Big Love for Small Light: Quadra

In GEAR by David11 Comments


Me. Kiboko Bag by GuraGear, Canon 1Ds MkIII, EF 300/2.8L IS.

I told you I’d picked up an Elinchrom Ranger Quadra (B&H link HERE). It came a week or so ago and I’ve finally had a little time to play with it. Product reviews are always a dicey thing. So because I’ve not had much more than an afternoon to play with this, consider it a reaction instead. I set it up in my living room, still amazed by how tiny the head is. I mounted it to the adaptor that lets you use larger Elinchrom modifiers, then put it into a Lastolite Ezybox, which I’ll talk about in a moment. I set it up as one light, very low power on the left of the frame and put a large reflector on the right. And then I parked my butt on the floor and grabbed a couple of my new favourite toys and took a few self-portraits because the cats weren’t in a helping mood.

The way I judge whether I like a product or not is this – does it do what I bought it to do? Does it meet my expectations? So here’s why I wanted the Quadra. First, I need more power than the 580EX can give me and I am NOT getting into the nonsense of bringing a dozen of them and a crate of Pocket Wizards just so I can have some nice light. I needed it to be portable, un-reliant on AC power for a day in the field, and I needed it to play nicely with my other gear. I want to be able to put one light on a monopod or stand, through a softbox or umbrella, and be able to set it up fast and shoot wirelessly.

So. I bought a Lastolite EZbox because I am so sick of messing with my Photoflex softboxes and I am not bringing a 5ft octa to Africa. It sets up really fast, breaks down quickly and with the Elinchrom speedring and the Quadra adaptor it all goes together fast. Plug the cable in to the pack, turn it on, and you’re ready.

But it gets better. The Quadra comes with a built in Skyport receiver. With the optional Skyport transmitter you’re ready to shoot wirelessly really fast. The transmitter is TINY and though some worry about breaking it, I’m more concerned about losing it. Why this over a Pocket Wizard? I love my PW’s but they require plugging in, and they can’t control the power of the light from the camera. Skyport can, and it’s amazing. You want to fiddle, push the power a little up, a little down, go for it. No more walking back and forth to the pack. It’s all at your hotshoe and in the hour I played with it, it worked great. I can’t tell you how psyched I am about this!

And one more plus – it’s got an LED modelling lamp and for some of the low-light places in which I shoot, this will be all I need – one LED modelling lamp will do wonders in a low-light space and I won’t have to mess with shutter sync. Glorious.

What don’t I like? Elinchrom umbrella shafts are slightly smaller than the standard, so their holes are too. Want to use an umbrella, you’ll need to get one from Elinchrom. The instructions are lousy, as they always are with Elinchrom. And the head comes without a protective cap. Even my 200Ws D-Lights came with a protective cap and they’re the bottom of the pile of Elinchrom’s offerings. The lack of protective cap seems cheap and silly to me. Grumble, grumble.

Is the Quadra for everyone? No. Plenty of folks still want much more power. The Quadra’s 400 Ws which is a lot – 4 times more than a 580EX or SB800. But for some that won’t be enough. For me, it is. And some folks don’t need even this much power, in which case you’ll save a ton by purchasing a used SB800 or 580EX, a battery pack,  and a set of Pocket Wizards and still have money to spare. The Quadra’s about $1500 plus extras. But if you’re asking whether I love mine, yes I do. It borders on mania and I can’t wait to play with it some more and shoot something better looking than the suspicious bald guy up top.

If you’re looking for more detailed info than this artsy-fartsy, touchy-feely reaction to my new toys, then head over to David Hobby’s Strobist site and read his post about them. Then for the real meat, read the comments. Lots of good intel in there.

Lastly, a quick shout out to Lastolite. I have a couple of their products and they’re just great. I love their Skypanels and this new 24×24 Ezbox (link HERE to B&H product page) is compact, quick up, quick down, and makes some really nice light. I loathe futzing with softbox poles and speedrings, and this rig is light, fast, and rugged. And it’s simple so it doesn’t give me the rage when I’m too tired and jet-lagged to screw with setting up a fussy softbox.

Thus concludes the gear-head post. I don’t do them often and Vision’s better, but hey, Gear is still good when it helps us get a little closer to our vision. And when it’s shiny. 🙂


  1. Damn.. and you too.. 🙂 I mean come on, people.. Its like mass madness.. I started to ponder on Quadra’s after seeing what Frank Doorhof did.. Then i suddenly see you and Hobby crossing over.. *sighs* Just when i thought i will pony up some cash for new Mamiya body. Oh well- light over matter.. errr.. mind.. errr.. light.. Light it is. 🙂

  2. David,

    When you start using the 1ds3? Can’t wait to see some images. Can’t wait for vision mongers!

  3. I just got a Quadra kit myself (single head) last week, and did one indoor shoot with it, which went extremely well. I was wondering whether or not I’d have enough light, and ended up keeping the light at close to minimum power the whole night, so no problems there!

    This weekend, I’m going to give it a shot outdoors, which is where I’d rather be shooting… and that’s why I got the Quadra rather than the RX. I can’t wait to try it out 🙂

  4. I’ll second the Ezybox – I use mine with a 580EX (Ezybox with hotshoe) and the more I use it the more I love it. In fact, I’m about to get another!

    I don’t mind controlling my flash via the aperture in most cases, though often the aesthetic changes and I’ll need to go over and dial the power down or up slightly. I also like going to Syl Arena + Joe McNally method by attaching the Ezybox to a painters pole with a Kacey Pole Adapter (coined “Sylenator”) (available here:,12857.html). If that’s the case then I have someone holding it and it doesn’t take long to show them how to dial the power up and down on the light. Like Younes did for himself here:

    Yes, this setup lends itself to a slightly more controlled situation, but the Quadra’s in the $3+K range and if you don’t need the power and have a speedlight and a couple PW’s your on your way to this setup. Something I did just find out though – the ezybox won’t accommodate the new FlexTT5 transceiver on the cold shoe – you’ll have to get a shoe-cord and run the PW down a bit so the flash fits into the Ezybox properly.

    I’m loving what I have so far from Lastolite and plan on continuing with their line – some Trigrip reflectors (I have this winch-arm that can hold them to a light stand now) and diffusers as well as that window size skylight eventually… maybe a collapsible background or two – it all looks like quality to me.

  5. Imagine my surprise when I refresh your tab in my browser and find a photo of you with a bunch of GEAR! (*SHOCK*)
    After I recovered, I realized that it could be rather difficult to take a photo of yourself surrounded by some of your favorite pieces of “Vision”.

    Seriously, I am mostly a “lurker” to your site, occasionally comment but read religiously, even on a two week army trip, I manage to keep up with your intel via my phone.

    I do enjoy your take on the photographic process AND gear reviews.

    Finally, my copy of VisionMongers shipped from Amazon yesterday…WaHOOOooooooo!!!!

  6. nice little review.
    just want to say that using the latest pocketwizard and the skyport at the same time is great
    – skyport for power control over the air
    – PW for really cool highspeed sync… with a 1D you can reach a 1/800 synchro speed and almost 1/400 with a 5D2 …. really cool

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