After shooting flash for a handful of years, I have acquired a small arsenal of lights that are suited for different needs. I have the large studio lights that are great for overpowering the sun, small hot shoe flashes that have the ability to use features like TTL and high-speed sync, and then video lights that allow me to see exactly what my light is doing before I take an image. So when I saw that the Phottix Indra500 TTL could do all three, I was instantly intrigued.
At the heart of the Indra500 TTL, it is a 500W/s studio light that can run off either a battery pack or an AC adaptor. The flash itself is made of mostly metal, which gives it a rugged feel while still remaining nice and light. Like a lot of studio lights, this light runs off a battery pack or AC adaptor that connects to the light via a cable. This cable has a locking mechanism on the end that connects to the flash which makes it so the cable will not easily become loose and fall off.
At the front of the light you have the main light element as well as a built-in LED modeling lamp. The modeling lamp is adjustable and can give a decent amount of light, but it won't replace a high-powered video light when working in daylight. If you are working in dimly lit conditions though, it gives enough light that you could use the modeling lamp in a fair amount of conditions if you wanted. The light comes with a nice reflector that connects to the light via Bowens S-compatible mount, which allows you to lock modifiers into place and gives you access to a wide range of light modifiers.
Going to the back of the light you will see the main colored display along with all the buttons and switches you need to control the light. The display gives you a nice overview of the settings you would want to see during a shoot and shortcut buttons along with the green dial make changing setting on the fly quick and painless. The light also has a built-in set of receivers that can be individually selected in order to work with any of the Phottix transmitters they offer.
When choosing this light, I decided to go with the battery pack over the AC adaptor because I very rarely shoot in a studio type location. When first taking the light out of the box, I was pleasantly surprised to see that the battery was a decent amount smaller than the Vagabond Mini I was used to using.
The battery pack is also made of metal and feels a lot more sturdy. Like the Vagabond Mini, the battery itself is removable so that you can use multiple batteries during a shoot if you needed, but the locking mechanism on the Phottix is much better. As you can see from the above image, I eventually had to tape the battery onto the Vagabond because it would continuously slide off. This is partially due to a bad locking system and partially due to the fact that the battery has to constantly fight gravity. For the Phottix though, the battery is connected to the bottom of the pack with a side to side locking system instead of an up and down style.
Across the top of the pack you will see two outlets that allow you to power two lights simultaneously (any Indra light as well as the Phottix Mitros+ hot shoe light). These outlets also have a locking switch on them so that the cable cannot easily fall out. There is also a USB port that can be used to charge your phone and an on/off switch. This switch has two different ways of being set to on. The first way is standard and will result in a recycle time of 1.4 seconds when the light is at full power. The second way is high speed and will drop the recycle time to an even one second with a sacrifice to the number of flashes you can get per full battery.
While the overall build is nice and a very good quality, the thing that lets this light stand out from other lights is the ability to shoot TTL and high-speed sync like smaller hot shoe flashes. Because I’m constantly shooting in non-ideal times, this feature is an amazing asset. Not only does TTL make jumping from location to location a breeze, but the ability to shoot high-speed sync on a studio light is awesome. Normally when shooting studio lights outside and trying to kill the light from the sun, you have to shoot at your sync speed plus an aperture of maybe f/16. This is all well and good unless you are trying to shoot those nice shallow depth of field images that everyone loves. With high-speed sync, I now have the ability to shoot 1/4000 s and f/1.4 (the light can shoot at 1/8000 s, but my Nikon D750 cannot). While small hot shoe flashes have this same ability, they just don't have the power to keep up in these extremes. The below image shows a Phottix Mitros+ hot shoe flash (first image) against the Indra500 TTL (middle image). Both lights are at full power and about 13 feet away from the wall. Camera settings are 1/4000 s at f/8, ISO 100. The bottom image is the Indra at full power but with the camera set within its normal sync speed. Settings for this image are 1/250 s at f/16, ISO 100.
While the middle image is a bit underexposed, it gives a good example of what this light is capable of when dealing with higher shutter speeds. To put things into perspective, if I take the image from the hot shoe flash into Lightroom and raise the exposure until it matches the middle image from the Indra, I have to raise the exposure slider by plus two. If I wanted to get the same results using only hot shoe lights, because the light was already at full power, I would have to use three hot shoe lights to match the one Indra500.
What I Liked
- 500W/s of TTL and high-speed sync
- Solid build
- Easy to use
- Built-in receiver
What I Didn't Like
- AC adaptor is a separate accessory
- I wish the battery pack came with way to mount it to a stand
While this light might not get rid of the hassle of carrying around a larger light, it does add all the benefits you get from the the smaller hot shoe lights. The power and recycle times were more then enough for everything I threw its way. Add to that the ability to shoot high-speed sync and this light is definitely worth checking out.