LumoPro LP160 Quad Sync Flash Review

The LumoPro LP160 Quad Sync Flash

The LumoPro LP160 flash is the follow up to the widely popular LumoPro LP120 flash and comes from the lovely people over at Midwest Photo Exchange (MPEX for the rest of this article).

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.

The LP160 In all it's optical slave firing glory! *Cue choir*

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.


10 comments to LumoPro LP160 Quad Sync Flash Review

  • Dave

    Awesome, a new cheap toy to go with the canon 50mm. I completely skipped all that fancy radio stuff with automated gee whizery. I think I can be just as happy with full manual.

  • Tim Sullivan

    I bought one of these a while back and it’s been fantastic. Planing on rounding out the kit with a few more! Nice power, good recycle times, great price!

  • pat22043

    Nice review. I have two LP160s to go with an ancient Vivatar 285. Compared to the Vivatar, the LP160 is not all that huge.

    I too love the optical strobe. I’ve been using a PC cord to one, and letting the second slave optically. Works great.

  • vizcara

    Oh my god flash without ETTL, TTL, Auto wizbang bing bang? Oh my god what will the masses at Strobist hobby newbies do??? You mean they will actually learn about lighting and exposures and about light and density and fstops? Oh my whats the world coming too…. LoL. Wow such a brazing concept “Manual” flash… Hey “Manuel” how do we figure that out? You mean I should not buy a 400 dollar underpowered hotshoe flash from canon even though every forum reader poster cant wait to show of how they bought 4 of them to do a job? really wow…. Sorry for my sarcasm but these days what do you expect with all the follow the leaders of the blind leading the blind in the lighting forum groups.

  • vizcara

    Or oh I could always get a TWO 285V for the price of this unit and they will outlast this flash by years. I have one been using literally for 15 years at least almost 2 to 4 times a week and its still going strong. For the price of this flash I can get 2x 285′s sure its a mere 20GN less but hardly anything to worry about. But I guess If I was blind or bought into the whole “Canon 580″ multiple flash thing I would get these instead but I been smarter than this for years.. Save yourself the money and get the 285′s two for the price of one of these.

  • I have a pair and they are superb! Only one small point to mar the near perfection and that’s the battery compartment is so tight I have to put the cells in the fridge to shrink them enough to get them in without shaving the labels off. (that’s rechargeables, standard cells are jut that tiny bit slimmer so may go in without chilling)
    So I need to remember to carry standard AA cells as spares rather than a set of topped up rechargables

  • vizcara

    Ian Hayhurst You may try a couple of different brands of Rechargeable as I have encountered this same problem with my 4xAA holders in my Vivitar 285 flash. I have had a couple of brands of rechargeable be fatter or thicker than other brands and be really snug or tight in the holder. So try that before freezing them.

  • vizcara

    Oh and yes This was a good Detailed review although I may agree with the type of flash for the bang for the buck it still was a good review. Also I hate to say this I have found many of the items over at “Midwest Exchange” rather over priced by a large amount for many items. The rocsoe gel swatch is something that Roscoe actually gives out for free and Midwest Exchange is selling them for 15.95?? I mean if they were charging 5 or 7 bucks for the hassle of sending them out or stocking them but 15.95? as well as the stroboframe hotshoe bracket mount that is 15.95 when B&H sells it for 5.95 . I am just looking out for those budget minded new photogs out there.

  • pcunite

    Get a light meter and tell me about the power consistency pop to pop compared to the 580EX II. An all manual flash had better deliver the same amount of power per pop, or what is the point?

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