Two Stops Down

A journal on photography by Thomas Riggs

Review: Elinchrom D-Lite 400/200 Flash Kit

Elinchrom D-Lite 4 control panel

For my own experiments with light techniques, I’ve been using a set of Elinchrom D-Lite flash units (a D-Lite 2 and a D-Lite 4), as well as an umbrella set. So far, I have nothing but good things to say about them: they’re light, compact, and easy to throw in the car in the supplied travel cases.

The kit I have came with the two flash units, two stands, two reflectors, two umbrellas (reflective and translucent), as well as a set of generously long power cables and flash sync leads. The stands provided are metal, and sturdy enough to have the flash risen to over 2 meters. However, due to their design, you can’t aim the flash straight down, as there’s no way to convert the stand into a T-shape. But there is a good degree of rotation, and being light, it’s easy enough to lean and support the flash by hand (being safe, of course).

(The kit also comes with an instructional DVD, which is both useful and a little creepy.)

Both the units have a 100W modelling lamp, which can be lit proportional to the flash strength, at minimum / maximum power, or not at all. As well as lighting the studio while the room lights are off, they let you preview the effect of the flash before you take the photo.

One of the big features of the D-Lites is the in-built ambient light sensor, a small dome on the back of the unit that detects other flashes being fired and triggers its own. This lets the camera be attached to one flash unit, and have each of the others fire simultaneously, without extra cables. It sounds like a big ask, but it’s worked flawlessly straight out of the box with no latency issues. It really is amazing.

The difference between the D-Lite 2 and the D-Lite 4 is the output of the flash. While the D-Lite 2 has a range from 12 to 200Ws, the D-Lite 4 doubles that, from 25 to 400Ws. While I’ve not used the flashes in an outdoor situation, I’m certain that even the D-Lite 2 can put out enough light to be useful; in the studio, it’s more than enough.

It’s also important to mention the recharge time, the time it takes for the flash to charge up after it has been fired. It’s nuts. I had to turn the “ready” beep off on both units because, by the time the photo had been written to the card, both units were ready to go again (usually less than a second).

For a modest £370, it’s a serious but one of the more affordable flash kits on the market. Elinchrom also sells kits with a single flash, soft-boxes instead of umbrellas, or with two D-Lites, as well as a long line of accessories, all of which work on the D-Lite.

This article was published on 15 January 2009.