The Swiss Army Knife of Light

Courtesy Elinchrom

Swiss-designed and Swiss-made, the battery-powered 261-watt-second Elinchrom Three monolight brings twice the power of the Elinchrom One. The design, function, and performance of this flash make a compelling argument for investing in modern, high-quality lighting instruments. You get a compact flash with exposed flashtube design, a near limitless light modifier mount, a 20-watt bicolor LED modeling lamp, on-demand fan cooling, and a rugged—but not waterproof—build. It delivers a six-stop output range, short flash duration, a built-in 20 channel/four group Skyport receiver, an internal battery capable of delivering up to 525 full-power flashes (up to 11,250 at minimum power), plus a fistful of other features.

Courtesy Elinchrom

Along with through-the-lens and high-speed sync modes, you can choose manual output in one-third or one-tenth stop steps across the light’s six-stop range (261 to 7 watt-seconds). HSS works in both TTL and manual control modes. The Elinchrom Three also features two flash duration ranges. When you need to prioritize freezing subject motion, switch to Action, signified by the running man icon in the first menu on the light’s touch-sensitive user interface, to shorten the flash duration. In Action mode, the color temperature is roughly 450 Kelvin higher. In images taken in the HSS shutter speed range, I measured a color balance shift in the tint (green/magenta) up to 10 points toward the green using the eyedropper tool in Lightroom on raw Nikon Z 7II files.

The Elinchrom Three lets you specify the output level in three ways: the Elinchrom scale, the European 1-10 scale, or in watt-seconds. The table (next page) shows the relationship among the three scales and the range of t0.1 flash duration. 

The 20-watt LED (output equivalent to a 120-watt quartz-halogen at full power) has four modes: freely adjustable, proportional to the flash setting, Visual Flash Confirmation (VFC, which turns the modeling light off when flash fires until the flash is ready to fire again), and off. The modeling light has six color temperature presets: 2,700K (soft white tungsten), 3,000K (warm white tungsten), 3,200K (standard tungsten), 5,000K (direct sun), 5,500K (daylight), 6,500K (overcast sky). At 5,500K, the CRI rating for the modeling lamp is 95, with a runtime of 90 minutes at full power and 10 hours at minimum power. 

©Ellis Vener
To create the dramatic lighting in this impromptu portrait, I set the Elinchrom Three to TTL and HSS control mode and modified the light with a Plume Wafer 75 soft box. I angled the light toward the subject and feathered it back toward the Corvette, just

For me, one of the most appealing aspects of the Elinchrom One and Three lights is the versatility of the modifier mount. Unlike virtually every flash in the monolight category, which incorporate a proprietary locking mount, Elinchrom has increased the system’s versatility by giving the cylindrical front half of the lights a diameter of 3.9 inches. This makes it a perfect match for the classic Profoto mount, which has been the safest and most versatile light modifier mount since the late 1960s. The safety factor is due to the design of the mount—a pair of steel bands secures the wide rubber collar around the body of the light, locking the modifier and light into one unit. With Profoto-mount hard reflectors, sliding the collar along the body of the flash adjusts both the beam angle and center-to-edge falloff of the light. 

For the One and Three, Elinchrom makes a line of OCF modifiers. These include a wide-angle reflector for umbrellas and barn doors and a set of color domes (red, blue, green, yellow, amber, and magenta) instead of the standard frosted diffuser/flashtube protector. There are three Rotalux Go soft boxes: a 14x30-inch strip box, a 22x30-inch recta, and a 24-inch octa. Using the Elinchrom Profoto adapter, which is included in the Elinchrom Three kit, you can use the extensive line of Elinchrom standard mount light modifiers: soft boxes, inverse soft boxes, shallow and deep umbrellas, and hard reflectors.

©Ellis Vener
For this still life, I used an Elinchrom standard 8.3-inch reflector on the Elinchrom Three, which was set to manual control mode, and I set the output using the Elinchrom Transmitter Pro. To get the deep focus, I used a Nikon Z 7II in Focus Shift mode fo

If you need additional light modifier options, you can access another wide-ranging family of light modifiers by adding an inexpensive ($40-$45) third-party Profoto to Bowens-S adapter. 

The Three uses Elinchrom’s Skyport radio system to sync with cameras, and while there is no connection port for sync cords, there is a built-in optical eye. For hands-off primary control of the Three, along with the Skyport Pro, Elinchrom’s Studio Bluetooth app lets you control the flash from iOS, Android, macOS, and Windows systems. 

Skyport Pro transmitters are made for Canon, Fujifilm, Nikon, Pentax, and Sony cameras and have 20 channels and four groups per channel. With a claimed interior range of 196 feet (60 meters) and up to 650 feet (200 meters) outdoors, the system works reliably in all but the most radio-unfriendly environments. As with all radio systems using the 2.4 GHz bandwidth, traffic on nearby 2.4 GHz wireless systems may impact wireless performance. 

©Ellis Vener
The light weight and portability of the Elinchrom Three make it easy to move the light around to change the direction and quality of light.

An internal built-in 41.04Wh lithium-ion battery powers the Elinchrom Three. Elinchrom lists three capacity specs for the battery: full and minimum capacity, both with and without the modeling light, and runtime for the modeling light only. Without using the modeling light, a fully charged battery delivers 525 full-power (261Ws) flashes and up to 11,250 flashes at the minimum energy setting (7Ws). With the modeling light at full power, these numbers drop to 420 and 9,000, respectively. If you want to use only the modeling light and not the flash, runtime ranges from 90 minutes at full brightness and up to 10 hours at minimum power. Recharging a fully drained battery to full capacity takes 100 minutes in fast charge mode (automatically engaged when the light is powered on) or 135 minutes with the light powered off. While shooting, connecting the light to the supplied 65-watt charger gives you unlimited flash capacity and runtime.

Included in each Elinchrom Three kit are the 65-watt AC watt charging block and USB-C PD cable, an Elinchrom reflector to Profoto adapter, frosted OCF diffuser/flashtube and modeling light protector, and an elegant hard-sided carrying case for $999.99. The Dual kit includes two of everything and a backpack instead of a case for $1,899.99. 

Ellis Vener is a commercial and portrait photographer and a contributing editor to Professional Photographer magazine.

Tags: lighting