Thursday, March 3, 2011

Review of Elinchrom Ranger Quadra Pro Set

Hey Everyone,

As some of you may know, I recently invested in the Elinchrom Ranger  Pro Set with the A Heads for my primary on location lighting gear and I wanted to share my experience so far.  I will be looking at these main areas: cost, vendor experience, portability, usability and quality.

My first impression of the gear when I took it out of the box was WOW but I have to suppress my inner geek child from jumping up and down and step back to be objective about this new gear.

COST:  Ok, right out of the gate, the cost of this unit is not really for the faint hearted at $2,110.  It took me a while to really take the leap of faith that the gear was going to be worth the investment.  Add the 3 modifiers and adapters I bought with it which were the Elinchrom Rotalux 69" Octagonal Softbox for $375, the Elinchrom Rotalux Deep Throat 39" Octabox for $290, the Elinchrom Rotalux 14x35" Mini-Recta Softbox for $159 and two Ranger Quadra reflector adapters for $200 and the total initial investment was $3,134.  I did take a few deep breaths when I clicked the submit order button, which by the way I actually was able to save $20 on the Mini-Recta softbox because I called B&H to verify they were in stock and the very helpful gentleman on the phone gave me an instant discount that wasn't on the site.  Which is a great segue to my next area which is my vendor experience.

Ranger Quadra Pro Set - A Heads


Rotalux 69" Octagonal Softbox


Rotalux 39" Octagonal Softbox






Rotalux min-recta 14x35" Softbox


Quadra reflector adaptors


VENDOR EXPERIENCE:  I shopped around a few vendors and found the prices were pretty much all in the same range so I started comparing availability, shipping and customer service.  In this particular case, I wound up going with two vendors, B&H and Adorama to get all of the gear.  The reason for this was that originally, Adorama indicated they had part of what I needed in stock and B&H happened to have the other components. About an hour after I completed the order with Adorama however, I got an email indicating that the Pro Set was on back order but would ship as soon as it came in.  Well this wasn't good since I wanted the unit in time for a corporate head shot session I had coming up.  I called Adorama and stayed in a queue for several minutes before anyone picked up and when they did, I felt rushed off the phone.  
I then called B&H and had them double check their inventory physically to ensure they had one in stock which they assured me they did.  I spoke with a very nice gentleman how answered all of my questions fully and how also provided me with several helpful ideas and who told me that I would need the reflector adaptors or the softboxes would not connect (which Adorama failed to inform me of).  To top it off, the sales rep found an instant rebate for me and saved another $20 off of the order.   Needless to say I cancelled the order with Adorama and placed it with B&H.  This was my first real full on experience with these two vendors as I had order small things before from both that didn't require any interaction and I knew exactly what I needed.  Based on this experience, I am now a loyal B&H customer and would recommend them over their competitor for the full customer experience.

PORTABILITY:  One of the big selling points for this gear is that it would be portable and it is definitely that.  The slick, rugged case that is just a bit larger than a normal business briefcase is well designed and has plenty of foam padding inside.  The weight, which I was concerned about, is actually on 3 lbs.  I was concerned that the two batteries included in the set would make the overall package cumbersome but it isn't at all.  The light modifiers that I got also collapse down into a very compact footprint making them easy to go on-location with. Overall this unit packs well and is very easy to carry around.

USABILITY:  The first challenge for this new gear was to go on-location and photograph 6 corporate head shots.  Setup of this kit is very user friendly with very well designed plugs and practical connections for the heads.  From start to finish, setup only takes about 15 minutes before you are ready to start dialing in the lighting.  What you notice when you first open the box is the obvious quality and thought that went into the design.  You instantly begin to appreciate the value for the price and can begin focusing on using this new gear!

One of my biggest concerns was how the batteries were going to perform.  In order to really put it to them to the test, I used the modeling light feature and had it turned on for each of my subjects and only turning it off in between each mini-session to conserve power.  I was very happy with the fact that the first battery lasted almost two hours and almost lasted the entire session.  I quickly replaced the battery with the spare that came with the kit and was back operational in under a minute, easily finishing my session.   I must say however, when the battery goes, there is NO warning.  It simply shuts down.

This gear packs the punch of a full studio lighting setup.  There is plenty of power to get the light where you need it and the flexibility of power adjustments in 1/10 stop increments to deliver the perfect amount.  The two channels provide even more features with their power distribution differential of A(100%) B(33%) and that channel B is super fast at 1/6000 s.  One of my favorite features is the audible beep to let me know when the unit is ready to fire. With the EK-Skyport transmitter included in the set, you have the ability to make your power adjustments at camera.

You can read all of the technical details on the Pro Set at www.elinchrom.com.

Setting up the soft-boxes is super easy.  The design on these Elinchrom soft-boxes is masterful.  When you first get them, you do an initial setup connecting the outer shell, ribs and ring and then they simply collapse similar to an umbrella.  These particular soft-boxes can also be used on Elinchrom studio strobes as well so you can get double duty from them.

QUALITY:  Well I have to start out by saying I'm not easily impressed and have a very high standard for quality.  I can easily say that I am 100% satisfied with this gear.  Every detail appears to have had a lot of thought put into the design and then executed with a high degree of skill and quality components.

CONCLUSION:  It is a rare case indeed when you can get so much gear from one vendor and be able to say that every single piece exceeds your expectation but that is just what this gear does.  The cost, while expensive, is absolutely worth every penny.

There was only two very small things that I would tweak with this new gear.  First, I would put some type of padding on the handle of the case to make it just a bit more comfortable to carry. Lastly, I would ask for slightly longer cables to connect the strobes to the unit.  Overall I would rate this setup an A+ in all categories and am planning on adding a second Ranger Quadra and two more batteries to extend the functionality and flexibility even further.


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