When I first started taking photos, I only used natural light. There were too many things already to think about with my camera; I couldn’t throw something else into the mix.
After a few years, I got comfortable with the basics of my camera, and I wanted to have more freedom on where I could shoot. Things really started to open up when I learned how to use flash. I was no longer stuck having to deal with the available light. I could take photos in almost any situation.
In the past two years, I’ve started using flash even more, and now it’s become more about creativity than just fixing bad lighting. I now use flash to create dramatic portraits that stick out from the rest.
I have an assortment of flashes and accessories I use in different situations. I’ve already written reviews about the eVOLV 200 and the Zoom Li-on, and these flashes are awesome, so I thought it made sense to write the Flashpoint XPLOR 600 Review. It's the last part of my lighting trifecta. It’s the big daddy of all of my lighting equipment.
Flashpoint XPLOR 600 Review
Most of you are probably thinking, “Do you really need all of that lighting equipment?” Trust me, I’ve thought about that too! If I could find the perfect piece of equipment for all situations, then I would go for it, and my life would be a lot easier. From what I’ve found, though, I need different flashes for different situations. Sometimes I need an on-camera flash (Zoom Li-on). Other times I need a more powerful off-camera flash for portraits or lighting a dance floor (eVOLV 200). Then, there are times where I need something powerful enough to overpower the sun and also use big modifiers (Flashpoint XPLOR 600). As I mentioned in the eVOLV review, there is a possibility that two of those flashes will replace my Flashpoint XPLOR 600. As of right now, I find that the XPLOR 600 is quicker to set up and works great in many situations.
What do you get?
There are several options for the XPLOR 600. The first big decision is whether to get the TTL version or the regular version. Some people love having TTL and others never use it. I ended up getting the TTL version because it was on sale, but I’ve only used it a few times.
One other option is that you can get in a bundle is the transmitter. Buying them together will save you around $15. They have different transmitters, but I prefer the Flashpoint R2 over the R2T because it has a hot shoe on top.
Your next real decision is about accessories. Adorama has a line of softboxes and modifiers that go with the adapter built in. I bought a Glow softbox that was inexpensive, but I still don’t like setting it up. I tend to use my Westcott Rapid Box Octogonal more than anything. They also have different mount adapters if you’re heavily invested in one brand. The accessory that most people will want is the extension head. This allows you to get the light into different places without all the weight of the body. You can now have someone hold it or put it on a boom without issues. It’s only $80, so I think it’s well worth it.
The XPLOR 600, like all the other Flashpoint flashes I have used, is solid. They might not be the most expensive brand, but they definitely don’t skimp and sell low quality products. The XPLOR 600 is big and heavy, just like most studio strobes, so you won’t want to carry it around all day. That does limit its use somewhat but it also lets you know it’s not going to break. I actually have had it fall over before from about 7 feet high (wind caught the umbrella), and it survived. The red plastic covering the sensor popped off, but I just snapped it back in and went to work.
The whole interface is really nice. You have a light-up LCD that is easy to read and buttons and one dial. The buttons are similar to the ones in the other flashes. They feel solid and it’s easy to tell when you have activated it. I know it seems silly to talk about buttons so much, but if you’ve ever had to deal with a poorly made button, you will understand. It’s extremely annoying to have to push a button 10 times to make it work. The dial is also very smooth and easy to use to make adjustments.
One thing that really impressed me was the flash tube. Sometimes on studio strobes I feel like any small impact will crack the tube. Not on the XPLOR. The flash tube has super thick glass. I can’t really describe how thick it is, but if you flicked it, your finger would hurt!
I’ve only had two issues with the build. The first was the reflector. I dropped it once and the diffusion front broke on the tab that holds it on. Compared to everything else, this diffusion piece felt like cheaper plastic. A replacement is only about $10, but I’ve just been taping it on for now.
The other issue had was with the optional head extension. Everything has been good about it except the adjustment knob for the angle of the head snapped off. It was kind of a weaker feeling plastic, and I really had to tighten it to keep the head from moving. One time I was adjusting it and it just snapped off. I did talk to Adorama and they were willing to replace it, but the cost of shipping it back didn’t seem worth it compared to the cost of buying a new one. I’ve still been able to adjust things, but now I just have to twist the little circle part it the lever attached to. It’s not fun, but it still works.
Portability and power does come with a cost. Strobes are pretty expensive in general, but adding a battery pack into the equation usually makes things much worse. The first portable strobe I bought was the Profoto Acute B2 Air. I got it used several years after it came out, and it still was around $1000. The Profoto B1 took things to a new level with building the battery into the strobe, but it goes for $2000. The XPLOR 600 is very similar to the B1 without the crazy high price tag.
As I mentioned, there are two different versions, TTL and NON, and they have a different price. I’m actually a little surprised at the difference in price. The non-TTL is $549 and the TTL is $749. $200 seems like a pretty big jump just for that feature.
If you already have a Zoom Li-on, you can use it as a remote for the XPLOR 600, but if not, you can add the transmitter to your package for $50.
It seems like these go on sale pretty often. I know I spent around $600 for the TTL version with a transmitter. There is a new version coming out soon so I imagine the price will drop.
$549 or $749 does still seem like a lot compared to smaller flashes, but compared to the Profoto versions, this is really a great deal. Remember, you’re getting all that power in a portable package and you don’t even have to lug around a battery pack!
The main reason I purchased the Profoto and then the XPLOR 600 is because I wanted to be able to take portraits outside and overpower the sun and have beautiful backgrounds. I have seen plenty of people get contraptions that hold 3 speedlights and do it that way, but that seemed like more of a pain. I wanted something that was made with power.
The XPLOR 600 definitely has power. At max power, it produces 600 watts. I’ve used it in several situations to overpower the sun, and get those beautiful backgrounds. Sometimes I’ve been able to get away with 1/16th power, and other times I’ve had to go all the way up to 1/1 when it was really strong daylight. Either way, it has worked.
Recycle speed can be an issue sometimes. At the lower powers it’s instant, but when you get up to full power, it’s 2.5 seconds. Maybe I’m just expecting too much, but in some situations, I want to fire off a few shots, and it just hasn’t kept up. Again, that’s probably just being unrealistic on my part.
The XPLOR 600 has the same features I love in the other flashes and does exactly what I need. It has High Speed Sync (HSS), which I use for every outdoor shoot. That mixed with the high power have really helped me create some wonderful photos. I love that it has a built in battery. First, this lets me take it out of the studio and go anywhere. Also, I don’t have to deal with the extremely heavy battery packs.
Another plus is that all of my Flashpoint gear works together. If I really wanted to, I could put the XPLOR on group A, eVOLV on group B, and Zoom Li-on on C. Then, I could control each one and use them all at once. Also, the Zoom can be used as a transmitter if something happened to my R2. That’s pretty cool!
There are a few other features I don’t use often, but are nice to have. The version I have does have TTL. When I did use it, I found that it wasn’t perfect, so I always stick with manual. There’s also a stroboscopic mode, which I keep telling myself I’m going to use. I really love those shots of athletes moving and frozen throughout. There’s also a built in modeling light. I have used this in the studio to help with focus, but outdoors, it wouldn’t help unless it was at night.
Ease of Use
All of the Flashpoint flashes have been easy to figure out and use, which is awesome. I hate having trying to figure out things, and I also have to be able to make changes quickly in my world.
The XPLOR 600 has been great. For the most part, I’ve used the transmitter to control everything. With a few pushes, I can change the mode, power, or turn on the modeling light. If I had to, I could make these changes on the body itself. That might be difficult with the flash up high, but if I use the head extension, then the body is low where I can reach it.
Recently I needed to put it into slave mode. It took only about 2 minutes to figure out, and I didn’t have to read any kind of instructions. That’s how I like it.
In the past 3 months, I’ve noticed one issue. The flash has been misfiring with the transmitters. At first I thought it was something wrong with the transmitter, maybe the batteries were low, but then I used the transmitter with my eVolv 200’s and I didn’t have an issue. That tells me it’s the XPLOR 600. I messed around with things, and it appears that the issue had something to do with the head extension. I’m not sure if it was the connection to the body or maybe the flash tube into the head. When I put the flash tube into the body, it worked fine. When I reconnected, the head extension and put the flash tube into it, things started working. With all that said, yes, there are issues sometimes, but that’s to be expected with a bunch of connections. I went about 6 months having no issues, so I’m hoping this is a one time event.
As I said with the Zoom Li-on and the eVOLV, one of my favorite things about each one is the built in battery. I hate running out of power and having to charge AA batteries!
I haven’t really pushed the XPLOR's battery that hard. I mainly use it for studio shoots or portraits at a wedding. I think the longest time has been about 3 hours. In all of those shoots, I’ve never had to worry about the battery running out.
Most people won’t ever run out of power on a shoot. The XPLOR is rated at 450 full power flashes! Another great thing is you can always plug it in and continue shooting if you have an outlet available in those longer studio shoots.
I really love the XPLOR 600! Ever since I got it, I’ve been using it in the studio and at weddings instead of the Profoto Acute B2 Air. It’s easy to setup and use, and it the power and HSS helps me create dramatic portraits.
I guess time will only tell if I keep this flash or replace it. I tend to be a bit of a gear head, so I’m always looking for the better option. For now, though, I plan on still using the XPLOR 600 on a daily basis. If this Flashpoint XPLOR 600 Review was helpful or if you already own one, I’d love to hear about your experiences.