Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Tronix Explorer Mini Rocks!

I took my new Tronix Explorer Mini out for a test drive the other day. Okay, technically it was a test shoot, not a test drive, but if this new product had wheels and a motor, it would handle like an agile sports car, accelerating quickly enough to knock your head back.

The Explorer Mini is Innovatronix's latest addition to it's line of portable power units. But don't let the word, "Mini," fool you. This little baby packs a wallop with its 400 watts of continuous power and 1200ws of peak power!

Here's some personal observations about the Explorer Mini, that is, a few things that impressed me beyond my overall sense of being impressed, earning the Mini a JimmyD "Seal of Approval" for this very cool portable power unit.

Recycle time: It was as if my monolight was plugged into an AC socket! Every time I snapped one, my strobe was recharged as quickly as it ever recharges when working in a studio. I never slowed the normal pace I usually shoot at. I'm not saying I fire my Canon like it's a Gatling Gun, I don't. That's not my shooting style. But I often shoot fairly fast, albeit, a single shot at a time. (My camera is practically never in multi-shot burst mode.)

I wrote to Glen, Innovatronix's marketing honcho, and told him I wasn't sure if it was my imagination or what, but it sure seemed like the recycle time didn't slow down in any noticeable way towards the end of my shoot and as the Mini came closer to being spent. Glen wrote me back and said it was not my imagination. He explained that, while I won't get as many total number of POPs with the Mini as I do with my much larger ExplorerXT -- the XT being much bigger and having more overall capacity -- the Mini packs more punch than the XT and that punch is very noticeable in terms of recycle times. It also means the Tronix Mini is compatible with an even greater variety of various manufacturers' strobes than the XT is compatible with. (Note: Whenever I'm in the market for new strobes -- or portable power supplies for that matter -- fast recycle time is always near the top of my list for "must have" functionality.)

While the Mini may not hold as much overall power in reserve as it's big brother, the XT, that's not to say I ran out of juice before finishing my shoot. I was using a 300ws monolight cranked up to full-power output throughout the two or three hours I was shooting and the Mini, as small as it is, delivered about 300 full-power POPs!

I also loved the carrying bag the Mini travels in and for a couple of reasons: First, it's well vented so the Mini and it's charger can always stay in the bag, even while recharging. Second, while the Mini is much smaller than the XT, it's still heavy enough so the bag can be hung from a light stand and perform like a sand bag. I'm not saying it's heavy enough to anchor a light stand with a big modifier up top, keeping it firmly planted in gale force winds. (Neither will multiple sand bags.) Still, it was heavy enough to keep my stand upright in the gentle breeze that helped keep us cool while shooting. BTW, I was using a fairly good size modifier: a 5' Photek Softlighter.

I highly recommend the Tronix Explorer Mini as an effective, reliable, reasonably-priced and terrific solution to your portable power needs, especially for those quick(ish) on-location shoots where A/C is not available. If, like me, you prefer shooting with the advantages and power of monolights, rather than small flash instruments, the Tronix Explorer Mini is the answer to those needs. If, like many photographers, you prefer shooting with small flash instruments, Innovatronix also makes and sells an AC/DC converter/power supply, the Tronix Speedfire, allowing you to plug one end of the Speedfire into the Mini (or into an AC wall socket for that matter) and the other end into your Canon or Nikon flash's power port. Doing so will deliver many POPs from your speedlite(s) and at faster recycle times than your small flash delivers when stuffed with AA batteries.

The young lady at the top is Alexis. She's an aspiring, mainstream actress. I was shooting images for her commercial portfolio. My bud, Dan, was with me and he snapped the behind-the-scenes pic up top featuring both Alexis and the Tronix Explorer Mini hanging from my light stand. As I mentioned, I was using a 300ws monolight at full-power output modified with a large Photek Softlighter. I also set a LumoPro Lite Panel, lengthwise on the ground and angled up for that set of on-the-ground shots. It provided a bit of gentle fill from underneath. The Lite Panel's reflector was bouncing strobe light, by the way, not sun light. As you can see, I was using the late afternoon sun for back light. I love the beautiful, warm, edge-lighting the sun provides at that time of day. It also helped separate Alexis from the background while adding other aesthetic values.

Below is a shot of Alexis I snapped after the sun had set and the ambient was mostly gone. Like the Energizer Bunny, the Explorer Mini still had some fast-recycle power left so I finished out our shoot adopting a slightly editorial look and feel for the last few images of Alexis.


Dan said...

Hey Jimmy,

The Tronix was a blast to shoot with the other evening. If memory serves correct, when it finally died I was able to recycle the power switch and get another half dozen shots. I don't believe that it failed to fire once during the shoot.

As always, great to see you again and it was a pleasure to shoot the very pretty Alexis with you as well.

Ashley Karyl said...

It's exciting to see some real competition and options available now at more affordable prices for small battery packs like this. I wonder how the Tronix compares to the Vagabond mini lithium.

Pete Springer said...

I agree with Ashley. I'm sure the Tronix is nice, but with the Vagabond mini coming in at $200 less and a whole lot smaller and lighter weight, I'm not sure the Tronix is worth it. The Vaga mini really works great and it's size and weight make it easy to fly with (you can literally carry it in your carry-on with lots of room to spare).

Just my two-cents. I realize PCB didn't float you a Vaga mini to test so it's hard to compare it with the Tronix.

jimmyd said...

@Pete: I agree the PCB Vagabond Mini Lithium is impressive, especially considering it's size and weight. For shooters who air-travel or backpack to locations it's gotta seem like it's heaven sent. You're also right I've not had an opportunity to try-out and review the PCB Vagabond Mini -- from others I've spoken with and from my own personal experience, PCB isn't interested in floating much of their gear to too many people.

I did read the Vag-Mini review on Rob Galbraith's site and while I was quite impressed with the number of pops the Vagabond Mini provided, it's recycle time wasn't very impressive and, frankly, since I don't hop on airplanes much (with my gear) or have any plans to climb Everest with a model or two in tow and shoot them at the top, the size and weight of the Vag-Mini isn't a big deal to me nor is it a big selling point.

I guess it all comes down to what works best and is most practical and efficient for each individual shooter and how it matches up with the sort of work they normally do... i.e, right tool for the job and all that.

BTW, I wasn't kidding when I mentioned in my review that the weight of the Tronix Mini is a big plus for me in terms of letting it double as either a sand bag on a vertical stand or (what I didn't mention) letting it be a counter-weight on a boom; something I'll definitely be also using it for.

Innovatronix Inc said...

Thanks Jimmy!

Btw, Exp Mini main features are faster recycle time and larger compatibility esp to bi-voltage monoblocks. If your monolights are Alienbees, VML, is the natural option. However, if you've got, say Calumet Genesis or Elinchrom BXRIs, then Exp Mini can be your battery pack. :)

jun said...

The explorer mini standard with bag sells for US$349.00

The Vagabond Mini Lithium sells
for US$260 and the bag option is
another US$20 extra. So the a difference of US$70 not US$200.

What you get with the Tronix Mini is much faster recycling time and wide compatibility with non- PCB
flashes, and a cheaper battery replacement at the expense of lesser number of full power pops.

The customer will have to choose
his poison. :)

Paolo San Pedro said...

Why Choose Tronix Explorer Mini? / Top Reasons why you should choose Tronix Explorer Mini

1. If you find monoblock's recycle time very important (you wouldn't want your models to hold the pose or re-do the action while you are waiting for 10+ seconds to get ready for your next shot)

2. If you are using digital or bi-voltage monoblocks from top brands such as Elinchrom, Hensel, Profoto, Bowens, Multiblitz, Calumet, Photogenic (especially if your monoblocks are bi-voltage such as EL BXRI500, Dlite 4s, Hensel Compact 600Rs)

3. Based on actual photo shoots using 2 500ws monolights at real world power settings (not always at full power), Tronix Explorer Mini delivers about 400 shots (for some photographers, 100 shots are enough)

4. If you find 20+ lbs (10kilos) battery pack too heavy for your on-location photography session (Tronix Explorer Mini weighs about 5 kilos and has a compact design enclosed in a carrying case)

5. If you find compatibility to a large number of monoblocks and reliability of your equipment very important (Tronix Explorers are known and tested to be a very reliable equipmen