Firehed's Blog

LumoPro LP120 Strobist Flash - first impressions

Just took delivery of a new LumoPro LP120 strobe - the flash designed by Strobists for Strobists. I'll probably post more details (and photos!) later, but first impressions:

Features

Nice, compact size. About the same as my Canon 580EX II, significantly smaller than the Vivitar 285HV. The head size is also comparable to the 580EX II, so you should have no problems with using any small-flash accessories - a nice change from the 285's giant head that doesn't fit anything properly.

4 triggering methods - awesome. Hotshoe, PC cord, 3.5mm socket, optical slave. Haven't tested the hotshoe, but the other three all work very reliably so far. No problems with the optical trigger at short range, which is all I've tried so far. I expect it'll mostly be fired by a Paul C Buff CSRB unless I'm out of triggers, in which case I'll go with the optical trigger.

Head moves 90º clockwise, 180º CCW, 90º vertically. 4 (manual) zoom positions: 28, 35, 50, and 85mm. Like the Vivitar, it doesn't lock into any of the positions, just clicks into place. 180º in both directions would have been nice, but I don't envision it being a problem. Pretty much identical movement range as a Canon 430 I think. It also includes a wide-angle diffuser that you can pop in, which I'll probably lose promptly.

Power options

1/1, 1/2, 1/4, 1/8, 1/16, 1/32. Love the control over the Vivitar, which is missing 1/8 and 1/32 from that list. I'll probably get a half-stop or third-stop ND if I find myself needing more precision. The switches are a little unusual, but they look like they'll be reliable, and FAR better than the Vivitar. The latest cheap Chinese import (can't remember the model #, sorry) that has little LEDs to indicate the power level would have been a nice touch, but two switches with four positions each are easy enough to use in the dark when the need arises.

Recycle time seems to be about 5.5 seconds for a full-power shot using not-quite-fully-charged Sanyo Eneloop rechargeable AAs.  Normal rules of recycle time apply for lower power flashes.

Build quality

Decent for the price. Very, very lightweight - with batteries installed, it feels about the same weight as an empty 580EX II; also a bit lighter than a loaded Vivitar. It's certainly not as nice as the Canon, but it's also a third of the price. Fine by me. I don't see it breaking easily (and MPEX's early durability testing seems to back that up unless you're REALLY abusing it). The hotshoe is a screw-lock plastic design, which will be the point of failure; however, it's both replaceable and covered by warranty for two years.

My biggest nit-pick so far is the design of the battery compartment.  It's a poor imitation of the slide-down, pop-out design of the 580EX II.  I'll post a picture of this later - it's hard to describe.

Light quality

Well, that's what I really need to test now! Those who have done proper testing seem happy. To be honest, so long as it's consistent from shot to shot I don't really care - to me, the Strobist approach isn't about obsessing over metering and numbers, but using your knowledge to get close, chimp, and then dial it in using more of your knowledge.

Summary

Very good first impressions - I think this will be a great successor to the Vivitar for those looking for a cheap Strobist flash. ETTL users will have no use for this whatsoever, as it's manual only.  I haven't used the older Nikon SB units, but while they'll continue to be great choices, these guys shouldn't have availability issues.  With the exception of the battery compartment design, I think it's quite a nice unit on the whole.  If the light quality is there (which I've yet to test; I've only had the thing for a couple hours), I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it at the price.