Best PURE Sine wave Inverter on the market for AC strobes only?

Discussion in 'Lighting Equipment' started by rob_h|5, Jan 24, 2012.

  1. Its been a while since I operated an oscilloscope since my college electronics class, but what is the BEST (most versatile and SAFE) pure sine wave inverter for AC only studio flash strobe packs and monolights on the market today as of 2012 that anyone has had experience with? I plan on using mostly pack heads and sometimes monolights. There are times when the battery AC/DC strobes are not available and I may need to be on a location shoot with AC only strobes. I never liked gasoline powered AC generators much so thats NOT an option because they are heavy, bulky, noisy but mostly bad for the environment.
    For simplicity lets say I need 1000-1200W/s peak power, standard 90-130V AC/ 60Hz/ USA only AC currents bi-voltage optional for me ( I dont plan on travelling outside of the USA but I know a lot of photographers do so they may need a bi-voltage compatible inverter) , analog or digital lights . I ran across these inverters: Innovatronix, Alien Bees Vagabond II/ Mini Lithium and Dynalite XP-1100 pure sine inverters. **Please note Alien Bees does not guarantee compatibility with other brand strobes other than Alien Bees strobes with its inverter so you have to roll the dice when using a brand other than ABs as it may or may not work. Dynalite's inverter claims to work with all strobes and here is a compatibility chart from http://www.innovatronix.com/compatib.asp
    Strobes could be but not limited to Profoto, Speedotron, Elinchrom, Hensel, Dynalite and Bowens...ect.
    Whats the best pure sine wave inverter(s) TODAY as of 2012 that you have actually used on location that you recommend for most ANY major AC only strobe power pack and/or monolights. Thanks in advance for your responses.
     
  2. http://innovatronix.multiply.com/photos/album/12/Tronix_Explorer_XT_
    Latest design include some smaller battery inside, that is appropriate for most applications.
    An older model was a pure sine converter alone to be used with a 12 VDC car battery. One was only 350 Watts continuous power with high peak power of 1000+ Watts, and was designed and tested/used with strobes of up to 2400 Wattseconds. It was sold for $349.
    Also some vendor was trying to sell the same converter for $1000 here on photo.net, but this spam did not last long.
    ... and Watt/sec is a measure of energy, not power, there is no peak power, but a maximum energy that a strobe can store... converters are rated in power (Watts), while flashes are rated in Energy (Wattseconds), that is why there is some confusion how to match one to the other...
     
  3. It seems this whole subject is a bit in flux right now. Many of the battery driven power packs are switching over to Lithium ... Hensel Porty L and Profoto 600B AIR for example ... Hensel now even offers a Lithum battery for the older Porty.
    The inverter segment seems to lag in abandoning the lead battery configuration ... Profoto's newer BatPac is a lead acid battery as is the Hensel Visit unit.
    Paul C Buff now offers their tiny Vagabond Mini Lithium "true sine wave portable power source". However, it depends on what is hooked up to it. Older Profoto Compact monoheads do not work, where the newer Profoto D1 AIRs do work when set to "Battery." There is no mention as what, or if any, non Paul C Buff AC power pack could be utilized. It will drive their Zues Z1250 back according to their compatibility chart.
    http://www.paulcbuff.com/vagabond.php
    Personally, I won't invest in any lead acid battery configuration anymore, things are changing to rapidly and performance is being increased substantially with the Lithium technology.
     
  4. The watt/seconds output power of the flash is a total red-herring, you need to go by the mains input current specification of the strobe(s) and multiply that by the voltage to get the inverter power needed. A typical 800 W/s studio strobe takes about 5 amps peak at 230 volts in this country. So the peak power needed would be 5 x 230 = ~1200 watts, and the average power about half of that or less. Of course the average power would also depend on how quickly you're popping off the flash and whether your modelling lamps are being used. It's worth doing a bit of research to find out exactly what current and power you need, because the price of inverters shoots up almost exponentially with their power.
    BTW, older or cruder non-microprocessor controlled strobes won't care too much what waveform is being fed into them. It's only the peak voltage and its consistency that regulates their flash power, since the AC input is immediately rectified inside the flash unit. In fact they might even recycle a bit quicker on a squarer-waved input.
     
  5. While Lithium batteries offer more battery capacity, though SLA can also give higher capacity (but at the expense of being very, very heavy)...but Lithium batteries just die down without warning, unlike SLA where you can notice the gradual decrease in capacity.
    But not really discounting Lithium battery system entirely.
     
  6. It is critical that power converter is able to provide pure wave shape of generated AC, regardless if a flash is computerized or not. Though computerized flashes may have better protection circuits, but their capacitors are as much voulnerable as any flash, if the shape of voltage supply is not pure sine.
    It is the power flash capacitor that gets blown up, when a "Modifies Sine Wave" or any other shape voltage is used.
    Square wave voltage shape converter is especially dangerous for a flash, as it could generate higher harmonics spikes of highe voltage level than expected. The capacitor is alway loaded to any peak value, and overvoltage spikes will certainly destroy your flash.
    Pure sine wave converters generate sine wave when used within nominal power range. If overloaded, they could possibly produce destorted sine wave, that will have better chances to destroy your flash.
    Also, mechanical rotated engine powered voltage generators, by the nature how they generate it, are capable to produce pure wave sine. But when overloaded, could cause mechanical vibration of rotating engine generator, and also could produce distorted wave, and destroy the flash.
    This subject was discussed in greater depth, many times on photo.net...
     
  7. The best inverter is the one that can provide the same voltage and current as you would get from the AC outlet.
    http://www.robgalbraith.com/bins/multi_page.asp?cid=7-11314-11226
    From these inverters the Dynalite XP1100 is the best because it's the only one that doesn't sag when you attach three heads.
     
  8. From these inverters the Dynalite XP1100 is the best because it's the only one that doesn't sag when you attach three heads.​
    And the winner is ....Dynalite!
    Pete I totally agree with you, out of the three pure sine wave inverters I mentioned ( Vagabond Mini Lithium, Innovatronix and the Dynalite XP1100) the BEST one available IMO as of today 2012, is the Dynalite XP1100. That article you sent by Rob Galbraith was amazing and very informative, it was a great review of all the pure sine inverters available today, thanks for sharing that with us. Did you see the photo in the article with almost every pure sine inverter in the market in the back of the hatchback? lol that was incredible! The only one missing was, you guessed it the Dynalite XP1100. I am going with the Dynalite because it seems the BEST inverter for 3 pack heads according to the tests and the fastest recycle time. The XP1100 can provide over 200 flashes full power on a 1000 w/s strobe with an average recycle time of 1.5 seconds. Another reason is this is the ONLY pure sine inverter available at the local photography rental shop!
    Dynalite XP1100
    http://www.dynalite.com/?page_id=428
     
  9. Frank, no simple rectifier circuit can create voltage that isn't there in the input. The maximum voltage that a rectifier and capacitor can store is simply the peak voltage of the supply minus the small voltage dropped across the rectifier. The power factor will vary greatly with waveform however, and a square wave actually needs a much lower peak voltage to deliver the same power as a sine wave. What's really at issue here is how well the peak voltage is regulated by the inverter. So a more sophisticated sine wave inverter may well be better stabilised than a simpler square wave inverter, but stability, regulation and spike filtering don't necessarily depend on the waveform.
     
  10. While its (Vagabond Mini Lithium) recycle times for the higher watt-second (1200ws+) tests are too long...​
    Pete, this statement from the pure sine wave inverter test review article you sent by Rob Galbraith, right here was the "dealbreaker" for me in passing over Vagabond Mini Lithium. I would be using at least 2-3 heads in the 1000-1200w/s range, a near 10 second recycle time for me is just not acceptable. However for a one head set up the Vagabond Mini Lithium (VML) being the cheapest, lightest and smallest inverter in the market was the winner. So it really deppends on how much wattage and how many heads you plan on using. The VML gets 2nd place in my book for the pure sine inverters, the value for the amount of pops for one 640 w/s flash head is impressive for the size and cheap cost of the inverter. In fact they suggested, if you are using only monolights the VML is so cheap you could buy one for each 640 w/s flash monolight head. Thats great if you are using monolights but I would be using pack heads like the Profoto Acute2 1200 pack with 2-3 heads.
    Flash Units from Other Manufacturers: The Vagabond Mini™ Lithium is designed specifically for powering Paul C. Buff™ products and we cannot make any claim for suitability with products from other manufacturers, nor can we accept any liability for any damage that might be caused to such equipment. We will, however, warranty the Vagabond Mini™ Lithium itself as well as any Paul C. Buff™ equipment it powers
    Here is another dealbreaker for me. This statement is directly from the Alen Bees website. I am not too comfortable "experimenting" with the VGA on other lights besides Alien Bees. Thanks to that article you sent by Rob Galbraith we do know Profoto Acute2 1200 pack and Elinchrom Style 600 monolights are OK with the VGA but there are are a ton of other studio lights that have not been tested. They might be fine or they might not work... we really don't know. IMO the manufacturer should test it out on different lights and not just try to push to sell thier studio light product to work with the inverter. At least Innovatronix wrote a thorough compatibility chart. And Dynalite says all studio lights are compatible.
    One question I have on the review HOW did they pull 1800 w/s in the 3 head Elinchrome 600 monolight test out of some of the inverters (VML, Dynalite XP1100, Tronix Explorer 1200) that were rated in the 1100-1280 w/s range peak power?
     
  11. One question I have on the review HOW did they pull 1800 w/s in the 3 head Elinchrome 600 monolight test out of some of the inverters (VML, Dynalite XP1100, Tronix Explorer 1200) that were rated in the 1100-1280 w/s range peak power?​
    Inverters are rated in Watt (W) and strobes in Watt-seconds (Ws) and that are two related but different things.
    Let's say that we have two different strobes, both 600 Ws, and we connect them to the mains. Strobe A has a recycle speed of 1 second while Strobe B recycles in 2 seconds. Very simplified that means that strobe A will pull 600 W from the mains for 1 second while Strobe B will pull 300W from the mains for 2 seconds.
    If you have an inverter that can supply 600W you could hook up only one Strobe A but you could hook up two Strobe B without overloading the inverter.
    But what happens if you hook up two Strobe A to the 600W inverter? Well two strobes A will draw 1200W for one second and the inverter can't supply that. The inverters voltage will then drop from 120V to 60V to protect the inverter circuitry and you will get a very unclean power. Some strobes will still continue to work even if they don't get 120V while others will not. Those that will continue to work will recycle much slower because there is not enough power from the inverter.
    So that is what is happening in the test. The inverter can't supply enough power so it drops the voltage and delivers very unclean power. The strobes used continue to work but the recycle times of the strobes increase in proportion to the voltage drop. The very unclean power during the recycle can also damage the strobes in the long run.
    Paul Buff knows all this of course and that is why he don't want to be liable when someone hooks up other brand strobes or other kind of equipment to his inverter.
     
  12. "Frank, no simple rectifier circuit can create voltage that isn't there in the input." - but the problem that you seem to overlook is that there are much higer volate spikes produced of short duration and higher frequency harmonics produced from overloaded or non-sine wave., e.g. by square wave voltage shape.
    There were flashes blown up by use on industrial grade inverters with "Modified Square Wave" that were designed to power heaters, power drills, and other non-electroni equipment. Square Wave type inverter is definitely not for use with electronic flashes.
    Joe,
    if you do not know something, do not recommend, as that would do damage to users flashes who would listen to your recommendation.
     
  13. It is critical that power converter is able to provide pure wave shape of generated AC, regardless if a flash is computerized or not. Though computerized flashes may have better protection circuits, but their capacitors are as much voulnerable as any flash, if the shape of voltage supply is not pure sine.​
    Frank this is exactly what I always understood about the dangers of using inverters... as Pete puts it perfectly "unclean power" inverters. I totally agree with you and Pete on this so this is why I am looking for the SAFEST inverter on the market
    So that is what is happening in the test. The inverter can't supply enough power so it drops the voltage and delivers very unclean power. The strobes used continue to work but the recycle times of the strobes increase in proportion to the voltage drop. The very unclean power during the recycle can also damage the strobes in the long run.​
    Thanks Pete for explaining exactly whats going on in the 3 light head test. Personally I would be very nervous going above the manufacturer's recommended inverter peak power wattage. Even though I know higher wattage can be pulled from inverters why take a chance on very unclean power damaging your strobe? I will stay with the Dynalite XP1100 at 1100 watt peak power/energy watts and Innovatronix 1200 watt as the manufacturer intended.
     
  14. Frank,
    don't put words in my mouth that I didn't say and never intended. I didn't once recommend the use of a low grade industrial inverter. I was simply saying that less sophisticated flash units will be more tolerant and robust in the face of less-than-perfect supply waveforms. Modern IGBT and microprocessor controlled LCD readout strobes are undoubtedly a bit more picky about what's fed into them.
     
  15. Just an additional info on innovatronix, explorer 1200 was already discontinued a few years ago and they have came up with a few models, the latest is explorer xt3, an 800watt-continuous battery pack (vs exp 1200's 150watts, then there is an exp xt which is 350watts).
     

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