A Total Hands-On Review of the Elinchrom ELB 500 TTL

June 6, 2018

By Theano Nikitas

Available in one- or two-head kits, the ELB 500 TTL comes with a well-designed, on-location bag for easy portability. below: Shooting at high noon? Use the ELB 500 TTL to fill in the shadows.

The new 500 W/s ELB 500 TTL is a lightweight flash kit that’s perfect for location shooting but easily doubles as a studio strobe. Available in single ($1,900) and double ($2,125) “to-go” kits, each includes a weatherproof power pack, shoulder straps, one or two flash heads, cables, protective caps, Q-mount reflectors and a carry bag.

In addition to TTL and a built-in Skyport transmitter, some of the notable features of this new kit include asymmetrical power adjustments, active charging, HSS and a built-in modeling lamp. To access the full complement of features, including TTL, you’ll need either the optional Elinchrom Transmitter Pro (formerly Skyport HS Plus) or the Phottix ODIN II. Current Skyport HS Plus users can update their transmitter with a free firmware update. A 3.5mm jack is available for third-party triggers.

I tested the ELB 500 TTL kit with the Nikon D5 and the Nikon D500. The Skyport Transmitter Pro worked seamlessly with both cameras.

Photo © Theano Nikitas


Designed for portability, the 5500K heads and the power pack are compact and lightweight. Each head measures 3.5 x 3.1 x 6.3 inches and weighs about 1.5 pounds. The rugged 5.5-pound power pack measures approximately 7 ¼ x 3 ½ x 6 ¼ inches. This lightweight combo will please your lighting assistant’s shoulders. Or you can hang them from lightstands if you’re operating solo.

Setup is quick and easy. Navigating the menu system on the power pack’s large and bright OLED display is equally as effortless. With full asymmetry, power can be adjusted for each light individually, allowing critical control over multi-strobe configurations. The 40-watt equivalent daylight modeling lamp works well and offers several options, including a timer and the ability to match the strobe’s power settings or adjust the lamp’s output independently.

The bundled 8-foot cables, which are permanently attached to the head, lock securely to the power pack. Future-proofed, Elinchrom has included a USB port for firmware updates. Time in use and the total number of flashes are tracked automatically and can be viewed in the menu system.

Equipped with a Quadra mount for modifiers such as Elinchrom’s Portalite series, you’ll need the optional Q-Reflector Adapter MK-II to utilize Elinchrom’s other modifiers.


Overall, the ELB 500 TTL performs as promised. TTL was accurate with almost every shot and even TTL naysayers will probably find this feature useful—even if only on rare occasions. TTL exposure is locked in so you can easily switch to manual mode to tweak it, when necessary.

The entire kit is fast (the slowest part is the Skyport start-up time) with recycling times as fast as 0.05 seconds. High Speed Sync shutter speeds can reach up to 1/8000 second while the action mode provides flash durations as short at 1/20,000 second for freezing even the fastest of action. On the normal setting, you’ll get flash durations as fast as 1/3400 second. Changing power settings on the pack—in seven full stops or 1/10 of a stop—was immediate, even when moving from higher to lower output.

It takes about 100 minutes to charge the battery, which is good for about 400 flashes at full power, or around 2,800 shots at minimum power. Thanks to the ELB 500 TTL’s active charging feature, you can continue shooting on AC power when the battery is drained, though with this high-capacity battery, that’s unlikely to happen.

What We Liked

The addition of TTL to this 500 W/s strobe is a big plus, even if you only use it in a pinch. The kit’s portability and convenience are key benefits—and you can use them with lightweight stands, which makes the entire system even more convenient to take on location. The provided on-location bag is very well made and, if you’re adept at packing, it’s roomy enough for some extra gear, too. Great battery life, fast recycling time and the ability to deliver flash durations up to 1/20,000 second are also among my favorite ELB 500 TTL features, as are full asymmetry and active charging. And the power pack is so easy to set up and use that even first-timers will be up and running in no time.

What We Didn’t Like

There’s not a lot I didn’t like about the ELB 500 TTL. I have mixed feelings about potential failure of the permanently attached cables. But I have had connection problems with some units that attach via plugs, so I guess there can be issues either way. Time will tell how well the cable connection holds up.

I’d like to see a larger, more accurate battery gauge on the pack’s screen. The battery itself shows power levels but is only visible when the battery is detached from the pack. My biggest complaint is that the cables that connect the head to the pack are only 8 feet long. Yes, you can purchase a 16-foot extension cable, but that’s just another expense, and Elinchrom warns that those longer cables “may reduce power output and slow down flash duration.” If you want to position the flashes with a decent amount of space between them, it’s a compromise that you would have to live with.

Bottom Line

There’s plenty of competition in the portable lighting market but most are either heavier, have less power, don’t have TTL/HSS or are a lot more expensive. One of the ELB 500 TTL’s most direct competitors is the Profoto B2. Like the Elinchrom, it’s available in one- and two-head kits, and while it has TTL and HSS, it maxes out at 250 W/s and the dual head kit costs $2,795—about $600 more than the ELB 500 TTL dual-head kit. You can always check out the Elinchrom ELB 400, too, but given the updates with the ELB 500 (more power, faster flash duration, TTL), you’re probably better off with the newer flash.

Despite the competition, the ELB 500 TTL has the power, performance and portability that make it ideal for any number of assignments, from weddings and events to outdoor lifestyle and portrait, and studio work, too. While I try not to get too attached to some of the gear I review since it has to be returned, I like the ELB 500 TTL kit so much that I may bite the bullet and buy it myself.

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