The first thing to test was the number of flashes from a battery charge – which isn’t quite as simple as it sounds. People keep comparing the Safari Li-on with the Elinchrom Quadra – now the Quadra only has 2/3rds of the Li-on power (400 Ws against 600 Ws on the Li-on – so I thought that the most useful figure was a direct comparison at 400 Ws.
So I tested it at the same 400Ws that the Quadra has, firstly at normal recycling speed and secondly at fast recycling speed, which uses more battery power.
At normal recycling speed I got 795 flashes
And at fast recycling speed I got 630 flashes. I was seriously impressed by this, especially as the Elinchrom Quadra stated figures are just 110 and150 flashes respectively, which means that the Li-on Lithium Ion battery produces more than 5 times as many flashes as the Quadra lead acid battery at the same power setting, even though the Quadra battery weighs a fair bit more.
Then I recharged the battery again and tried it at the full power of 600 Ws, and got 402 flashes on fast recycling and 529 flashes at normal recycling.
After charging the battery yet again, I set the power to 1/8th and tried again. I got an incredible 5600 flashes at normal recycling and 4,279 flashes at fast recycling.
The testing method was simply to set the power and then just keep firing the flash as soon as it was ready to fire, until it stopped firing, with the modelling lamp switched off of course. Not exactly real world because it had to work a lot harder in my test than in any normal usage, and I stopped counting each time when the Li-on switched itself off, even though there were still a few more flashes there if I switched it back on again. As with any battery powered flash, it got pretty hot with this repeated firing and the thermal safety cutout forced me to give it a few minutes of rest every 100 flashes or so, but it’s good to know that the system is fully protected if I ever manage to work it that hard on a real shoot.
By now I had recharged the battery 5 times and was seriously sick of firing flashes, and didn’t see the point of any more battery life tests, as all the results were pretty linear anyway, which means that it’s easy to caculate exactly how many flashes a charge will produce at any power setting.
Time to move on to energy consistency tests. Energy consistency is just measuring the power of each flash and seeing how much the energy varies from flash to flash. It’s important because if the flash energy isn’t consistent you’ll sometimes get unwanted overexposure or underexposure. I tested it at 1 stop differences and the variation between flashes was between nothing and 1/10th of a stop each time, which amounts to spot on. I used my Minolta flash meter V for this test.
I measured the colour temperature variation too. Colour temperature in itself isn’t that critical because flash heads can always be gelled to match other light sources such as daylight – as long as the colour temperature is consistent, but if it varies a lot then there’s a real problem, because nothing can be done to correct something that is unknown. Well, the test with my Minolta colour temperature meter showed a flash to flash variation of just 10 degrees Kelvin, which is nothing – I defy anyone to notice any difference of less than 100 degrees!
And finally I tested the actual flash power.
At full power the guide number is 166 (ft) or 54.45(m)
At 400 Ws the guide number is119 (ft) or 39.03 (m)
And at minimum power the guide number is 23 (ft) or 7.54 (m) – a massive 6.3 stops of total adjustment.
These tests were carried out in my own studio, which is a bit on the big and dark-walled side, so other people in smaller studios with white walls will get even better figures. The only guy who couldn’t get figures at least as good was a magazine tester who forgot to press the A+B button and measured 400 Ws instead of 600 Ws…
So now I’ve got the testing done I’ll just sit back and relax. In fact I’ll get out there and do some shooting with it.
Edit: Since publishing this blog, Advanced Photographer have carried out their own comprehensive review of all popular location lighting kits. Our Lencarta Safari Li-on came top by a country mile, beating the Elinchrom Quadra, Elinchrom Ranger, Profoto, Bron, Bowens and Quantum kits.
When they tested the Elinchrom Quadra, they found that it produced much less power than they expected (they measured it at 110% less power than the Safari Li-on, instead of the expected 50% less) so they tested the battery life of our Li-on kit at the actual flash energy produced by the Quadra.
The Quadra was good for 120 flashes and the Li-on was good for 1,364 flashes at the same effective power.