Handheld flash gives iPhone photos studio pop

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Xenon Flash
The Xenon Flash will bring studio control to mobile photography.
Photo: LIT Vision

Smartphone camera advances have been jaw-dropping. Engineers continue to advance low-light performance, while adding computational effects like bokeh and embedding additional cameras with telephoto and ultra-wide lenses.

However, with all the challenges the camera teams solved, one feature lags behind – the flash. But the smartphone photographer who wants to add a hint of studio-quality light, and control in shaping it, will soon have a wireless Bluetooth flash. It should add the pop to their pictures that they desire.

LIT Vision, which made a splash in 2017 with an app and gadget that turned a smartphone into a light meter, today introduced the handheld Xenon Flash.

Xenon Flash, a splash of light

The Xenon Flash requires only a free hand and your imagination. Powered by a rechargeable lithium-ion battery good for 200 to 400 flashes (depending on usage), it boasts a recycle time of 1 to 2.5 seconds. It can sync at high speeds (valuable when shooting in contrasty outdoor light) and delivers 40Ws of flash output.

It will sync with as many as three other flash units through the app. And the Xenon Flash also offers various modes for manual or through-the-lens control.

Xenon Flash is flashy enough to bring something new to smartphone photos
Flashy enough to bring something new to smartphone photos.
Photo: LIT Vision

The expected retail price for the Xenon Flash seems high at $329. But it is currently available on Kickstarter for $179. If all goes according to schedule, the Xenon Flash will ship in January 2020.

A flash for iPhones (and Androids, coming soon)

LIT Vision perfected prototype units for the latest iPhones, starting with the iPhone 7. The company expects to announce a list of compatible Android handsets soon.

Forget the flash on a smartphone ever being useful. The smartphone form factor makes a useful flash a virtual impossibility. Engineers can tweak the color temperature and bring machine learning that will adjust the amount of light based on distance. But one thing that won’t change is the size of the light.

LED lights for smartphone photography might work great in a pinch, but the smaller the light source, the harsher it will look on your subjects. Lume Cube is one of the best accessories for mobile photography and video, providing both continuous lighting and flash features through its app. While a major upgrade from what’s on a smartphone, the Lume Cube is still a small source of light.

The lens on the Xenon Flash is larger and should offer a softer light with a feathery fall off. There are also a number of accessories that could help the Xenon Flash fit various light modifiers, such a small softbox, umbrellas and beauty dishes.