This post is based on the ELB500 TTL Dual To Go set (N° 10310.1). Product testing was done during the Malaysian product lunch and 2 days of shooting.
First of all, I am likely biased because I have been an avid Elinchrom user since 2016 but that being said, I try to present only the facts and did not sugar-coat anything.
And now, let me start by telling you what is good about the ELB500 TTL :
Construction & Build
Basically built like a tank for both the battery and power pack; greatly improved locking mechanism between power pack pack and battery; rubberized base / feet on battery pack prevents slipping; very robust protective caps on strobe cable connector.
It also continues on the tradition from the Quadra packs that Elinchrom designed weather-seals onto the pack. There is a rubber gasket between the battery & power pack, caps on the head cable connectors and what looks like a completely sealed top panel / OLED panel.
No, it is not recommended that you use the lights in a thunderstorm or snowstorm but the pack is more likely to survive such abuses better than most other battery packs.
The ELB500 snappy that came with the To Go Set is very well-made; it protects the pack as well as makes it easy to carry around or to hang around lightstands as counterweight though the snappy is rather bulky and does make the ELB500 slight less portable. The older ELB400 had small plastic mount points that allows you to add a simple carrying strap making it significantly more portable though I have always feared that one day the plastic mounts though tough will break through abuse.
Ease of Use
The ELB500 TTL has a different menu system and interface compared to the ELB400 that took quite a lot of getting used to. Although once I gotten used to it and after watching Elinchrom’s own video on Youtube, it wasn’t complicated to use. The only thing that kinda got to me was the way the modelling light controls was buried under a long-press; long-presses are normally not associated to professional camera equipment.
Usability compared to any manual studio strobe (like the ELB400 or any other non-TTL flash/strobe) is great as the TTL is really very accurate when paired with the Elinchrom Transmitter PRO, radio range was definitely good (max range tested by me is around 25m-30m). The ability to switch to manual power adjustment immediately after a TTL exposure is supported and is great as most photographers are control freaks and we like to tune the light within 0.1 stop of what we want (as if anyone can actually tell the difference).
Another feature of the ELB500 TTL is the support for full-time connection to the mains; this allows the ELB500 TTL to work in a studio environment like a non-battery pack studio strobe and enables it able to pull double-duty for both studio and outdoor usage.
The ELB500 TTL is a 500Ws pack and that actually means it can store up to 500Ws of power and release said power in a flash (pun intended) but that is not only important metric. How it releases the power in terms of flash duration, consistency in color & light output as well as what it does when you need to exceed the flash sync speed of your camera are equally important.
From my testing, flash duration is definitely quick enough to provide a very sharp exposure throughout its entire power range; in addition to that, color & power consistency was good despite having to fire off many shots in quick succession.
The HSS (yes, HSS) works great for times you need to overpower the sun; being able to produce enough power at ISO100, F8 for a 1/500s shutter speed with a 120cm octagonal softbox with internal diffusion mounted ~3m from the model is very impressive for such a small pack. Not many strobes can do that and definitely none that I have seen can do that using HSS (as of the time of this blog post).
Finally, there is one additional consideration for flash power : minimum power. There are many situations where a very low power might be desired, like shooting in conditions where you want to preserve the ambiance like a beautiful night scene or like some would love to point out – while photographing babies. In this aspect, the ELB500 TTL delivers completely, able to adjust power anything from max (which is around 6.0) down to 0.1 in 0.1 steps.
The ELB500 Dual To Go Set
As a reminder, the review set I got from the local (Malaysian) distributor was the ELB500 TTL Dual To Go set; which is a set that consists of 2 heads, a ELB500 TTL pack with battery, the ELB 500 Snappy or carrying case, charger, a standard reflector plus a wide angle reflector and the ProTec Location Bag.
This set contains nearly everything a photographer upgrading to real studio strobes for the first time or for a photographer who wishes to great add location lights to his/her arsenal.
Notable items missing for a full practical location lighting set are portable lightstands, a wireless transmitter / trigger (like the a Elinchrom Transmitter Pro), a 3m or 5m extension cable for a flash head and some grids & diffuser for the reflectors.
In the set, the most impressive item (besides the ELB500 TTL itself) remains the ProTec Location Bag. This is the same bag from the ELB400 To Go Set and it can fit 1 battery pack with 2 heads plus reflectors & accessories OR 2 battery packs with 2 heads & accessories. It is well-padded, solidly built and thoughtfully designed; it is honestly as good or better than any photography gear bag I have ever seen or ever used.
Well… that’s all the positive stuff I can say about the ELB500 TTL. Now its time for some negatives that I haven’t covered :
Elinchrom Transmitter PRO – Canon
To fully utilize the ELB500 TTL’s features, Elinchrom Transmitter PRO – C (or N and to a lesser extent a Phottix Odin II) is essential, so I will deal with some niggling issues with the transmitter.
First of all, the LCD screen orientation and buttons is nearly impossible to see or use when mounted on a tripod as everything faces straight up. This is actually very annoying for low-light or shots where absolute quality & stability is important; an angled display + button layout
(like the Odin II) would fix this problem easily.
Now, related to the problem above is the 2nd issue; when mounted on a newer Canon DSLR (7D Mark II or anything newer), there is actually no way to control power output of individual lighting groups in camera when using TTL. The same feature is supported when using Phottix Odin II when used with the ELB500 TLL.
As a sidenote, the Phottix Odin II isn’t ideal either as a trigger because it cannot trigger any other Elinchrom strobes (not even in manual mode) directly.
Modeling Light Output
Modelling light output control is very well hidden in the ELB500 TTL and there is no way to control the modelling light output remotely via the Elinchrom Transmitter PRO at the moment. Eventhough the modelling output can vary, the variation is actually very small and although I didn’t actually measure the difference between max and min output looks like it is less than a stop which is too narrow a range to be useful.
Non-removable Head Cable
Although this actually makes the overall package more compact, a non-removable cable that is connected to the head all the time actually makes packing slightly trickier and would take up more space if you are looking at using longer cables than the non-removable cable.
Note : Review / test unit for the Elinchrom ELB500 To Go Set was provided free-of-charge by Elinchrom MY / Shriro (Malaysia) Sdn Bhd ; unit has since been returned to provider. Special thanks goes to That Special Occasion for sponsoring the wedding gown and DM Make-up & Beauty for the make-up & styling.
If you would like to check out a BTS video I made for the shoot that I used the ELB500 TTL for, please click here
All tests were done with a Canon EOS 5DS-R (firmware v1.1.1R) with Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II & Canon EF 85mm f/1.2L II triggered with Elinchrom Transmitter PRO – Canon (fiwmare Canon v2.1.0); ELB500 TTL (release firmware); ELB400 (firmware v1.9); Canon 600EX-RT triggered by EL-Skyport Receiver Plus.