The Digital Photo Guy

LumoPro 120 Flash Review

by on Jan.17, 2010, under Monday Morning Tips

Save $269 and Improve Your Flash Skills

Here’s a preliminary overview of the LumoPro 120 that I bought for a flash workshop I’m developing (free session 1/30). It’s not a Canon 580EX or, even, a 420EX but it saves you $269 while giving you 80% of the capability. The first image places the LP120 between Canon 550EX and Canon 420EX in physical dimensions.

Let’s first get the obvious negatives out of the way. The build quality, while good, isn’t anywhere near the heft and feel of a Canon or Nikon dedicated flash. The plastic housing reminds me of cheap Chinese products but seems sturdy enough.

Next, this is strictly a manual flash. There’s no E-TTL, iTTl or any other flash-to-camera communication. But, that’s good because manual flash is the best way to learn flash photography.

This next photo shows what comes in the spiffy red box (sorry, no photos of the spiffy box). The “manual” is a single 12″x16″ sheet of paper but, surprisingly, well written. The wide angle diffuser seems rather useless and will probably be lost within the first few weeks. The short PC-to-mini plug sync cable is a nice touch but useless. Many have suggested PC (Prontor-Compur) means “poor connection”. If you add Paul C. Buff CyberSync wireless triggers, they will come with the appropriate cables.

Next, notice the full complement of controls on the backs of the 550EX and 420EX compared to the sparse, utilitarian controls on the LP120.

Power ratio is controlled by two switches that let the user select from 1:1, 1:2, 1:4, 1:8, 1:16 and 1:32. This is important and very nice. A standard test button allows the flash to be manually “dumped” while two indicator lamps show “Ready” and “Power On”.

This is how one controls the amount of emitted light on a manual flash. While the numerically challenged may wince at the numbers, it’s all very simple fractions, 1:1 is full power, 1:2 is half-power all the way down to 1:32 or 1/32 or just 3% of full power. We’ll cover this in more detail next week when we discuss how to use a manual flash.

These next three photos show characteristics and features of the LP120 vis-a-vis Canon flashes.

     

On the left, the Canon hot shoe has five pins compared to one on the LP120. The extra pins are for flash-to-camera communications that the LP120 doesn’t have. This is how the LP120 synchronizes when mounted in a hot shoe.  The middle photo shows the LP120 PC-miniplug cord in the center and, on the right, connected to a CyberSync CSRB. On the left is the CyberSync CSRB conneced via a miniplug-miniplug cord supplied with the CyberSync. These are the two main methods to sync with a remote trigger. Finally, in the right photo, the red circle is the optical sync. This is the device that senses the burst of light from the main flash and triggers the LP120. CAUTION – the optical sensor doesn’t differentiate between digital pre-flash and flash. You’ll have disable the pre-flash to use this in Auto or Program Mode but that shouldn’t be a problem as flash photography is best accomplished in Manual Mode.

Finally, a flash is useless if the emitted light is not well balanced. The photo below shows a Gretag-MacBeth Color Checker with the Canon 550EX on the left and LP120 on the right. As you can see, under this limited testing, the color rendition appears very good.

Next week, I’ll write a follow up tutorial piece detailing how to use a manual flash on any dSLR. That piece will be published as a PDF and will be in the archives section. Until then, Good Light, Good Memories and Good Luck. Thanks for reading.

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