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Home » Reviews & Guides » Steve Aves » Elinchrom BX250Ri & BX500Ri Flashheads
Article by Steve Aves April 2009
From the initial prototypes, first shown at last years Photokina exhibition, Elinchrom have just introduced the new BX Ri into the UK. There are two models in the range, a 250 and 500, both models bristling with new innovations.
The first thing that you notice about the new Elinchrom BX’s is the small size and especially the low weight; just 1.85kg for the 250w and 2.05kg for the 500w. This is due to the internal design and the ultra lightweight, high impact, ABS-type plastic body. It really makes a big difference to the overall weight of the heads themselves and of course, especially to a two head kit.
Let’s look at the body first before we dive into the fine detail of the heads. The moulding for the Elinchrom BX is crisp, but without any sharp edges or corners. At the front of the head is the locking ring that secures the accessories. It has two positions for lock and unlock which are clearly marked with an open and shut padlock symbol so that you know where you are. While we are at the front end, both the Elinchrom 250 and 500 use Elinchrom’s now traditional 100w Leuci modelling lamp. Both models are fitted with high-speed, daylight balanced (5500K) flash tubes that will capture movement. The grip handle has a nice feel with the addition of some rubberised material and Elinchrom have also used the underside of the handle to house two spare fuses.
The main body of the head is fully enclosed as the unit has its own temperature control system built in. A fan in the base of the head cuts in and out as and when the unit needs to be cooled. To attach the BX to a stand, the unit has a nice bracket with a quick lock knob that adjusts the level of the head. All the controls for the Elinchrom BX are on the rear of the head and are well laid out and easy to see. The main control panel has a series of white buttons that control the heads key features. Those include buttons for power, slave cell, audible beep and flash test. The mains socket, On/Off switch, sync socket and slave cell are also on the rear panel.
Elinchrom have put much thought into these heads and they are packed with an eye-popping array of features. Let’s look at them one by one. First the power, relatively easy to understand as it’s calibrated in stops over a five stop range with five adjustments per stop for ultra fine control. Two white buttons make the power go up or down from 6.3 maximum to 2.3 minimum, a range of 500 to 31j on the 500 and 5.3 to 1.3 a range of 250 to 16j on the 250 version.
The Elinchrom BXRi heads also have auto power dump, which means that the head will automatically dump any excess power when it’s turned down. While the power is being ‘dumped’ the power display flashes to let you know, stopping when it’s at the correct power level.
The modelling lamp system has some nice options and is also controlled by two white buttons. For the first time, Elinchrom have included an intermittent setting or ‘visual flash control’ as they prefer to describe it. This is a nice feature to have in my opinion, as the modelling light comes back on as soon as the head recycles, telling you that the head can be fired. The modelling lamp can also be set at proportional, or by pressing the top button, a user setting of your own choice.
An audible beep is something that you either love or hate and I prefer a bit of peace and quiet in the studio rather than listening to a flock of small birds singing as each light comes back to charge. Having said that, Elinchrom have a nice feature that controls the length of time the bleep sounds. So you can now have a long or short bleep depending on your mood and whether you like the sound of birds in the studio. The shortest beep only lasts 70 m/sec’s, so even I could put up with that. The longest burst lasts 490 m/sec’s, not much on paper, but not something I could live with, so it is good to have a choice, well done Elinchrom!
Let’s move on to triggering the Elinchrom BXRi and once again Elinchrom have another trick up their sleeve. Apart from using the slave cell or a standard sync lead to trigger them, (no problems as they only have a 5v trigger voltage), the BX has the EL-Skyport wireless trigger system built in. A transmitter is included in each two head kit so that you can have a cordless trigger system from day one. Not only does the EL-Skyport trigger the BX, but it will also operate as a remote trigger system.
To set this up is straight forward. By pressing the power and mod lamp buttons you can select up to 4 group settings, G1, G2, G3 and G4. So by selecting a ‘G’ number for each head, you can then control its settings via the EL-Skyport transmitter. An ideal system if you have your lights up high on a ceiling mounted system. Should you find yourself in a position where other Skyport users are working, you can select a different frequency (there are 8 to choose from) so that you don’t accidentally trigger someone else’s lights.
Apart from the built in EL-Skyport, the Bx’s also have ‘smart’ slave cells that can identify and store information about pre flashes, both manual and auto red eye. So again, by using a combination of the white buttons, you can set the correct number of pre flashes to trigger your flash. With all these settings and options, you may get a little lost from time to time and Elinchrom have also thought of this and included a master re-set programme. By holding down the two power buttons, the unit will go back to a basic factory setting that will let you reset everything again from scratch.
Just a few more facts and figures about the Elinchrom BX. If you’re a world traveller you’ll like these heads because they are multi voltage (90-270v) and can be used pretty much anywhere you take them. I’ve already mentioned the high-speed flash tubes, but didn’t quote any figures. So for those of you wanting to capture movement, here we go. The BX 250 has a flash duration of 1/2762 thousand of a second and the Elinchrom BX 500 has a slightly shorter, but still very respectable 1/1558 thousand of a second flash duration, both quoted at full power. As you would expect from these figures, the recycling times are also fast, about a second for the 250 and just over a second for the 500 back to full power again.
Let’s go back to that weight issue again, as it really is important these days when so many photographers have to travel around to get to jobs. The BX 250 two head kit is really compact, comprising of one nice padded bag for the pair of heads and mains leads and another really small padded long case for the clip lock stands and soft boxes that come with the kit. I don’t have a combined weight for the whole kit, but I would imagine it is well under 10k for the whole lot. Having the kit in two separate bags also makes sense because you can carry the stand bag over your shoulder, leaving only the head bag to carry. That leaves the photographer one free hand for all the other things they need! But seriously if weight and size is an issue for you then the Elinchrom will tick your boxes.
I was initially surprised to see that Elinchrom included soft boxes instead of brollies in the two head kits. As you know I’m always a bit wary of shooting people with soft boxes because of the square catch light they can leave in the eyes. However the small soft boxes in the kit are extremely easy to put up, and more importantly, just as easy to take down, making them as portable as brollies. But it may be worth investing in brollies at a later stage.
I think Elinchrom have put a lot of thought into the BX and its key points for me are the high speed tubes, the introduction of intermittent modelling and of course the overall weight, features well worth having. As for powers, both the 250j and 500j options are tried and tested and either power will shoot a huge range of applications.
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