Disclaimer: In an effort to be up front with my readers about my relationships with photo equipment suppliers I want to let you know that I am “sponsored” to a degree by the folks at Elinchrom and give them feedback on their gear to help improve it. With that said, in my reviews I will call it like I see it. If I thought a piece of gear was not up to snuff then I simply wouldn’t choose to review it. I was sent the new Quadra Li-Ion battery to test out and use by the fine folks at Manfrotto Distribution.
The Elinchrom Ranger Quadras are one of my favorite tools when I need to use a lightweight battery-powered strobe kit in the outdoors. Hence, when Elinchrom announced that they were going to make a new Lithium Ion (Li-Ion) version of their battery, which would snap onto the Quadras, I was chomping at the bit to get my hands on one. Mark Astmann, the product manager for Elinchrom here in the USA, must have read my mind because I got an email a few weeks ago saying that one of the new batteries was on it’s way to me. Now, before we get too far into this equipment review I just want to remind everyone that I wrote an in-depth review of the Quadras in my Spring 2010 Newsletter. If you would like to read the review, download that issue of the Newsletter by clicking on the underlined link. In this review, I will concentrate on how this excellent product has been improved with the new Li-Ion battery.
First off, as you might imagine, the new Li-Ion battery is smaller and lighter (as shown below) than the original Lead Gel battery supplied with the Quadras. The new Li-Ion battery is 2 cm shorter and it is 850 grams (1.87 lbs) lighter than the lead Gel battery. The fact that it is shorter allows the Quadras to fit in my backpack even easier and the fact that the new battery is almost two pounds lighter means that the whole Quadra kit, with the strobe head and cable weighs just over 5 pounds total. The new battery drops the weight of the Quadra power pack from 2.91 Kg (6.42 lbs) down to 2.06 Kg (4.54 lbs).
If the weight savings were the only benefit of the new battery I would be sold, but there is more. Not only is the new battery lighter, it also allows one to get up to 320 full power flashes, which is more than twice the number of full power flashes possible with the Lead gel battery! So not only do we now have a lighter battery, but we also have a much more powerful one as well. For my work, where I am often trying to overpower the sun I usually end up shooting with the Quadras at full power. Having 320 full power flashes to work with in a lighter, smaller package is a huge improvement!
Sadly, when I first attached the Li-Ion battery to my Quadras it would not fire the flash head no matter what I tried. While trying to problem solve the issue, I read in the instruction manual that some older Quadra units (with a serial number below 4,000) will need an upgrade at the repair facility for the units to work correctly. I sent my power packs and strobe heads in and once the units were updated they work like a charm. So if you are looking to get the battery check the serial numbers on the bottom of your Quadra power pack. Note that there are two serial numbers on the Quadra power packs: the one on the RQ Lead gel battery itself and the one on the bottom of the Quadra power pack (where the RQ Lead gel battery attaches). The serial number you are looking for is this second one on the bottom of the Quadra power pack. I realize it is a pain to send your kit back in to get updated, and I was a little bummed out having to send it in for the update, but the fact remains that you will still have a lighter, more powerful kit once it gets updated—and you didn’t have to buy a whole new rig to get it (as you do with some other brands out there).
Now let’s talk about the performance of this new Li-Ion battery. Essentially, it provides an incredible number of flashes for such a small power pack. It is like the Energizer bunny, it just keeps on going and going, especially at the lower power settings. The Li-Ion battery recycles the flash 15% faster than the Lead Gel batteries, meaning on the Fast recycle setting you are ready to shoot again in less than 2 seconds at full power. At the lower power settings you can get up to 4,000 flashes on one charge and the recycle times are crazy fast.
The only caveat for the new Li-Ion batteries is that they are not suitable for extreme cold or hot temperatures. If the temperature is below -10 °C (14 °F) or above 60 °C (140 °F), the “safety circuitry will cut off the power supply to avoid damage to the Li-Ion cells.” In light of this, I recommend that you keep your RQ Lead gel batteries as backups. For more information on the new RQ Li-Ion batteries, and to read all the specs, visit the Elinchrom website at www.elinchrom.com.