Elinchrom FIVE Review Part 1 - First Impressions
by Michael Sewell
Elinchrom FIVE Review - Part 1 of 3
At first glance, it looked very, very familiar. The case certainly looked like the ELC 500 TTL, and the rear layout is identical. The only visible difference is the battery block underneath the FIVE.
So I turned it around, and then upside down. Where's the charge point? I removed the battery and found it on one edge, along with a handy battery condition LED indicator. I also found another charge point on the body of the FIVE, just alongside the seat for the battery.
Adjacent to the charge point is a 3.5mm sync port. The charge port is a USB-C socket, which did raise an eyebrow or two at our Elinchrom FIVE lighting workshops (click HERE to see upcoming TFC workshops), with a few attendees commenting they constantly had issues with phones that make use of USB-C, as it will readily come unplugged, or drop the charge. I found the USB-C lead on the FIVE needed a firm push, which was confirmed by a very tangible click. If you are worried about the lead pulling out, simply loop the velcro Elinchrom Cable Tie (included with the FIVE) through the handle and secure it. That lead isn't going anywhere!
Charging the battery off unit takes 2hr 35mins from flat to full. Charging with the battery in situ knocks an hour off that, at 1hr 35mins due to the “Active Charging” feature. Charging can continue whilst the unit is in use, and that includes out on location when used with a suitable power bank, I'd recommend something with a high capacity and fast charging such as the Tether Tools ONsite USB-C 100W 26,800 mAh Battery Pack.
The rear panel is familiar if you have used any of the recent Elinchrom lights, such as the ELB 500 TTL, Elinchrom ONE or ELC 500 TTL. The menu button to the left activates the menu, and rotating the central dial allows you to cycle through the strobe's functions. Pushing that central dial selects a function. Overall an extremely intuitive experience if you have never used one of the more recent Elinchrom flash units. The left and right buttons are also used in menu navigation, and double up to increase or decrease the power output by a full stop, whereas the central dial adjusts in tenth stops.
One of the menu items I found interesting, is the fact you can choose how the power output is displayed. You can use the Elinchrom scale (obviously), fractions (1/1, 1/2 etc), or choose to use watt seconds (522Ws, 400Ws etc). I stayed with the Elinchrom scale, because it's the one I'm familiar with, but I felt the choice was a nice touch.
The circle to the left of the display panel is the infra-red photocell, and the coloured bar at the top of the menu denotes the group setting. The Elinchrom logo on the side of the FIVE can also be set to light up according to the group setting assigned to the flash unit. This makes it really easy to identify heads in a busy studio environment.
Blue = Group 1
Orange = Group 2
Red = Group 3
Green = Group 4
This is the business end of the Elinchrom FIVE portable flash head. The Plug-in Flashtube is protected by a toughened glass dome, with an LED modelling light sat behind it. The modelling bulb has its own button to activate it, making it much easier to turn on than some of the older Elinchrom strobes. A press and hold of the modelling button will bring up the modelling bulb menu, allowing you to change the brightness from a minimum of 2.3 up to a maximum of 6.3, which is incredibly bright at 64w/4000lm. The LED can be set to “proportional”, which will set the power value in relation to the power output setting of the flash. You can also choose to turn on the visual flash confirmation, which means the modelling light extinguishes following a flash, and re-illuminates once the head is fully charged and ready to go.
The LED modelling light is a bi-colour and has a temperature range from 2700k to 6500k via preset values.
TTL and HSS can be used with a camera-specific Skyport Pro Transmitter. If you are using it in TTL and switch to manual, the head retains the last setting from the TTL shot, which I've found to be extremely useful. Whilst I don't really use TTL, I've previously switched to TTL to take a single shot, which has then put the power settings for the heads in the “ballpark”, and I've been able to make quick adjustments to get the image exactly as I want it. Very, very useful when you have a matter of minutes to get a very quick shot. Worst-case scenario, I have the TTL image in the bag if the available time expires, or the scene changes before I can make the manual adjustment.
Elinchrom FIVE - In Use
As mentioned earlier, I presented a series of TFC workshops for the launch of the Elinchrom FIVE, which were held at The Flash Centre in Birmingham, London and Leeds. All three workshops included three practical lighting sessions - automotive, portrait and food.
For the automotive section, a motorcycle was brought into the studio, and I chose to tightly control the lighting to demonstrate how to isolate a subject from the surrounding area. The studios were compact, with a lot of equipment on the periphery so we needed some tight control of our lighting.
This image shows the effect of the key light, an Elinchrom FIVE firing through a Phottix Raja Deep 80cm softbox with a honeycomb grid place. It was mounted on a Phottix Saldo 395cm Boom above the bike and was set to fire at an output of 3.0 (equivalent to 50Ws).
I then placed an accent light frame left. Another Elinchrom FIVE, firing through a standard 18cm reflector with a 30° grid fitted. It was set to cut across the bike, bringing up the detail on the rear tyre, the suspension and exhaust etc. The power output was set to 0.1 (equivalent to 7Ws).
This image shows the effect of the third Elinchrom FIVE added to the mix. Again
firing through another 18cm reflector with 30° grid and set to 0.1 (7Ws). It was placed frame right and beyond the bike, so as to come across the tyre and headlight.
This is the final processed image and is the bike from the London workshop. Olympus E-M1 mkII 1/250th sec ISO200 12-40mm f2.8 @ f5.6
At the Leeds workshop, we ran into a little bit of an issue with the automotive section. We couldn't get the bike into the studio, so the bike was set up in the middle of a rather busy industrial estate. Again, my main concern was the background clutter, although this time it consisted of parked cars, courier vans, chaps in high viz vests and other unsightly distractions.
I placed the first Elinchrom FIVE frame right, firing at full power through a 26cm high-performance reflector and directed down towards the front of the bike. A second Elinchrom FIVE was placed frame left, again firing at full power through a 26cm reflector. This second light was aimed down towards the body of the bike. My intention was to provide a tight pool of light around the bike, and at such a level, that the ambient light could be easily overpowered.
I set the camera to a shutter speed of 1/250th sec, ISO 100 and an aperture of f16. This easily suppressed the ambient light, isolating the bike from the rather distracting background. Following the automotive session, we moved on to shooting portraits and food. To find out how the FIVE performed please read Part 2 of my Elinchrom FIVE review (coming 20/12/22).