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.