Over the years my lighting kit has evolved from one system to another. I’d have this brand of hotshoe flashes and this brand of strobes. This one worked great, that one was ok, etc. I’ve been searching for one cohesive system and I finally settled on Phottix gear.

The one thing that has really simplified my life is having one trigger that works seamlessly between hotshoe flash and strobes. I know there are several systems out there these days and I looked at all of them and settled on Phottix for the balance of price, durability, and ease of use.

Profoto and the like were out because they don’t incorporate hotshoe flashes into their product line and I don’t know of any flashes that work with their triggers. Godox was high on my list because they have a pretty impressive line of flashes and strobes and triggering systems but my biggest concern with them were the batteries and their durability. I know many people who love the Godox line but I’ve talked to enough people who have had issues with them for the long haul. I feel they are a step up from Yongnuo but haven’t yet hit the fit and finish that Phottix has. Phottix gear has come a long way.

I know that LumoPro released a flash that is compatible with Phottix triggers but I wanted to keep ALL of my lighting gear in one family.

I want streamlined simplicity in my life so having everything under one brand was important to me.

 

I still have my two Alienbee 1600 heads and my two Einstein heads. Those now live permanently in my studio. I’d say that 75% of my work is done on location so my priority was getting my location kit perfected. This really is the best lighting kit I’ve ever owned. It’s simple. It’s all one family. With the exception of the MagMod gear I can use any of my modifiers on any of my lights from flash to strobe and they are all controlled with one trigger. No more separate receivers and sync cords. I also now have the ability to separate my lights into groups and turn groups on or off from camera. I can’t wait until the universal Odin comes out and then my lighting kit will be 100% done and complete.

The beauty of all of this is when I get an assignment or I book a personal shoot my bags are already packed and ready to go. I don’t have to spend any time coming into the studio and deciding what to take. I’ve already decided and it’s already packed with the slight exception that I might throw a strip into my Lightware bag. It doesn’t always live in my bag because my bag is already putting at the seams as it is.

I can’t say enough good things about the SMDV speed boxes. I’ve used so many different modifiers over the years from so many different brands and I can say that I think these are my favorite so far. They are durable. They are efficient with light. They are easy to set up and take down. The downside to these speedboxes are their bulk in my lightware case. I’d have more room in that case if I went with traditional octas or softboxes with speedrings but I HATE speedrings. I always have. I’ll take the bulk because I can roll up to a location and within seconds my modifiers are ready to go.

Here’s a recent shot using the 70cm speedbox on Ludacris and the Bowens mount fresnel on the plate behind him. This was for a cover shoot for Jezebel magazine.

Luda_Braves_041

For the cover shot I used the 110cm Speedbox directly over my camera and I put a flash on the ground with the MagMod MagSphere behind him to add a little glow to the back wall.

luda_cover

Oh. BTW. Luda is into photography. He’s currently shooting with a Canon 5d3. 🙂 He’s a GREAT guy. Loved working with him on this shoot. He taught me a little trick that I’ll be blogging about later.

So there’s my bag of lights. If you have any questions about any of this hit me up in the comment section below!

Here’s a list of the most important parts of the kit.

Modifier Bag – Lightware – (I have the 48″ version of this)
Think Tank Logistics Manager

Phottix Indra 500
Phottix Indra 360
Phottix Mitros Plus  Flash (I use the Canon version)
Phottix Stratos II (Triggers)

SMDV 110cm Bowens Mount Speedbox (I ordered their grid from their web site.)
SMDV 70cm Bowens Mount Speedbox
Phottix Double Fold Umbrella
Impact 60″ Umbrella

Bowens Mount Fresnel

MagMod Basic Kit
MagMod MagBeam Kit
MagSphere

Manfrotto 420b Boom Stand
Lumopro Travel Stand
Tether Tools Table

Godox S-Type Bowens Hotshoe Bracket
Lee Filters Gel Pack

I use Eneloop AA batteries for my flashes.
External Flash Battery Pack (Not in the video)

Cheers,
Zack

Zack Arias

A full time commercial and editorial photographer, Zack shoots everything from bands to CEOs to ad campaigns. A gifted teacher and communicator, he has an uncanny ability to meet and connect with all types of people.

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64 Comments

  1. Chris

    Are you using these lights with both PhaseOne and Fuji cameras? I am about to get a Fuji and wondering what flashes, speed lights and triggers to get that is compatible with Fuji.

    • Chris

      The video answered my question. Hope you get your wish for universal trigger

      • Zack Arias

        It’s the ONE thing missing from my bag right now. I sure hope they get one out soon.

        • Chris

          Have you been in touch with Phottix regarding your concern for universal trigger.

        • Zack Arias

          I have been. Evidently it’s in the works.

  2. Carlos J. Matos

    Zack! So glad you’re back. Missed ya bud.

    This might sound a little strange but could you maybe go into a little more detail on your stand selection and the thought process behind only bringing 2? That is probably the thing I struggle with the most with my travel kit.

    I also work primarily on location and I’ve managed to pare my kit down to 3 bags/cases: camera, lights, and stands + modifiers. Camera and light cases are more or less perfected, but my stand/mod case is an absolute beast that weights about as much as a dead body. Complete PITA to load in and out of my car, and god help me if there’s stairs. Main reason why is stands: I keep a pair of standard 7.5 footers, 1 PCB boom, and a pair of 10 foot c-stands with removable bases and arms. My reasoning is I want at least 1 stand for each light I have (3 speedlites, 2 strobes), but I don’t think I’ve ever broken all of it out for any one shoot. I also like the added stability of the Cs for when I work outside, but goddamn the weeeeeeeight (someone please for the love of god make carbon fiber c-stands already).

    I think I need a change of mindset before I can let go of that mentality and shed some of the unnecessary weight. Halp!

    • Zack Arias

      Stands. For something so simple and utilitarian they sure do require a lot of thought process don’t they?

      I wanted one solid, tall, sturdy stand for my main light. I’m still a OneLight kind of shooter so one good stand was a must. I love having C-stands with arms and I use those arms as small booms all the time. So this Manfrotto boom stand was the perfect solution to my needs. The two smaller stands can hold lights.

      On a lot of shoots that I travel to I will rent C-Stands or hire an assistant locally that will bring more stands if I need them. I’m definitely not flying with C-stands. For local jobs I might carry a C-Stand with me if I think I’ll need it. And yes… Pray there aren’t stairs.

      My modifier/stand bag is 50 pounds and rolls. If I have to take the stairs then I throw it on my shoulder and do that and then want to die when I get to the top.

      • Carlos J. Matos

        “My modifier/stand bag is 50 pounds…” Ok, I’m convinced. My stand/mod case is probably about 100 lb. and some change. Those Cs need to come out, maybe even go in a separate bag for when I really need them.

        I don’t fly with any of this stuff for work (not yet at least), but after a 3 hour drive to Houston the last thing I want to worry about is how I’m going to get a medium human-sized load in and out of location without my lower back snapping like a twig.

        • Zack Arias

          When I’m not flying I take a Rock-n-Roller cart with me and wheel it in and out of locations. Mine is an older version of this… http://amzn.to/2sif8A0

  3. Douglas I Levy

    How does flash duration come into play with the leaf shutter lenses? My rangers are great, but my profoto acutes, not so much.

    • Zack Arias

      That was a big consideration. The Phottix gear has really short duration times and work great with leaf shutters.

      Cheers,
      Zack

  4. Johnathan Wangelin

    Looking forward to getting home so I can hear the video. Been going through Zack withdrawals. Great to see Dedpxl up and running again.

  5. Mike Scott

    Great to have you back. Very informative overview of your kit. Appreciate the SIGNAL.

  6. John Galfano

    Hi Zack,
    Glad to see this. I recently got a Indra 500 with the Oden II trigger for Canon. I’m a food/product photographer always traveling to locations and I’ve been using it (mixed with my Elinchrom) for a few months now. I’ve been impressed with the light and also the ability to control power from the camera (I’m a manual Pocket Wizard guy). Last week was a 9-hour location shoot at a restaurant and the battery stayed strong all day.
    I’ve followed your work for years and your video reinforces my feelings & experience with the Phottix. Thanks for the video and the introduction to other cool modifiers & grip.

    • Zack Arias

      Glad to be of service, John!

      Cheers,
      Zack

  7. Jason

    Glad to see you back! And with another great video. As always, thanks for the informative videos. I’m stoked with the possibility of a Fuji compatible trigger for the Phottix system.

  8. Brett

    I use the Fuji X system, and I see that you specified the Canon version for the Mitros Plus, but do you also use the Canon version for the Stratos II triggers? In general, do you know if it matters whether you get the Canon or Nikon versions?

    • Zack Arias

      I do use the triggers for Canon. The Nikon Stratos triggers didn’t fit quite as well on my Fuji cameras for some reason. And I figured that I’d get all of the same kind so if I ever sold any of this it would be matched. Since I’m not using any of the TTL features it really doesn’t matter but might as well match everything.

      • Brett

        Thanks Zack! It’s very helpful to know that the Nikon version didn’t fit the Fuji quite as well. As always, you do the photography industry such a great service by freely sharing your knowledge.

  9. Shawn Allison

    Thanks for the detailed inside look! After much research I’m about to go with godox, due to the hi-speed sync capabilitiy and portability of their QT60011M. Have you tested your new kits’ hi-speed sync?

    • Zack Arias

      I haven’t yet. They work well with leaf shutter lenses but I haven’t tested HSS yet.

  10. Sean McCormack

    Hey Zack,
    I love that flash bracket. Been using the Elinchrom one since they came out. And I’m a huge fan of the MagMod stuff as well…

    For me, if I was going for one full system, I’d go Godox, which has the power control on the trigger. It controls every light in the system too. While they’re moving to TTL on loads of things, like the AD360II and the AD200, I’m still a manual off camera shooter. That said, I’ve order the TT350f to use for those on camera flash moments, and for remote control of the other flashes like the AD360 and V850II. I may sell the AD360 and get 4 AD200’s as they have a new bracket that combines 2 Ad200 into 1 400w/s flash.

    I’m shooting loads on location as well, but not on planes, so you definitely have that experience over me, but I do use it a lot and have had no issues. Back when I got the Neewer branded version of the v850, I had battery issues, but they replaced them, no questions asked. No issues since.

    Looking forward to the new few videos in the series and it’s great to see you back!

    • Zack Arias

      That looks like a nice mount but I’m already hovering at 50 pounds on my bag. If I start having issues with these Godox mounts then I might move to that.

  11. Michael

    I’ve been using that bowens speed light mount for about a year and love it. It also works with my strip boxes. It’s great how you showed that the flash isn’t falling out like happens with many.

  12. Daf

    Lovely video thanks.
    Mixing Nikon Speedlights and Elinchrom D-lite kit (inc skyport triggers) has been a pain – but I don’t use them enough to justify swapping systems at the moment – if that changes I’ll certainly consider Phottix.

    That Manfrotto boom-arm/stand though – whoa – happily ditch my terrible cheap and heavy boom arm attachment…. Thanks again 🙂

  13. Chris Law

    Watching and reading all this sure makes an attractive setup. I can’t even imagine what it’d be like to have everything work together so smoothly.

    One question though, I love my PCB 86″ PLM (soft silver with diffusion) and was wondering if anything you have (say those 60 inchers) comes close to what you get from the 86″ PLM? Or is it that you generally don’t need a mod that big and would rather prioritise smaller pack-down for the kit?

    Thanks.

    • Zack Arias

      I have a 7 foot Octa and an 86″ shoot through that I use in studio and RARELY take on location with me. Reason being is space in my bag and I’m rarely in shooting situations on location where I need something that large or in locations that can accommodate setting up something that large.

  14. Flash X1

    What do you use to attach gels to your flashes?

    • Zack Arias

      For hotshoe flashes I use the MagMod system for gels. That’s coming up in a new video soon. For my strobes I simply gaff tape Lee filter gels to the lights.

  15. Pradeep Raghunathan

    Wow! I have always loved your videos.. A big fan.. and so glad that you are back with another video! Looking forward to the next videos of what is in your camera bag and an exclusive video on the Mag Mods.

    • Zack Arias

      Just posted the camera bag video!

  16. Bryan Elliott

    Nice look into the bag! thanks for sharing Zack!

  17. Chris Korsak

    Thank you for posting this Zack! I like that you take the time to really explain things, and not do a 2 minute ‘top 5 light thingies in my bag’ post like everyone else. Your educational materials have helped me immensely!

    I checked out the prices of the phottix strobes. Damn. Out of my league. I’m still with the yongnuo flashes right now, but am thinking about eventually upgrading. Either way, light is light. Even truck stop light.

    Thanks!
    Chris

    • Zack Arias

      Light is light. Absolutely. Glad I can help! Thank you!

      Cheers,
      Zack

  18. Chris

    Great to have you back Zack, was nice to see this pop up in my youtube subs out of no where. I’m sad to see the comments about the godox gear, I’ve been eyeing them with some excitement as my upgrade with the high speed sync fuji compatible gear coming out. I’ve been shooting yongnuo gear which is nice when it works but I’ve had to replace 2 lights in the past 2 years.

    • Zack Arias

      The Godox stuff looks really nice. My thing is I fly a lot and my gear needs to just work when I get to my destination. I’m not convinced that Godox would keep up from some folks I’ve talked to who use their gear. It is nice stuff though.

    • Zack Arias

      Hey Frank! Those stands look nice.

  19. Isom Philips

    Sucks the fresnel lenses are no longer available on Amazon

  20. James Osborne

    Hi Zack, really great to see you’re back at it. Out of curiosity, do you still use speedlights for the portability? Why not just use strobes for everything?

    Great videos as always, I look toward to the MagMod one, I use their gear, it’s very cleverly designed.

    James

  21. Art

    Great video, very helpful! The list of criteria alone is useful and your solution looks very sound. I wonder whether you have considered how to add an outdoor high speed sync option? (Might be that you dont need that.)

  22. Doug Goss

    Thanks for posting this Zack! I’ve been waiting for an endorsement on the Indra line. I already have 3 of the Mitros+ and the Odin so it made sense to add the Strobes but finding a review from someone well known and reputable has been a challenge.

    The only negative I seem to have found, across a few reviews, was color temperature instability especially when shooting at lower than 1/32 power. A few sites have examples of this. I realize this can be fixed in post, but am curious if you experienced the same.

    Thanks!

    • Deirdre

      I heard about this too. I’m in the market for new strobes. Hensel is coming out with a new one that is both battery and AC powered. If they’re smart, they’ll release it for Photo Expo.

  23. Andrew

    Zach,

    So glad you are back and even more glad you succeeded in simplifying your kit.

    Question, have you ever had issue checking these bags? Especially on an international flight?

    I think one video that is missing from youtube is a good “how to fly with gear” made by someone that travels with a full kit (or maybe this exact one 😉 ) Sure, there are a few videos/blogs that say “carry it all on” made by folks that carry one camera and a few lenses, but I’ve never seen one that covers having to check gear. Would love to know more about experiences in preparations, how to navigate TSA, favorite airlines, packing, and general things to watch out for.

    • Zack Arias

      I’ll make a travel post! Thanks!

      Cheers,
      Zack

  24. Deirdre

    So happy to see you back! I got a Kupo light stand with the boom and knuckle. The best part? The end where you attach the lights are squared so I don’t have to worry about anything flipping over. It’s nice, secure and it comes in a nice matte black 👍 Also I scored some old skool c-stands for $25 each, that’s with booms and knuckles. These are not as heavy as the newer ones you see today, they have a ton of miles on them. But I can carry them no problem.

    • Zack Arias

      $25? That’s a steal! Well done! And yes, Kupo makes nice stuff.

      Cheers,
      Zack

  25. Michael C.

    Does the Indra 500 have the same wide range on the low end as the Einstein? One of the features that pushed me to the Einstein when it came out was that it couple reproduce the power range from the AB400-AB1600. A nice option when you are mixing with small flash, particularly.

    Do you have any knowledge/experience with Phottix repairs? That’s one of the big selling points of Paul Buff gear for me. They’ve been awesome about service.

    • Zack Arias

      That’s a reason I have the 360 so I can have the lower end of the power scale if needed.

      Phottix service has been great the one time I needed it. PCB though has amazing customer service. Phottix has worked to get US based service to be top notch.

    • Zack Arias

      I still have one. I like it. It’s on a shelf. It hasn’t had much use in a few years so… What do I do?

  26. David Newman

    Thanks for this very nice, helpful video. You mentioned leaving the Buff Einsteins and Alien Bees at the studio. What do you use to trigger these, especially when/if you combine them with Phottix or other gear? Pocketwizards, or something else?

    Thanks again!

  27. Paul

    Zack, first of all – welcome back! It’s been a while since You posted something and to be honest I really missed Your detailed approach to anything photography related. You, sir, made me want to get into serious photography with Your OneLight workshop or white seamless tutorial few years ago.

    I got a question and would really appreciate Your answer if You find time:
    – as long as there’s no Phottix trigger with the ability to change the power of the strobe yet, which speedlite and trigger would You really recommend to get into that, working on Fuji?

    Few years back I went studio strobes (Elinchrom) and after Alienbees (and Vivitar and SB-26) I loved the fact I could finally control the power from my camera. Right now I’m more into photojournalist type of photography so I need it to be light. I’d love to get Elinchrom ELB400 for this matter but it’s heavier and more expensive than any other speedlight there. When You hike 30-40 km into the jungle, every 2-3 kgs is much. In conclusion, I’m in need of speedlite with the trigger to put on my X-Pro 2 and have the ability to control the power only (no-TTL and all that bullshit needed).

    Best Regards,
    Paul

  28. Simon Pollock

    Hey Zack, thank you for your support, means a lot to all of us at thinkTank.

    –Simon

  29. Kevin

    I’m just a hobbyist….and I had never seen that Godox S type bracket. Coolest gadget ever. I’ve struggled with how to mix my Einstein’s with my Phottix Mitros flashes. My softboxes have a Balcar mount, and there currently is no Balcar version of that bracket. My softboxes also are falling apart and needed to be replaced. Solution? Bought a Quick Box Soup Bowl from Cheetahstand.com with Balcar mount. Bought an extra Bowens speedring Insert. When I want to use the box on my Einstein…Blacar mount goes on. When I want to use a speedlight, change out to Bowens speedring. Takes ten seconds. Thanks Zack!

    • David Newman

      Thanks, Kevin — that’s a great tip about swapping the Balcar and Bowens mounts.

      I’m in the same boat with a mix of Einsteins and speedlights. What triggers do you use?

  30. Nigel James Hughes

    Hi Zack
    Just seen your video in your lighting kit, I use phottix too so I know where your coming from with those!
    My question for you is the fresnel kit you have looks really interesting I live in theUK and cannot seem to get hold of this did you know of any supplier within the UK, or another way I can get one as the adverts from your links don’t ship to the UK obviously because of the cost!

    Just subscribed to your channel always something of interest, take it easy mate!

  31. Max Almonte

    Hey Zack, Glad to see you back up and running as always.
    How reliable are the Phottix stratos triggers? Do you use them with your AB and einsteins?