Archive for the 'DIY' Category

Put your Elinchrom Ranger RX AS Speed on a lithium battery crash diet and loose weight.



Difficulty Level: 4/10

Knowledge needed: Basic wiring and electronic understanding, soldering and/or crimping wires, usage of a test light / voltage meter.

The Elinchrom Ranger RX (standard, and AS Speed) are great powerful, portable battery operated location lighting kits. It’s the first thing in my lighting kit I grab almost every time I go on location to shoot photos these days. Even though it is relatively lightweight for how powerful it is, in the end it is still heavy to carry around, especially if you are skiing with it or are trying to walk to location with two to four of these on your back!  It just flat out sucks to hike or ski these into location all the time.  So, a few years back myself and Tim Kemple began tinkering around with different battery combinations to try and reduce weight in these heavy ass lead battery strobe kits.  We started with NiMH packs for Alien Bees before they made their lithium battery power pack, the Vagabond Mini, and brought it over to the Ranger kits before finally dropping in the lithium pack into the Rangers.  When we started doing this, the battery packs were just battery cells shrink wrapped together, and looked pretty sketchy and required a lot more work to fit them properly and make things work right.  Today it’s a whole different ballgame.  The battery packs are housed in the same housing as their SLA battery packs they are replacing.  Aside from the chargers, it’s a unplug old battery and plug in new battery move now.  It’s awesome!

So I’ve been retrofitting the standard SLA (Sealed Lead-Acid) 12ah battery pack that comes from Elinchrom for the Ranger RX AS Speed with LiFePO4 lithium battery packs for four years now.  It’s something that I can confidently say works well for me and that I’m really stoked on.  By doing this I’ve cut the weight to 40% of the SLA, get more capacity, better performance in the cold, and longer cycle life (you can use and recharge the LiFePO4 battery packs three times more than an SLA).  It’s allowed me to bring more flash power out when I otherwise may have only brought one kit, or a smaller kit and has given me more flash pops once I’m out there.  You can’t go wrong, it’s better in every possible way!

Now this is just a guide based on my experience with these batteries. Any modifications you do to your Ranger kit and battery is at your own risk.  There is always a potential for shorting out your power pack if you do things wrong, as well as burning your battery down if you don’t use the correct charger, and/or if you get the simple wiring wrong.  You WILL void any warranty through Elinchrom with this modification as well.  Please keep this in mind.  All that said, all the info is below, your back will thank me for cutting the weight out of your flash kit!

Battery comparisons:

The battery packs have come a long way since I started using these about four years ago, now they come in the same exact casing as the SLA battery so it’s as easy as it gets to replace them. There are also packs capable of higher power draw rates, so with these you can now run the Ranger RX AS Speed in fast recycle mode, where as before you were only able to run them in slow recycle mode. Also, in comparison to your standard lithium-ion batteries out there now, the LiFePO4 batteries are the most stable and safe of all the lithium batteries out there.

Let’s get down to it. First thing’s first, you’ll need to buy some gear, and have a few tools on hand. It’s all listed below with links to buy these. There are others besides what I list below, but I get kickbacks, so hook a brother up for giving you the lowdown?


LiFePO4 Battery:

CTC 12ah 12.8v LiFePO4 (Lithium iron phosphate) battery pack.

CTC 10ah 12.8v LiFePO4 (Lithium iron phosphate) battery pack.

I’m suggesting this battery pack for more of a reason besides just getting a commision on the sale (Please support my site by clicking on the link if you do buy a battery though, I’ve put a lot of time into finding the right parts, and putting this tutorial together). The CTC 12.8v LiFePO4 battery packs have a higher power draw rate, so you can run the Ranger RX AS Speed pack in fast recycle mode. Almost all the other 10-12ah LiFePO4 12.8v battery packs out there can’t take as high of a draw, and in turn you have to run the pack in slow recycle mode. If you don’t run the Ranger in slow recharge mode with the lower draw batteries then your Ranger will shut down every time you try using it in fast recycle mode with the low draw battery. I’ve tried a lot of different brands and configurations throughout the years and the CTC 12ah 12.8v LiFePO4 battery pack is the best performing so far.

You may want to purchase another Elinchrom Ranger RX Speed battery pack housing for the lithium modification so in the case you do something wrong, you have the backup, old standard lead battery.  Your new charger WILL work just fine for the standard lead battery.

Battery pack housing:


Elinchrom Ranger RX Speed AS Battery with Case for Ranger RX Speed AS (EL 10267)


Battery Charger:

Tenergy_Ranger_LiFePO4 Charger

Tenergy 14.6V (4-Cell) 4A LiFePO4 Battery Pack Charger

You can use the factory Elinchrom charger that comes with your Ranger kit but I would highly recommend that you get this Tenergy smart charger for a few reasons. The Elinchrom charger is designed for a lead-acid battery and is NOT a smart charger. This matters as the smart charger listed above is designed to stop charging once an optimal charge voltage is achieved. Overcharging of lithium batteries is one of the main causes of the batteries getting a bad rap for bursting into flames and exploding. Now, the battery pack above has a PCB control module to help save the battery from over charge, but depending on if you buy another, it may not have one and could wear out your battery much quicker, or worse. The other big reason to get this charger above is that it’s twice as fast. You’ll have a full charge from a completely dead battery in three hours.

Here’s the gear tools you will need for the charger:

  • #1 phillips screwdriver (your standard #2 phillips head will not get these screws out.
  • Duct tape
  • Voltage tester, although a simple test light circuit tester will work.
  • Shrink wrap (electrical tape will work, but will wear out)
  • Wire crimp connectors (wire nuts will work, but not really recommended) or soldering iron if you can solder.

Now that you have all the gear, it’s finally time to put this together.

  1. Remove fuse
  2. Remove the 6 screws holding the top panel of the battery pack to the housing
  3. Remove the top panel of the battery pack by pulling at the top panel, or by holding the battery pack upside down by the battery pack housing and gently shaking (very close to the table so it doesn’t drop far when it comes out of the battery pack housing).
  4. Disconnect the 2 wires connected to the factory SLA battery.
    Ranger Lithium battery upgrade_009
  5. Remove foam from the factory SLA battery and set aside for later.
  6. Plug in wires to the new LiFePO4 battery pack, reverse of the disconnect. Make sure the new battery is in the same orientation as the factory SLA battery was. Look at the photos for reference.
    Ranger Lithium battery upgrade_012
  7. Tape wire connectors to the battery just to ensure the wires stay connected.
  8. Re-install the foam blocks that were connected to the factory SLA batery. Foam just needs to be on the same side as originally installed. The exact same location isn’t necessary.
  9. Cut foam (or about 20 sheets of paper stacked and taped together) to fit between the battery and the battery pack housing to shim and keep he battery in place. The foam is cut around the metal clips that hold the battery pack in place when installed to the Ranger RX. This isn’t 100% necessary, however if you do not, removing the battery can be a bit difficult at times as the battery pack will slide around and get in the way of pushing the clips out when removing the battery pack from the Ranger. You could use stacked paper taped together, some closed cell foam would be the best way to go if you have any.  Some of the newer factory SLA battery packs from Elinchrom come with all of the foam necessary already installed.
  10. Re-install battery into battery pack housing he opposite of removal, in the same orientation as removed.
  11. Re-install battery pack top panel with the 6 screws previously removed.

The battery is ready to go!


Charger instructions:

There are two ways you can go about this. You can either purchase a new connector and leave your factory Elinchrom Ranger RX charger alone, or you could cut the connector off the factory charger and splice the wires together. If you are not good at soldering, I’d suggest you go with cutting the factory connector and splicing to the new charger, or just having a friend that’s good with soldering do it for you!

  1. Cut the connector off of the factory battery charger. Make sure you leave at least 4” of wire attached to the connector so you have some wire to work with. I’d suggest you leave 8” so it’s easier to work with, and you have some extra wire in case you mess up the splice or solder.
  2. Strip the insulation off the wires at the end of the connector.
  3. Make sure the wires coming off the factory charger’s connector socket are not touching, then plug connector into the battery pack.
  4. Touch the voltage tester (or circuit tester / test light) to the wires. Make sure you mark the wire leads so you know which is positive and which is negative.
    Ranger Lithium battery upgrade_014
  5. Cut the connector off the new LiFePO4 battery charger if there is one and strip the insulation off the wires.
  6. Touch the voltage tester (or circuit tester / test light) to the battery charger wires. Make sure you mark the wire leads so you know which is positive and which is negative.
  7. Cut two 2” length of shrink wrap to fit over each separate wire.
  8. Cut one 3” length of shrink wrap to fit over both wires once spliced.
  9. Splice the charger wires to the charger connector by either crimp connectors or soldering.
  10. Pull shrink wrap of each individual wire and heat with a heat gun or hair dryer until the wrap has shrunk enough for a tight seal.
  11. Pull larger shrink wrap piece over both spliced wires and apply heat with heat gun or hair dryer until the wrap has shrunk enough for a tight seal.
  12. Plug in the charger to the wall outlet. Touch the far right and far left connector pins of the charger connector to test for polarity to ensure you spliced the correct wires. Looking directly at the end of the connector, the bottom left pin should be negative, and the bottom right pin should be the positive lead.
  13. Plug in charger to battery pack and charge the new battery.
  14. Watch over the charger for 30 minutes to see if the battery or charger is overheating in case you spliced the wires wrong (opposite polarity). If everything was done correctly both battery and charger should not be hot to the touch.

Volia, you are finished and have a light, powerful battery and charger!

Speedlight flash brackets + DIY speedlight bracket for four flashes


There are two reasons you are looking at this post.  You either use speedlights a lot due to their small size and weight or you are insanely cheap.  Either way, this bracket is both cheap and useful for both sides.  I tend to use big lights for most of my lighting, however on a lot of trips with air travel I’m forced to bring a limited kit due to baggage limitations.  I’ve had a 2-flash bracket setup for a while now to double up my speedlights and get a bit more output from the little guys.  After breaking one of the delrin shoe mounts on it, I decided to make a bigger one.  I’ve wanted to be able to mount three or four speedlights on one stand before so this was a great time to do so.

Now don’t try to fool yourself, four speedlights aren’t going to equal an Elinchrom Ranger, Quadra or Alien Bees 800 or 1600.  They will however boost your output to help fill in the blanks a bit more with less weight in the dreaded 50 pound limit checked airline baggage.

There are a few options out there for this application, (like the Dot Line RPS Studio Light Bar) however the shoe mounts used just do not hold the flashes securely enough for my taste.  I’d rather spend a few extra bucks on knowing that my speedlights are secure.  Another good option is the Interfit INT337 Strobies Triple Flash Bracket, it’s smaller than my bracket which is great for travel, however two of the three flashes are mounted vertically, changing the beam pattern and there’s only room for three flashes instead of four.

For all you insanely cheap people out there, you could find cheaper shoe’s out there and then just bolt them on with 3/4”- 1/4”x20 bolts and save a few bucks. I chose the Stroboframe shoe’s beceause they are bomber. I’ve had a few different ones made of delrin, other plastics with some metal, and they all seem to break. These stroboframe one’s are bomber, and have strong clamping power to keep your speedlights on the bracket, and off the ground.

So if you are willing to take a bit more time than ordering something off B&H’s website to get something a bit larger, more versitile and tougher, then read on, the directions on how to make your own quad speedlight bracket is below.

Continue reading ‘Speedlight flash brackets + DIY speedlight bracket for four flashes’

Power Outage and need to work? No problem!


Laptop running at full steam with my NiMH power pack to run my Alien Bees.I’m on the road in between shoots with some downtime so I’m editing quite a bit for a few more days.  A storm rolled in and took out the power in the middle of my editing day but no problem!   My solution?  I’m on my laptop so it doesn’t use much power.   I take my power packs for my Alien Bees and run both the laptop and the cable modem and wireless router.  I’m going to be sitting in the dark soon doing all this but i can keep working so it’s pretty sweet.  The 11 amp hour NiMH battery in the power pack should be able to keep the laptop going all night, who knows with the router and cable modem but I’m pretty stoked I have these sitting around, just in case as an extra power supply I can use, as needed.

I’m out to Mt. Bachelor in a few days to continue with the Spring terrain park shoot season with shoot number five with Poor Boyz Productions.

DIY Vagabond – Portable Power pack for Monolights


The power pack all zipped upSo I’ve been using Alien Bees with their original Vagabond power pack for a few years. Last year I decided to split up the Vagabond so I could have one pack per head, so I wouldn’t have to run extension cords, and have more capacity for each head as well. Recently I found a very good bag to put the inverter and battery into that makes this work a lot better! Here’s a run-down of how to make your own power pack for a Alien Bee, White Lighting or any other monolight strobe.

What you will need:

  • 16 Gauge or thicker wire. Speaker wire can even work, although it’s good to have one side black, one red when you are putting it together.
  • (2) Anderson Connectors – Slip-fit connectors that are simply amazing. You can find them at hobby shops and at specialty electronic parts supply stores (NOT at Radio Shack, they are worthless for these types of things.)
  • (2) inline fuse holders.
  • (2) wire nuts
  • (2) crimp fit terminal connectors (battery connection)
  • 25 amp blade fuses that fit in your fuse connectors. They make mini ones, which are nice and small. Also out there are fuses that have a LED on them that light up when your fuse is blown. Sometimes this just happens and when you are trying to setup lights in the dark, it’s nice to be able to see that in the case that you blew out a fuse. Can save some frustration!
  • 12 Volt Sealed Lead-Acid battery. 15ah suggested for Alien Bee 1600’s, 10ah could work for AB 800’s, 7ah can work for a AB 400. I get about 250 pops or so at full power from the 15ah battery with an Alien bee 1600. Lead is expensive right now, you are basically paying the same at most battery shops locally that you would buying online these days.
  • True / Pure Sine wave inverter, 150w continuous output (or more)
    This is the best I’ve found it’s , small, light, 300w capacity –
    AIMS 300 Watt PURE Sine Wave Power Inverter

  • American Tourister toilitries bag from Wal-Mart. This bag fits perfect for the 150w inverter and 15ah battery that come in the original Paul Buff Inc. Vagabond power pack. You could probably find something that fits better with the smaller inverter listed above and a smaller battery but for the parts I’m using it fits sung and well.

Opened up with the wires hanging out.The side access, cut a hole out of the nylon divider and duct tape it to the side of the inverter.  This leaves a somewhat sealed environment.Wiring Diagram

I have a set of Anderson connectors at the end of the wire going to the charger. I’ve cut the wire coming out of the charger and put Anderson connectors on those as well for a quick connect to the charger. As for a charger you can just get a car/marine battery charger at any store. I go for the 2-4-6 amp chargers. If you have a 15ah battery you can charge at up to 6amps, 4 amps for a 10ah battery, 2 amps for a 7ah battery.

Other than that, just follow the wiring diagram and you’ll be all set.

If you want a faster recycle time, then you can get a larger inverter. If you want more capacity you can get a bigger battery. It all depends on the size and weight you are willing to lug around.

Power pack specs:
12.2 lbs (15ah battery, Samlex 150w inverter)

I am not an engineer, electrician or by any means qualified to design any sort of electrical systems. Use this information at your own risk.

How to fix your broken Pocket Wizard Shoe


Broken pocket wizard hotshoe footSo chances are at some point your Pocket Wizard hotshoe foot broke off and ended up looking like this. Now it’s an easy enough of a fix but people have asked me what to do so I thought I’d post this here.

So, it’s an easy fix and if you’ve used these things a lot, you’ll want to have a bunch of extra hotshoe feet sitting around just in case they break very easily.
CAS-PW-Shoe LPF037
P/N# 360797

pw_repair_002.jpgRemove the 5 screws, make sure you keep track of which screw goes where, there are different thread pitches and lengths.

Remove the batteries and push the circut board out of the plastic case through the battery compartment. Remove the batteries and push the circut board out of the plastic case through the battery compartment. Pull the broken hotshoe foot out of the hotshoe contact.

All the pieces of the puzzle.  Pinch the outer prongs of the hotshoe contact together and slip the new hotshoe on over the hotshoe contact. All the pieces of the puzzle. Pinch the outer prongs of the hotshoe contact together and slip the new hotshoe on over the hotshoe contact.

Slide the circuit board back into the housing. Make sure you put all the buttons back on and screw it all back together. That was easy huh?

To order parts in the USA, contact Pocket Wizard (MAC Group) directly at:

PocketWizard USA
8 Westchester Plaza
Elmsford, NY 10523

Outside of the USA go here and select your country:

The part you need is:

CAS-PW-Shoe LPF037
P/N# 360797

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