing about, and the last thing I needed was a tangle of cables creating a safety hazard. This is where the Elinchrom FIVE came in.

Food photography by Quentin Décaillet
Food photography by Quentin Décaillet
Food photography by Quentin Décaillet

It offers all the capabilities of the ELC 500 I use in the studio, but its cordless design makes it perfect for such scenarios. It allows me to use large modifiers like the Litemotiv 190 Indirect, shoot through a roll of diffusion, or close down my aperture to get a sharp image from front to back.

The Elinchrom FIVE has become my go-to for high-stakes, high-energy on-location shoots or simply when I need to setup a studio outside of my usual workplace.

Elinchrom ONE: The lightweight companion

The Elinchrom ONE is the lightest and most compact of the three units, weighing in at just 1.5 kg. Despite its small size, it still delivers a respectable power output of 131 Ws. In fact, the One is so small; you can even pack it up in a softbox with an indirect ring if you have a bag large enough to fit it in.

Elinchrom ONE with Rotalux Recta
Elinchrom ONE with Rotalux Recta

My Elinchrom ONE is most of the time packed inside my Elinchrom 150 D.O. Indirect bag. But inside the bag I’ll have the Rotalux Recta Softbox 90x110cm (35.5×43″) or D.O. 100cm, both with t and the ONE mounted on it. I can even fit a small lightstand.

“The ONE is perfect for photographers who need to move quickly and often”

The ONE is perfect for photographers who need to move quickly and often, such as wedding or journalistic photographers. It’s also a great addition to a FIVE setup when you need an extra light source on an on-location shoot that’s not in full sun. I believe it’s an amazing unit for photographers who want to get into flash photography and want the benefits of a battery-powered unit. It’s quite affordable, easy to use, and will work in many scenarios.

Behind the scenes, product photography with Elinchrom ONE
product photography with Elinchrom ONE

Sample image shot with only the ONE as a key light outdoor. It was on an overcast day. My camera settings were f/8 – 1/160 – ISO 64, and the ONE was set at 3.3 on the final image. The ONE could have been pushed up to 4.3 (ONE additional stop of light) and the camera stopped down to f/11.

Over time, the Elinchrom ONE has become my trusty sidekick for unpredictable shoots. I’m regularly creating content for a luxury hotel, and the shot list can change on the fly. I never truly know what will be thrown at me before I start taking the images. So I need equipment that can keep up and be as flexible as I have to be. The ONE is compact, easy to set up, and light enough to be handheld even with a camera in my other hand. It’s no bigger than a 70-200mm lens, so it doesn’t require a separate case to be carried along.

“The Elinchrom ONE has become my trusty sidekick for unpredictable shoots”

Elinchrom ONE's size compared to a camera lens and a smartphone

Elinchrom ONE next to a Nikon Z 100mm macro f/2.8 and an iPhone Pro 12 for size reference.

And if the battery runs low, I can power it with a USB-C battery pack. While its 131Ws might seem modest, it’s more than enough unless you’re trying to overpower the midday sun. I prefer to use my lighting to subtly enhance the existing light quality and direction, and the ONE is perfect for that.

Commercial shooting for a hotel
Commercial shooting for a hotel
Commercial shooting for a hotel

Sample images shot for a client. The ONE was either used as a fill to complement natural light or as a key to set the mood of the image.

When shooting indoors, it serves as a key light, giving me full control over the final result. When before I used to take a hot shoe flash along with me on smaller or fast-paced shoots, the ONE has become a great replacement for these situations. It’s much easier to use, more reliable and it’s compatible with Elinchrom OCF accessories and large range of modifiers, so I can create beautiful light on all my images instead of being limited to the harsh light hot shoe flashes tend to create.

Elinchrom ELB 500 TTL: The All-Rounder

The Elinchrom ELB 500 TTL is a versatile unit that strikes a balance between power and portability. With a power output of 500 Ws and a weight of 2.48 kg (including the battery and head), it’s capable of handling a wide range of shooting scenarios. It’s particularly well-suited for action and sports photography, remote outdoor shoots that require a lot of power, or setups that require two lights while keeping the overall kit light and small.

“[The ELB 500 TTL] offers the power of the Five, but with the ability to split the output between two heads.”

While the ONE and FIVE have become my mainstays, the ELB 500 TTL still has a special place in my kit and was my favorite Elinchrom unit for a long time. It offers the power of the FIVE, but with the ability to split the output between two heads. This is ideal for on-location corporate headshots, where you need a key and fill or kicker.

Photographer Quentin Décaillet in his studio

One ELB 500 head on frame’s left as a key in a Rotalux Octa 100cm, one ELB 500 head on frame’s right with the standard reflector and diffusion on it to soften the specularity on the skin. This is a sample image on me, but I use a similar setup for corporate shots. A reflector can be added below the model’s waste to add some fill and minimize skin retouching.

The ELB 500 TTL is compact and lightweight, and its modular design makes it easy to pack. If you’re hiking to a shoot location, you can distribute the pack, battery, and head(s) between multiple bags so people can help you carry your gear. In contrast to the FIVE, the ELB 500 TTL doesn’t have visible ventilation, making it my preferred choice for dusty or humid environments.

ELB 500's carrying case

Elinchrom ELB 500 TTL with its carrying case, making it easy to attach to a light stand.

ELB 500 with tripod

The pack gives so weight to the base instead of putting everything at the top like monobloc strobes do.

All three Elinchrom units offer unique advantages, and the best one for you depends on your specific needs as a photographer. Whether you need the power of the FIVE, the portability of the ONE, or the versatility of the ELB 500 TTL, Elinchrom has you covered.

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