But, before we get stuck into the nitty gritty, let’s take a trip down memory lane – *cue harps and soft blur dissolve*
There was a time when the earth was green, fresh, unpolluted and full of wonder. . .that was a long time ago. But about 2.5 years ago (give or take a few) the Strobist community was in a bit of a bother. The cheap all manual speedlights coming out of Asia, (China, Taiwan, Hong Kong etc.) started to suffer from some pretty erratic quality issues. Things were all over the shop and not improving. They were burning out quickly, breaking too easily and being just general ‘not good’ flashes. As tensions rose and frustration reached an all time high, MPEX did a very cool thing. They decided they would take it upon themselves to stick it right up those Asian manufacturers and make their own manual speedlight that was as powerful, of better quality and designed by the very people that would use it, Strobists, to solve the problem once and for all. (If you don’t know about the Strobist movement and in particular a very awesome dude by the name of David Hobby (Edit: Wrong last name! Woops!), where have you been? Check out his site, now!) They wanted something done properly, so they did it themselves. . .good thing they did too.
So the LumoPro LP120 was born, featuring no fancy TTL crap, but just pure good old manual switching fun. It had four trigger options, including an optical trigger and answered a lot of peoples prayers. It was packed standard into all the MPEX Strobist kits and for a time the Strobist Earth was as it should be.
Fast forward to the present day *whip pan* and we’re here with the LumoPro’s latest release and what can only be described as the LP120′s steroidal big brother, The LumoPro LP160.
I brought three of the LP120′s way back when. They were great little flashes, I still have them now & they’re still going strong after almost 18 solid months of daily (ab)use. The only thing they lacked was power, I wanted more power, i wanted serious power and in looking for that, I had to get a Canon 580EXII.
But then I saw the LumoPro LP160 had come to town with some bold claims. As much power as a Canon 580EXII, improved optical trigger, electronic zoom and flash power control – I have to say I was immediately very interested to see what the LP160 would be like. Would it really be as bright as my Canon 580EXII, surely something that powerful wouldn’t come in at such a low cost. Surely it couldn’t. . .well it did. . .This thing kicks like a mule and holds it’s own against the 580EXII, sure it hasn’t got all the fancy dials, LCD panels, bracketing and crap that the Canon 580EXII has, but that’s not what this flash is about, this is all manual, all good, all the time. . .no mess, no fuss!
I’ve been using it exclusively as a slave to my on camera 580EXII, triggering it using it’s built in optical slave and I want to talk about this first, because I find it one of the best features of the LumoPro LP160. Simply put, the optical slave in the LumoPro LP160 kicks ass. It’s so sensitive I haven’t had to use my radio triggers at all. Which is great, because batteries in those things used to cost me a fortune, and it means I can plonk the LP160 almost anywhere (Within reason…It’s not going to fire 50 metres away in the sun, nor will it fire inside a closed cupboard) and it’ll pop when it see’s my Canon 580EXII flash, even when it’s set on it’s lowest setting. Which means with most setups, I can bounce the 580 on it’s lowest setting so it’s not affecting my exposure at all and run the LumoPro LP160 as the only perceived light source. . .with no triggers. . . .stoked! It also has a new optical slave mode for those TTL fans, that ignores the TTL pre-flash. I could never get my 580EXII and my LP120 to flash at the same time when using the 7D’s inbuilt flash transmitter. The LP120 would fire on the TTL preflash and not affect the exposure. There is no such trouble now.
The power level is not quite as I have read elsewhere. It’s nearly as powerful as the Canon Canon 580EXII, not ‘as’ powerful. I’d say about 1/3-2/3 of a stop under in my very unscientific tests (Check out the comparison shots below), but not so much that you begrudge it. I’m just really happy to have that kind of power and not have to fork out another $600 for a Canon 580EXII. I don’t need all the bells and whistles of that flash, I use it in manual mode mostly anyway, I just need the power it provides. Now that power is available in a cheaper package, happy days!
Now I’ve sung some of it’s praises, it’s time to get real. It’s not all roses, of course there are some things that niggle me. . .the build quality still feels a little on the cheap side, but then again, what do you expect for $160? The LP120′s felt the same way and they’re still trucking for me, so I don’t think it’s going to be detrimental to it’s life expectancy. It’s an all plastic construction, but this time around it does have a metal shoe. One small design oversight is that the flash is so wide at the base, it is hard to get your fingers on the lock wheel to do it up or undo it when it’s on a camera or a stand. Speaking of stands, the LumoPro LP160 comes with a cool little stand so you can sit it on a flat surface and it will stand by itself. I really missed one of these with the LP120′s.
One thing that has taken quite a step backwards, is the battery door. For some reason, the design they had on the LP120, which was similar to the Canon 580EXII, a slide-to-release folding flap, has been replaced by a dinky, slide out tab that’s not physically attached to the flash body. I have a strong feeling this will get lost one day and I don’t really like the design. It’s not so easy to get the tab back on when the batteries have been put in and . . .yeah. . .not ace. . .It’s not a deal breaker, but it’s got be said.
With an increase in power comes in increase in size. The LumoPro LP160 is a bit of a beast. Quite a lot larger than it’s predecessor and the 580EXII. It’s not a huge issue for me, I just wish it was a little more petite. It does look very cool though. . .angular, tough and serious. . .I like my camera equipment to look a bit tough, don’t you?
There is the ability to go to a lower power now, down to 1/64, which is nice and also zoom from 24mm through to 105mm, all controlled by pressing the corresponding button (singluar) on the back of the flash with little LED’s telling you what’s what.
What’s my take on it? I like it. . .alot! I’ve been using it heaps and it’s simplistic operation, fantastic power and super sensitive optical slave make this very valuable tool. It’s quick to set up, no hassle with radio triggers on the job, which makes life easier. . .that’s what you want. The niggles I have with it are really overshadowed by it’s phenomenal price point. I mean for US$160 how can you go wrong?
For more information and to grab yourself one of theses babies, head on over to MPEX’s web store and go nuts, or just follow this link! I want a LumoPro LP160.