Friday, May 9, 2014

New Elinchrom ELC Pro HD Review- A Lot of Technology in a Compact Package

I've been using the new Elinchrom ELC Pro HD strobes for a few weeks now. My friends at Manfrotto Distribution and Elinchrom were nice enough to send me both the 500 watt second unit and the 1000 watt second unit to test. I've been using their Style RX strobes for several years now and when they told me they were updating them, I remember saying to myself, well, that's nice, but the only thing I could think of that they needed was to build the Skyport receiver into the unit instead of having to plug in an adapter. Boy! Was I wrong! The ELCs are a serious overhaul and upgrade to the RXs.
At first glance, they look pretty much the same as the RX 600WS model. Although they're slightly larger (about an inch longer and little bit bigger around) they actually weigh less than the comparably powered RXs. The 1000WS unit is exactly the same size as the 500, too, which is especially nice when you look at the giant size of the older 1200WS RX.

The front of of the ELCs looks like what you'd expect. The only changes from the RX is that they've added a protective dome and the wattage of the modeling light has been increased from 150 watts to 300. The bright modeling light in the ELC generates a lot of heat, but it's no problem, partly because the cooling fan in the unit is extremely efficient. It's also very quiet- so quiet that you have to listen closely or you won't realize it's on.

The back is significantly different from the RX.
The biggest change is the OLED menu readout. If all you want to do is shoot with basic use, it's easy to do just that. Left and right arrows change the power up and down in full stops. The center dial, glowing green in the picture above, changes the power in tenths of a stop. Speaking of power, the strobes re-cycle VERY fast. The 1000WS recycles in under two seconds- 1.7 sec. by my measurements and 1.8 sec. stated in the Elinchrom specs. On lower power settings, of course it's much, much faster.

As I said above, these lights will perform admirably in the vast majority of "normal" uses. But the reason it has a menu system is that there are a couple of features built in that are very cool. The first one is that it is designed to have short- very short- flash durations. Many photographers don't realize that different strobes have different flash durations. For most brands and models, this may range from as slow as 1/300 of a second to much faster, say 1/2,000 of a second. And that duration changes depending on the power setting. For many kinds of shooting, the flash duration is relatively unimportant. The problem is when you're shooting something moving quickly and you want to freeze the motion- say a splash or a dancer leaping. If the duration isn't short enough, there will be some blur.

The ELCs not only have short durations, but the exact duration reads out on the menu. You can see what the duration is at every, single power setting. This allows you to adjust the power to find the balance between what f/stop you need and the duration that is fast enough to freeze whatever action you're capturing.

I'm just starting to play with this and I hope to have more pictures to post soon.

The other feature the ELCs have is a stroboscopic function. This allows you to set them from firing one time per second to as fast as 20 times per second. You can set the time of the burst from 1 second to 4 seconds. The following shot was my first effort. Joe was practicing his serve and I set the lights to fire 15 times per second for one second.

With the very talented Deborah Hughes in the studio, I thought I might try some motion studies with her, too. In the first, I just had her dance across the frame. The ELCs were set to fire 10 times per second for 2 seconds.

But then she showed me some fabric she had brought with her. Now the magic began. . .

I can't wait to get Deborah back so we can keep playing with this. I want to try it with different colors, with multiple dancers- there are tons of possibilities. They also have a sequencing function that allows the user to time up to twenty different strobes with a pre-programed  delay.

These effects aren't unique. There have been strobes that have done this for some time. The big difference is that, as far as I know, these are the first ones that can do it in completely customizable ways and at a very reasonable price. The ELCs will be available for about $1050 for the 500WS and $1450 for the 1000WS when they start shipping in the US in June. That's less than one fifth the price of other strobes that can do the same things. In fact, that would be a good price for monoblocs that don't have all these special features.

I really can't wait to continue working with the ELCs. They're excellent performers for regular shooting. And their special features are giving me lots of ideas on new ways to shoot. I really think these lights are winners.


  1. Thank you very much for this review Forest. It helps your readers understand the difference between Elinchrom's ELC 500 & 1000 and the older RX versions. It also points out how Elinchrom uniquely distinguishes their stroboscopic effects from other manufacturers who have a similar feature, with an almost infinite amount of customization.
    I've read that you can use up to 20 ELC's together and control which one fires at how many milliseconds after the previous one. Have you had a chance to try that out with your two strobes yet?
    Thanks again Forest.

    Mark Astmann
    Lighting Enthusiast

    1. Hi Mark- I'm glad you like the review. Thanks.

      I haven't tried the delay/sequencing feature yet, but I'm planning to. I also want to try some splash photography with the short duration feature. For now, I'm planning another shoot with the dancer, hopefully next week, and I'll post here when I get some shots I'm happy with.

      Thanks again and stay tuned!

  2. Thank you for your review. I am new to all of this and was considering buying these (X2 500 + X1 1000). I really want them after reading your post. I wonder whether or not you have had any experience with their continuous halogen scanlites. Is the colour / quality of the light the same and would it not be easier for me as a beginner to use these rather than try and fiddle with strobes? Your thoughts however brief would be much appreciated.

    1. Dark Amber- This is a tough call. I haven't used the Elinchrom Scanlites, but I have used a number of other halogen or "hot" lights. Hot lights have a number of specific uses, but they also have some significant drawbacks. On the plus side, they allow you to see exactly the effect the light will have on your subject before you shoot. They also have a different quality of shadow than strobes, especially when they're projected through a Fresnel lens. The down side is that they typically don't put out nearly as much light as most strobes and they get VERY hot.

      For most general kinds of photography, strobes are a better all around choice. They'll offer much more flexibility, depending on what exactly you want to do.

      I hope that helps.

    2. Oh, I forgot to mention. The halogen bulbs in the Scanlites are tungsten balanced. This means they are much warmer (yellower) than daylight. The strobes are daylight balanced.

      Also, the Scanlites can't be used with the Elinchrom Rotalux softboxes and octabanks when they exceed 300 watts. This is another limiting factor.

  3. Thank you for your feedback. The local supplier of Elinchrom lights did not know the answer to my questions and the company's website does not have any channels / options that enable you to communicate with it, so had you not been gracious enough to answer my question, I would have literally been left in the dark ;-). Thanks again.

  4. I'm happy to help. Contact me anytime if you have any other questions.

  5. Very nice article!
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