Meet the LumoPro LP180
The much-anticipated, fully-manual LumoPro 180 arrived during its Beta period – and a big thank-you to Kevin at LumoPro for including me.
First impressions: solid, innovative, quick, and powerful enough. What’s not to love?
This is a fully-manual flash, aimed at the off-camera flash community, and very-well aligned with the needs of same. It will also work on-camera in manual mode (where you, not the camera, set the power).
How do we attach flashes to light stands? Coldshoe adapters ranging from Frio to Manfrotto 143S to generic eBay – some are satisfactory, others are accidents waiting to happen, but all cost and leave the flash significantly off-axis for modifiers like umbrellas.
The LP180 has a 1/4-20 female socket (with 3/8 adapter available) in the side of the hinge, saving you money, making for a truly solid connection, and placing the flash as close as is physically-possible to the axis of your umbrella. Fantastic.
Most flash heads swivel 270 degrees… inevitably you will setup, and discover that you must re-arrange things to get at that missing 90.
The LP180 rotates 360 degrees. With the LP180 mounted on its built-in 1/4-20 socket, you can rotate the body just about anywhere to point the optical sensor for best results, or to leave the control panel easily accessible. Convenient.
When you use a flash foot to secure your flash, there are any number of systems in play from lock rings to locking pins.
The LP180 uses a moulded-rubber gasket that moves down when you rotate the readily-accessible locking lever through about 90 degrees, as well as a locking pin. It is a confidence-inspiring fit on my Nikon D7000, works easily and quickly, and is easy to get at. Secure.
Gels… how to attach them? Velcro? Modified DIY card-holders? Gaffer tape? How about moulded-in notches on the flash face that a correctly-sized gel – my LP180 came with a full set of colour-correction and special-effects gels – will fit into?
The supplied gels fit somewhat loosely (and bow outwards about 1/4″ for heat dissipation – a close-fit gel may melt): not usable in a stiff breeze or in-motion doing the strobe-on-a-rope thing, but great in an umbrella or softbox. Handy.
Most built-in optical slaves have two modes: standard and “digital”. The latter ignores pre-flash, so you can trigger your off-camera flash while using TTL with your on-camera flash. But what about CLS users? CLS – and the Canon equivalent – emits multiple pre-flashes to control power levels on your remote flashes, and optical slaves are confused by them, triggering early.
On the LumoPro LP180, “S2″, aka “digital”, can be configured (albeit by trial-and-error – but you figure it out once and then just re-use the settings) to ignore CLS-type pre-flashes – so now you can mix your CLS system and a manual system.
As far as I know, this is the first manual flash that will co-exist with CLS. Effectively, you get Groups M, A, B, C and “D” – your off-camera LumoPro LP180. More planes of light, and more flexibility. I love it.
How much life is left in your batteries? My Nikons are guess-and-hope – the LP180 has a built-in battery meter on the LCD. Finally.
Sleep Mode defaults to Off – so your ceiling-mounted flash will stay on during an event. Nice. Other flashes can do the same thing, but don’t default to it. Little things like this add up.
While time always tells, first impressions matter – and the LP180 feels solid throughout. Buttons are crisp with a solid feel, the rotating head moves smoothly without free play, and the battery cover in seems like it will survive rough handling.
Comparing the LP180 to the cheapest Chinese flashes and to Nikon-branded flashes, it comes out ahead (not that there is anything wrong with Nikon flashes, they last forever, just that this one feels more-heavily constructed).
Power, Consistency and Speed
According to my Sekonic L-508, at 35mm / ISO 100, the flash guide number (GN) was 29 in meters, or 95 in feet, at full power – matching the Nikon SB-700 and slightly exceeding the advertised power. At about 10 feet, you can just beat the sun with bare flash (assuming 1/250 x-sync on your camera) with the 105mm setting, where the measured GN at 105mm was 130ft / 40m
Consistency at a given power level measured within .1 of a stop (which is the resolution of the meter) or better, and consistency moving up and down the power scale (from 1 to 1/2, to 1/4, etc.) measured within .2 of a stop (suggesting .1 variance at some points, given measuring error), but was typically dead-on.
With fresh rechargeable Energizer AAs installed, recycle time from full output measured just under 2.4 seconds (about equal to a Nikon SB-700): better than advertised. I did not test the external power adapter, as it is for Canon and I have only Nikon accessories, but it will cut recycle time (the manual says to 1 second).
On-camera (a Nikon D7000, x-sync rated at 1/250), I got a visibly-clean frame at 1/320, and a usable frame at 1/400 – after that, significant black band. Off-camera, with my relatively slow RF-603’s, clean frame at 1/250 and usable at 1/320. Off-camera with optical trigger, just as on-camera.
I had heard about “cheap chinese” flash white balance variance, so set out to test my LP180, an Oloong SP-660 II, and a Nikon SB-700 as a control.
I put a ColorChecker Passport White Balance Target out as the neutral target, sitting on top a white freezer, and had a long snoot on the flashes to minimize contamination from bounce. Then tested from 1/1 to 1/128 power in a dark basement, and used the Lightroom 5 eyedropper in the centre of the target to get temperature and tint. Of course the absolute colour temperature and tint may be off, but the test conditions were identical from flash to flash so the variances one to the next will be meaningful.
|Flash||Avg. Temp||Stdev Temp||Avg. Tint||Stdev Tint|
|Oloong SP-660 II||6200||134||19.3||1.8|
Interestingly, both “off brand” flashes were more consistent than the Nikon; also the Oloong was quite a bit warmer than the others.
The flash came to me without an instruction manual (although LumoPro did send a PDF shortly after arrival) so I just experimented – the interface is simple enough to figure out in a few minutes, and once figured out, quick to operate. No scrolling through menus to activate common features – just click the right buttons (e.g., click +/- to start adjusting power, left / right-arrow to start adjusting zoom). Just hold the + or – button down while it adjusts power in 1/3 increments – if you are making a big adjustment, no need to click madly, just push and wait.
For the features you want to activate deliberately, not by accident (optical slave mode, configuration, and power), the relevant button must be held down for a couple of seconds. That shows some thought around usage.
I found the LCD screen easy to read, even with getting-older eyes. The backlight is useful and turns on briefly when you press a button.
It came well-packaged with a sturdy-feeling padded case (with belt-loops), a miniport sync cord, and a flash stand (with threaded insert).
Physically, it is larger than an SB-700 – close to an SB-900. The head fits my home-grown grid, which is sized for an SB-900.
The raised areas on the housing, just behind the flash face, look like they would work with a snap-on diffuser – whether or not that is the intent, I find them just right for keeping my Velcro wrap anchored. I use the Velcro to attach larger gels and modifiers like snoots and grids, and I use double-sided instead of self-adhesive for flexibility and reduction of mess (helps resale value).
You can download the manual to get details – here is an overview:
- trigger four ways (hot shoe, PC port, 1/8 miniphone, two types of optical)
- Canon-compatible high-voltage connector
- head rotates 360 degrees and goes up-and-down 97 degrees (with a -7 position to help out up-close or when aiming at the centre of an umbrella)
- USB port for firmware upgrades
- audible (optional) and visible (front and back) Ready indicators
- zoom from 28-105mm and 14mm with built-in diffuser panel
- small built-in bounce card (for catchlights when used on-camera)
- thermal cut-off
- 2-year warranty
My testing with the LP180 and CLS shows these settings for the S2 mode. LumoPro will develop it’s own guidance. The numbers seem to work for me, but I don’t have extensive experience, just some testing, to back them – so the disclaimer: before you do anything important with your flash(es), test your configuration to confirm it works for you. These numbers assume manual control of each group, and would need to be confirmed / changed if you added TTL to any of the groups (or to the M group).
|D7000 / Built-In||AB||3|
|D7000 / Built-In||A||2|
|D7000 / Built-In||B||3|
|D7000 / SU-800||ABC||2|
|D7000 / SU-800||AB||2|
|D7000 / SU-800||AC||3|
|D7000 / SU-800||BC||3|
|D7000 / SU-800||A||2|
|D7000 / SU-800||B||3|
|D7000 / SU-800||C||4|