OK, so I had a Jinbei HD-600 head for the weekend, on loan from my friends at Protog.
Why am I trying the HD-600? Fair question.
For the last few years, I’ve been using Elinchrom lights – a couple of Quadra sets and a Ranger. Nice lights, but expensive to buy and horrendously expensive (and slow, oh so slow and painful) to get repaired here in Melbourne. (ie I put a BXRi in for a quote ($70) to the local distributor/repairer as it was smoking (after I bought it off eBay) and they somehow “forgot” to quote and just went ahead and repaired it. Needed some capacitors, $400. Mmm, well, I can buy a Jinbei studio head outright for bit over half of that. And that wouldn’t have taken a month. Repairing it also screwed up any real avenue for a claim against the seller, as well. Just horrible all round, and far from the first time. Which leads me to looking at other stuff, just to get away from that sort of thing.)
So I’ve been using pack/head lights, and studio monoblocks. I wasn’t really looking to change my lights, to be honest, when I started this “change camera systems” trip. Well, I wasn’t even looking to change cameras a few months ago. But once I got started … I bought the Fuji and then my Gitzo 2-series tripod was simply too big. A bit of research later, and I was buying a 3-Legged Thing tripod. Sold by the aforementioned Protog. So out there I went.
I tried a couple, decided on the Brian, and all was good.
But man, they had a lot of lights stuff there. And you KNOW I love lights. So, given I also like talking, I talked to Brian and Mike about them. In the process I learned about Jinbei and how big they are (biggest lights manufacturer in China, with 100 “Jinbei Shops” – like Apple stores without the cultists – across the country) – and how committed to quality they are, testing each light before it goes out of the factory rather than just random samples from each batch, as they strive to change the whole “Chinese is cheap rubbish” mindset.
The real killer though, was that I played with a few of the items.
And was seriously impressed.
Four items really grabbed my attention – the “Discovery II” kits (both 1200Ws and 600Ws options – the Explorer IIIs 600Ws studio heads (a special order, apparently, and I was just lucky to see them), and the HD-600.
I’ll admit, I was initially more interested in the HD-600 as a very cool piece of engineering more than a potential light. Totally self-contained (ie no leads, no packs), 600Ws (ie half a stop more than the Quadras), 600 full-power flashes, seven-stop range (ie down to 1/128th (9Ws)), remote with powerchanging and modelling lamp switching, LED modelling light, handle for easy use by an assistant. Impressive. It also has a standard umbrella mount fitting as well (as seen below).
But I had the Quadras and the Ranger, so I was used to pack/head setup, and so I spent far more time looking at the Discovery kits. Stick with what you know, right? (This from a bloke who was selling tens of thousands of dollars worth of Canon kit to go to Fuji. #makessense )
But then a good friend of mine was visiting from Tassie, and I was driving her around for a few hours on her last day, and so we went off to Protog as we had a couple of hours to spare. And man, did she love the HD-600. And that got me thinking – why not?
Next thing you know, I was selling all my Elinchroms. Ands easily enough, too. I mean, they’re still excellent lights, but I wanted something different. (And to get away from the local agent, did I mention that earlier?)
So I was thinking about what to replace them with. I certainly wasn’t going to pay MORE – ie Profoto, et al. And the Jinbeis looked pretty good.
Things I was worried about regarding the HD-600:
– the weight. It’s more top-heavy than even the Ranger head (given the Ranger head weight includes the lead)
– the recycle time. It defaults to snail mode (every time you turn it on!), but changing it to rabbit mode only takes one press of the power button, but it’s still no speed demon
– the power range. Even though it’s got a better range than any of the other Jinbeis, it still won’t go down as far as the Quadras in Ch B (not surprisingly)
– the recessed flash tube – I’d much prefer it if the tube was out front and not recessed into the head
Overall, the head weighs 2.65kg (with battery fitted, standard reflector and light stand mount attached), and 635g of that is for the battery. (Mike the sales manager weighed it for me when I emailed him about it.) The Ranger head is 2.4 kg (incl. heavy-duty 3m flash cable) and the pack is 8kg, although it does whack out an extra stop of light. The Quadra head is featherweight at 250g (which is awesome), but then you’ve got the pack and the leads.
The new Profoto B1 (500Ws, TTL (if you’re shooting Canon), same form factor as the Jinbei) is 3KG – that’s about 20 percent heavier than the HD-600. It’s also $2500, which is 350 percent more than an HD-600
(Note: specs are hard to get for the Jinbei stuff. Not because they’re hiding anything, but because they don’t do English well, and they (quite clearly) don’t spend very much on translation or writing or bothering with accuracy – it’s all pretty horrible, as they don’t seem to have any appreciation for the fact that people do look at stuff like weight when making decisions.)
So, how did it go? Unfortunately I couldn’t get a shoot together for the weekend, but I did shoot my mannequin head and so on 🙂
First off, it needs a rugged stand. Despite the weight, I initially put it on a Nano stand (because it was already sitting there in the living area), and that was pretty stupid. If I’d been thinking properly, I’d have put it straight on my C-stand and then I’d have been much happier with it straight up.
Second, the Bowens S-mount is SO MUCH BETTER than the Elinchrom mount. I know this isn’t entirely about the HD-600, but it has to be said. So much easier to mount softboxes, etc..
Third, at full whack it is pretty slow to recycle. Is it too slow? Not sure. I really wanted to put it through its paces with a proper shoot, and it’s annoying that I couldn’t.
Overall, I think the slowish recycle is OK. I don’t have to repose the mannequin head much so the delay is exacerbated by no interaction or movement, so it’s a bit hard to tell.
(Since writing this I’ve used it at multiple portrait sessions, and haven’t had an issue with the recycle speed, although it wasn’t summer and thus using the full output.)
I didn’t notice any (Alien Bee-style) colour shift while shooting at different power levels, but I didn’t look for that specifically, as I forgot to 🙂
But the remote fired the light consistently (giving it one up on the Elinchrom Skyports), it changed the power consistently (giving it one up on the Elinchrom Skyports), and it switched the modelling lamp on and off consistently (giving it one up on the Elinchrom Skyports).
Once I got the C-stand out, the weight ceased to be an issue, even with a decent-sized softbox hanging off the front of it.
Here’s the recessed flashtube (inside one of the Elinchrom Bowens mount speedrings I bought, so I could keep my beloved Elinchrom Baby Deep Octa and Midi Octa softboxes).
But it seemed to be OK despite that. And the Profoto D1 seems to be selling OK…
So, am I going to buy two of them? Still not sure. It’s very tempting, but I need to have another play with the Discovery packs first…
(Using the Yongnuo 622 Canon radio units can get you a 1/8000th flash sync with the Discovery packs, according to the Protog guys, who have photos to prove it. Unfortunately, even thought the Canon-model 622s work with the Fuji (unlike the Nikon ones), it appears that the super-sync ability doesn’t carry over 🙁 More investigation required.)
UPDATE: Yes, bought two of them. Yes, very happy.