Jinbei Energon EN350 Inverter Review
I don’t usually write reviews but this is such a new piece of kit that there are few reviews out there and so I thought I would give it a go.
I pre purchased the inverter in the UK before it was released from UKPhotodistro at £169.99 inc VAT and delivery. It seemed like a very good price for an inverter with such an impressive specification. (This was a special offer price from UKPhotodistro)
My plan was to use the inverter with one of my studio flashes for event photography. I do not like using mains power flashes at events. In the past I have had problems with circuit breakers tripping and some venues can be wary of allowing equipment to be plugged in. Much better to be independent from the mains. I currently use a Lencarta Safari battery flash, this is fine however it only gives me two flash heads. I would also prefer each head to be independently powered. This would remove my other worry of having cables across the floor, always a potential trip hazard even when rubber cable mats are used. The EN350 looks perfect for this it can be clipped to the flash stand providing some extra weight to the stand which is always welcome. It is relatively cheap and so one per head would not be too much of a problem. It also looked compact and easy to transport.
The first thing that I noticed when I collected the package from the postman was just how small and light the unit is. It claims to be less than 2Kg and whilst I have not weighed it I imagine it is. My only concern on seeing this was whether it really could supply the power, more on this later. The build quality is adequate. It comes with a very smart padded carry case with Velcro moveable internal dividers, a substantial bracket for mounting to the light stand, and a fairly small charging unit with a UK plug adaptor.
The battery is a separate unit that slots into the main body. Assuming extra batteries can be purchased this would extend the capacity. I could not see any markings to indicate that the battery is lithium ion, which is what is claimed, however it is very light and it came with a full charge. Since it had obviously been in transit from China for quite a while it suggests that it holds its charge well. This fact together with the low weight would be expected from lithium ion battery and so perhaps it is.
My first problem. The two output sockets on the top of the unit are not UK sockets they are Chinese. I contacted UKPhotodistro to ask how I could plug in, they in turn contacted Jinbei, who explained that the top was so small it could not take UK power outlets. They said that a cable was missing, this cable was a Chinese plug to IEC C13 connector. This would enable the connection to a standard flash head. UKPhotodistro checked all of their units and none of them had the necessary lead and so they were taking the matter up with Jinbei. I decided I could not wait and purchased the lead directly from RS Components.
Jinbei have some pretty impressive claims for the number of flashes that can be obtained from a single charge and I wanted to be sure it would meet my needs before I relied on it. Using the unit for event photography is a bit different to using it for a model shoot in that the flash head needs to be powered up for a fairly long period of time. Even when the flash is not being fired the fan is still powered up and my Lencarta Ultra Pro 300 head has a back lit LCD panel thus there is a constant power draw. For the unit to meet my needs for event photography it was going to need to power my Lencarta Ultra Pro 300 flash head for at least six hours. This being the time for an evening event 6pm to midnight.
For my test I left the unit running the flash head for nine hours. During this time I fired off 350 flashes on half power (I rarely need full power) in batches of 50 at various intervals. Each flash discharge was metered using my Sekonic L-478DR meter (perhaps another review of this meter would be good). The flash output remained constant for all flashes, this might be down to the flash head rather than the inverter. Flash recycling was fast less than one second, again this is probably a function of the flash head. At the end of my test the first of the three battery level indicator LED’s was just going out. Thus it was just entering “Mid” energy level according to the Jinbei instruction leaflet. (The instruction leaflet supplied is very brief)
I wanted to use the inverter with my Lencarta Ultra Pro 300 head but I decided to test it with my Interfit 300W head. This where I had my problem number two, the flash head continually tried to come up to a ready state and then seemed to start charging again. Thus the flash would not work. I have not investigated as to why this is occurring as I am happy to stick with my Lencarta head. To be honest I have had other incompatibility problems with radio triggers and the Interfit heads that I have. I would not recommend Interfit flash heads. I believe the Lencarta flash head is Chinese so perhaps it is happier with the Chinese inverter.
So far I am very happy with the purchase. The unit will meet my needs for most of the events that I cover. The performance is very impressive for its size and weight. Only time will tell if it will continue to deliver this performance and will stand up to rough and tumble of being transported about, but it looks promising.
Author: John Holliday - 24/07/2013
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