Works With: Any Camera
LumoPro’s LP180 flash is quite excellent. Even the Strobist himself, David “can I flash you?” Hobby said that “It’s the first flash that I actually prefer over a Nikon SB–800.” High praise indeed, as the SB–800 has been his workhorse small strobe for years.
Why is it so good? Tough, easy to use, and with some genuinely handy (and unique) features. And all for $200, which is fully $350 less than the current top-end Nikon speedlight, the SB–910.
What It Is
The LP180 is a manual camera flash that will work with any camera you own thanks to its four-way sync, It runs off four AA batteries, or you can plug it into an external power supply. the bounce head can spin 180˚ in either direction for full 360˚ coverage, and can flip up 90˚ and down by a few degrees for macro (closeup) shots.
You can dial the power from full down to 1/128 in third-stop increments, zoom from 24mm to 105mm, plus 14mm with a pop-out wide-angle lens.
The flash can be fired by clamping it onto your camera’s hot shoe, by cable (either the legacy PC cable or a modern mono 3.5mm headphone-type cable), or via optical slave, which detects another flash (usually the one from your camera) and uses it as a trigger. You can even use it with a camera that generates pre-flashes before dumping the power from the capacitor into the tube for the main event, simply by telling the LP180 how many pre-flashes to ignore.
The package contains the LP180 itself, a stand (shaped like a little spaceship), a tough and useful case and a set of gel filters.
The LP180 is absurdly well-built for a $200 flash, and word has it that every single unit is being hand-tested at LumoPro HQ before shipping. This is why it has a two-year warranty. The body is tough and made from the kind of yielding plastic that won;t crack if you drop it on a tiled floor.
The foot, too, is tough. It has a metal plate and is fastened to a camera or a light-stand with a single-throw lever instead of a screw-down clamp, making it way faster to fit. And speaking of mounting the thing, you can attach it directly to a tripod to a light-stand without an adapter thanks to the threaded hole in the side. This is located on the axis where the head tilts, meaning that you can screw the head onto a stand and then move the body around to point in any direction.
This in turn means that the head can be aimed at your subject, or into an umbrella, and you can twist the body so that the slave detector (in the front) points towards the camera, or wherever the master flash might be. This feature alone might be enough to make you buy the flash.
The built-in tripod mount alone might be enough to make you buy the LP180
Next up, controls. The controls are dead simple. The power switch and test switch do what you’d expect. The slave switch lets you cycle between slave pre-flash modes. The plus and minus buttons control the power output and the arrow buttons control zoom.
The set button confirms any changes (or you can just wait for the flashing to stop on the screen for “auto-set”), and a long press on the set button lets you adjust the sleep mode, the screen backlight and the flash-ready beep.
And that’s it. The only complaint I have is that it’s easy to forget which set of buttons (+/- or arrows) controls which function, but you’ll soon get used to that as they’re also differentiated by their orientation: up/down and left/right.
In use, the LP180 is a dream. The slave is uncannily tenacious, firing so reliably that I’m tempted to put a dark-red filter over my Fujifilm X100S’ built-in flash to convert it to a full-time trigger (even when dialed right down, the X100S’ flash contributes a little too much light to the photo). There’s also a green LED on the front panel that tells you when the slave is one, helping you to troubleshoot things if your flash isn’t triggering.
PC syncing is also good, but you have to deal with those stupid fally-out cables. The LP180 has an admirably tight socket, but headphone cables are way better and way cheaper. In fact, you could just use a small PC to jack adapter and then use a proper 3.5mm headphone cable to make the rest of the run.
One note on cables. Try to find mono cables. Stereo will work, but I have found they can make thinks a little squirrely, firing the flash when you plug it in and so on. Plus – in theory at least – mono cables should be cheaper. But in a pinch you can use the cable that came with your Jambox and you should be good.
Almost nothing. Honestly, I’m scraping to find anything to put in this section, so I’ll just make a short list of people who should;t buy this flash:
People who want a small light to put on top of their camera. This is a waste, and the LP180 is likely too big for you.
People who want auto-flash capabilities. The LP180 is all manual. This makes it way easier to use for people who know what they’re doing, but if you just want to let your camera take care of things, you’ll need to buy a matching flash, probably from Nikon or Canon.
The flash has everything you need, and nothing you don’t.
If you’re in the market for a manually-controlled flash, this is the one you buy. Don’t bother with anything from Nikon or Canon, as you get nothing extra except useless auto modes. And don’t buy anything cheaper, as most of those flashes don’t come close to the quality of this one. I have used a few older LumoPros, and while they worked fine, the LP180 is in a different class. Plus, you can kit yourself out with two of these plus a battery charger, cables, lighting stands an umbrellas for the same as you’d pay for one Nikon SB–910. And who would’t want to do that?
|Product Name: : LP180The Good: Tough, crazily accurate slave, cheap, easy to use.
The Bad: Nothing.
The Verdict This flash has been designed for manual-strobe users, and it shows. It has everything you need, and nothing you don’t, making it both inexpensive and dead easy to use. Plus it has that amazing tripod socket that all flashes should copy. Recommended.
Buy from: MPX