PerforMax AC DC Studio Portable Flash

The PerforMax flash was diffused through a large translucent umbrella on the left and a white reflector was placed at the right edge of these stuffed bears to produce a colorful studio tabletop subject. Both a plain white sweep background and a varied-color background were used. (Canon EOS A2 with Canon EF 35-135mm zoom at 70mm, manual exposure by Sekonic L-508 flash meter on Agfa Optima II Prestige 100 color negative film.)
Photos © 2001, Robert E. Mayer, All Rights Reserved

The recently introduced Photographer's Warehouse PerforMax AK4001 MLC AC/DC electronic flash is similar in appearance to this firm's previous monolight models, but includes one major difference. This new model can operate on conventional AC power as the other models, but also can be used in the field on DC power when connected to any of several major brands of rechargeable battery packs. The only limitation when used on DC battery power is the lack of a modeling lamp.

This self-contained flash is small in size so it can easily be placed most anywhere in a studio set for direct flash or used with an umbrella or inside a softbox. When not used as a main light connected to the camera via a PC cord, it can be fired by the internal photo slave sensor, which any other flash will automatically trigger. Measuring about 4" square and 8.25" long, plus a permanently attached tilting light stand attachment base, and weighing only 2.5 lbs, it is quite lightweight for easy portability.

The PerforMax flash was diffused through a large translucent white umbrella on the left with a white reflector placed at the right edge to provide a bit of bounce fill light. A collapsible Westcott Illuminator background provided the mottled effect. This portrait of Grace Mayer is crisply detailed and has excellent color balance. (Canon EOS A2 with Canon EF 35-135mm zoom at about 60mm, manual exposure by Sekonic L-508 flash meter on Kodak Elite Chrome Extra Color 100 color slide film.)

Operating Controls
The prime operating controls are clustered on the flat back panel. They include on/off switches for both power and modeling light; slave on/off; adjustable flash power levels (full, 1/2, and 1/4); ready light; slave sensor; test button; sync cord terminal; and AC power connection. Less needed controls for the change over between AC and DC, plus a universal three-pin terminal for connection to a battery pack, are located on the base beside the attachment base. The base includes an umbrella shaft slot with a locking set screw and an adjustable position locking lever for setting the angle. There's also a set screw for firm attachment to any standard 5/8" diameter light stand. Included is a threaded nib that screws onto a 1/4-20 or 3/8" thread, typically found on the end of most light stands. The angle lock has a ratchet-like mating device that makes a very strong and positive angle lock, which can be imperative when working with a large, heavy umbrella.

The permanent non-interchangeable 3" diameter reflector is recessed into the end of the unit where both the flash tube and modeling lamp are well protected. Ribbed air vent slots on all four sides of the body shell adequately ventilate the internal electronics. All components of this monolight, with a black housing made of high-impact plastic, seem to be well made and very sturdy for lengthy use with reasonable care.

One of the prime key benefits of the universal DC capability is that this new flash unit can be powered by any number of different rechargeable batteries, including those offered by Dynalite Jack Rabbit, Lumedyne Minicycler and Minimegacycler, Quantum Turbo and Turbo Z, or Sunpak TR2000. The supplied battery connecting cord is compatible for use with any major brand of 12v re-chargeable battery.

Practical Test Results
We used the PerforMax flash both with raw direct flash and also diffused through a translucent umbrella. To assist in filling the shadow side of the subject in our one-light set, we placed a large white card reflector to bounce light back onto the subject. This was done on portrait subjects and some inanimate subjects and the results were excellent. Color balance and flesh tones were fine and my precise Macbeth Color Checker chart was rendered in proper color balance on both sensitive slow color slide film (processed at Accu-Color Lab, Inc., Fort Wayne, Indiana) and several different color negative films.

The new PerforMax AK4001 MLC AC/DC electronic flash has a suggested list price of $299, without battery of course. You can purchase the flash by itself or in a two-light kit that contains two PerforMax lights, two air-cushioned stands, two umbrellas, and a carrying case for $925. Optional is a PGCM wired remote control for setting power level and turning the unit on or off from a distance, a very helpful feature when the small flash is located inside a softbox or inconveniently high on a light stand. It accepts a wide variety of accessories such as softboxes, snoot, grids, umbrellas, and barn doors plus gel holder, color filters, etc., that fit onto the front of the 3.75" diameter flash head.

You can obtain more data about this versatile AC/DC studio flash from Photographer's Warehouse, (800) 521-4311; fax: (330) 758-8010;

Technical Specifications
Output: 150 ws
Guide Number: 150 at ISO 100
Reflector Coverage: 60Þ angle of coverage from built-in reflector
Variable Power: Full, 1/2, and 1/4 power settings
Power Source: AC/DC capable
Recycle Time: 4-6 sec at full power
Flash Tube Balance: Color corrected flash tube 5200ÞK
Modeling Lamp: 40w modeling lamp with separate on/off switch (AC mode only)
Attachment: Built-in stand adapter bracket with ratchet handle and built-in umbrella shaft holder
Slave Capability: Built-in photo slave with separate on/off switch
Cords: 10 ft AC power cord, 10 ft sync cord, and 8 ft battery cord supplied
Protection: Fuse protection for overload
Accessories: Full line of accessories (softboxes, snoot, grids, umbrellas, barn doors, gel holder, color filters, etc.)
Measures: 4x8.25"
Weight: 2.5 lbs
Price: MSRP $299