DPP Solutions: Lighting In A Box

Location photographers often have to make compromises when it comes to lighting, opting to carry an unreasonable amount of lighting gear in order to achieve a look similar to studio lighting, or dramatically scale back the power and performance of the studio for weight and cost savings. The Elinchrom BRX 500/500 two-light to-go set aims to address those issues with an all-in-one solution that packs just about everything a photographer needs to create a sophisticated lighting solution in a package that’s small enough to carry nearly anywhere. Priced at around $1,400 (not including tripod stands), the system provides affordable and relatively powerful lighting for location setups.

In a bag that weighs under 17 pounds, the system contains two 500Ws monolights, two large 26×26-inch softboxes and an Elinchrom EL-Skyport SPEED Radio Transmitter, which enables complete control of settings and flash triggering wirelessly.

I’ve used a number of Elinchrom monolights, both for reviews and personally, and have always found them easy to use. Large buttons on the rear of the unit surround an easy-to-read display, and it’s simple to dial in the perfect setting. The units can be triggered wirelessly, via optical slave mode or with a wired connection. There’s also an optional iOS app for controlling the devices, which requires the company’s WiFi controller.

The system is packed in a compact travel bag—pay attention when removing the components, as the orientation of the components is important when repacking the bag. The small size of the bag means that there’s no room for lighting stands, and stands aren’t provided with the set; the result is that many photographers probably will end up repacking the system into another, slightly larger bag.

Because the units are monolights, they require access to AC power (or a battery power system), limiting their use when literally in the field. Of course, the same is true of a standard pack-based lighting kit, but it will be necessary to find two AC outlets to power the dual monolights, so photographers will want to add a power strip to the kit, too. (I was able to fit a small power strip into the provided pack without much problem.)

The wireless controller provided by Elinchrom is powerful enough to reach over 120 meters outdoors in standard mode and 60 meters outdoors in speed mode, and we’ve never had problems with the Elinchrom EL-Skyport triggering strobes. The triggering units are less robust than, say, a PocketWizard, as they’re originally designed for studio use rather than location use, so users should treat them with care.

In order to save weight, the monolights are housed in a plastic enclosure, but it’s built solidly enough to handle the trials of most location shoots. You may need to be a bit more careful loading this pack into an airline overhead bin than if the lighting gear were made of metal, but the trade-off is worth it.

The strobes are powerful enough to kick out an enormous amount of light, even with the softboxes attached. The Portalite softboxes are easy to assemble and disassemble, and make for a good, even lighting solution, and the Elinchrom lights work with any Portalite light-shaping accessory.

For $1,400, it’s hard to go wrong with this go-anywhere, do-anything pack. It would be great if Elinchrom sold this as an optional kit with two durable and lightweight stands packed into a perfectly sized bag, so that photographers could take everything they need in one package without having to purchase stands or take two separate bags on the road.

But for the location photographer, the Elinchrom BRX 500/500 two-light to-go set is an excellent lighting solution. elinchrom.com

You can follow David Schloss on Twitter or Instagram @davidjschloss

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