*In this post I'll be linking Canon versions of the items. Go to the bottom to see the Nikon/Sony links.
The Flashpoint XPLOR 600
So as most of you know I've been going crazy over this new strobe called the XPLOR 600 TTL by Flashpoint. Previously, I was using the Flashpoint Rovelight 600B (that B stands for Bowens). Both are amazing strobes that I love, however, I want to talk about why I will be using the XPLOR from now on and a little about how it differs from the Rovelight. I'll be separating the topics with big bold headlines followed by unnecessary exclamation points such as...
Yup! Wireless. With the new R2 transmitter you can use HSS and even TTL with the XPLOR and nothing else. Nothing! The Rovelight was pretty much wireless when you didn't need HSS, but when you did that required the use of a pair of HSS triggers such as the Yongnuo Yn622c II transceivers (or Yn622N for Nikon) and a mini pc sync cord. Also, if you needed to change the power and wanted to do so conveniently you'd need to place the Rovelight's trigger on top of the Yn622 like in the photo below;
This isn't such a huge issue, but I've always considered less to be more. As much as I love those transceivers, if I don't have to worry about charging the batteries or simply not even worrying about them at all I'll take that option.
If you have the Rovelight and Yn622 transceivers at the moment, you still have a great setup, don't get discouraged. I was shooting with that setup for a year and loved every minute. There's just a bit more room to what you can do with the XPLOR.
HSS GALORE (and more)!
With the XPLOR 600 you can use HSS all throughout the power range it offers from 1/256th to full power. This is something I really fell in love with because I have shaky hands and sometimes want to use a high shutter speed but at a low output. There have been situations where I just needed the smallest hint of light and 1/64th would be perfect but I want to shoot at 1/350th for example. I can't do this with the rovelight since HSS is capped at 1/16th on the lowest end. For those with steady hands, worry not.
Another great feature of that R2 transmitter I mentioned is that whenever you go above your camera's maximum sync speed, the XPLOR and R2 automatically kick in HSS so you don't have to worry about enabling that yourself and focus more on shooting. When you go back to or below the max sync speed HSS is disabled. Technology is amazing.
If you didn't know this already, the XPLOR arrives with a battery conveniently placed in the head of the strobe. This battery lasts over 450 full powered shots. This is too perfect for anyone who plans to use shoot on location. I shoot nothing but on location so this light fits perfectly into my needs. I actually never do studio work but the same week I received my XPLOR I did a studio session and the light worked great. We shot for about 3 hours and I left with the battery reading at full power (three bars). Realistically, I'd guess it to have been at 80%.
Let's talk about TTL briefly before I go further. Want a nice summary of TTL? It's basically auto mode for your strobe. Some of you may be thinking "but I like to know exactly what power my strobe is putting out." and I totally understand that. Believe it or not, I had not even used TTL once before getting the XPLOR and I was thinking the same thing. I wanted to know what power I was using and wanted to have total control. No strobe would do the thinking for me.
Well, let's fast forward to me receiving my new TTL XPLOR and trying it out at a session. Now I'm a total convert! I did a full session using TTL and man was it incredibly easy. In this session, the subject arrived very late so the hour I had became only 10 minutes. Because I didn't have to do any test shots whatsoever, I was able to get a lot more images in different areas of the location in that small amount of time. Doing the same without TTL is possible, but it would have been more of a challenge and definitely not as easy going.
AWESOME TRIGGER SYSTEM!
The main thing about this R2 Transmitter is the ability to use TTL and HSS wirelessly with the XPLOR. However, it can also control up to 5 groups using Canon's traditional A:B:C group ratio style interface. I use one all the time at the moment but with this new transmitter I'm going to start doing 3 light setups with all XPLOR strobes because of how easy the transmitter is to use. I also plan to buy these new R2 compatible speedlites so I can use with the XPLOR wirelessly. Using 3 strobes (or 1 strobe with 2 speedlites when I get lazy) with one transmitter is just insane to me.
Who doesn't want more power at their disposal? It's better to have more power and not need it than not have enough and finding yourself needing more. If you decide to be awesome and buy two XPLOR strobes as well as purchase this flashpoint extension head below you're able to have 1200W available to do as you please.
You're probably thinking "okay buddy, why do I need all that power for anyway?" Well, realistically I don't imagine you needing all 1200W on a daily basis, but let's say you have a situation where you need to overpower the sun. Sure, you can probably do so with a 600W strobe and just a reflector at full power. If you do this, you'll notice the quality of the light will be harsh. I am a huge fan of soft light and if you are too then you'd put a nice octabox on instead of the reflector. Since each panel of diffusion loses a stop of light using 600W with an octabox w/ one diffusion panel becomes 300W and you are no longer overpowering the sun. However, you have 1200W now so instead you go down from 1200W to 600W with the octabox and your light is looking a lot less harsh. This is pretty much how I'm going to use the light, but look just forward to a whole blog post in the future showcasing this extension for a further explanation that includes photos. I've always found visually showing what I mean to help get my point across better.
I'll keep this one short and to the point. If you ever decide that you want your XPLOR to be less heavy you can buy this extension arm and save your assistant an arm workout on location if you're in an area where you can't use a light stand such as New York or Vegas. In the BTS photo below you see me holding a Rovelight 600B in Vegas. What you don't see is me taking a break every 10 seconds since my arm was killing me. An extension arm would have really helped that day. I rarely don't use a stand, but a good friend of mine who lives in New York always needs an assistant to hold his Rovelight because of the laws regarding permits for light stands. I foresee him getting an XPLOR with extension arm in the future.
This is basically where all the other features the XPLOR has will be listed since I've already gone over what I considered to be the main points. Like the modeling lamp for example. The XPLOR has one, it is pretty great in terms of brightness, is LED so it's literally cool, and has three levels. The XPLOR also has...
"FEC (Flash Exposure Compensation), rapid stroboscopic flash, first or second curtain sync, LED Modeling, upgradable firmware and new camera system compatibility, clear LCD display, plus 11 advanced options features. "
Literally just lifted that from the description on Adorama's listing for the strobe. You can read more about the strobe right HERE.
Q. Isn't the XPLOR the same as the Godox AD600?
A. Yes! I get asked this way too many times. They are the same light, BUT the one sold by Flashpoint at Adorama comes with an awesome carrying case, 7 inch reflector with clear lid, the R2 transmitter for free right now (usually $50), and 2 year full USA warranty. The Godox AD600 doesn't.
Q. Is there support for Sony or Fuji?
A. Yes and yes. At the moment of writing this (May 8th) there isn't, BUT there will be. You can find the transmitter for Sony right here and Fuji right here. Patience is a virtue!
UPDATE (1/3/17): Apparently Fuji support might not come or will be late this year (2017), but Sony support has already come. =)
Q. What makes this strobe better than the Einstein 640 or Alienbees?
A. The Einstein 640 ($500) and alienbees (AB800 is $280) don't offer HSS, can't be controlled remotely unless you buy the Cybersync Commander ($180) which I found to be flimsy when I used it, don't include a battery source so you need to buy the Vagabond Mini ($240). At $600 for the manual version XPLOR you're getting a way better deal. With the vagabond mini, Einstein, cyber commander and receiver for the Einstein, you're spending around $950 or more depending on shipping. That's a whole lot more than $600. Shipping is free when ordering the XPLOR and if you're gonna spend $950 you might as well order the TTL version of the XPLOR ($750) and order a nice C stand w/ boom arm ($200) while you're at it.
Q. I heard the Einstein 640 CAN do HSS. Why are you lying? For sales? (actual question that I was asked)
A. Whoa, I have no intention to lie for any reasons. The Einstein 640 CAN'T use HSS. They can however use supersync or *hypersync. Supersync is very technical so I'm going to give the most basic summary I can think of right now. Basically, each strobe has a length to how long their pop of light lasts (at full power it lasts the longest) so as a workaround to not having HSS you can buy some triggers that can adjust the timing of when the trigger will snap the exposure so that you can use high sync speeds. Can be a bit confusing, which is why I didn't intend to add this, but since posting I've gotten quite a bit of angry messages because I "left that info out on purpose".
Back to the point. Einsteins CAN'T use HSS. They CAN use hypersync/supersync. Reiterating that because I definitely do not recommend using this method and I'll tell you why. I've tried this as well as many others and even though you can use higher sync speeds you still get quite a bit of gradient on the image. Some will tell you "it's not noticeable outdoors", but why settle for that answer? And even if it wasn't that noticeable you have the very inconvenient limit of only using Hypersync at full power. Don't know about you, but I don't like limits especially when there's a cheaper alternative that offers more for less like the XPLOR.
Another reason I don't recommend buying into the Einstein/Hypersync method is because it's expensive in comparison to the other options mentioned already such as the Rovelight 600B or XPLOR. To attempt Hypersync you at least need their Power MC2 Receiver ($100) and the Flex TT5 transceiver ($150). That $250 on top of the already $740 you're spending on the Einstein/Vagabond ($500/$240) which is essentially $1,000 after shipping for a system that "isn't so noticeable outdoors" and can only be used at full power. The manual XPLOR can be used from 1/256th (2.5W) to full power (600W), has HSS, a battery, a trigger, and is just $600.
*Hypersync is the exact same thing as supersync, but when using PocketWizards you say 'hypersync'. The PocketWizard company patented that word. Weird, I know.
Q. What if I don't have enough money for the XPLOR? Can I still achieve photos like yours?
A. To my knowledge, Adorama offers two payment plans right now so you can check those out. It's PayPal credit and FlexShopper (linking to the XPLOR because FlexShopper is there). If you don't get accepted to those payment plans you could try ND filters. I used and hated them, but was able to get photos like the one below using them.
It IS possible to use strobes and have a shallow depth of field, but ND filters make it difficult in my opinion. Let's say in this photo a cloud was covering the sun (which I think is true if I think back to December of 2014 when I took it), if the cloud moved the ambient light would be a lot brighter and would cause me to get an overexposed shot. Let's say two stops. To counter that overexposure I'd need to lower my ISO, raise my shutter speed, or stop down my aperture. Since my ISO is capped at the lowest of ISO 50 and I can't go faster than 1/180th on my Canon 6D, I have no choice but to stop down my aperture from f/2.8 to f/5.6 losing that nice buttery background. I only had my one 3 stop filter that day, but if I had a 5 stop ND filter then I could have gotten this same exposure although I would first need to unscrew the 3 stop then screw on the 5 stop effectively wasting time at the session.
Okay so now I'm taking some more shots and the clouds move back over the sun. I now have to unscrew the filter and screw back on the other one. This is wasting more time! I have to be fully honest though. There are some variable ND filters that can adjust the stops of darkness so you won't have to screw things off and on, however, there have been known defects to these filters such as cross patterns. Another thing to consider is that adding any type of filter will affect the quality of your images. Using cheap NDs will cause weird color casts. The arguably best ND filters out there are LEE filters and those are pricey. The filter holder itself is $90 as I'm typing this while the ND filters vary in price. Let's say I used a 3 stop LEE filter since I used a 3 stop filter for that image above. That would have run me $150. So although ND filters aren't so bad, the good ones aren't cheap and they aren't as simple or easy as using HSS like with the XPLOR.
Q. Is TTL worth it? Can I use the XPLOR on manual if I get the TTL version?
A. Honestly, YES. TTL is very worth it. If you skipped right to this FAQ area then you missed where I mentioned that I never even used TTL before getting this strobe. I used TTL just recently at a session that was rushed and it made shooting such a breeze. I have been shooting manually for years, but TTL is just too good not to at least have on hand in times of fast shooting like at weddings where every second count. Yes, you can use the XPLOR on manual if you get the TTL version.
Q. Why do you praise this light so much?
A. Kind of long story so bear with me. I had originally started with alienbees because I was seeing all the pros use it and it was cheap. For a while I didn't know what they heck I was doing. Eventually when I found a look I loved and aimed for (wide apertures + strobed) I used ND filters to shoot at wide apertures. I absolutely hated ND filters. Believe me, I know they're useful and still get used by many, but this is just my opinion. I really did not care for the ~10 seconds I had to use to focus on my subject and the squinting I did to even see them. I have horrible eyesight already! If you know my work, you know I'd need at least 3 stops on a ND filter. The sun is strong here in Texas and I found myself wanting more power so I got the Einstein which had a stop more power and could go lower as well. I utilized full power and needed an even stronger/darker ND filter. I said no thanks after that.
A few months later after getting the Einstein I discovered the Mettle 600AD. That light was capable of supersync which lead me to be able to shoot at high sync speeds, but it's downfall for me was that I couldn't adjust the power wirelessly and I had to use a long sync cord. I was shooting at manual power for years and did so with the Mettle so I did take one or two test shots to determine my exposure and I hated having to walk back and forth from the light to change the power. I use my lighting high too so I also had to lower it and raise it back up after every adjustment.
After that system I finally came across the Rovelight 600B and loved it. I could adjust the power, I could use high sync speeds, and it was cheap. So when I started using this light I became so thankful that I got a system that worked for me. Used it for almost a year before just recently in the past few weeks when I started using my XPLOR, which is even better. I tell you guys this story because I did struggle a lot with my workflow and now have a strobe that works perfectly for me and feel so relieved after spending years searching for this. THAT is why I 'praise' this light.
Q. Why would I need this strobe if I have 2 speedlites?
A. Simply put... POWER! I have 2 speedlites myself and never really use them at my portrait sessions. I do agree that speedlites are more portable, but if you want to take shots like the photo below you'll need more power than 2 speedlites.
Q. Why would I get the XPLOR over the Rovelight?
A. The Rovelight is awesome, but I have more creative freedom with the XPLOR. The Rovelight can't go lower than 1/16th when using HSS and the XPLOR can use HSS all throughout it's power range of 1/256th to full power. The XPLOR can also use HSS wirelessly. You need a pair of Yn622 Yongnuo triggers and a PC sync cord to use HSS with the Rovelight. With the R2 that arrives with the XPLOR you can see the power output of the strobe, change the power, and change the mode of the XPLOR remotely. The Rovelight's trigger can only fire the Rovelight at your camera's sync speed and adjust the power. You still have to manually turn on HSS with the Rovelight.
Q. Would you recommend this strobe over a speedlite for those starting out?
A. Absolutely! The major cons from using the XPLOR over a speedlite is portability and size. Immediately after that the pros start to roll in. The XPLOR offers a wide power range which leads to many creative shots, has HSS if you ever want to use it, and has TTL which is essentially auto mode and that can help newcomers. What's usually recommended for starters is a manual speedlite, pair of cheap remote triggers, and a shoot through umbrella. That's like dipping your toes in a pool before entering. It honestly depends on what you want. Do you want to dip your toes with a speedlite or jump right in with a strobe?
Q. I already have an Einstein and alienbees. What should I do?
A. Sell them! Only slightly joking. If you do lots of studio work and are perfectly happy with those strobes, you don't have to do a thing. Don't feel obligated to buy anything. I mention studio work because the XPLOR doesn't currently have the ability to be used plugged into a wall outlet. Adorama is currently working on that though. (UPDATE) You can pre-order the new AC Adapter HERE! With this adapter the XPLOR is a great studio light as well.
Q. I don't live in the US. What about me? How do I get the light?
A. Try finding the light by the other names it has. It has many! The only difference is the area in which it is sold. These are some of the other names you can find the light under; PIXAPRO CITI600 and GODOX AD600. When I remember the other names I'll update this post.
I provide all my time and energy to helping out as many people as I can any chance I get. For this I don't ask a single thing except if you'd please use my link when buying anything off of Adorama. Your support is greatly appreciated. If you want to support me any other way, feel free to add or follow my Facebook. You can also follow me on Instagram at @fjhphoto.
Rovelight 600B ($370): For both Canon & Nikon
Those are the main links, but I highly recommend getting a C Stand. THIS is a link to the C stands offered by Adorama. If you're shooting in studio a regular stand will be fine.
Other recommended items;
You can also use the following link to adorama to support me if you plan to buy something on there that I didn't already link; http://bit.ly/adoramafjh
If after reading all this stuff you still have a question feel free to ask me on Facebook. I'm on there all the time!