GEAR REVIEW - LENCARTA ULTRAPRO 300
The first studio strobe I bought was the Lencarta Ultrapro 300. Prior to this I'd just been using Yonguno YN-560 speedlites. While they performed well, I found the lack of a modelling lamp a hassle at times and I didn't have quite the degree of control I wanted over them.
I was on a limited budget too and was looking for something affordable but effective. I'd seen many monolights on eBay hailing from China but wasn't convinced of their quality. While they were cheap, I suspected they'd be the type of thing that would work for a few months before developing a fault and I'd be right back to where I started. Generally that's how my luck goes.
It was then that I happened upon an advert for the Ultrapro 300. It had received very decent scores from various independent camera magazines and on the strength of those I ordered one. I was particularly intrigued by the fact that it accepted Bowens S fitting light modifiers, which generic versions of were widely available from Amazon and eBay.
It arrived promptly and was very well packaged. I also ordered a 7" reflector and grid for it, as it doesn't come with one. The first thing I noticed after taking the Ultrapro out of the box was the construction. It was solidly built and it felt like a quality product. The housing is a sturdy metal case and I loved the fact it had a handle on the rear of the unit to help with tilt adjustments - annoyingly something my £600 PCB Einstein lacks!
After removing the protective cover, I screwed in the modelling bulb. These are very bright at 250w. Replacements are widely available for around £5 each. Again, something I'm not relishing doing on the PCB Einstein, as when the lamp gives up the ghost on that, it will cost me 10 times that! I placed the Ultrapro on a boom arm where it lived in the studio.
It was very simple to operate with controls for the flash power and lamp all readily available. After a couple of months I also ended up purchasing the optional remote control which was a godsend when it came to making power adjustments on the fly. No stretching to reach buttons or having to lower the boom or light stand and try and replace it in the same position as before.
The strobe was pretty accurate with readings only wandering off by 2/10ths of a stop at most - more than accurate for most people. The unit performed flawlessly for me each and every time and I got some very nice results from it.
Modifiers were easy to replace, although heavier ones like the 70cm beauty dish could be a bit fiddly at times. I definitely prefer the locking mechanism on the SF300. For the money it performed as well as, if not better in some respects than the bigger boys in the market. It was also cheaper too!
The only draw back to the unit is the t=0.1 timing, which was around the 1/200th sec mark on the lower power settings. For static shots it was absolutely fine but trying to freeze action resulted in motion blur on the images, which was a pity. I eventually sold the unit in favour of the PCB Einstein for this reason, which is 3 times more expensive. At the time I purchased that, the Lencarta SF-300 wasn't available. Had it of been, I'd probably just have gone with the latter as it's without doubt the best bang for buck studio strobe available in the UK at £375 and currently have one in the studio too.
If you're looking for an inexpensive, good quality strobe for static portraits then the Ultrapro 300 certainly delivers and is good value. If you can plump the extra £175 for the SF-300, then do so for the flexibility it affords. Again, this is another high quality product from Lencarta and a name you will see more and more of in the future as they grow within the industry.