The LumoPro Quad-Sync LP180 is LumoPro’s current flash unit. You can read all over the internet in great detail about its specifications and what it does, but to briefly summarise, it’s a manual only flash that can be adjusted in ⅓ stops from full power down to 1/128 power. The head zooms from 24mm to 105mm and it also has a pop down defuser which takes it to 14mm when zoomed to 24mm. It’s apparently at the top end of flash power for its type, it has a nice locking switch on the foot and it can be synced via PC cord, mini-phone cord, infrared and flash – hence ‘Quad-Sync.’
Also, and very groovily, it has a built in gel holder and a ¼″ 20 threaded mounting point (i.e. tripod socket) on the side – both really very nice features, and apparently unique and unique in this flash class respectively.
The LP180 has received a lot of praise on the internet, from some quite prominent photographers and from some quite capable and experienced photographers (I say that, cos the truth is they are not always one and the same*).
One thing I note is that quite a few people have commented on how robust this unit is. Lacking enough experience with flash units, I can’t really speak to this. To me, it just feels like what I’d expect a plastic thing of about this size, shape and nature to feel like. Not flimsy, but certainly not built like a tank either, as some have claimed. Here I’ll just defer to those with more experience, and accept that compared to others, it is apparently more rugged than the norm. I will just add though, that I suspect its matt finish and well placed angular design elements make it feel more rugged than it really is.
It has an audible signal to let you know when the capacitor is charged. That’s a nice feature, but it could do with being louder. It’s also nice that it has an auto sleep / auto power off feature, but 20 minutes to sleep is too long, not to mention it takes 3 hours after that for auto power off to engage! If I’m not using it and I’ve forgotten to turn it off, probably 20 minutes would be a more sensible time for auto power off.
I have read where people have complained about the LCD display, saying that it’s too hard to read (too busy and too angle dependant). I don’t really have a problem with it. Really, there’s not that much to adjust, and mostly I do it by feel anyway. If you are using this unit in a modifier, then most likely it will just stay on 24mm, so then the only thing that typically gets used are the off/on switch and the power level buttons. I tend to guess at what power I’ll be starting at, and then just click up and down without looking. It does’t matter what the number is, exposure is also tied (primarily) to aperture and ISO, so it’s all relative.
Is it reliable? Hasn’t let me down yet, but then why would it? I haven’t had it all that long, and in fact, no one has really – it’s still too new. Apparently the older models were all very reliable, so there’s no reason to think this would be any different. Somewhere I have read an account of it taking a spill onto hard ground and surviving, and also of being used in pouring rain without trouble (note though, LumoPro does not claim it is weather resistant).
To me it seems like a very good, easy to use, reliable, powerful manual flash; one that promises durability and dependability. The negative points I’ve mentioned above are just minor quibbles, and not worth worrying about too much. So, pretty good all round.
However, it’s overpriced.
For an extra US$10 or so, I could have bought three equally powerful and better spec-ed YongNuos. I would have too, if I’d realised at the time that YongNuo’s QC problems have apparently been ironed out.**
The other, more serious problem the LP180 has is to do with the future. It is fast becoming outdated. The current manual YongNuo YN-560 III already has built-in radio triggering, and when the new flash trigger arrives will feature remote manual power control. Recently Cactus have released a new flash unit and a matching radio transceiver,*** not only with built in radio triggering, but also power control across multiple groups (and a whole bunch of other TTL related stuff that people who manually control their lighting won’t care about, but that many will). The proposed price for this extremely promising and most likely game changing flash unit will be about US$60 less than the LP180!
With many modifiers, line of sight triggering systems are at best problematic and at worst, useless. That knocks out much of the LP180’s ‘quad’ connectivity, leaving really only the ability to be connected to a remote radio trigger via PC or, more likely, mini-phone.**** That’s an extra expense. Also, many softboxes require awkward access to adjust power or other settings, and even with modifiers that leave the flash controls accessible, they are often high up and awkward to reach, not to mention a pain to lower, adjust and the raise again. Those working with multiple lights find these problems compounded by a factor equivalent to the number of lights they are using. The ability to remotely control power settings across multiple groups solves all of this.
I have no idea how important the LP180 is to LumoPro and their business, but unless they really ramp up future releases to at least match the Cactus, and at a suitable price and soon, then I can’t really see anyone buying this product. I mean, really, why would you?
* I’m neither – ha!
** I’ve thrown the word ‘apparently’ around quite a lot here, basically because I can’t be bothered going back and finding references. As always with the internet, take it all with a grain of salt and do your own cross referencing and research multiple sources
*** okay, the transceiver doesn’t go on sale until tomorrow
**** or direct to a camera via sync cable – no one’s first choice (except maybe for high speed work with leaf shutters) and these days less and less likely with the advent of cheap radio triggers