With companies like Profoto and Elinchrom offering an increasingly broad range of self-contained strobes, Broncolor was no doubt feeling left out with its predominantly pack and head oriented lineup. That’s all changing now with the release of the new Siros strobe; a compact, wall powered, feature rich and wallet friendly flash unit.
Before we get into the nitty-gritty and start talking about their performance, let’s first clarify what these flash units are. A lot of people seem to think that they are battery powered portable units, however this is not the case. They are AC wall powered, self-contained heads that are more suitable for studio use rather than on-location. Broncolor does, however, provide a power solution via a third party — known as the Leadpower LP-800x — allowing them to be used away from a power supply should you require it. Another misconception that people seem to have is that these units are tiny in size. While I wouldn’t classify them as being bulky, they’re hardly featherweights either. The units are about 12 inches in length and 5 inches in diameter and weigh 7.1 pounds, which puts them at a similar size to a Profoto D1, albeit heavier. While the weight is a bit on the high side, this comes largely as a result of the high-quality materials used throughout the unit which makes it feel as solid as a tank.
The Siros comes in a variety of configurations including a 400Ws and 800Ws version, each of which is offered as a basic or "S" version as well as options for Wi-Fi along with built in RFS2.1 or PocketWizard triggering. With this range in offerings, prices run from $999 USD for a basic 400Ws unit to $1,700 USD for the top end 800 S with Wi-Fi and PocketWizard triggering. This puts it right on par with the Profoto D1, albeit at a slightly lower power output, as the D1 comes in 500Ws and 1,000Ws configurations. The Siros is also offered in a variety of 2-light and 3-light kit configurations that includes cases, stands, and modifiers. The S version of the strobes differs from the basic model by adding an extra two stops on the low end of the power range, as well as shorter full-power flash durations.
Using the Broncolor Siros
Overall, the Siros is intuitive and simple to operate as can be. It forgoes multiple buttons and has only a power switch at the base and a pressable dial and display along the back. For power adjustments you simply turn the dial to go up or down in 1/10 stop increments, or turn it rapidly for full stops. Power can also be adjusted via the built-in RFS or a PocketWizard trigger or the BronControl iPad/iPhone app, depending on the model you’ve purchased. To change other settings, the general flow is as follows: (1) press the dial to toggle the selection mode, (2) turn the dial to select the feature, (3) press again, (4) adjust the feature by turning the dial until the desired value is displayed, and (5) press once more to apply the setting and exit. The majority of these settings can also be set via the BronControl app. One of the cool features included in the Siros is a stroboscopic sequence mode which can fire up to 50 flashes in short succession, the speed of which varies depending on the power level. At minimum power, these 50 flashes are disposed of in around 1 second (see video below).
Although one might think of these strobes as the baby of the Broncolor range, their performance is hardly characterized as such. Much like their more expensive packs, the Siros performed flawlessly for the few weeks that I’ve used them. The triggering system never missed a beat, they fired consistently at full power and never showed any issues with overheating, even during long sequences of high-power shots. Both gray card tests and general shooting tests showed excellent color temperature consistency across an extended period of time and heat levels. Flash durations on the S model range from 1/8000th to 1/500th - depending on power output - which is similar to the figures of the Elinchrom ELC and Profoto D1. The 9-stop power range of the 800Ws S models that I was using proved to be sufficient for everything I threw at them. At the low end I was able to shoot wide open at f/1.8 without the use of ND filters, and at the top end I was able to close down to f/22 for detailed beauty shots. The 300W halogen modeling light is powerful enough to melt faces at full power and can be set to either full or proportional output.
The Siros strobes are the first to integrate with Broncolors new BronControl app which operates over an ad-hoc Wi-Fi connection and is presently offered in iPhone and iPad versions. The overall layout of the app is clear and simple, and establishing a connection with the strobes was quick and painless. To connect to them, you simply need to turn on the Wi-Fi mode on the strobe, find the newly created network on your iPad's network settings, connect to it, launch the app, and select the flash group. The back of the strobe head also has two colored LED indicators that light up in a unique color, helping you to identify strobes inside BronControl, which is helpful when you have a large number of lights. Although it felt a bit gimmicky to me at first, I quickly grew to like ease the app provided. It was especially helpful in more complex lighting scenarios, allowing me to get to my desired result faster and with less effort. It would be nice if the app offered up some more information along with the controls, such as the flash duration at the chosen power setting, but based on my conversations with people at Broncolor, it looks as though things like this will likely find their way into the app in future versions. The below video will give you an idea as to how the BronControl app works as well as the functionality it has.
So what do I think of the Siros strobes overall? Compared to some of their close rivals such as the Profoto D1 or Elinchrom ELC, the Siros seems to have an edge in a few areas. The power range of the S model is better at the low end than the D1 by adding an extra two stops, and also includes some more modern gadgetry like the sequence mode and built-in Wi-Fi control. Similarly, it bests the Elinchrom ELC with more sturdy construction, faster sequence rates, and an extra stop in power range, but lags behind in full power recycling times by half a second. Both the ELC and D1 offer 1000Ws of power on their top-end models compared to the Siros’ 800Ws, so you’ll have to determine if that 1/4 stop is important to you or not. In terms of overall performance, the Siros is a real joy to use and delivers the consistent results that I expect from a high-end brand like Broncolor. The video below will give you an idea of the recycle times of the head at various power settings.
So are these units absolutely perfect? Well just about, but there were a few minor things that I feel could be improved. The first thing is the pivot adjustment at the mounting point. Although the mount itself is built tough and folds up nicely, the knob requires a good deal of torque to properly lock the pivot into place and leaves little hand clearance when used with a larger modifier (see below). The Wi-Fi connection, although smooth once established, can be problematic if you’re switching various strobes on and off. Often times, turning one of the heads off resulted in a lost connection, thus forcing me to go back into the network settings and restarting the connection process to control the remaining heads. The app, while easy to use also led to a practical issue of iPad/iPhone battery life. Since the iPad pretty much has to be left on the entire time, I ate through my battery in four hours and had to plug it into a charger throughout the remainder of the day. This isn’t necessarily the fault of Broncolor but just something to be aware of. You’ll also want to make sure that you have a dedicated iPad or iPhone for this since you’ll be unable to access the internet on your device once connected to the heads. Whether through the head controls or the BronControl app, it would also be nice to manually control the output of the modeling light rather than being constrained to either full-power or proportional output - a feature that both the D1 and ELC have. Lastly the only other quibble I have is with the weight of the heads. For normal day-to-day operation, the weight and size aren’t too much of an issue, but it does make it nearly impossible to mount them to any of the Broncolor Paras as they become too front heavy and can actually bend the focusing rod. You can mount it on a Para 88 or 133 in either a rear mounted or focused configuration, but it’s still not ideal.
All in all, these complaints are minor in the scope of an otherwise excellent product. Whether you’re an existing Broncolor user looking to add more studio lights at a reasonable price, or just looking to get into the Broncolor range without draining your bank account, the Siros a good choice. I personally highly recommend the 800Ws S model as it will give you the features and performance that you’ll need as your skills and business expand. Although the price of the 400Ws base model is tempting, I strongly urge you to spend the extra $600 for the top end version as a long-term investment. Much like the rest of Broncolor's range, they're a well made, high-quality product so expect to be stuck with them for many years to come.
A big thanks to B3K Digital for providing me with some additional equipment needed for these lights.