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Elemental Genesis MK II Studio Lighting and Flash Review

A review of Elemental's Genesis MK II Studio lighting kit.

|  Elemental Genesis MK II in Studio Lighting and Flash
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Elemental's Genesis MKII is an entry level, pro spec studio flash head available in 250Ws and 400Ws power options. The MKII signifies it's the second generation and improvements have been made in speed and the inclusion of fan cooling. It's sold in kit form and a two head kit with all the necessaries to get you started is just £329 – that's less than many studio flash heads cost alone. 

Elemental Genesis MKII studio flash kit: Features
Elemental Genesis 250 - side viewThe Genesis MKII is a stylish looking head with all controls on the back panel. Here you can adjust the power over a five stop range from full power down to 1/32 in infinitely variable steps. You can also set the modelling light to be on or off and either on full power or in proportion with the flash power. Other controls include an on off switch, flash test and a beeper on/off option. There's a carry handle on the back and it's at this end where the standard ¼in synch lead socket and fuse chamber are located.

Around the front is a circular flash tube seated around the ES holder for the supplied 150W modelling lamp. Both the flash tube and lamp can be user replaced and spares can be ordered from the Elemental site.

The head comes with a cap that bayonet locks on the front using the Bowens S system. This fitting makes the unit more versatile if you're upgrading or replacing some older kit and already have a set of accessories. (See my observations in handling)

The flash looks stylish in its streamline tubular casing with serrated ribbing and sleek white lettering. Length from tip of handle to front of spill is about 42cm and the head with standard Spill kill and modelling bulb weighs 2.26kg.

Elemental Genesis 250 - full kit
In the £329 kit you get the two Genesis 250Ws Heads along with the following:
  • 2 x Spill kills 2 x 150W modelling bulbs
  • 2 x Sync cables
  • 2x Power cables
  • 2 x WT8051a cushioned stands
  • 2 x 40" umbrellas
  • 1 x 80cm 5 in 1 reflector
  • 1 x 16 Channel AC Radio trigger system receiver
  • 1 x *16 Channel DC transmitter (hot shoe mountable or PC Sync connection)
  • 1 x Armoured studio bag
The Elemental Genesis MKII transportable The Elemental Genesis MKII portable
setting the Elemental Genesis MKII up inside
The kit fits in a car boot with ample space, is small enough to be able to manage the whole outfit over your shoulder in the kit bag and can be set up in someone's home with ease.

It's a good selection of products to get you started and is enough for most users. The bag isn't too heavy when full and has a shoulder strap or carry handles. Measuring 80x36x34cm there's plenty of space spare for a camera and accessories too if you want to travel with one bag. But the sections are lose and it's not that secure when carrying the items. Some improvisation is needed with diy padding to ensure the lights are not rattling around.
Unlike other companies where the kits are quite fixed in this one you have the flexibility of upgrading brollies to softboxes, and the lights to larger 400Ws versions. As you select different options on the website order form you see the pricing change so you can adjust to your budget. Upgrading from a brolly to softbox, for example, costs another £20 or £30 for one with a grid. That's a bargain considering the grid alone from the Photoflex Starlite head reviewed recently is £129!

In terms of features the Genesis MKII has competition from the Elinchrom D-Lite 2 a £489 250Ws option with small softboxes as standard and a two bag carrying system (stands in one heads and accessories in the other). Then there's the £322 Interfit Venus 300Ws kit with a softbox and brolly or the £388 Lastolite Lumen8 - a more powerful £400Ws kit with brollies. None of these have fan cooling or offer such fast recycling times as the Genesis MKII.

Elemental Genesis MKII studio flash kit: Handling
Elemental Genesis S capThe Genesis is easy to handle, a previous model was criticised by ePHOTOzine for the accessory lock being difficult to use. On this model it's fine. It's a small lever on top that you push back and the twist the accessory a few degrees so it rides over the lock and slips out of its Bowens S bayonet mount. All that I could find fault with was the plastic flash tube protective covers. They are crude and tight to remove. It's the only time the crudeness of Chinese build comes across. I wish it was deeper to allow the modelling lamp to be kept on and protected. Since doing the review I've been informed that Elemental sell a deeper unit. It's a bit hard to find on their web site and adds another £7.50 per unit to the cost, but is well worth the investment if you're kit is put away after each shoot.

At this point I checked Bowens accessories and they didn't fit. It seems the universal S-fitting is not quite so universal. Another 3-4mm cut out is required. That said with the cost of Elemental accessories there's no real need to buy Bowens items for this unit, but having the flexibility would have been useful in our studio where we already have plenty of Bowens kit.

And everything works the other way so if you already have Bowens kit the Elemental accessories fit with ease and are a low cost alternative.

The controls are easy to get at. If you reduce the power the flash fires to reduce the power in the capacitor and ensure you get correct exposure. This is called auto dump and a good feature to have. On many unit you have to remember to fire the flash manually.
The switches are all positive with good solid clicks so you could operate these from arms length without having to look at them when the head is above eye-level.

The Kill Spill has a hole cut out for the brolly. This has to match the position of a hole in the stand bracket on the base of the flash head. It's fiddly to match up and then even fiddlier to get the brolly into the hole and lock it. The tilt lock on this part of the kit is good though and feels secure even with larger accessories mounted.

The stands supplied are dampened so have springy feel when released. This stops the extensions clunking into their collapsed state. Instead they bounce and reduce impact and shock for the head. They are tight to splay the legs and I often wished I'd had a third hand to pull the legs open. These will hopefully wear loser with use.

I tend to prefer lighting things with softboxes so opted for a 90cm octagonal softbox.
Assembling this was easy but taking it apart needed a bit of extra thought. It's a case of pushing in the wrong direction so the rods are free to pull out of the metal holes on the S plate. It's a bit of a faff assembling this if you're on a location shoot. If you can drive to the door I'd rather keep it assembled and stick it in the back of the car.

Here's a view of the various controls on the back of the Genesis 250 

Elemental Genesis 250 - back viewPower switch
Turns the flash head power on or off.
Modelling light switch In at the top switches the  modelling light on at constant full power. Centre position switches the model light off. And in at the bottom makes the modelling light reduce in power when the main power output is adjusted.
Dim Modelling light goes off as flash fires and comes back on when it's charged again.
Beeper button Activates an audible "ready" signal.
Test button Triggers the flash for testing or when camera hasn't triggered it.
Sync socket Input port for wireless receiver or PC sync cable.
Fuse  10A fuse housing.
Flash variation dial Adjusts the power output of the flash tube.
Mains socket Standard kettle style power cable socket

Elemental Genesis MKII studio flash kit: Performance
I used the Genesis kit in an number of scenarios. I took it on location for a family shoot. I did a series of creative still lifes and I did some self portraits in a tight space. I can't fault the system. It's consistent in quality, light coverage is even, and the temperature is pleasant. I got some rewarding shots on my family shoot...I wish one of the kids had performed as well as the lighting but that's another story!

family shot taken using Elemental Genesis 250 lights
Two lights were used for this. The main one with sofbox to the left and a filling using a brolly on the right at a lower power. The clients were happy so I'm happy.
I used the lights in power ratios of two to one to get a good main light and gentle fill. I also used one light alone with the softbox and got some wonderful exposures. It wraps the light well.

The infinite control of power ratio is great for balancing and fine tuning the light set. I could see the effect on the camera LCD and tweak if necessary. No meter required. I prefer the output using the softbox, but that's personal preference.

The five-in-one reflector came in handy too to add a gold tone is some shots. It's a bit fiddly to change over reflector panels because of the zip design, but the quality of bounced light is good.
Portrait with Elemental Genesis
I took this self portrait in a really tight space using the Elemental Softbox over the Genesis along with the Velcro attached grid. Having a low power setting really helps in confined spaces that you often have to work in.

The stands gave me a good degree of flexibility. My only concern is the width at the base is quite narrow and they were wobbly when the light was raised high with softbox. I couldn't help thinking one would topple over. A wider splay on the legs would be welcome although you could add a weight on the base for reassurance.

A good inclusion in the kit is the wireless trigger. The receiver is powered by the mains cord (it sits between that and the flash head as a mini extension) and plugs into the jack socket. You then attach the transmitter onto the hot shoe of the camera. When you press the shutter your main flash fires and if the second is in the set that's triggered by its built in slave so you have a useful cordless set up which works well.

Although I did have a few issues with the slave on one of the heads not firing every time but it was a set up issue. I'm told it's to do with the design when used with the umbrella and modelling lamp on full power. Either buy another slave receiver for £20 or use softboxes instead of brolleys. Danny at Elemental says the new stock coming in February 2011 will have a redesigned slave bubble to stop this happening.

What was also noticeable was the lack of heat. These lights stayed relatively cool for a long session, the fan cooling works well, if a little noisy.

I also like the speed of recycling they kept up with everything I wanted to do and made a job of recording 50+ ¾ product shot pics a breeze, switch item and fire. I rattled them off in no time.

product shot taken with Elemental Genesis 250
The illumination from the Genesis and softbox is great for product photography.

Bottle taken with a pair of Elemental Genesis 250 lights   Pills taken with a pair of Elemental Genesis 250 lights
One light was placed behind the background with just the kill spill to create the centre light. Another light was placed in front with softbox to illuminate the bottle.   Just one softbox light from the front of these oil tablets. The tablets are acting like lenses so I focused on the image of the bottle and used a wide aperture to throw the bottle out of focus. The low power sitting came in handy again here.
Flash duration
The flash duration is not quite fast enough to freeze water but I do like the effect.

Elemental Genesis MKII studio flash kit: Verdict
I can't fault this for the price. It has a few cheap elements that you come to expect from Chinese kit but overall that's hidden in an overall professional quality outfit. The results are first rate and the amount of stuff you get for the cash can't be beaten. There are a few areas that the crude Chinese build crops up but not enough to spoil the overall experience.

On top of this you have the support of the manufacturer who cares about lighting and is a photographer himself. If this is your first shot at lighting you will not be disappointed. As one person said, when you receive the package and start opening it, it's like Christmas.

Elemental Genesis MKII studio flash kit: Pros
Incredible value for money
Good quality light
Range of accessories
Fast recycle
Fan cooling

Elemental Genesis MKII studio flash kit: Cons
Slave intermittent
Supplied flash tube protector cap could be deeper to allow it to fit with modelling lamp in place
S-fitting not quite S-fitting
Stands quite stiff to open


Elemental Genesis MKII studio flash kit: Specification
Price £329
Output 250Ws x2
Guide Number 45 (ISO100/m)
Colour temp of flash tube 5600k
Modelling lamp 150W Halogen E27
Flash duration 1/1500 - 1/800sec
Slave sensitivity 33ft
Accessory fitting Bowens S mount
Fan cooled Yes
Recycle time 0.2-1sec
Weight 2.2Kg  (head with standard spill and lamp)
Size 320x136x127mm

The Elemental Genesis MKII two head kit costs £329 and is available from Elemental here:

Elemental Genesis MKII

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Selbosh 10 4 United Kingdom
18 Nov 2010 2:06PM
The lower power will be slower, not faster. The shortest flash duration should be at full power. These aren't speedlights.

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Pete Plus
19 18.8k 97 England
18 Nov 2010 5:21PM

Quote:The lower power will be slower, not faster.
Comment removed from test, thanks for pointing that out.

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