Review: Pixapro CITI 600 TTL strobes

Yesterday’s event, the Into The Woods Ball, was the first outing for the newest additions to our ever-expanding equipment list: a pair of Pixapro CITI 600 TTL strobe heads. Whilst I’d been looking at buying these lights for some time, I hadn’t planned on doing it just yet. Unfortunately last weekend’s job saw four of our normal studio lights pack up. It therefor became a necessity to replace them.

Why did I choose these lights?

For donkey’s years I have used Elinchrom lights. I started off with the D-Lite series, then moved to the BXRI lights. They are fantastic and are still going strong. The CITI 600’s have two advantages over my existing light rig:

1) They are battery driven
2) They are capable of working in TTL mode.

Taking the second point first I would add that I don’t actually really need TTL (Through the Lens) metering. For virtually all of the work that we do when covering events we have everything set to manual. The camera and the lights are setup specifically for the venue to ensure that we get a consistent result across all of the photos taken on the day. In TTL mode, the camera controls the flash directly and basically says “stop!” when it thinks there’s enough light to capture the shot correctly.

The advantage of TTL comes in environments when you don’t have enough time to set the lights up manually. Just point the CITI 600s in the right direction and fire away – you’ll be sure of getting the correct exposure from the first to the last shot. This can be very useful if I am called upon to photograph, say, award presentations on stage where it would be inconvenient to manually meter the shots. I can just grab a CITI 600 and be sure of nailing the shot.

No more trip hazards! No more Gaffer Tape
The real reason that these lights appealed to me was the fact that they are battery driven. No, I am not talking about them running on a bunch of AA batteries! They have quite a beefy battery unit that clips to the back of the light. One of the concerns of the idea of using battery driven lights is just how long will the battery power the lights for? Well, at yesterday’s event we were running a pair of the lights and during the course of the evening took just shy of 500 photos. At the end of the evening I was delighted to see that both lights were still showing that they had full charge! Admittedly, I was working with the lights turned right down – one at 1/64th power and the other at 1/32nd, but they were still giving plenty of light.

Of course, the real advantage of battery driven studio lights for an event photographer is the total freedom from cables! No more trip hazards for drunken guests to find! No more reliance on gaffer tape! It also gives me a great deal more freedom when photographing weddings or architectural contracts as we can place lights virtually anywhere without having to be near a mains point.

I prefer a simple life.
The lights were supplied with 120cm octagonal soft boxes. They seem to be very well made but, unfortunately, aren’t of the umbrella design so they take a bit of time – and strength – to put together and take down. They have two diffusion panels and produce a nice quality of light. Last night’s event was a green screen event and space for the studio was severely limited. We lit the shots using just the two CITI600s with their 120cm Octas – we didn’t specifically light the background at all. Instead we relied on the light wrapping around the subject to light the backdrop. I’ve seen other photographers go to extreme lengths to light their chromakey shots but I prefer a simple life. Two lights & two soft boxes were perfectly sufficient.

All in all, I am very impressed. The lights themselves have a very sturdy feel to them and are easy enough to understand. The radio trigger is slightly more complicated than my old Elinchrom Skyport was – that had dip switches – the Pixapro one has its own LCD screen and fiddly little buttons. I am sure that changing the settings will become second nature with a bit more practice. The soft boxes also appear to be well made and I am sure will deliver many years of service. Unfortunately the same cannot be said about the bag they were supplied in. The zip broke as I tried to close it at the end of the night!

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