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|A two head Elemental Trinity 400 kit costs from £469. That sounds a top deal but is it, asks Will Cheung.|
Elemental are rapidly making a big name for themselves in the studio flash lighting market. Its well-designed, feature-packed flash units sell at attractive prices. Take, for example, the new Trinity and Trinity Pro system where four power output options are available, from 400Watt/seconds to 1000W/s. You can buy a two 400W/s kit for £469 – the one I tried is actually worth £479 because I had a 36in octagonal softbox with a grid. The kit contains the two heads, spill kills, radio trigger, cables, carrying case, modelling lamps and two light modifiers, a 36in softbox and a 43in brolly. You also get two really solid air-cushioned stands that extend to almost three metres – they are much better and more useful than the flimsy things that come as standard with some kits.
The great thing, though, is that you can go onto Elemental's website and order a kit that suits your budget and the type of photography you want to do. So you can have two softboxes instead of one softbox and one brolly, or you may want a beauty dish or a larger softbox. The kit price updates instantly as you shop so you know how much you have spent, or have left to spend. It makes shopping a pleasure as you explore the various permutations of how to spend your money – well, I enjoyed it.
Elemental Trinity 400 two head kit: Features
In terms of features, there is everything on-board the 400 monobloc head that you would expect from a modern mains flash unit. Let's go through some of the headline features.
Power output is 400Watt/seconds (or joules, whichever you prefer) and that output is adjustable digitally in 1/10ths of an f/stop over a six-stop range so precise changes are easily made. Relating the power output to an actual f/stop value is not easy because there are so many variables – reflector type, for example – but shooting full length portraits at small apertures is no problem with the supplied modifiers.
There is a sensor cell that triggers the flash when light is detected from the main unit which is in turn fired by the supplied 16-channel radio trigger that sits on the camera's hot-shoe. The receiver plugs directly into the unit and is powered by the mains supply so no batteries are needed here.
To help you see what you are doing and to assess the lighting effect, there is a 150Watt modelling lamp with three modes plus off and the unit is kept cool by an integral cooling fan so it should not overheat with hard or prolonged use. There is an audio signal to confirm recycling (which takes up to one second at full power) and auto-dumping when you change to a lower power setting from a higher setting.
There is also good news for existing studio users who have Bowen or Interfit kit because the Trinity system uses the S-bayonet for accessories. The S-bayonet is the nearest there is in the studio flash world of being an universal fitting.
|Click on the thumbnails to view a high resolution image|
|The Trinity is solidly put together and feels much more solid than you might expect for a budget monobloc flash unit.|
Elemental has a full range of competitively priced accessories available for their flash units – or for any mains flash with the S-bayonet fitting. For example, if you like soft lighting there is the choice of octagonal or square/rectangular softboxes, some with grids to help control light direction even more. To give you an idea of prices, the 140cm octagonal softbox sells for £55 and the 32x48inch softbox with grid goes for the same price. It is worth mentioning that there is currently an offer on 43inch brolly boxes (there are two types, shoot through and reflected) selling for £15 instead of the usual £35. These fit on the light like a brolly but give a softer light compared with a brolly and a more directional light than a typical softbox.
Elemental Trinity 400 two head kit: Handling
The supplied kit is almost plug-in and play. A little bit of unpacking and you are ready to rock. One thing I didn't like especially was putting together the 36in octagonal softbox. It was a bit like wrestling with an octopus and I did break sweat over it. This criticism is not confined to just the Elemental octagonal softbox and most softboxes need a bit of effort to assemble – and not great when you are in a rush. If you have never put one together before you will worry about snapping the supporting strutts but they are quite flexible so just bend away. If you shoot on location a lot I would suggest allowing an extra ten minutes setting up time for it.
|Model Rachel lit by one Trinity 400 unit fitted with a brolly and positioned high up to her left side.|
That minor moan aside, it is rather pleasing to say that there are no problems or concerns to report in terms of handling. Everything worked the way it should and I liked the touch sensitive yet very positive controls. Putting on and taking off the supplied accessories was straightforward enough too. In the past, I have used S-bayonet lights and accessories that were on the tight side which made them uncomfortable to change, especially when the unit had been running for a while.
There are plenty of thoughtful touches and this includes the head's curved locking handle designed so that it does not interfere with the flash unit's casing when the head is tightened in position.
Personally, I thought the standard carrying case could be redesigned. It gives excellent protection but it is very deep so not exactly the sort of case that is convenient, for example on public transport. I am often in London with my studio flash and a tall, slimmer bag would be more practical than a shorter, fat bag. I would end up smacking into passers-by and there is only a shoulder strap and no hand-strap.
Elemental Trinity 400 two head kit: Performance
It works. My kit delivered a consistent, predictable and reliable performance without any tantrums at all. To be fair, I was not shooting hundreds of pictures in rapid succession as you might be at an event, so I was not working the units very hard in that sense. But I enjoyed a couple of lengthy portrait sessions and the units worked fine. I left the modelling lamps on (in proportional mode) and did shots with the supplied brolly, softbox as well as Elemental's 70cm beauty dish. The last-named costs £143 so is actually a significant percentage of the complete kit, but it gives a lovely light.
|Rachel lit with the 36in softbox fitted with a grid to enhance directionality. Another 400 unit was placed to her right for the side lighting effect and to bring out her hair colour.|
Elemental Trinity 400 two head kit: Verdict
A two head with a collection of accessories for £469 is a really attractive proposition. It is an excellent starter kit with enough power to easily fulfill the needs of most enthusiasts. You can shoot small groups of people and head-and-shoulder portraits at f/11 and f/16 at ISO 100 or 200 with no problem at all. Should you want more power, spending an extra £50 gets you a 600W/s head so you can have that as the main light and a 400W/s as the fill-in or to light the background.
Elemental Trinity 400 two head kit: Pros
Great value including excellent, sturdy, tall stands
Output controllable in 1/10th stops over a six f/stop range
Lots of accessories in the kit
Elemental Trinity 400 two head kit: Cons
Carrying case not very good for carrying the kit around
Elemental Trinity 400 two head kit: Specification
|Output||400Watt/seconds (each head). GN 65 (ISO 100/metres)|
|Colour temp of flash tube||5500K +/-100K|
|Modelling lamp||150Watt, quartz halogen|
|Flash duration||1/1200 - 1/800sec|
|Flash recycling time||0.2-1sec|
|Accessory fitting||S-bayonet mount|
|Weight||2.6Kg (each head)|
The Elemental Trinity 400 two head kit costs £469 and is available from Elemental here.
Check out ePHOTOzine.tv to see Elemental's Managing Director introducing their new range of lighting kit.