Fstoppers Reviews the Broncolor Siros L 800Ws

Fstoppers Reviews the Broncolor Siros L 800Ws

Broncolor is often referred as the top high-end flash manufacturer. Their units are all assembled by hand in Switzerland, and the Siros L is no exception to the rule. However, the latest addition to their product line is much cheaper than their other battery-powered flash, and it’s a monobloc unit, just like the Profoto B1. I had the opportunity to use one for a few weeks to give you my impressions!

Build Quality

The Siros L is building on the Siros and Siros S design. It’s similar in many aspects but with one significant difference found in the form of a battery. I tried the 800Ws version, the most powerful currently available, and the first thing that struck me was its hefty 8.2lbs. However, there is a smaller 400Ws unit, which is 1.5lbs lighter, and it’s much closer to the B1 in size. Being used to less powerful units such as the Elinchrom ELB 400 and Profoto B1, the weight of the device was quite surprising but additional power always to the detriment of weight!

The unit felt very much like a studio strobe with its openings on the tops to let the air flow and avoid any overheating issue. Thus it’s in no way a weather sealed flash, and I wouldn’t describe the Siros L as rugged or sturdy enough to go outdoors in bad weather conditions. The unit looks absolutely stunning, that’s a fact, but, unfortunately, the outside coating is easily scratched, and the whole design is based on a studio strobe with just an added battery. It’s a beautiful product but one you must handle with care, especially given its price, and not something you’ll take with you on your craziest adventures.

The battery is another reason not to throw the Siros L around like a cheap hot shoe flash. Placed on top of the device, it’s not really apparent except for its release buttons on each side. It matches the design, it’s small and light, however, if you place the unit upside down on the floor, the battery will be likely to pop out. It happened to me when using the flash as a fill light from below… Not the most practical thing when the battery comes out in the middle of a shoot. But when the Siros L is used on a light stand or laid on the ground on its handle, the battery stays on with no issue at all.

The battery size compared to an iPhone 6S Plus

On a better note, the Siros L form factor may look like a Profoto B1 with a recessed flash tube. However, it’s just the default reflector making it look like so. When the reflector is taken off, the tube is fully apparent and not recessed anymore! Why is it so important? Well, for the best quality of light when using modifiers, a non-recessed tube is preferred. The spread of light is wider and thus more diffused. With modifiers such as a para or a beauty dish, it’s simply a must! Try and use a Profoto B1 with a deep umbrella, and then with another unit such as the Broncolor Siros L or any Elinchrom Quadra heads, and you might be surprised by the result! Non-recessed tubes do make quite a bit of difference.

Features

This is where the Broncolor Siros L actually shines: 800Ws, t0.1 of 1/4,400s at minimum power and 1/250s at full power, 2.7s to charge at full power, 220 full power flashes per charge, and a power setting that can be tweaked in 1/10th of a stop over nine full f-stops. Looking at just these specs, it looks very much like a Profoto B1 with more power. The recycling time is longer, but that’s because it’s close to double the power. The 400Ws unit is faster than the B1. So what does make the Siros L stand out?

Well, Broncolor included some of the technologies found in their most exclusive products such as the Scoro S – a $14,000 pack – into the Siros L! Yes, you read that right, for a little over $2,000 you can access high-end technologies in a very portable unit. Apparently, it was Broncolor’s goal: provide their clients with a smaller and lighter unit, but also one for people who want to get into their system with something a bit more affordable than their packs but without sacrificing the light quality Bron is known for.

The first technology the Siros L inherits from the Scoro line is the cut-off system which enables rapid flash sequences with up to 50 flashes per second. Probably not something everyone is going to use on an everyday basis, but it’s always nice to have. It may turn out to be an interesting feature for people shooting in bursts, such as action, fashion, or some still life photographers.

Then we find the patented ECTC technology, probably the best known of them all. ECTC stands for enhanced color temperature control. It’s the only system available on the market that guarantees the color balance won’t shift more than +/-50K across the whole power range. So you can use multiple units, without having to worry about color inconsistencies. Still life, commercial, and fashion photographers will surely love this! And retouchers as well.

Not only does the Siros L carry electronics that makes it an almost a pocket-sized Scoro S, but it also comes with its own new feature: HS. It will let you sync your camera up to 1/8,000s! Don’t mix it up with HSS; it’s not the same though – for more details, please read my comparison between HSS and Hi-Sync. Broncolor HS is comparable to Elinchrom’s Hi-Sync and works extremely well. The use of HS is limited to a certain power range as the Siros L flash duration is too fast past a certain setting. So you can go down to 4.0 on a scale of 10, 10 being full power. At the same time, using HS at an extremely low power doesn’t make much sense as the unit’s flash duration below 4.0 power is short enough to freeze movement anyways. I found the implementation of HS incredibly easy to use, there is only one setting to activate, and it simply works! No need to worry about the head like it’s the case with Elinchrom or about the power loss like with HSS on Profoto, Godox, and the likes. I’d almost dare say, it’s as easy as Profoto HSS to set up, but with the power performances that can be obtained with Elinchrom Hi-Sync. The only downside to the Broncolor HS system is the transmitter. The RFS 2.2 is required to use HS and I must say it’s not the most user-friendly device I’ve used. It gets the job done, but a quick read of the user guide and some practice will be necessary before getting the hang of it. But don’t worry, more details regarding the Broncolor RFS 2.2 and HS are coming soon in a separate article.

Sample image shot at f/2.0, ISO 64 and 1/8,000s using the Siros L in HS mode.

Talking about fancy features, I regret the unit doesn’t have TTL. I know some people are going to say that Broncolor is a professional brand and as such, TTL should not be found on their products. Yet I’d have to disagree. When TTL is implemented like on Profoto units, it’s extremely useful to speed things up when shooting on location – first shot in TTL, switch to manual and adjust from there. Hopefully, it’s something that will either be implemented with a firmware update if possible or in future iterations of the Siros.

One last thing I’d like to mention in the features section is the modeling lamp which is a 25W LED balanced at 3000K. It’s interesting to see they didn’t go for a daylight balance, but it’s not an issue as it can always be adjusted using gels. What I do regret though is that it’s not more powerful and dimmable. Furthermore, the Siros L seems to have a temperamental cooling system. When I first received the unit, I switched it on to navigate all the menus and options available, then suddenly the fan kicked in! Even though I had not triggered a single flash or switched on the modeling lamp yet, the fan was making noise. While it’s not extremely noisy, it’s still enough to make sound recording a pain when shooting video. So if you plan on using this unit as a video lamp as well, forget about it, it’s purely for photography.

Sample image shot using the modelling lamp with a red gel as a kicker light. The Siros L was placed at about 4-6 feet away to give you an idea of the power the 25W will give you. The main light was a street light above the model.

Navigating the Menus

Nowadays, nearly all flashes have very similar specs. We come to a point where there aren’t many features to be added anymore, at least none that could truly benefit any photographer’s work. The issue is how do you know if a $2,000 Broncolor Siros L is a better choice than a $600 Godox unit? At three times the price, one should be able to notice a difference! First, and foremost, it should be technologically superior. I believe if color is paramount to your work, then the Siros L is clearly the best choice. Second, there is the ease of use. An expensive unit should be easy to navigate and use.

The Broncolor Siros L required a bit of adaptation on my side to understand the menu on the unit itself, but once I got a grasp of it, it made perfect sense and was extremely easy to use. I wish the screen were a bit larger with more info as most options were abbreviations and some details such as flash duration were not available. Granted, for people who need more information, there is the BronControl App, available for both Android and iOS. It works extremely well, it’s fast, and it can prove to be useful when working with multiple light sources or to adjust any settings more quickly than with the RFS transmitter: no need to move anymore, you control everything right from your smartphone or tablet. Furthermore, the app is free, it’s not a costly add-on.

So all in all, the menus and options are well designed and makes the unit quite easy to use. But… because nothing can be perfect, the RFS 2.2 transmitter felt like it didn’t belong with the Siros L or the BronControl app. Like said above, I’ll come back to this in a separate article because the RFS 2.2 is not required per say to use the Siros L unless you want to use HS. For now, I’ll just say that it’s probably the less intuitive trigger I have ever used and I think it’s a shame for a brand like Broncolor. The Swiss flash manufacturer seems to put so much effort into designing products and an app that both look great and work efficiently, but then, probably, to cut down on some R&D time and cost to catch up with other brands, they went to Godox for the trigger. While Godox has some neat products, I don’t find their user interface to be the best on the market and clearly not one that looks high end. Hopefully, within the next few years, Broncolor will come up with a transmitter that is as easy to use as their app! Then the Siros L system would truly shine and could put the B1 in the shade. But for now, I just think the RFS 2.2 is holding back the Siros system.

Price

The 400Ws is priced at $2,050, while the 800Ws is a little under $2,350, placing them at just about the same price as the Profoto B1. I guess the question on everyone’s lips is: should I buy the Broncolor Siros L?

To me the answer seems quite clear:
If you are a Broncolor user, you’ve already invested heavily in their light modifiers, and you are only looking for something cheaper to grow your kit or for something portable that can be used on location, then it’s a no-brainer.
If you don’t own any Broncolor equipment, but you want to get into the system even though you cannot justify investing thousands of dollars into your gear, for now, the Siros L is a perfect choice. It’s the cheapest Broncolor unit right now if you need a battery-powered flash. Otherwise, the Siros or Siros S will do just fine.
If you are just looking for a portable flash that you can use outdoors, and don’t care about the brand, then, you may want to consider other options, unless you need the 800Ws or the color consistency offered by the ECTC technology. To me, the Siros L is more of a studio strobe that can be used on location than a strobe designed for outdoor environments.

I used the Siros L outdoors, but a sand bag is a must have just as much as a dry and sunny environment. Forget about shooting in the rain, it's not meant for this kind of situation.

As you can understand it ultimately boils down to getting into the Broncolor system or not. The Swiss flash manufacturer has one of the largest range of modifiers in the industry, and the Siros L is compatible with pretty much all of them. It may be a tiny bit heavy for some of them such as the paras if you use it on a daily basis, but nonetheless, it opens a whole new world of possibilities.

What I Liked

  • Non-recessed tube
  • ECTC
  • HS
  • Access to the full range of Broncolor modifiers
  • BronControl App
  • Nine f-stop power range

What Could Be Improved

  • Poor transmitter design
  • Build quality is good enough for studio use, but a sturdier and weather-sealed unit for outdoors would be fantastic – but I guess that’s why the Move L is still on the market and why I’m currently reviewing it for you guys
  • No LCD screen on the back of the strobe
  • No TTL

Conclusion

Broncolor put quite a bit of effort into the design of the Siros range. Keep in mind the units are assembled by hand in Switzerland, and that’s costly. Seeing them being competitive with other brands that manufacture in China is astounding! I believe the Siros L has its place on the market, especially the 800Ws version – something Profoto is currently missing. Though I wish the Siros L 400Ws were a bit cheaper than the Profoto B1, and the 800Ws at about the same price. It would make it so much more competitive and attractive! 

Still, it’s an excellent way for younger photographers to access Broncolor quality without breaking the bank. It’s not as rugged and refined as a Move L or Scoro S, but I guess the price difference exists for a reason. I’m now looking forward to testing the Move L in depth, see how it actually compares and if the price difference can be justified as a user. So stay tuned for more Broncolor reviews, as there will be quite a few coming soon.

Do any of you own a Siros L? Or is it on your gear wishlist? Is it missing something in your opinion or did Broncolor get everything right? If you recently bought a new strobe, why did you consider it? I’d love to hear your thoughts about this strobe with it in the comments below.

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43 Comments

Jay Jay's picture

With a set amount of flashes per charge, i'm going to assume you can't connect an AC charger to the unit to power it and keep the battery charged, meaning, you'll need a set of very expensive (automatically assumed, since we're talking Bron) batteries. With the Elinchrom ELB400 packs, you can at least plug your charging cable to it and keep the battery charged while you fire (though Elin was a bit vague in their broken English when trying to explain it).

Mike Last's picture

You cannot shoot the Siros L while it is charging. The Siros L battery is pretty reasonable though at $290 and it lasted through a wedding for me. The Move1200 battery on the other hand... $800 USD. That one hurts.

Jay Jay's picture

If you can afford a Bron and all it's associated modifiers, i guess $290 for a tiny battery like that isn't bad. But it hurts. A lot.

Felix Wu's picture

Just get some spares and they will last for years.

Spy Black's picture

I dunno, call me practical, but for the price of one 400 watt Siros L, I can get three Godox 600 watt HSS monolights with built-in radios, their transmitter, 3 HSS speedlights also with built-in radios, and still have change left over. I don't see the point in this day and age in getting something like this, I don't care if it was hand-built by Jesus!

Quentin Decaillet's picture

To me, ECTC justifies the Siros L price. A Godox 600 has a color temperature of 5600K, with a +/-200K tolerance, while the Bron is balanced at 5500K with a +/-50K shift across the whole range. It essentially means using your three Godox units, you could have one balanced at 5400K, one at 5600K and the remaining one at 5800K… when color is paramount (still life, art reproduction, fashion, beauty, commercial), then a Broncolor strobe is justified. Now, if you're a portrait, wedding or action photographer and couldn't care less about a color shift of +/-200K, then sure, the Bron is probably not the right choice for you as there are better units available for cheaper on the market.

It is hand-built by Swiss Jesus in a perfectly clean cave at the same time overlooking Alpine vistas, so price is justified.

Felix Wu's picture

You are buying your flash as a system...that means a huge line of reliable products. Not a lot of transmitters...they won't make your job easier. How many AA batteries do you plan to bring with your set up?

Spy Black's picture

My flash units all run on Li-on batteries, not AAs. Radios are an integral part of the system. You're correct, I AM buying a system, a very well thought-out one at that.

Spy Black's picture

As a freelance retoucher, I guess I'm just numb at matching product shot with inconsistent lighting. I'm a Retouching Road Warrior, you might say. ;-) The studio I'm working out of right now uses Speedotron banks with heads all over the place. I don't bat an eye at matching product shot with them. We've found the cameras (Mk IIs and Mk IIIs) to have greater color consistancy and accuracy issues, an inherent design problem, actually.

However as an individual shooter it's nice to have that option, if you want it and are willing to pay what is a pretty exhobitant price for it. Certainly a personal decision.

Your Godox scenario is certainly possible, although it may not necessarily be that extreme in real-world usage. You've peaked my curiousity however, and I'll be renting out a color meter to see exactly where my strobes stand, inasmuch as I've never found any serious color issues with them.

Quentin Decaillet's picture

The difference will certainly be most visible when comparing max and min power ;) And true, in the real world the difference may not be as extreme, especially given that we rarely have one strobe set on full power and another at minimum power on the same set.

William Howell's picture

How about the Einstien with a mini Vagabond, 600+ WS and lots of full power pops for 750.00 bucks or the White Lightning 3200, 1300+ WS with mini Vagabond for $800.00 and I think both combinations weigh less than Broncolor and have better, or as good color consistency.
Not happy with the build quality of Buff stuff, how about Lumedyne? Not happy with getting the flashes so cheaply, buy Norman.
If you live in America you have numerous homegrown manufacturers. For me, in my opinion, I would never buy imported monoblocs or packs and heads or light modifiers.

Quentin Decaillet's picture

I wish Paul C. Buff would distribute worldwide… unfortunately they don't :( Same issue with the other two, they don't have dealers in most countries but the USA.

William Howell's picture

I just read your mini-bio at the end of the article and see you are from Switzerland, sorry about the snark, I thought you were based in America. Yeah, I wished you could purchase some of the fabulous lights we have here in this country, especially the Lumedyne.

Seth Lowe's picture

I am shooting the Profoto B1's right now, and don't miss my Einstiens at all. Garbage speed ring mount, flimsy casing, and an unreadable screen outdoors. Aside from being a better light, the amount of time that is saved from having zero cords to manage, having to lower down a light to change power, or worrying about a heavy modifier falling off has completely justified the cost of B1. The rentability of profoto gear on the road is second to none as well.

William Howell's picture

I never let my lights support big modifiers, I use Chimera speedring support. The Balcar mount is fine for smaller modifiers.
As for lowering the light to change the settings, (this is assuming one does not have a remote), don't you also have to lower the B1 to change the power?

Seth Lowe's picture

No, the profoto remote gives you full control over power (even turning a head off) and modeling light from the controller. I'm not sure why you would buy the B1 without the remote as its cost would quickly be offset by purchasing multiple pocketwizards. I understand the benefit of a speed ring support, but again, its just one more thing to purchase and worry about, further closing the gap between end cost and time spent.

Joe Giacomet's picture

A lot of the US flash kit just seem to be at least 5 years if not more behind what's going on with Pro and Bron. I could never see them making serious inroads to the Pro market in Europe at this end of the market, let alone the top end.They just don't compare to a Pro 10 or a Scoro.

William Howell's picture

Yeah it seems like our flashes, here in America, are years behind but they're not. Take for instance the Cyber Commander that remotely controls Buff lights, it is fantastic and has a built-in meter, it blows away the remotes of the Profoto and Broncolor.
Everything is component, from the battery to the receivers to the transmitters. Anything goes down, you swap out that component for another.
The flash tubes are user replaceable, not to mention the cost of the flash tube is ten times, in some instances, cheaper, ten times, can you believe it!
If you want to slice and dice the light, well you need at least ten strobes, (of at least 400WS per strobe), and by my math those ten Buff strobes clock in at about seven to eight thousand dollars, how much would it cost for ten Profotos or Broncolor?
To my way of thinking, you'd have to be bonkers not to go with Buff or Lumedyne, if you live in America.

Joe Giacomet's picture

All you've said above is doable on Bron and Pro. Tubes have been user replaceable on Bron since the late 80's. Not sure about Pro. Remotely controlling lights has been around for ages too, I control all my Bron lights with an app on my phone. You really need to witness the new Pro10's, they are unbelievably good. 1/10 stop adjustment over an 11 stop brightness range, t0.1 1/80,000, up to 50fps.

It is a lot more expensive but for the right jobs cost isn't a consideration it's about getting the right tools for the job.

It's also the light shaping Bron and Pro light shaping is really really good, and you can focus the modifiers which you don't seem to be able to do on any of the US stuff i've seen.

Ultimately I don't care where it comes from, I'm British and Bron and Pro are Swiss and Swedish. They just make better stuff!

Felix Wu's picture

One note is that Pro10 is 1/80,000s in t0.5 only. Profoto said they would release the t0.1 "soon" and months have passed we are still waiting for the official specs.

William Howell's picture

Hey Joe I wanted to show you what I think is the most kick-ass strobe that I know of. It is made by a little light company in Florida called Lumedyne, most all the high end wedding photographers here in America use, in particular New York City.
The Lumedyne H4QS, if you could, take a look and let me know what you think.

I have to disagree with you on this. I have always bought USA made lighting, but many of the US companies are not keeping up with technology and innovation. I wish they would keep up, but in my latest search for new monolights with solid build quality and very consistent color, it's been hard to find high quality lighting with modern amenities like TTL and built-in batteries in one unit.

I've owned and used Dynalite, Quantum, and Lumedyne. Lumedyne is okay, but many of their products are pretty much the same as when I first started out 15 years ago with only some changes. They do have some nifty products, like the X power for shoe flashes though. I couldn't even find the H4QS on their website without a separate Google search. Quantum is a much better product than Lumedyne, in my opinion. Quantum had been keeping up, but I am not sure this will continue with the sale of their company. Mounting any larger modifiers on these lights is a scary proposition with the speed ring mounting on the bulb.

Dynalite's newer innovative products are just rebranded Rime lights from Korea.

Paul Buff lighting has been pretty innovative and is a great budget option, but the color consistency is not there, at least for Alien Bees. Great product for what it is, but just not what someone who needs accurate color will want.

I certainly hope that US manufacturers start innovating again and keeping up with competitors.

William Howell's picture

Yeah Lumedyne's website is whack! I just love the look and feel of Lumedyne, it's like a throw back to the 70s.
I just purchased three of the Paul C. Buff Digi Bees, they are so tiny and light weight, I love them but the fan is loud and constantly on.
I agree with you that Broncolor and Profoto are far superior to anything built in America, I just think that if you can make American made lights work for your needs then you should support our manufacturers and like you said our light makers need to innovate. I would love to see a Einstien with TTL and a battery integrated in the mono bloc.

Deirdre Ryan's picture

I own Dynalites but the older power supplies and heads. I love them, but they are now so old, Dynalite can't get the parts to repair them. So I'm in the market for a new kit. I'm all about color consistency, so I'm not about to go to a system that won't give that to me.

Althought I posted it a few times before:
Hensel is going to stir the market a bit in the next few months with its FORIS line:
http://hensel.eu/en/project-2017-hensel-foris-400-800/

You can use with battery OR with a power adapter...so it is usable for (small) studio work and on the road.
Although I don't know if you can charge while using it...

Quentin Decaillet's picture

I hope to get my hands on it when it's released and be able to review it! :)

Yeah. We too. ;)
We are supposed to get a 3 piece set in April but that is not sure for now. They work at full speed at production models. Right now they have only prototypes.

Felix Wu's picture

I still think their lights look like 10year old though.

You might be right but I don't care as long as they are working fine- and we can shoot On battery and power outlet. That is a good investment. ;)