LumoPro 160 Electronic Flash

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LumoPro 160 Electronic Flash

Postby pj » Aug 14, 2010 9:37 am

I just received my order for a comparatively new strobe that may have really good implications for cave photography. Many of us have used Vivitar, Sunpak and a smattering of other flashes for our cave photography over the years. What we liked about them was their workhorse construction, good power output, adjustability and low price. Over the years, these strobes were either dropped from manufacturing, updated to have way too many bells and whistles that we didn't need or were reintroduced in a cheap, flimsier construction that made them prone to failure and thus not worth buying. The less expensive versions that other manufacturers were creating just didn't have enough power or adjustability to make them worthwhile. The top of the line flashes were prohibitively expensive and thus not a good value for multiple flash cave photography.

Fortunately, there is a new (or at least upgraded) product out there now which MAY be the answer for cave photographers in the future. The strobe I bought is the LumoPro 160. This replaces an earlier version, the LumoPro 120, which had lower power and not all the things that come with the 160. Why is this a potentially great replacement for all the old strobes that are longer manufactured? For one thing, the manufacturer really listened to the people out there who use small strobes for their photography and applied those needs to their latest iteration of the LumoPro line. Out of the box, it seems well-made. It supposedly has a higher flash power output than the old V 283/285's, but that is doubtful and will have to be tested in the real world. It should have at least as *much* power as the Vivitars, but again, testing has to be done.

Another advantage is that it has a full range power output dial down from full to 1/64th in one stop increments. It runs on four AA batteries and has an incredibly fast recharge rate. There is a metal hotshoe foot, a wide range of settings for focusing the output of the flash from 17mm width to 105mm width (to match your lenses on a 35mm SLR camera), a PC output AND a mini-phone plug (which is a VERY welcome relief) for synching with your camera (that makes three direct connection possibilities), a head that tilts AND swivels and finally, a built-in slave. The built-in slave can be set for firing on the first flash or for the second (as in digital cameras that emit a preflash for setting the Exposure Values (EV) for the shot). I do not yet know the sensitivity of the slave, but testing will determine how good it is. If it's optical, the range won't be very far.... BTW, it is made in Hong Kong and seems well constructed.

As such, this flash seems to have all the best components of any number of flashes. There are, however, some things it does not have or has the potential to be a problem in the long run for cave photography. For some, the fact that it does not have a built-in auto-power adjustment (you tell it what f-stop you're using and it automatically adjusts to that f-stop) will be a negative. However, nearly all cave photographers worth their salt will tell you that having full manual control is a necessity, so you'll just have to make the power output adjustment yourself. Another thing of concern to me is that the zoom adjustment for the angle of flash output is controlled electronically, not manually. You have to push a button to change it from one setting to another. To me, this adds to battery power drain and will be especially prone to failure due to humidity, dust and mud from caving. In addition, if you turn the strobe off and had it set at anything other than 35mm width, it automatically defaults back to 35mm every time! Since the strobe has an auto-shut off at 30 minutes of non-use, you might have problems with having to reset it manually if you are setting up a complicated shot! Only the hotshoe plate that slides into your camera's hotshoe output or slave unit is metal, the rest being plastic. I am also not sure about the charging of the capacitor in the strobe. In older versions of Vivitar strobes, it reached its peak and then dumped the excess power back into the batteries so that it wasn't constantly draining them in keeping the strobe up to full power. Not sure about this unit as it says nothing about it.

Aside from these concerns, it seems to be a well-built and comparatively rugged strobe. The nice thing about it is that there is a two year warranty on it, WAY better than the usual 90 day warranty on nearly everything else. The cost is a bit high ($160), but it may be worth it if it stands up to the cave environment in the long run. Stay tuned for more details in the near future.....

Peter Jones


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