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Since I mentioned the Elinchrom Octabank in my New York Studio Post two weeks ago (and in my shots of Photoshop User News anchor Stephanie Cross), I’ve had a steady stream of emails and posts asking questions about it, so I thought I’d go into a little detail on a rig I use.

The Octa Light Bank (which is it’s more formal name), that I use is actually three parts:

  1. An Elinchrom Ranger Battery Pack (it’s important to get this battery pack, so your Octa isn’t stuck in your studio, so you can use it for on location lighting gigs).
  2. An Elinchrom Free Light S Flash Head (which comes as part of the “Ranger Kit” so you get the battery pack and flash head together)
  3. A Free Light S Flash Head, which mounts inside the very large 74″ (diameter) Elinchrom Octabank softbox, and it aims at the back of the softbox, so the light wraps around and comes back out toward your subject, somewhat like a really giant umbrella, but the way it’s designed you get virtually no falloff from the center to the edges (less than 1/4 stop from the center to any edge), which gives you the most glorious, wrapping light I’ve ever seen.

So, it’s those three pieces (a flash head, a battery pack which powers the flash head, and the Octabank softbox itself). Now, there is an optional stand you buy for it on B&H Photo, but I recommend using a heavy-duty C-stand instead, and I would get one with wheels to make it easier to move this very large unit around (I use a Matthews C-stand).

By the way; another reason you want the battery pack, even in the studio, is so you can move the whole unit as one piece, without worrying about cables getting in the way (you plug straight into the battery back, and then mount the battery back to your stand).

Now, this rig certainly isn’t cheap, but I actually think it’s a bargain, because if you get this one rig, you’re pretty much set for portraits (you’ll wind up using this one light and a reflector, and that’s about all you need). The Ranger Kit at B&H Photo (which is the flash head, battery pack, a hard case, and accessories), goes for around $2,029, and then you need the 74″ Octabank softbox itself, (which goes for around $1,100) and then I recommend a Matthews’s Hollywood C-stand to hold it all (for around $150, plus you should buy some wheels for it).

So, altogether you’re talking around $3,300, but if you’re really serious about getting a gorgeous, fabulous, top-pro quality strobe, this is the one I recommend (and now couldn’t live without). Thanks to one of the world’s best shooters, Joe McNally, who turned me onto this rig (it’s the one he uses to shoot everything from corporate clients, to national magazines, to celebrity shoots), and he was right–it totally rocks!

Note: If you happen to have a Profoto flash head, Elinchrom makes a speedring that lets you use the Profoto as your strobe, which fits into the Octabank, so if you’ve already got the strobe, you could just buy the Octabank softbox.