Review: The Broncolor Litos Strobe Head

Introduction

Infrequently in professional photography are the serious tools of our trade to be called “cute”.  In the world of sand bags, grip heads, gaff tape, and C-stands, there is little room for snuggly little objects designed for smiles.  This newest flash in the mighty Broncolor family is capable, practical, and tough.  But, people might say, it is also “cute”.

If we look past cuteness, though, the Broncolor Litos is an exciting new product from a company known for uncompromisingly complex, precise, and accurate lighting gear.  It is compact for traveling, smartly designed for both ease of use and integration into Broncolor’s extensive product line.  This newest Bron strobe head, designed primarily to accompany the new Broncolor Senso line of packs (reviewed here), is certain to be a perfect fit for a wide range of applications.  I certainly enjoyed using it.

Even if its design runs a little on the cute side, this strobe is designed for serious work and has a lot to offer.  Read on for our full review..

Features

The Broncolor Litos is a strobe head designed to work with Broncolor Senso power packs.  The head has a permanently attached 13.8 ft. (4.5 m) cable with Broncolor’s standard long vertical plug that will fit any Bron pack, though the head’s user manual strongly warns against connecting the head to other Bron packs.  Considering the warning, we didn’t test cross-compatibility.

The head is equipped with a 2400 W/s strobe tube (aka 2400 J) as well as a very bright 300 W halogen modeling bulb.  The U.S. 120 V modeling bulb can be operated world-wide, thanks to the Senso pack’s ability to limit voltage to 120 V via a manually-engaged internal limiter.  Replacement flash tubes run a reasonable $235, while replacing the modeling bulb is a somewhat less reasonable $70.

The head is cooled by a thermostatically-controlled fan and has a tiny switch on the back for cutting power to the modeling bulb to protect it from damage while moving or adjusting the head (which is good, considering a replacement bulb caries twice the cost of its Profoto equivalent and as much as six times the cost of humbler bulbs of certain less expensive American-made strobes).

The head’s physical controls are excellent.  A stubby, rubberized handle extends from the head’s rear, allowing quick adjustments with a simple twist locking or unlocking the head’s tilting and rotating base.  A metal clamp allows umbrellas to be firmly shoved into a mighty slip-free metal grip that omits any type of locking screw, but will likely never drop an umbrella (or, for that matter, quickly allow one to be released intentionally).

The Litos’s most notable design feature, after its Nerf-brand foam football size and shape, is the ingenious cover/reflector combo.  The unit attaches to the head at both ends, forming a cover when mounted one way and, when mounted the other way, a simple umbrella reflector.

Once removed, the reflector/cover makes way for a standard Broncolor speed ring attachment: two tabs that press into place and rotate to lock.  The simple mechanism makes for compact and more affordable speed rings compared to the huge rubberized cuffs of Profoto, but a mechanism without Profoto’s built-in zoom function.  It is certainly worth noting that the Litos heads are designed to accept the full range of Broncolor speed rings and reflectors, except the mini Mobil line.

On The Job

The Broncolor Litos heads feel solid and well-made.  The housings are molded from somewhat basic-feeling plastic, but are sturdy and up to the challenges of professional photography.  The reversible reflector/cover is fitted with a fidgety rubber cap that fits over the end, and it can be a little awkward to seat in reflector mode without a little practice.  Mounting a speed ring is easy, once locked in place, speed rings are unlocked using the small trigger atop the unit.

The heads are fitted with supple, sturdy, and long cables that are easy to wrap and organize.  I like detachable cables for more compact storage and easier replacement, but such is not often an option these days.  For photographers who spread lights out from a single pack, Broncolor offers extension cables, though at $600 for 16 ft, photographers might consider a second pack instead.  Broncolor’s plug, meanwhile, is easy to use,  attaching firmly with a single motion (and no dots to align).  I especially like that cables exist packs like the Senso in a downward direction, for clean running across the studio floor, and leave the top control panel free for actual controls.

I love the Litos’s control wand, it locks firmly enough to hold a large soft box or umbrella in place, but allows quick adjustments with one hand.  I’ve always loved the similar control found on Speedotron 202VF heads (reviewed here) and am glad to see it make an appearance here.  Broncolor has kept the stick short to maintain over-all compact dimensions and packability, so the leverage is limited, but the control works very well.

Every pop during our weeks of testing was consistent, in both exposure and color.  Broncolor has maintained a healthy dose of the scientific accuracy of its high end heads in this more affordable format.  Our units were fitted with Bron’s standard 5500K glass covers, which, as you’ll notice in the product photos here, have a light golden tone.  The combination works, though.  I measured the color temperature output at a range of power settings (via a neutral card “eye-droppered” in Lightroom) at 5500K.  Photographers demanding absolute color accuracy will benefit from the controls of higher end Broncolor systems, but – for the price point – the Senso/Litos combo is hard to beat.

It takes a few pops to get the temperature-controlled fans running, and they slowly ramp up as heat builds.  Heat output was not excessive and the fans drive plenty of air through the head and glass tube cover to keep it cool (even during hard-popping testing in our hot studio).

Market Possition

The Litos is a direct competitor with the Profoto Acute head.  As a kit, the Broncolor Senso is priced very competitively with Acute products.  For more info on the comparison and range of other options, take a look at our recent review of the Broncolor Senso here.

As a stand-alone head, the Litos sells for around $1,100.  Check the latest price by following this link to Samy’s Camera, one of our affiliate sponsors.

The Litos head is also available as a component of several tempting kits, including the roughly $4,300 Senso 22 Kit, with a 1200 watt Senso A2 pack, two Litos heads, a padded case, and softbox; and the roughly $5,700 Senso 42 Kit, with a 2400 watt Senso A4 pack, two litos heads, a padded case, and softbox.

Both kits, along with single-head variants, provide a great way to start a professional-level light kit.  Both are compact and portable, and ready to accept a full range of additional modifiers besides the very usable included soft box.  Photographers considering either will want to add the cost of an RFS 2 transmitter to take full advantage of the Senso’s digital control and built-in RFS receiver.

For a run-down of competing products from other companies, take a look at our recent light kit round up in the “Market Place” section of our Profoto Acute 2R introduction here.

One notable competitor not discussed in our Acute 2R introduction is Profoto’s D1 mono light.  Though mono lights offer a certain way working, with power, controls, weight, and investment concentrated in heads and not packs, the D1 represents the entry level of Profoto’s most recent digital technology.  We’ve had our hands on a D1 kit for testing and will post our findings in the coming weeks.  A kit with 2 500 watt heads, wireless “Air Remote”, stands, case, and umbrellas sells for around $2,400.  The kit has a lot of the same digital control at a significantly lower price point.  By comparison, the Profoto Air system offers more sophisticated control, though the heads and remotes feel less robustly-made and less techy than Senso-line products, including the Litos heads.  It’s an interesting comparison to which we’ll devote a full comparison in the future.

Selling Points

The Litos head is a strong selling point for the Broncolor Senso line of packs.  It is compact, tough, and easy to use.  I enjoy the physical controls and smart, unique design.  It fits all Broncolor speed rings and reflectors (minus those from the miniature Mobil line).  It has a nice long cable and, aside from a somewhat average-feeling plastic shell, all materials are top notch.

Considerations

The Litos head is only compatible with Senso packs, which is a frustrating limitation, given the range of Broncolor gear available used and for rent.  There’ll be no quick rental of a second pack for the occasional big shoot – not without extra heads, anyway.  The novel reversible cover/reflector is brilliant and very useful, but a little finicky at first.  Some components don’t feel quite to Broncolor’s standard, the aggressive umbrella holder and the dinky screw to lock the head to a stand.  Also, the head’s most basic accessories, extension cables and replacement halogen bulbs, are both expensive, though it’s nice to see relatively affordable flash tube replacements for the unit.  The strobe head has no built-in manner of zoom control, which is a limitation when used with some modifiers.

Conclusion

If, by chance, photographers are comparing the Senso/Litos line to the Profoto Acute line, the Litos head is a major selling point for Broncolor.  It is wonderfully compact for traveling and easy use in the studio and manages a very professional feel for something that is so, well… cute.  Some subtle refinements would make it an instant favorite, though it’s pretty darn good the way it is.  For photographers looking for a high tech and travel-friendly system for editorial portraits, small studio spaces, and air travel, the Senso/Litos system is a great choice, and the Litos is a great little strobe head.

It’ll also be interesting to see the Litos’s LED-equipped sibling due out later this summer.  Check back soon for that update!

Image Gallery
Useful Links

Purchases from our affiliate sponsors via these links help support us financially; Thanks!

Broncolor Litos at Samy’s Camera

Broncolor Senso 22 Kit at Samy’s Camera (Includes Senso A2 Pack and 2 Litos Heads)

Broncolor Senso 42 Kit (Includes Senso A4 Pack and 2 Litos Heads)

Profoto D1 Air, 2 x 500 watt kit at Samy’s (Perhaps the Senso/Litos’s top current competitor, includes 2 heads, case, 2 stands, 2 umbrellas, and wireless “Air” remote.)

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by Matt Beardsley, photography by Matt Beardsley

 

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