Looks aren’t everything, of course, but good styling can make all the difference and Broncolor has always prided itself on the way it presents its products. This has become more significant in the 21st century where Apple has redefined coolness – from iPad to PowerBook – and imaging equipment is often as much a fashion statement as it is functional. So why should studio flash equipment look agricultural?
Broncolor’s Senso-series power packs have an ‘industrial chic’ styling which combines smartness with purpose. These are essentially Bron’s ‘entry-level’ flash power packs, although old habits obviously die hard so you’d be hard-pressed to tell from the outside. Gone is the membrane-covered control panel which was a feature of Bron packs for the last two decades, replaced by beefy buttons and switches, backlit in blue to compliment the grey-and-aquamarine colour scheme... which still immediately identifies the Swiss company’s products. There are currently A4 and A2 Senso-series models – with maximum flash outputs of 1200 and 2400 joules respectively – the latter compact enough to lend itself to a travel kit (which we’ll cover in a bit more detail shortly), although both are designed with portability in mind and so are dual voltage. Additionally, the external casings are made of high-grade aluminium with thick rubberised panels protecting each corner and a range of measures to insulate the internals from shocks and vibrations.
Both models have three flash head outlets – located on a side panel – with the options of symmetric or asymmetric power distribution via one of three big toggle switches that dominate the control panel. In the symmetric configuration the pack’s full output can be directed to any one outlet (the three being connected in parallel). In the asymmetric mode, the power distribution is divided into two channels – outlet one is assigned to channel one while outlets two and three are assigned to channel two. Each channel can be assigned up to half the total flash power available – i.e. 600 joules with the Senso A2 – and, if two heads are connected on channel two, each can be fed up to 300 joules maximum. Consequently, the most basic asymmetry on the A2 is 600:300:300, but Broncolor provides for much more flexibility.
Each channel has a large toggle switch which can be set to 1/1, 1/2 or 1/4, and as the flash power level setting is reduced, these disable the unneeded capacitors. This has the effect of keeping the colour temperature constant across the power output range. Alongside each of the channel power level switches is a large digital display which reads out in either f-stops or joules.
Each channel also has a set of up/down keys which allow for a further reduction of up to two stops in the flash power output, either in one-stop steps or 1/10 stop increments based on for how long the key is pressed (i.e. long or short). This arrangement provides for considerable flexibility in terms of the flash power ratios when using two or three flash heads or, indeed, the power range available for delivery to one head. In the symmetric mode the amount of flash power sent to one head can be as low as 53 joules while in the asymmetric mode – with two heads connected on channel two – it can be further reduced to just 13 joules per head. Obviously this also provides for a significant variation in the flash durations and recycling times which has become more important as D-SLR continuous shooting speeds steadily increase.
The total power range for the Senso A2 over one head in the symmetric mode is 6.5 stops while fully free asymmetry is possible over a range of five stops per outlet. The recycling time can be a short as 0.4 seconds while the flash duration at 600 joules is 1/1200 seconds (t0.5, but 1/360 seconds at t0.1). At full power, the t0.5 duration is 1/600 seconds which means shooting with a leaf-shutter system that allows flash syncing at 1/800 or even 1/1000 second, there will be some reduction in the effective exposure.
With shooting fashion a likely application, Broncolor has given the Senso packs fairly elaborate protection measures against overheating which becomes more likely with fast flash sequencing. The heat dissipated by all the pack’s components is continually monitored by microprocessor and active cooling is provided by a built-in fan, but this is only activated when required. So, for example, in the stand-by mode or when only the modelling lamp is in use, the fan remains off. Shut down will occur automatically in the event of overheating and there’s also a built-in circuit breaker which automatically trips in the event of an electrical malfunction.
Frills are kept to a minimum so there are a couple of audible signals, a slow recharging option and an ‘address’ function which enables the pack to be given a specific ID for independent remote triggering purposes. The triggering options comprise a switchable photocell, a sync cable (3.5 mm stereo jack connection) and via radio frequency using the proprietary RFS 2 standard which has a range of 200 metres. However, the RFS 2 transmitter is an additional purchase.
On The Go
Designed to compliment the Senso packs is the compact Litos flash head which is a very nifty piece of design indeed. Egg-shaped and weighing 2.3 kilograms (a lot which is accounted for by the power cable), the Litos head can handle up to 2400 joules of flash power and, despite being very small, also incorporates a cooling fan. Again, this only activates when required.
After removing its end cap, the protective cover reverses to become a reflector, but the Litos head will also accept a standard Broncolor reflector and accessories such as a softbox or light-shapers can be fitted. An integrated brolly holder is provided. The head itself is mounted on a tilt/pan adjuster and fitted accessories can be easily rotated through 360 degrees so there’s also a high degree of flexibility in terms of controlling the direction of illumination.