WHETHER YOU’RE LOOKING to supplement the light that’s already in a scene, or your plan is to create everything from scratch, as a professional you’ll inevitably have need of reliable and adaptable light on location. That’s what the Elinchrom One off-camera flash aims to deliver. It’s a portable, battery powered model with TTL and HSS functionality, and offering a lot more besides.
We tested the Elinchrom One Off-Camera Flash Dual Kit, costing £1599, which comes with two heads, two diffusion domes, two Elinchrom OCF adapters, two chargers and a backpack to carry it all in. To that we added an Elinchrom Transmitter Pro trigger at £236, and tested it all out with a range of on-location real-life subjects.
The first thing that strikes you about the One is how small and well-constructed it feels. It’s a solid unit and well balanced in weight, so it won’t randomly tip forwards on an unsecured stand. There’s none of the hollowness and rough finish you can sometimes get from budget brands. Each unit measures 23×16.5×10.5cm and weighs in at around 1500g so, if you’re not using the supplied backpack, you can slot a couple of Ones into a bag or case with ease. In fact, they’re a bit like a pair of 24-70mm f/2.8s on steroids. If you need to slim them down a little further then both the tilt head and OCF adapters – the latter basically a rubber ring with mounting points – are removable. It all amounts to a very portable setup, and the lights can be hand held with ease if you prefer to work without a stand.
Around the back, there’s a nice and simple layout. Under the touchscreen are buttons for power, menu and a large pushclick dial that also serves as a test button. The dial sets power and also navigates the menu if you would rather not work with the touchscreen. The menu takes the form of icons with a cog symbol to dive deeper, and these could be a tad confusing at first, but the supplied quickstart guide clears it all up.
A press of the dial or a tap on screen toggles functions like Action mode, sounds, the photocell and the display style on and off; there are also settings for Group and Frequency, the latter changing the colour of the Elinchrom logo on the side as a quick guide, which previous models have also done.
On the main display you can also swipe up or down to swap between modelling lamp and flash, and left or right to set the power and, again, you can use the dial if you prefer. In the modelling lamp settings, you can also set the mode to Proportional, which gives the usual preview of flash power, or Free, which allows you to set it independently for video or for subjects that aren’t keen on flash. Using a bi-colour LED, the temperature of the modelling light can be set to 2700K, 3000K, 3200K, 5000K, 5500K or 6500K, all of which lets you adapt easily.
Though it’s from an LED, the shadows from the modelling light aren’t broken up like they might be with some sources, so it looks pretty good even without the diffuser dome in place. It’s equivalent to 120w and rated at 3000 lumen but, to give some context, its maximum setting gave me around 1/30sec at f/1.8, ISO 100 at 1m. It’s therefore pretty usable if you’re working at wider apertures, or cranking up the ISO a bit, as most modern bodies allow.
At its business end, the diffuser dome is a handy addition and easily added or removed, wherein the bare bulb is still protected by glass. It adds a little softness to the light, like a hazed sunshine, so can be used without any additional modification if the look allows it. If I were using these lights as a kick to sunshine or fill, I’d be happy to use the diffuser domes alone. It takes either Profoto OCF type modifiers or Elinchrom OCF via the adaptor. I didn’t have Profoto gear to try, but Elinchrom’s own kit fitted quickly and neatly. The tilt/stand adapter also has a 7-8mm umbrella port.
Jewellery maker Shalini Austin was lit using a softbox bounced off a wall to add to the natural effect.
Careful use of the Elinchrom One enabled Kingsley to produce a shot in Shalini’s workshop with the flame clearly visible.
The Elinchrom One is also a great location light for providing fill for a portrait , and it can provide up to 725 flashes at full power.
The Elinchrom One has a flash output of 7Ws to 131Ws, so it’s about twice as powerful as the average speedlight. This can be set in 0.1EV increments and, on screen, it can be displayed either in Watts per second, as a simple 1 to 10 scale, or in Elinchrom’s own scale, where it runs from 0.1 to 4.3. The advantage of the latter comes when using it with other Elinchrom heads, as you’ll get identical energy at those settings. Whether it’s enough power for your needs totally depends on your application of it and what you’re shooting.
I measured maximum output without the diffuser at 1m and got f/16.3 at ISO 100. At the minimum it was f/2.8.6 at ISO 100. To contextualise the output, at the top end I managed plenty of fill in bright sunshine, but if you want atomic levels you might want to look elsewhere. At the other end of the scale, I was able to shoot a jewellery maker in her tight workshop space with power at the minimum and get f/1.4 and f/1.8 for subject separation. In short, it’s a very usable scale and could be magnified with focusing modifiers if needed.
The Elinchrom One’s Action mode cuts the flash duration dramatically, and speeds can be seen on the display along with the power setting. So, with the top end you get 1/155sec in normal mode and 1/625sec in Action mode. At the lower end, it’s 1/1530sec and 1/7000sec, respectively. Compared to rivals, like the Profoto B10, this isn’t particularly fast, but it didn’t present any problems in my test shoots.
Something that marks out pro-level flash is good colour consistency, and here the Elinchrom One doesn’t disappoint. Setting the camera to a manual white balance, I ran through the power range and didn’t notice much, if any, shift from the stated 5600K. In Action mode, the colour is cooler, and got a little bluer at the bottom end of the scale, but certainly not problematically so. Overall colour consistency seems excellent.
In shooting with the Transmitter Pro, the setup worked faultlessly, scanning and syncing to both lights automatically on start up. With my Nikon Z 7II in its AutoFP mode, the HSS kicked in automatically when required. TTL worked perfectly, giving a good basis for experimentation or reliable auto if needed. The only criticism I’d have is that the trigger seems to be a generation behind the lights, and therefore the display is laid out differently. An update design would be great, though in reality it wouldn’t have affected the heads’ performance. The Elinchrom One has no physical sync port, though there is the photocell for slaving off another flash if needed.
The Elinchrom One charges from empty in about two hours, and battery life states 725 flashes at full power. I found it exceeded this somewhat in my testing, logging just under 800. The consumption also depends on whether, and how strongly, you’re using the LED modelling lamps, and this will cut the number of flashes by about 200 if they’re on full all the time.
Recycle times meanwhile run from an almost instantaneous 0.06 to a 0.9sec, which meant fairly seamless shooting, but I did notice that the top speed was when I was working with a fully charged battery. At about one third power recycling time fell to 2secs, and 4secs right at the end.
Obviously, most of the time you won’t be using full power, so in reality you can expect plenty of life and, with the ability to charge via a USB cable, there’s scope for powering and charging while you’re on the move. Again, in real world terms I started out with two fully charged units, shot around 500 pictures across a session and came back with ½ power on one unit and ¾ on the other. The LED has a 90min run time at maximum, and though the fan tended to come on when using high settings, I didn’t find it especially off-putting.
I HAD A GREAT TIME with the Elinchrom One dual head kit. It’s exactly the sort of portable system that actually makes you want to use lighting more often on location. Power comes in a very usable range and, although its energy and duration lags behind a competitor, such as the Profoto B10, these units are half the price. They’re also well made, easy to use and have great capacity. All in all, a highly recommended flash.
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