As someone said, “photography is all about the light”. And nothing gives a photographer more flexibility to craft light better than quality studio strobes. If located in a permanent studio, they provide wonderful lighting and an endless array of possibilities, particularly when used with various light modifiers. Taking them on the road, however, is a different matter. Many models are bulky, heavy, and require proximity to a power source, making them impractical for many settings. Traditional off-camera flash units are much more portable and can be used creatively in a variety of situations, as David Hobby (a.k.a. “Stobist”) and others routinely demonstrate, but lack the power of strobe lights. To meet the needs of photographers seeking the power of traditional strobe lights combined with the flexibility of off-camera flash units, Impact provides the LiteTrek 4.0 DC Two Monolight and Mini LiteTrek (LT) Battery Pack Kit, a portable lighting kit consisting of 2 flash heads and a portable battery pack.
1) Initial Thoughts
This lightweight kit is well-designed and made. Add two lightweight light stands (not included) and it has everything you need to create a studio environment anywhere you need. I was surprised at the lightness of the 400W heads relative to their power. They were much lighter than my 550W Bowen’s studio strobes.
2) Product Specifications
LiteTrek 4.0 DC Monolight
- Watt /Seconds – 400
- User Replaceable Flashtube – Yes
- Circuit Protection – Fuse
- Modeling Light Wattage – 50W
- Modeling Light On/Off Switch – Yes, with auto shut-off in 10 seconds
- Protective Glass Dome – No
- Fan Cooled – No, convection
- Dimensions – 3.5 x 3.5 x 5.5″ (90 x 90 x 140 mm)
- Weight – 2.6 lb (1.2 kg)
Mini LiteTrek (LT) Battery Pack Kit
- Battery Type – Rechargeable 7200 mAh Lithium Ion
- Power Output – 325V
- Power Input – 12V (use only Impact LiteTrek chargers)
- Charging Time – Approximately 4 hours
- Flashes per Charge – 650 (full power), 3,500 (1/64th power)
- Recycle Time – 1.0 – 3.5 seconds
- Fuse – 40A
- Compatibility – LiteTrek 4.0 with its included power cord: Canon 580EXII, 580EX, 550EX, MR-14EX and MT-24EX with optional Impact CZ cable
Nikon SB-800, SB80-DX, SB-900 and SB-28 with optional Impact CKE cable
Quantum Qflash T5dR, TRIO “BASIC” or TRIO
- Power Requirements – 100 – 240V AC
- Dimensions – 6 x 4 x 2″ (15 x 10 x 5 cm)
2) Features And Construction
The portable battery pack is easy enough to operate. Simply give it 4 hours to charge and you are ready to go. It is small but contains enough power for between 650 and 3,500 shots, depending on the setting used. It has a welcome safety feature which prevents it from being turned on unless it is connected to a flash head via the supplied cable. The 2 400W lights had more than enough power for my tests. They can be controlled via the supplied sync cords or using any flash trigger, such as Pocket Wizards. If you have some assistants handy, you can even forego light stands and have your assistants hold the lights via the pistol grips which accompany with the lights.
There is not much to it – simply connect the strobes to the battery pack and you ready to go. I did two tests; one using a model in the gardens of our local Hartwood Acres park, and the other capturing the hummingbirds which frequent our yard. The only work I did was to determine the appropriate power settings for the lighting conditions. And while this battery pack seems rather small, it is very powerful. With both lights on full power, recycle time was about 4.5 seconds. At 1/4 power, recycle time was less than 2 seconds. At 1/8 power or below, both lights would continue flashing as quickly as I could press the test button. Any flash trigger you introduce into this mix may slow the recycle sequence a bit, since you may be waiting on the flash trigger to recycle, not the battery pack and flash heads. The flashes also have a 10 second modeling light mode, which might useful in a studio environment. I chose to use the lights on manual mode.
3.1) Model Shoot
Colleen, a beautiful and talented young lady who does some modeling work, graciously agreed to help out with my lighting test. I arranged my lights in the garden of Hartwood Acres, a local park with a large, beautiful garden. It was a very hot and humid day, with bright sunlight fading in and out of the clouds. I thought it would make an interesting setting for the tests. Strobe lights without a modifier can be a bit harsh, so I attached a 16 inch beauty dish (requires an adapter) and diffusion sock to one light, and a put a piece of ordinary semi-translucent packing material around the other head. This was enough to soften the light a bit.
Even with the beauty dish and other light diffusing material, I had to dial down the power of these lights to 1/16. I suspect you probably won’t find many environments where you need to use them at their full power setting, unless you are purposely moving them farther away from the subject or using a light modifier which drains a fair amount of light. Although the kit comes with a sync cord, I connected them via PocketWizard MiniTT1 Radio Slave Transmitter and 2 PocketWizard FlexTT5 Transceiver Radio Slaves.
Here is a comparison of similar shots taken with and without flash:
I have been experimenting with capturing photos of a family of Ruby Throated Hummingbirds which have become very fond of the feeders on our deck. Unfortunately, the light is never ideal due to the position of the sun and the shade associated with the house and large red maple trees nearby. I can never get a sufficiently fast shutter speed without boosting the ISO to extremely high levels.
I came upon the technique of using flash set at very low power settings to “freeze” the motion of the hummingbirds’ wings. After a bit of experimenting, I found that the Impact Kit lights at 1/32 (distance to hummingbirds will determine the proper setting) worked well for achieving this goal.
4) What’s In The Box
- 2x 400W/s Flash Head
- 2x 7″ Umbrella/Grid Umbrella Reflector
- 2x Flashtube for LiteTrek 4.0 Flash Head
- 2x Modeling Lamp
- 2x 15.5′ PC Sync Cord
- 2x Head Stand Adapter
- 2x Pistol Grip
- 2x 7′ Coiled Battery Pack Cable
- 2x 10′ Straight Battery Pack Cable
- 2x Instruction Manual
- 2x 1 Year Manufacturer’s Warranty
- 1x Mini LiteTrek (LT) Battery Pack
- 1x Aluminum Kit Case
The lights, battery pack, and cables appear to be very well made.
I struggled quite a bit with this one. There are so many different ways to configure a portable lighting kit, from the bargain basement flash units used by the Strobist crowd, to traditional heavy-duty strobe lights connected to high end battery packs. The price points for each solution span a pretty wide gamut. Battery packs alone can range from approximately $350 upwards of $8,000. The off-the-shelf solution kits have their pros/cons, including size, cost, weight, power, and flexibility of controls. Portable lighting kits have also attracted quite a bit of creative innovative solutions from the DIY crowd, some rather practical and others more like Frankenstein science projects gone awry! For DIY solutions, you have to consider how much time you are willing to invest in order to save a few bucks.
Portrait photographers often operate from their home studio, but more often than not, they may be required to transport their gear and transform a business office, home, or other location and create a makeshift studio. Anyone who values the combination of speed and power and a lightweight, easily-transportable solution, and who does not want to get locked into the traditional set of heavy duty monoblocks and their limitations, will find this kit to be a strong contender.
7) Suggested Improvements
There wasn’t much to dislike about this kit – it is simple to set-up and use. On the next iteration, however, Impact should consider the following minor modifications:
- Carrying Case – The current case only allows you to store one light, leaving you to find some other way to carry the second light. A variation of the current 1 light case enabling you to store both lights, battery pack, and cords would be a nice touch.
- Power Cord – The kit comes with a 7 foot coiled cord and 9’8” straight power cord. A longer cord of 15 to 20 feet would provide a bit more flexibility relative to positioning the lights.
The LiteTrek 4.0 kit represents a well-made solution at a competitive price point, and enables anyone to quickly and easily create a studio away home.
9) Compared To
As I mentioned, there are a variety of ways to configure a portable lighting kit, so it is difficult to do a direct comparison to each of them. In looking at direct off-the-shelf competitors to this Impact kit, it is pretty easy to determine that similar solutions from Photoflex, Elinchrom, and others can easily cost nearly 2X to 3X as much.
10) Where To Buy
You can find the kit at B&H here.