Historically, photography strobes have been limited to maximum sync speeds of around 1/200th of second, depending on camera and lighting models. This presented a number of challenges and restricted what was creatively possible, especially when shooting outdoors during the day. Being locked into a relatively slow shutter forced photographers to close down the aperture to avoid over-exposed images on bright days, making it impossible to get a nice shallow depth of field and required an immensely powerful flash to overpower the sun. One possible solution was using neutral density filters, but this still restricted the ability to freeze motion with higher shutter speeds.
Over the years, a number of innovations in lighting equipment have found ways to bypass these limitations: HypyerSync, HighSpeedSync and Elinchrom’s Hi-Sync. For those interested, you can read more about these different technologies here: https://www.elinchrom.com/battery/elb400.html
Elinchrom’s Hi-Sync technology was the major factor in my decision to go with the ELB400 kits as my main lighting source. Here’s a video of a field test with an Elinchrom ELB400 and a 100cm deep octabox out on location to test this system.
Overall, I was very pleased with the performance. The pack has enough juice to overpower the sun and the ability to shoot wide open and still use strobes for full control midday is great. Here’s a comparison of two shots straight out of camera, one using natural light and one using the ELB400 to fill in the shadow as the key light.
As you can see, properly exposing for the models face without blowing out the background would have been impossible. Having even a single strobe on hand while shooting outdoors provides a lot of flexibility in terms of lighting setups.
My model was still for the majority of these shots, so a normal lighting system and a neutral density filter would have likely worked, but if she was actually riding the longboard and I was trying to freeze motion, I would have been in trouble. It is the removal of technical restraints that makes it a great system.
That being said, after months of using two ELB400 packs and three HS heads combined with more traditional studio strobes, I’ve run into some issues I didn’t foresee when deciding on my lighting system. Elinchrom’s Hi-Sync technology works by having a strobe head with a slow flash duration perfectly timed with their transmitter to fire at the optimal time. This allows you to freeze motion using shutter speed in high sync, but also means that at slow shutter speeds, the flash duration itself is way too slow to freeze motion. A lot of traditional studio flashes, with a fast flash duration, are able to freeze motion at slower maximum shutter sync speeds because the image is only exposed for a split second in time. This means I can’t effectively mix the two systems and still freeze motion. It was an oversight on my part, but something to be aware of if you plan to mix lights.