Those that follow our Blog and Facebook pages know that we love our Quantum flash units. We use them both on-camera (Quantum Trio) and off-camera (Quantum T5d-R). These flash units are light, recycle quickly with their external batteries and never overheat. The T5d-R models have twice the power of the Trios, which equates to 2-3 times the power of a typical Nikon or Canon flash. For some jobs though, the T5d-R doesn't quite have the power we need, and we have to resort to a much bulkier and heavier studio-type light to do the job. Quantum does have a 400 w/s unit (the model X5Dr) but this is more expensive and requires a special battery pack.
Last week, I was interested to see a new flash unit being marketed by Adorama as part of their Flashpoint lighting range. These two new models are known as the StreakLight 180 and 360; the numbers referring to their power in the traditional w/s (watt seconds) units. This put the more powerful unit as having twice the power of the Quantum T5d-R. A few minutes and a credit card later, and Adorama had one on its way to us.
The StreakLight is very similar to a Quantum flash and can use the same battery packs. although Adorama markets one (significantly cheaper than the Quantum pack) that can be purchased alone or in a set with the StreakLight. The flash comes with a silver parabolic reflector (again, very similar to the Quantum) and a diffusor disk. Annoyingly, however, the diameter of the two reflectors is slightly different, precluding interchangeability of diffusors from the two systems.
Unlike the Quantum flashes, the Streaklight operates in purely manual mode. This results in a refreshingly simple user interface.
There is a button for a focus-assist light (the StreakLight can also be used on-camera), and a button that turns the sound off that indicates that the flash has recycled. The MODE switch cycles through the various modes available to the user - Manual, Slave 1 and 2, and Stroboscopic - and the SET button confirms your choice. The Slave 2 mode is smart; in this setting, it will ignore the pre-flash when the master flash is in TTL mode. Flash power is very rapidly changed, in one-third stops - via the rotary dial over the range 1/1 (full power) down to 1/128 power.
In contrast, the Quantum interface is more complicated to accomodate the greater number of modes and wireless options these flashes have.
Just like the Quantum, the StreakLight uses a bare flash bulb which is easily and (relatively) inexpensively ($90) replaced, and enables the flash to be used in a straight-up, bare-bulb mode that does a great job at lighting an entire room.
Connections to the outside world on the StreakLight are facilitiated by a pair of sync sockets; one regular sync cord jack, and the other a PC socket, which should accomodate all commonly used cables to radio triggers such as PocketWizard etc. The upper socket looked like a USB port at first glance, but is actually a wireless control port designed to accept a Flashpoint wireless receiver.
Testing with a flash meter quickly confirmed that the StreakLight 360 is indeed twice as powerful as the Quantum T5d-R. The flash recycled very quickly even at full power using a Quantum Turbo 3 battery pack.
As noted above, the Streaklight can be used on-camera and has a hot shoe foot to accommodate that. Remember, however, that this is a purely manual flash - no TTL here - and since (unlike the Quantum) it does not give any distance information on the LCD screen, you will need to resport to old-school Guide Number calculations, trial and error, or a flash meter to get your exposure. The StreakLight does have a High Speed Sync (HSS) mode, although I have not yet tested that. In normal operation, the unit synced perfectly at 1/250 on my Nikon D4, providing a third of a stop advantage over the Quantum in that regard. The foot can be removed and replaced with a plate (included) for mounting on light stands etc.
If you have been using Speedlights for your off-camera flash work, a light like this will probably change your (photographic) life. The additional power and speed of recycling is a huge advantage. If you already have a Quantum flash system, there will be less of a difference, but that additional stop of power will make all the difference in some situations.
In summary, the StreakLight 360 is a powerful, lightweight and less expensive alternative to the Quantum system. I am looking forward to taking it on the road and putting it through its paces.