Elinchrom D-Lite RX ONE To Go Kit: Compact And Versatile Monolights

First impressions: the D-Lite RX ONE To Go Kit includes a pair of Elinchrom monolights so you know it’s going to contain quality products. Then you discover that the maximum output of each light is 100 watt seconds and you start to think you’ll need more power. That’s until you’re reminded that this fully loaded two-monolight Elinchrom kit sells for less than $700. Interested now?


Product shots courtesy of Manfrotto Distribution

What’s New
There are really two D-Lite RX ONE To Go Kits: the Umbrella Kit retails for $649.99 and includes two D-Lite RX ONE monolights, two 6” reflectors, 32” white and translucent umbrellas, and two Manfrotto 367B 9-foot light stands along with carrying cases for heads, reflectors, umbrellas, and cables. The Portalite (Softbox) Kit, which I tested, sells for $699.99 and includes two D-Lite RX ONE monolights, two 26” square Portalite softboxes, two Manfrotto 367B 9-foot light stands, and carrying cases for heads, reflectors, speed rings, and light banks. Both kits include a Skyport RX Speed Transmitter so you get wireless triggering right out of the box.

The D-Lite RX ONE monolight is at the heart of both kits and delivers its maximum power over a five-stop range. The monolight has a built-in EL-Skyport Receiver that has eight channels with four groups offering synchronization up to 1/320 sec with enabled SLR cameras. Visual flash confirmation mode dims the monolight’s modeling lamp during recycle and an intelligent slave cell, if you decide to use it, ignores a speedlight’s pre-flashes to trigger the monolight at the correct time. From your e-mail I know you’re interested: each D-Lite RX ONE has a 5v sync socket to protect your expensive digital SLRs when used with the included cord.

Since I had two 26” square Portalite light banks, I set them up at 45 degrees to the subject, producing soft (and flat) light on her but also applying even lighting to the Distressed Paper side of Lastolite’s backdrop. Both D-Lite RX ONE monolights were set at identical half-power settings.
All Photos © Joe Farace

Camera was a Canon EOS 60D with an EF-S 15-85mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM lens (at 57mm). With the two D-Lite RX ONE monolights set at identical half-power settings the exposure was 1/100 sec at f/13 and ISO 200. Being able to achieve such small apertures meant that at no time during my testing did I feel a need to increase my camera’s ISO setting beyond what would be considered “normal.”

Setting Up
Assembling all of the pieces and parts that make up the D-Lite RX ONE Portalite To Go Kit should be easy for anyone who’s ever been around studio lighting gear. Newbies might glance at the 130-page (six language) User’s Guide, but I’m guessing most people will use the two-sided Quick Start Guide card and be up and running in a few minutes, not counting assembling the light banks.

Tip: The mini floodlight-shaped modeling lamp takes a turn or so more than you might be comfortable doing but snug it up; if it doesn’t light, then chances are another half turn will do it.

All of the kit’s components are made from high-quality materials with the only surprise being the lightweight power cord; it seems more like lamp cord until I remembered that the power this cord carries is modest compared to other monolights—including Elinchrom units I’ve tested in the past (March, 2012, issue of Shutterbug).

The as-tested kit includes two 26” square Portalite light banks, which are lightweight and basic in design, making them easy to assemble either on or off the D-Lite. Attaching the light bank to the monolight using the lightweight speed ring is simple. You mount the speed ring, then rotate and lock it in place with a sliding tab that’s located on the monolight’s front edge. However, removing the light bank/speed ring can be stiff the first time you try it. After that, it’s as smooth as butter. The kit’s speed rings are specific to Portalite light banks and if you later decide to use one of Elinchrom’s Rotalux softboxes you’ll need a different speed ring because of their dissimilar construction. After you install the support rods inside a Rotalux light bank, for example, you don’t have to remove them.

The monolights are umbrella friendly, with Elinchrom having solved the dilemma of European spec (7mm) vs. American (8mm) incompatible shaft sizes. The receptacle inside a D-Lite RX ONE accepts 7mm shafts, but umbrellas with 8 to 10mm shafts can use the external fitting on the monolight’s stand mount. Kudos to Elinchrom for bridging this problem with a solution that lets you use anybody’s umbrella no matter where it was made. The Portalite Kit includes speed rings but not reflectors, so if you decide you want to use umbrellas, standard reflectors ($34.99) are available.

Tip: Thrifty shooters and occasional umbrella users can make their own temporary reflectors by using Rosco’s Matte Black Cinefoil. You can use Elinchrom umbrellas ($39.95) or get umbrellas from Lastolite, including the awesome 71” Mega Umbrella ($99.99), and have a system than can handle any kind of lighting challenge you can throw at it in an easy-to-carry location lighting kit.

Because of the Portalite’s square shape I used them for a modified headshot booth setup with each D-Lite RX ONE placed at 45 degrees to the subject and a reflector resting on a Savage Tech Table to fill shadows under the subject’s chin. Each monolight was set at one-half power. Backdrop is a 5x7-foot Savage Photo Gray Infinity Vinyl.

This portrait was made using a Canon EOS 60D and an EF-S 15-85mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM lens (at 42mm) with an exposure of 1/100 sec at f/20 and ISO 200. Because most of the light was directed at the subject, not the background, the Savage Photo Gray Infinity Vinyl Background photographed almost black.

Tests And Results
During my initial shoot I kept the D-Lite RX ONE output levels at half power to quarter power to balance output with recycle times and never lost a single shot, even when working with an active model like Pam Simpson. Working with the light’s manual controls was straightforward and the Skyport RX Speed Transmitter performed flawlessly.

The Elinchrom monolights provide visual flash confirmation and have a beep that signals full recycle, but it can be turned off. I like a quiet set and turned it on for only one monolight to avoid the odd Doppler sound of two staggered beeps when different power levels are selected on each head. On the other hand, if you play music in the studio, this might be just what you need. Similarly, the fans inside the monolights are designed to kick on only when needed and to my ears tended to be on the loud side. But the fans didn’t bother any of the models I photographed during testing.

For this shoot with Pam Simpson I mounted a 36” Westcott silver umbrella on a D-Lite RX ONE as fill. It was placed in the far (camera) left corner of my in-home studio; the main light used a 26” square Portalite light bank located at camera right. Background was a delightfully retro 60x72” blue Accent background from Savage.

Pam gets all “Great Gatsby” against a Savage Accent background; photographed with a Canon EOS 60D and an EF-S 15-85mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM (at 65mm) with an exposure of 1/125 sec at f/11 and ISO 200.

Because of the square shape of the Portalite light banks, one of my lighting setups was a modified headshot set up with each D-Lite RX ONE monolight placed at 45 degrees to the subject along with a small reflector to fill shadows under the subject’s chin. With the monolights at half power and the camera set at ISO 200 I was able to achieve an exposure of 1/100 sec at f/20, so you can dial the power settings back to whatever aperture you prefer and reap the benefits of faster recycle times. At no time during any of my testing did I feel a need to increase my camera’s ISO setting beyond what would be considered a normal range.

For this portrait of Pam Simpson seated on my home studio’s floor and dressed in white and silver, each D-Lite RX ONE with a 26” square Portalite light bank was placed approximately 45 degrees to one another. The lights were lowered to match Pam’s seated pose. The output of each monolight was adjusted via my laptop computer to be approximately one-quarter power. The backdrop is a 5x7-foot Savage Photo Gray Infinity Vinyl.

Since Pam was wearing white and silver and was photographed against a gray background, I decided to shoot in my Canon EOS 60D’s monochrome capture mode. Lens was an EF-S 15-85mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM (at 78mm) with an exposure of 1/125 sec at f/16 and ISO 200. Get that? F/16 from two 100 ws monolights set at quarter power. After light retouching, image was tweaked using Nik Software’s Glamour Glow filter set at 50 percent opacity.

Wi-Fi Capabilities
The remainder of my testing was made with the optional ($199.99) EL-Skyport Wi-Fi module that permits remote operation of the RX ONE via an iOS device or Mac OS or Windows laptop (see “Wireless Control of Monolights” sidebar). Since not everybody has an iOS device—hello Android users—I used a MacBook Pro laptop resting conveniently on a Savage Tech Table. To use a laptop you’ll need the optional ($29.99) EL-Skyport USB RX Transceiver.

Set up was simple: plug in the USB RX Transceiver; turn on the EL-Skyport Wi-Fi module, monolights, and on-camera transmitter and when you launch the application it immediately recognizes all of the components, giving you full lighting control. Initially, I thought the Wi-Fi module would be a luxury for my small (11x15 foot) studio but over time it became a convenience and then a necessity. With a larger studio with a large number of sittings/sessions per day, the EL-Skyport Wi-Fi control will quickly become indispensable. In the series of computer-controlled exposures made using the EL-Skyport Wi-Fi module I photographed Pam Simpson who was wearing fashions provided by Umba (www.umbalove.com) of Boulder, Colorado.

For this shoot with Anastasia I mounted a 60”, 16-rib white Adorama parabolic umbrella on the D-Lite RX ONE in shoot-through mode by using the auxiliary umbrella mount on the monolight’s stand mount. Snug fit the first time; perfect after that. The main light is at camera right and a 32” reflector was placed at camera left for fill.

Recommendations And Conclusions
The Elinchrom D-Lite RX ONE To Go Kit—either version—represents a best buy and is the least expensive entry into a European lighting system. If you can swing the extra money and add the EL-Skyport Wi-Fi module you’re off to a good start with an amazingly capable and affordable lighting system. Best of all, the kit is an entry into a larger system that has the added benefit of being able to expand its capabilities as your needs and equipment budget grows by adding other components from Elinchrom.

I photographed Anastasia against the Graffiti side of the Lastolite Urban Collection backdrop using a Canon EOS 60D and an EF-S 15-85mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM lens (at 63mm). A single D-Lite RX ONE at three-quarter power was used with a 60” umbrella in shoot-through mode, producing a final exposure of 1/100 sec at f/11 and ISO 200. The original color image was processed in onOne Software’s Perfect B&W software for a grittier look.

Lastolite Double-Sided Backgrounds
Readers always ask about the backgrounds used for these lighting reviews and when testing the Elinchrom D-Lite RX ONE To Go Kit I used a 5x7-foot Lastolite Distressed Paper/Graffiti Urban Collapsible Background ($224.99) for some shots. The backdrop has a metal frame and opens and closes much like a large collapsible reflector. It folds easily and stores in a nicely made zippered case. Lastolite’s Urban Collection has patterns printed on both sides with built-in shadows so it can be used indoors to simulate an outdoor look. The screen-printed muslin can be mounted on Lastolite’s Bracketed Stand ($69.44) or just leaned against a wall, which is what I did. The fabric can be spot cleaned with warm water and a mild detergent.

When shooting the Distressed Paper side of one of Lastolite’s Urban Collection backdrops, a D-Lite RX ONE monolight was set at one-quarter power with a 26” square Portalite light bank placed at camera right and 45 degrees to Mary. No fill; no reflector. Exposure with a Canon EOS 60D and an EF-S 15-85mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM lens (at 59mm) was 1/100 sec at f/14 and ISO 400.

Wireless Control Of Monolights
Computer-controlled lighting is nothing new, but what’s new with the D-Lite RX ONE To Go Kit is having it in an affordable system. Using the EL-Skyport Wi-Fi module along with an iOS app or the Mac OS EL-Skyport software on your laptop, you can remotely control each of the D-Lite RX ONE’s control settings. The rechargeable Wi-Fi module features eight channels and runs on a lithium-ion battery that lasts for 10 hours. Its 40-bit security ensures interference-free operation at up to 164 feet outdoors and 65.6 feet indoors. EL-Skyport is easy to set up by following the clear instructions found in a small single-page Quick Start Guide.

Tip: Entering the app’s full name “Elinchrom Skyport Wi-Fi” will help you find it faster in the App Store. When used on your laptop as I did, the EL-Skyport software provides additional features such as flash delay for a strobing effect.

This is an actual screen shot of the EL-Skyport 3.1 (as I write this) software as seen on my MacBook Pro laptop. It’s a free Mac OS and Windows download from Elinchrom’s website. All you need to do is turn on the EL-Skyport Wi-Fi module, plug-in the USB RX Transceiver, turn on the monolights and on-camera transmitter, and the software recognizes the components and gives you control of the lighting system.

For more information and full specifications, contact Manfrotto Distribution Inc. at www.manfrottodistribution.us.

lonton's picture

yes, all very beautiful and interesting. Your descriptions are very good. thank you.
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