I have recently bought a set of battery powered portable studio strobe made by Phottix. As the model name suggests, it is a 200W strobe light.
The advantage of a studio strobe over hotshoe flash is obviously that it is much more powerful than typical flashes like the Canon 580EX II or Nikon SB900. It is also significantly cheaper. I bought the Phottix PPL-200 for HK$2,300. Flashes like 580EX II and SB900 typically retails for well over HK3,000. Mains AC powered studio strobes will be even cheaper, but you will be tied to an AC power source and you will be sacrificing portability. (High end studio strobe lights can be very expensive with prices and that goes up into the stratosphere, but lower end strobe lights for mortals can be very reasonably priced).
There are disadvantages and trade offs of course. For one thing, studio strobe lights are straightly manual flash only and do not support any kind of automatic TTL function. They are also more bulky and heavier than the typical hotshoe flash.
The PPL-200 is very well made. The whole kit includes the strobe, a power pack (with charger) that can also be used with Nikon and Canon flashes, 2 coiled power cables (of different lengths), a hotshoe sync cable, a camera bracket, a hand grip and a padded shoulder carrying bag and houses everything inside. Overall, I am very happy with the build quality.
Operation of the strobe is very simple. As you can see from the photo above, there is a large back-lit LCD display displaying important info like flash power. Flash power can easily be adjusted by turning the knob below the LCD display.
The photo above showed the strobe attached to the battery pack and also a sync cable connected to a wireless syncing device also made by Phottix.
I have only bought and used the strobe for a few days. I have tried it out a bit and am quite happy with it so far.
There is only one problem I have noted with it so far. There is an ergonomic design fault with the hotshoe sync cable. When the cable is fitted on the hotshoe of a typical DSLR, it bulges back significantly behind, way behind the eye-cup of the viewfinder. Hence, your forehead will be in contact with the back of the hotshoe sync cable and it prevents you putting your eye against the eye-cup of the viewfinder. It does not really bother me since I will most likely be using wireless sync triggers only, but still, this problem with the hotshoe sync cable is definitely a design oversight.
Actually, I took another look at the hot-shoe sync cable and noticed that you can attached it to the hot-shoe from either side and it will still sync. There is no indication on the cable as to which side is the right way to attach. I just happened to attach it the wrong way when I first tested it out. Now that I have tried attaching it the right way. It no longer stuck out from the back and blocking one’s eye from getting close to the eye-cup. I think in future, Phottix can consider putting some indication on the sync cable as to which side is the right way to attach to the hot-shoe. I tried attaching Canon 580EX flash and Phottix Strato wireless trigger the wrong way round onto the camera hot-shoe, but both items were designed so that it is physically impossible to attach it the wrong way. I never knew the flash would still sync and fire away even if you attach the sync cable the wrong way. You learn something new everyday.
Phottix is a Hong Kong based company and I am not affiliated with them in anyway. However, I am glad that the Phottix gears that I have bought and tried out so far are all well made and performed well and I am glad to be able to support a local company by using their products. However, if you were to buy Photttix gears and if you live in Hong Kong, I would strongly suggest that you buy from a local dealer rather than from the Phottix web store. The prices at the web store are significantly more expensive than street prices in Hong Kong, something like 20 to 40% more.
At the moment Phottix does not make any Bowen or similar adapter for the PPL-200 for attachment to light modifiers like soft-box. I have emailed them and they told me that they have something in development. I eagerly awaits such a product that will make the PPL-200 a more formidable product.
Of course I would like to shoot more portraits with the new strobe in future, but in the mean time, I have done some test shots shooting some delicious Japanese strawberries. All the photos below were taken with Canon EOS 5D Mark II with Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L IS USM Macro, Phottix PPL-200 with silver inside reflector umbrella and triggered by Phottix Strato wireless flash trigger. The photos were shot in RAW and processed and converted to TIFF with Capture One Pro, with further processing in Photoshop before final output.