Powerful, Portable Battery Pack with TTL Flash Control

Review by Michael Corsentino

Elinchrom, manufacturer of high-quality strobes and lighting modifiers, has stepped up their game with the introduction of their first-ever TTL-enabled, battery-operated, portable pack and head strobe system, the ELB 500 TTL. With a maximum output of 500 W/s, this little beast delivers the goods with ease of use and the ability to overpower the sun.

The ELB 500 TTL continues Elinchrom’s tradition of bringing products to market with outstanding build quality, intuitive interface design, and quick out-of-the-box operation. The ELB 500 TTL’s swappable lithium-ion battery provides an impressive 400 full power flashes on a single charge and recycles to full power in only two seconds. An Active Charging feature allows the pack to be used while plugged into the wall during charging—perfect for both location and studio work—and obviating the need for separate mains and DC packs. With built-in wireless Skyport communication, the ELB 500 TTL can be controlled using either the TTL-compatible Skyport Pro (formerly Skyport HS), a manual Skyport trigger, or via a partnership with Phottix (their Odin II Transmitter). Thus the ELB 500 TTL is easy to combine with Phottix Indra small flash units.

The really big news here is the addition of TTL flash control. This allows your camera to communicate exposure information with the ELB 500 TTL so the correct power for the flash can be determined automatically. With TTL, you basically point and shoot. You’re able to immediately start shooting with zero fuss or muss, without missing any shots. TTL does the “heavy lifting” for you by determining the correct exposure on the fly. You’ve probably experienced TTL with a small handheld flash. With the ELB 500 TTL you get the same ease of use and correct exposures, but now you have 500 W/s flash power to play with, and the full line of Elinchrom light modifiers from which to choose. A Q-mount compatible with Elinchrom’s portable line of light modifiers is included with an optional adapter available for their larger range of modifiers. My go-to for location work is Elinchrom’s 27.5″ Deep Octa, a great modifier!

With TTL, you’re in control. If you’re like me, you’ll use TTL exposures as a starting point. From there it’s easy to season your exposures to taste by adjusting the shutter speed and aperture settings to achieve the desired results. The ELB makes it a snap to obtain the correct exposure automatically, lock it in, and then switch over to manual to dial in exactly what you want. Looking to shoot portraits with dramatic moody skies? No problem. With the ELB 500 TTL’s HSS (high-speed sync) feature, you can easily shoot wide apertures and shutter speeds all the way up to 1/8000; that’ll get you those skies. In fact, when you use shutter speeds faster than your camera’s native x-sync speed, the Skyport Pro automatically switches the ELB 500 TTL to HSS mode—very cool!

The two strobe ports on the ELB 500 TTL allow power control either symmetrically or asymmetrically. With symmetrical power distribution, the power for both strobes is dialed up or down in unison; while asymmetrical power control allows the power for each strobe to be set individually. (Think full power for the key light and quarter power for the fill.) Both ports have a full 7 f-stop power range. Now that’s flexibility.

As a long-time Quadra user, one of the things I love about Elinchrom’s portable strobes is their lightweight heads. (My assistants love them too!) The ELB 500 TTL heads (sold separately at $499.95 each) continue the same lightweight yet robust design. Try asking someone to boom a mono strobe head on a paint pole for an hour at time. Trust me, you’ll very quickly have a mutiny on your hands.

Photo by Brett Florens

Elinchrom has also put together two kits: The ELB 500 TTL To Go Kit (1,899.95) and the ELB 500 Dual To Go Kit ($2,124.95). Both kits have a 500 W/s TTL pack with lithium-ion battery, charger, sync cord, ELB 500 flash head with 8′ cable, 7″ Q-Grid Reflector, Snappy carrying bag, and a ProTec Location Bag with rain cover. The ELB Dual To Go Kit also includes a second flash head and cable, plus a 5″ Q-Reflector Grid. ■