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Einstein 640 V2 in-studio flash duration test: hi-speed strobe was never affordable like this.

I was waiting for this monolight for a long time, and eventually got it few days ago. Talking about latest Paul C. Buff invention (intervention to hi-speed strobes market? :-), all digital Einstein 640 monolight. I’ve ordered few of these units back in spring 2010 “to try”, ordered separately (meaning soon I’ve receive another one:-). That was a longest back-order line I remember, but the good thing that I’ve received Einstein V2 unit: it suppose to be improved from the original one I’ve ordered.

The main reason I was so anxious to try the unit is that currently I desperately seeking a solution for my studio high-speed photography, mostly for action-freeze of liquids. We’ve started to get more and more assignments in this area, and I do not feel very comfortable working with my Canon Speedlites (have four of them).

So, my ultimate choice was between power packs such as ProFoto 7A or Broncolor Grafit (probably used) and PCB Einstein V2: 640 Ws would be enough for me, the only thing I have to consider is reliability, color consistency and of course the price. At this point I am leaning towards Einsteins, really hope they will work well for me.

I am not going to try to go through a full test with my Einstein 640 strobe: there are so many already posted online. The best one I know is Rob’s Galbraith review on the same subject: Stopping action with the Paul C. Buff Einstein 640 monolight.
My goal is to share results of the real, in-studio tests of flash speed duration by shooting a liquid splash: nobody has calculated the speed of water drops firing from a glass, even Rob’s test with spinning disks was not enough for me:-)
Obviously I knew that Einstein strobes will be fine at freezing splash, but I did not know  if flash power of that “stopping action” duration will be enough for my work. The main question was the distance and F-stop number I can use  at ISO 100 at that power level (at full power Einstein is usual mid grade strobe, the magic begins when we dial power down).

So, I’ve started from F22  and my favorite lens for water splash photography: Canon 180mm F3.5 L macro. Long focal distance allows me not to worry about protecting the camera and lens from the water while F22 will give me enough DOF to cover my subject.

Here We go, the video:

Einstein 640 studio monolight flash speed duration test:

As you see, Einstein works great: even one light is enough to get some nice splashes. I really like how the Beauty Dish gets reflected from a stream of water:

Einstein 640 flash duration speed test studio action photography
Einstein 640 flash duration speed test studio action photography
Einstein 640 pcb strobe studio flash duration test: freezing a liquid
Einstein 640 strobe studio flash duration test: freezing a liquid

90% crop from above:

Einstein 640 monolight 100 crop liquid splash flash duration test
Einstein 640 monolight 100 crop liquid splash flash duration test
paul c buff einstein 640 monolight speed test liquid splash
Paul C Buff Einstein V2 monolight speed test liquid splash

90% crop from the above:

100 crop einstein flash unit speed test flash duration
100 crop einstein flash unit speed test flash duration

Looks nice, is not it? The last thing I did is a continues shooting  mode: Camera was set to F5.6 1/250, continues shooting mode, strobe had 14Ws of power. My canon 1Ds MKIII could do only 4 frames per second shooting RAW, so this is how the sequence looked:

4fps Einstein 640 flash sequence shots fast flash duration
4fps Einstein 640 flash sequence shots fast flash duration

Not as impressive as this video, but it was cool to run this test:-)

You can compare this test to a very similar photoshoot I had with Canon Speedlites hot shoe strobes:

Paul C. Buff Einstein 640 in-depth flash duration test: action v.s constant color mode

Hope this was informative, Enjoy!

Camera gear:


Lighting, light modifiers and accessories:

Exposure specification: shutter speed 1/250 sec, F5.6-22, ISO 100


31 responses on "Einstein 640 V2 in-studio flash duration test: hi-speed strobe was never affordable like this."

  1. Hello Alex,

    I am from Ecuador, thanks for sharing your knowledge.

    Is it necessary the Cyber commander to stop the action with the Einstein or it could do it with the CyberSync™ Trigger Transmitter?

    Can I use the The Cyber Commander with CyberSync™ Receiver Plus – CSR+ on the alien bees?

    Excuse me for my english.

    Thanks a lot.

    • Juan,
      Cyber commander is not needed to stop action, it is a strobe itself… commander is just a super-duper clever trigger and controller.
      Yes, you can use CC with alien bees with optional control module – I forgot exact model, CSR+ might be a right one. Check with PCB website.

  2. Privet Alex,
    I’m trying to understand what type of mount for light modifiers this light has. They say “four holding fingers that expand and contract to hold speedrings”, for which one would need a “Paul C. Buff™ compatible speedring”. I already have Elinchrome and Bowens speedrings. No idea if they are compatible or not. What do you use?

  3. Hi Alex!
    Can you do splashes pictures with Einstein in full power (640w) ? If not, what should be the maximum power to freeze an image in your opinion ?

    • Heltor,
      I can;t freeze action with Einsteins on full power: flash duration at full power is about 1/700 sec, which is too slow. the useful range is between 2WS (1/10000 sec) and 180WS (about 1/4000 sec).

  4. hi Alex!
    Einstein E640W is £599.99 http://www.paulcbuff.eu.com/shop/einstein-flash-units/einstein-e640w/0202 in Europe this is 927.67 US Dollar so… any alternatives?
    thanks and greetings from greece

  5. Hi Alex,
    Thanks a lot for your explanations and your amazing tutorials.
    I am trying to buy an AlienBees B800 from a friend of mine. I think is a good price, but as I am planning to invest, what you think is better for splash/commercial photography (If you take out the cost from the equation) Einstein E640, AlienBees B1600, or WhiteLighting X3200 and what is the minimum units you need to start?
    Do you think I can freeze the water in the air witj a AlienBees B800?
    Thanks a lot in advance.

  6. I just love it, very detail explanation.
    Thank you very much to share the knowledge.

  7. Fascinating photos you have. You can see the exact pouring, splashing, and color of the liquid it so find.I like the sequence of pouring liquid photos, Its like you freeze the whole object to go down. Thanks, superb photos.

  8. Cool stuff mate,really cool stuff ………please keep it up.

  9. Hi alex, very nice pictures, i’m learning photography, and i would like to understand how high speed works, whit flash units, could you explain a litle how can you make pictures whit speeds of 1/2000 of a second?

  10. Hello Alex
    I’m about to order 2 units from Paul C Buff, do you think 2 units will be enough to stop action and create
    good shots? I’m using 3 speedlight now, but I want to change to a more consistent system. I also like to ask you
    what is your opinion on your Manfroto head, I using a Monobal right now by Arca swiss but it is not too friendly at the studio

  11. Nice test, looks the same freezing action like Pro-7 (maybe even better!), love Alien Bees products!

  12. Very nice… I would say they are just as sharp as the ones done with the speedlights.. Looks like PCB may have a winner on their hands..

  13. Alex, your pictures are fantastic and your tutorials are excellent; thank you! Do you have any tips for photographing indoor sports with a flash? Can you travel with the Einstein or do you need something else?

  14. very nice pics, as ever. nice to see your new toy =)

  15. Hi Alex – thanks for the test. So just to be clear, you’re still limited to 1/250th as your sync speed with the 1DsIII with the new Einsteins? (I realize the short flash duration allows you to freeze the actions but I am wondering about using them outdoors with a wide apeture for portraits…)

    • Peter,
      Yes, as with any other big strobe (even with $10K Broncolor or ProFoto) you’ll be limited by the camera x-sync speed. The only higher then camera’s x-sync is possible with flashes like hot-shoe mounted speedlites, when they work in hi-speed mode: they fire a sequence of pops during not fully opened shutter moving through the sensor.

      For outdoors people are using neutral density filter to “kill” the sun light, so it will result wider apperture at 1/250 shutter, while working with big strobes.
      Thank you!

  16. The first few shots sold it for me. And that speed shooting feature just blew me away. Nice touch with Mumui Trol. I am buying 5 units!

    • He-he:-) Time for me to ask PCB for a commission? :-)
      Speaking seriously, I am thinking the same: 5-6 units should cover all my needs (backed up by old WL&AB). The only a question where we would receive them, if order today? March 2011? :-)

      • @Alex Koloskov, I asked once. (actually, three times) but they don’t want to have any affiliate programs. We asked them to give us some units so we can produce tutorials with them – (at LMS studio we have prehistoric Speedotrons (20 years old models)they are very intimidating looking) thats why we are most tutorial with clamp lamps…. But PCB said that they are asked all the time by many websites : and don’t give it to anyone… doesn’t make any sense to me, really.

        • @Sasha, Well, seeing how “fast” PCB can fulfill demand, I can only guess that they do not really want to increase sales. They can easily start selling much more not only through affiliates, but stores like bhphotovideo and other.

          It might be a reason for them to do so.. Probably Paul wants to control a customer base, working directly with us. (I am getting a call every time they ship backordered item, confirming the address, etc). So far PCB has a best customer support (based on responses I’ve seen).

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