Fstoppers Reviews the Medium Format of Battery Powered Flashes: The Broncolor Move L

Fstoppers Reviews the Medium Format of Battery Powered Flashes: The Broncolor Move L

Broncolor is often thought as one the most exclusive flash manufacturers. Its studio units are renowned to be built like tanks and to be remarkably consistent in terms of color and exposure. The Move L is no exception even though it’s meant to be used outdoors. Solid, well designed, and powerful, it will match any sport and action photographer’s needs, even more so now that it can sync up to 1/8,000s with compatible cameras, thanks to HS.

Build Quality

When I first took the Move L in my hands, I was surprised by how solid it feels. It inspires a lot more confidence than the Siros L I reviewed earlier this year. The user interface looks quite nice and is incredibly simple to use. There isn’t much need for a user guide to get started with the unit. Despite feeling solid, it’s not fully weatherproof unless you cover it with the soft case delivered with the unit. Although it will cover the pack, access to every feature and plug is possible; even the battery can be swapped.

The downside to the unit being so powerful and rugged is its weight. Building a 1,200 W/s flash requires a beefy battery and quite a bit of electronics. At just a little over 13 pounds (6 kilograms), it weighs about 4 pounds more than the freshly announced Elinchrom ELB 1200 but about 8 pounds less than the Profoto Pro-B4 Air that produces less power.

Features

When you buy Broncolor, you probably don’t expect to find TTL or any fancy feature seen in most other flashes these days. The Swiss flash manufacturer is all about building reliable units that last, that are consistent and solid; Simply put: units that work and of which the pros can rely day in, day out. And that’s exactly what the Move L is. However, it comes with a few extra bonuses such as HS. But let’s talk about them one after the other.

Just like any other Broncolor flash available on the market, the Move L includes their cut-off technology and a speed mode, allowing rapid flashes sequences of up to 50 flashes per second at reduced power or 10 per second at full power. The cut-off technology makes it a dream for action and sports photographers who want to shoot in burst to avoid missing any crucial image. Even fashion and still life photographers could benefit from that feature.

The Move L includes Bron ECTC (Enhanced Color Temperature Control) system which warranties that the color is consistent from shot to shot, no matter what power setting is being used. While it may not be the most important thing ever for action or sports photographers, this essentially makes it as stable as a studio strobe. I’ve personally used the Move L mostly in a studio environment, and it works just as well as any other monobloc or power pack I could have used instead. It’s versatility is something I truly appreciated about this unit. The individual power distribution is also adding onto that feeling of freedom. You can plug two heads in the pack and set them however you want — no fixed ratio, no flash duration difference between the two ports either.

As aforementioned, the Move L also includes HS. It’s a system comparable to PocketWizard HyperSync or Elinchrom Hi-Sync. When enabled, the camera can be synced at shutter speeds of up to 1/8,000s, making shooting in the bright midday sun at wide aperture easier than ever. Freezing action is also much simpler. No need to think about what power yields what flash duration. The camera freezes motion, not the flash. If you’ve read some of my previous articles, you now HS (or any of its versions) is superior to HSS when it comes to raw power. Its downside though is that it needs a long flash duration to work properly. While Elinchrom made the choice of creating a dedicated head for HS, Broncolor decided to limit the power range. HS is only available between power settings 6 and 10, both included. It’s much easier for beginners to understand it this way, and it also avoids any doubt when purchasing a new unit; No need to overthink what head you need or want. Enabling HS is incredibly simple too, a simple option in the menu of the pack or on the RFS 2.2 trigger and you’re ready to go, the rest is seamless.

Using the Unit on a Shoot

Having such a robust and well-featured unit is great, but if it doesn’t perform on set, it doesn’t have much use for any photographer. I worked with it for about four weeks using it as my main strobe and I had no issue at all. I used it with the RFS 2.1 and RFS 2.2 and didn’t encounter any misfires. The radio system works just like it’s meant to despite not offering a very user-friendly interface.

Model: Daphné S.

My use was mostly for portrait and beauty work. As much as I wanted to use it outside, I didn’t care for two reasons. The main being that I rarely use an assistant. Carrying the unit, a few modifiers, and my camera gear would have been just too cumbersome. Second, the unit was loaned to me by Broncolor, and I just was too afraid of scraping it. I mean, it’s a $7,000 unit (kit) after all.

Modeling Lamp

The modeling lamp is both an attractive feature of this product and a major disappointment. It relies on a LED which is daylight balanced and because the fan of the head won’t make a lot of noise, it can be used for video work. In fact, even better, the head can be plugged straight into the battery and then used as a video light. If you don’t need the strobe feature, you can leave your pack at home and carry just a convenient video light with you.

However, and this is where the disappointment part comes, the power of the light cannot be adjusted whatsoever. It’s either on or off. If you want to cut off some light, you’ll have to rely on ND gel filters. I was told by Broncolor that to make any power adjustment possible and maintain the same quality, it would require a bit more electronics and thus the head wouldn’t be as portable. Hopefully, the next generation of Move L will benefit from the progress made in the electronic industry and that feature will be available while retaining the same form factor.

Model: Cassandra M., Makeup: Harlequin Girl (@msharlequingirl), Hair: Dany Maugeri (@danhair)

Price

Priced at more than $7,000 for a kit – including the battery pack, one head, the weatherproof soft case, a trolley backpack, and a 2x2' softbox –, the Move L is by no mean cheap. If you are looking at buying a strobe to get started with flash photography outdoors, you may be better off comparing the Siros L, Elinchrom ELB 400, and Profoto B1 or B2. This unit is aimed towards professional photographers that need the reliability and consistency of a studio power pack in a transportable form factor — if it were lighter, I’d even say portable form factor. Due to its price and weight but high reliability and quality, some people probably dare to say it's the medium format of flashes. I guess they'd be right. The difference it will make on your image is marginal, but its advantages are to be found in its durability and the way it could simplify one's workflow due to its versatility.

What I Liked

  • Reliability
  • Power
  • Easy of use in HS
  • Battery-only powered modeling lamp for video use
  • No fixed ratio between the two heads
  • Short recycling time (as short as 0.9 seconds at full power in speed mode)
  • Flash duration as short as 1/20,000 s – or 1/8,500 s at t 0.1

What Could Be Improved

  • Its price is a real investment and can hardly be justified by most photographers
  • Modeling lamp power cannot be adjusted
  • Weight — however, it’s complicated to make such a powerful unit lighter
  • The RFS system works well but isn’t the most intuitive radio system to use

Conclusion

The Broncolor Move L is an extremely capable, powerful, and reliable unit. Once it’s setup, you forget it even exists. It triggers every time, and it is consistent in terms of both color and brightness output. However, photographers that don’t work in commercial photography or have big jobs to pay for it and an assistant to carry the kit around will probably look at other solutions. The unit is rather taxing on both your shoulders and wallet. If money isn’t an issue and you need a powerful unit, this is probably one product you should be looking at. The future will tell if the Elinchrom ELB 1200 can come close and rival with it or not. But until then, the Move L is the king of the 1,200 W/s battery powered packs.

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3 Comments

barry cash's picture

Nice write up!
Broncolor makes some of the best lighting out there. As you say I cant understand how in today's world they cant produce lighter and more cost efficient equipment, that would be priced to own and not to rent!

While drones are now being integrated to lots of shots portable lighting should be on the rise.

Not only is lighter the key for lighting on stands in the wind but cutting down on carry weight is mandatory for most solo photographers.

Alex Cooke's picture

I *just* got my Siros Ls. Stop tempting me. ;)

Jacob Dreshøj's picture

I simply can't see what to find unfriendly about the RFS2.2? I had it for 1 minute and i was going. Lamp Power, Studio Power, HS enable/disable and modeling light on/off. After using it for one shoot, i found it simple and common to use. It took me longer to get my pocketwizard Plus III's going, and the Flex/mini combo was a complete nightmare compared...