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A compact, high power flash gun. Think of it like a studio flash head that you can take outside.
1. A 400 w/s flash head with parabolic reflector. This has a slot for an umbrella and takes a standard 7 inch grid. It’s a custom fitting to the flash head (though see below for the adapter).
2. A battery pack. The pack has 2 sockets so you could run 2 heads off it at a maximum of 200 w/s each.
3. A battery.
5. Carry case for battery pack.
6. Two cables to link the head to the battery.
7. Hotshoe cable.
8. Two interchangeable fittings for the flash. One allows you to attach it to a lightstand, tilt the head and attach a brolly. The second is a handle so you can hand hold the flash.
9. A Bowens S-type adapter. This fits to the front of the head and allows you to fit any of the vast range of Bowens S fit modifiers.
As an optional extra you can also buy a camera bracket so you can attach the flash head to the side of your camera. There’s also a transmitter in the kit.
Back view of flash gun
> From the top and working down towards the bracket:
> First is the battery warning light
> Then the LCD panel
> Left of LCD panel is the sync socket for triggering devices pocket wizard etc.
> Beneath the sync socket is the modelling light button
> In the middle is the mode knob (press in to navigate) and increment and decrement if turned clockwise and anti clockwise
> There is a test button and a slave on/off button to the right of the mode knob
> There is a Photo cell light above mode knob for triggering from other flash gun
Left side (as if looking at back)
> 3pin socket for flash to battery cable
Right side (as if looking from back)
> Locking screw for light modifier attachments
> Flash bulb
> Parabolic dish
> Modes can be moved between by pushing the mode knob in like a button. There are 5 modes to access by pushing the mode knob.
> The mode that was last used will be the mode that comes up when you turn the flash on.
> If you're not already on manual mode ( top left of LCD should say manual ) then push the mode knob in until you navigate to it.
Here you will see the power output. This ranges from 1/1 to 1/64 in one step increments making 7 power output variations. There are 2 ways of monitoring the recharge. On the top left of the LED is a series of blocks. When all 7 are showing you will see a flash icon with an 'OK' next to it, charge is then full and ready. On the top right side of the LED there is a sound icon with an 'X' through it and one without. Whichever is set will be showing here. If showing sound icon without the 'X' through you will hear a beep when recharge is full and awaiting next use. If the sound icon is not on you will need to refer to the 7 blocks and the 'OK' on the other side of the display as mentioned above.
The next mode is Quick mode (left of LCD should say Quick with one flash icon and multi next to it)
With the mode knob you can turn to set the power to FP = FULL POWER, F2 = HALF POWER, F3, = THIRD POWER, F4 = QUARTER POWER, F5 = FIFTH POWER
The next mode is Quick mode (left of LCD should say quick with one flash icons and cont next to it)
In this mode the speed of the pulse can be set from 1 slowest to 10 the fastest. The speed is set by turning the mode knob.
The next mode is Quick mode (left of the LCD should say quick with a flash icon and cont next to it)
And beneath that three flash icons with multi next to it) turn the mode knob and you can set how many flash pulses you require 5,10,15 or 20 are selectable.
In the 5th mode nothing appears to the left of the led and there will be no power output numbers. If you turn the mode knob you will be able to set the beep function too on of off. Check the sound icon in the top right of the led to see which is selected.
To the right of the mode knob there is a slave on or off option. If used on the flash head will behave as a normal studio flash head set to this mode . it will pick up the light from another flash head and fire.
The enhanced battery pack that comes with the DL4 kit has 2 terminals for flash heads. These can be used by x1 or x2 400watt Strobeam heads. If you use x2 it will change the output to 200 watts each channel. Fully charged the battery pack will give approximately 700 flashes on full power with a recycle time of 1.9 seconds.
> The battery pack has also been designed to be used with your existing Nikon and Canon flashguns. So for Nikon you can use a SB900 or SB800. For a Canon you can use a 580EX or 550EX. The pack will recharge these flashguns up to 4 times faster than the standard AA batteries making recycle times of 1.8 seconds for rapid shooting.
> The battery pack has an adapter for recharging it from the mains and takes 4 hours to fully re-charge.
> The battery pack has a detachable battery section that can be replaced with an additional section allowing for 2 times the amount of power without having to buy another whole battery pack.
> The battery is small and portable enough to wear on the provided shoulder strap for many hours.
*Note: D4 Battery Pack, unlike almost all other Battery Packs, this pack can provide full power to 2 flash heads at the same time. Most other packs will split the power 50/50 or 30/70*
Photographs by Jonathan Ryan, lit using Strobeam DL4 Kit with D4 Battery Pack Complete Kit 400W/s
PGD photography (Submitted on 27th Nov 2012)
This product offers a fantastic amount of punch for the value, with its high speed flash durations and quick recycle times from battery pack, this head allows me to continue shooting though the night, without any delays.
Jonathan Ryan (Submitted on 24th Jan 2011)
As a professional wedding and fashion photographer working in Kent and throughout the south east, I’m always on the lookout for new equipment to give my pictures the edge. I also review unusual and specialist camera equipment for manufacturers and feed back into their design process. If any manufacturers or retailers want me to test equipment for them then just get in touch via the contact page.
What is it?
It’s a compact, high power flash gun. Think of it like a studio flash head that you can take outside. Or like a camera flashgun with a lot fewer features.
The kit under review is the DL4 light with D4 battery pack. You can buy each of these separately too. There are also a couple of different options you might be interested in. Note that I only tested the DL4 with D4 rather than the other options. Comments about options are based on conversations with Viewfinder Photography (the retailers) and some educated guesses.
Instead of the DL4 light you could choose a DL2 light. This is smaller and less powerful (200 w/s) than the DL4. You can fit a wide range of small modifiers to the DL2 but not the ones that fit the DL4. For this reason it makes sense to choose either DL4s or DL2s if you are building a system. More power is always good and the DL4 has a wider range of accessories so personally I’d choose the DL4.
Instead of the D4 battery you could choose a D2 battery. This is even smaller and slightly cheaper than the D4 but uses older technology and provides far fewer flashes. Unless space or funds are very tight this would be a false economy.
What do I get?
In the carry case there is
1. A 400 w/s flash head with “parabolic reflector” – that’s the metal dish. This has a slot for an umbrella and takes a standard 7 inch grid. It’s a custom fitting to the flash head (though see below for the adapter).
2. A battery pack. The pack has 2 sockets so you could run 2 heads off it at a maximum of 200 w/s each. Power controls are on the head rather than the pack so presumably you can run them at different powers.
3. A battery. It’s part of the pack but removable. Extra batteries cost around £90 (but see below on why you may not need one).
5. Carry case for battery pack.
6. Two cables to link the head to the battery. Weirdly the 2 sockets on the pack are different. There’s one cable for each. One is coiled and one isn’t. Your choice.
7. Hotshoe cable. Sit it in your hotshoe and plug it in the flashgun to make it go flash. There’s a pass through hotshoe too so you can still use a flash on your camera.
8. Two interchangeable fittings for the flash. One allows you to attach it to a lightstand, tilt the head and attach a brolly. The second is a handle so you can hand hold the flash (or better, get somebody else to hold it). As an optional extra you can also buy a camera bracket so you can attach the flash head to the side of your camera. However, if you dismantle this you’ll get a slightly less comfortable handle with a built in radio receiver… There’s also a transmitter in the kit. This makes for a very cool run and gun rig and is the way I used the head most – assistant holds the head and flash is triggered by radio transmitter. [Viewfinder have confirmed this is available as an optional extra - price TBC]
9. A Bowens S-type adapter. This fits to the front of the head and allows you to fit any of the vast range of Bowens S fit modifiers. This is very handy indeed. Though you can read more on this adapter under “not so good things” below…
10. The only thing really missing from the kit is a protector cap for the flashgun and maybe a stand. You get a lot for your money.
List price including vat and delivery is £658.
There are a bunch of location light systems on the market. All of them will pretty much let you use flash on location. I’ll concentrate on the things I really like about the Strobeam.
1. It’s small and light. Like crazy small and light. Another pack I’ve tried is counted as “small” because I can fit it in a camera bag. The Strobeam is tiny. If you didn’t want to use the carry case you could fit it in a jacket pocket. The battery pack and battery together are about 10% wider and actually shorter and thinner than a Nikon SB900. To give you some numbers, battery and pack are each roughly 100mm X 45mm X 75mm making the whole thing 100mm X 45mm X 150mm. Yes, millimeters. Battery tips the scales at around 450g and pack is 350g ish. For comparison an SB900 with 4 batteries in weighs around 550g. The head is 140mm long and 90mm in diameter and weighs about 900g. That’s the size of a pro level super wide zoom. 1.7 kilos for 400 w/s of light is pretty cool for a mobile lighting kit.
2. The battery lasts for ever. Well not quite. I put the head on a stand and rigged it up to a camera firing every 8 seconds to allow plenty of time to recycle and cool between shots. Head was firing full power. From a fully charged battery I got 807 full power flashes. That’s a best case scenario since in the real world you’ll lose some charge by turning on and off and over time. But it’s still astonishing. It’s worth noting you can get a cable to run a Nikon or Canon flash from this battery. Presumably for a very long time. As I mentioned earlier you can buy a spare battery for about £90 but you’d have to do some serious shooting to need one.
3. It has “plenty” of power. The light is rated at 400 w/s. There’s no easy way to convert that to a guide number and so many environmental factors get in the way that it’s actually misleading to look too hard at the numbers or even measure the output unless it’s with modifiers you will use. With all those warnings in mind I measured the output using the supplied dish at a distance of 1 meter. On full power I got a reading of f/32.5 at ISO 100 1/125s. Using an SB900 with new batteries and in as close to the same situation as I could get the maximum reading I could get was f/22. You might like to read that as saying that the Strobeam gives as much light as three SB900s (though as I say, it’s a bit more complicated than that). In the real world it gave me plenty of options for dealing with bright sun. Not enough to make the noon day sun look like night but this was real world.
4. It’s fast and easy to use. In the testing I was working with somebody who had a little experience of speedlights. She found the Strobeam so much faster to set up and easier to work with. This is hardly a scientific test but it backs up my thoughts – there are a bunch of options on the head. Ignore them and turn the nob one way for more light and the other for less. It’s very easy to get along with.
5. Recycling is quick. From a full power flash recycling takes about 3.5 seconds (see science bit below). Which is OK. Viewfinder told me lots of stuff about Rubicon capacitors and intelligent power management (e.g. turn the power on the head down and it’s ready to shoot immediately – no power dumping) but I glazed over. But maybe there’s a point to all of this. Turn the power down and things get interesting. I set my D3 to 8 frames a second and burst shots as fast as I could. Buffer depth is 13 shots and with a fast card I can fire off 16 raw shots in 2 seconds. At 1/64 power (lowest setting) the flash kept up with the camera. At 1/32 power the flash kept up with the camera. At 1/16 power the flash kept up with the camera for the first 9 shots. Welcome to the world of burst shooting with flash….. I’m going to spell that benefit out for you. With a power of f/8 at 1 m at ISO 100 you can shoot for more than a second at 8 frames per second. Stick the ISO up to 400 and the distance to something more reasonable like 3 metres and you can shoot action bursts on flash at f/8.
Not so good things
1. The S adapter. Here’s the good news: there’s an adapter in the kit that allows you to use any Bowens style modifier. Here’s the bad news: it’s rubbish. Yes, modifiers fit. But not convincingly and they rattle a lot. Also, because the flash tube sits back in the head and the adapter adds extra depth it seems to swallow about a stop of light. Very hard to measure but if you are used to a softbox “stealing” 1 stop of light it might steal 1.5 – 2 on this head which could end up as significant. I used the Strobeam outdoors with an assistant holding a 150 cm octabox and it gave a lovely light but my assistant was never convinced he could leave go with one hand.
2. There’s no protector cap. If you toss the head in a camera bag you’re going to want to cover it or you’ll be buying new modeling lamps and possibly flash tubes pretty often. You can use the supplied dish but this doubles the length of the head and increases the girth to 7 inches. That will take a lot of space. You could probably make something pretty handy out of the S adapter and duck tape.
3. The modeling lamp. It’s about 10 watts and turns on for 10 seconds when you hit a button. As far as I can see its main feature it its ability to break if you don’t make a protective cover. Indoors it may possibly help a little. Outside in sunlight there’s really no point. It’s just a source of broken glass in your bag.
4. If you disconnect the battery then many of the options reset. The annoying one is the beep. I often turn this off and it’s annoying for an unplanned disconnect to turn it back on.
The science bit
Here are some unverified numbers provided by the manufacturer. Nothing in my testing made me doubt them but unlike the rest of this article they don’t come from personal testing.
if you choose output as 1/1, flash duration will be 1/3200 S
if you choose output as 1/64, flash duration will be 1/8600 S
if you choose output as FP, flash duration will be 1/13000 s
recycling time for full power is 3.5 Sec, lowest power is 0.1S. Testing with motor drive made me think it’s actually a little quicker than 0.1s
Overall – would I buy one?
Simple question, simple answer: Yes.
I’d like to see Strobeam improve the S adapter and provide a cap and possibly even bring out a higher powered head but you get a lot for your money.
One thing I haven’t mentioned is build quality. That’s a very subjective question but I’d call it “pretty good”. Expect a rival to a Bron and you’ll be bitterly disappointed (though you’ll have saved a few £000s). Expect cheap Chinese build quality and you’ll be very pleasantly surprised. Much better than you’d expect. Much better.
Bottom line, I used a Strobeam on a group strobist style shoot. There were about 10 other photographers there. One has already bought a unit and a couple more are seriously considering it.
Where can I get one?
The DL4 is sold exclusively in the UK by Viewfinder Photography the kit tested costs £658 delivered.
Viewfinder Photography loaned the equipment to me for this review. They also provided technical support and refunded some out of pocket expenses associated with the review. They checked the facts before publication but were not allowed to change the comment. They have been offered a right to reply but didn’t feel it necessary. Of course like any site visitors they are welcome to join the dialogue via the comments below.
If you have any questions then please post them below – I’ll do my best to answer them. Note that comments are pre moderated but once moderated are published publicly on the site.
How about some pictures?
I thought you’d never ask. All the pictures below were lit using the DL4 as the only added light. I used a variety of extra modifiers – mainly a 30 degree honeycomb and parabolic umbrella. They have all been edited for display.
(See Product Description)
Clive Bennett (Submitted on 2nd Nov 2010)
The most useful piece of kit I've bought in years. I have used the DL4 kit as my main light in studio shoots on a boom light stand. It's light, portable and compact.
Great to take on location and into peoples homes.
Has lots of control over output. The battery pack can be used with my cameras flash gun, giving faster recycle times and saving on AA batteries.