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Portable lighting systems, another option

By Stan Sholik

In the September issue of
Professional Photographer, Stan Sholik took a look at portable flash power systems available from Balcar, Broncolor, Calumet, Elinchrom, Hensel and Profoto. Here he looks at alternative, economical options for photographers.

200509bc_packsxp1100 Technological advances have given photographers an increasingly wide selection of portable battery-powered high-output flash units. Those same advances have given us another option for location assignments--power systems designed to allow the use of AC-powered studio flash systems on location. Photographers have done this for years by bringing generators on location. But now there are battery-based power systems that are small, affordable, and produce the pure sine wave output that modern power packs need. Two of the most popular are the new Dyna-Lite XP 1100 and the Paul C. Buff Vagabond Portable Power System.

The Dynalite XP1100 (right) delivers 1100 watts
of AC power in a compact package.

Both systems incorporate a sealed rechargeable lead-acid battery and a pure sine wave converter. They are capable of powering not only location flash equipment, but also delicate electronics equipment such as laptop computers. They can also power modeling lights, but with a reduction in the number of flashes the battery can deliver. Although the manufacturers recommended their use with the flash systems of their respective companies, the power supplies are compatible with many other flash systems.

The FAA does not restrict you from shipping these units with your checked gear as long as they are appropriately marked as "non-spillable battery." Individual airline sometimes have stricter policies, so check with your airline's regulations first. Each unit is compact and weighs just over 20 pounds.

The Dyna-Lite is the more powerful of the two, delivering 1100 watts of power. The two models of the Vagabond, the V150 or V300, deliver 150 or 300 watts respectively. The Dyna-Lite XP 1000 is rated as capable of delivering up to 200 full-power flashes to any Dyna-Lite 1000-watt-second pack, with a recycle time of about 1.5 seconds. Dropping in spare interchangeable batteries can extend this indefinitely.

200509bc_packsvag The V300 Vagabond Portable Power System (left) from Paul C. Buff, Inc. includes two 150-watt DC-to-AC converters along with the battery in a heavy duty case that holds all of the components of the system.

The Vagabond is rated at more than 400 full-power flashes into an Alien Bees B1600 or a White Lightning X1600 monobloc, with a 4-second recycle time. Removing its sine wave converter from the case allows it to be used with any available 12-volt battery. Included with the system is a cigarette lighter adapter so that you can pull power from a car battery.

For photographers with only an occasional location assignment away from AC power, these units are an ideal solution. Street price of the Dyna-Lite XP1100 is $1,250. The Vagabond systems, available directly from Paul C. Buff, sell for $349.95 for the V150 and $499.95 for the V300. Additional information is available at the manufacturers' Web sites, and


The Dyna-Lite XP1100 in use on location. (Image provided by Dyna-Lite.)

Download the portable packs article from Professional Photographer magazine.