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Review: LumoPro LP180

Published: 2014.01.18

Copyright 2014 by Wil C. Fry. All Rights Reserved.

Updated 2015.01.02

All images in this entry are Copyright 2014 by Wil C. Fry.
Some rights are reserved.


LumoPro LP180, showing tilt/swivel head

Introduction


My third fully manual flash, the LP180 is an update to the LP160, which I've happily used since early 2011. When I first wrote this LP180 review in 2014, I was mainly comparing it to the older version. I've since updated this review.

The LP180 was a huge upgrade from the LP160, with an LCD screen, more fine-tuning of flash power settings, remembering settings when it’s turned off, the addition of a 1/4"-20 female thread in the body of the flash, a changed locking hot foot, and more.

The LP180 has manual power settings from 1/1 (full power) down to 1/128 in third-stop increments. It also has manual zoom control, including focal lengths from 14mm to 105mm.

Like my last two flashes, everything about this one is manual. If you want TTL control, you'll need a different flash. Personally, I abhor TTL control and highly prefer fully manual flash work.

Front and back of LumoPro LP180

Right side and left side of LumoPro LP180


Worst Things First


After just a few days, my only complaint about the LP180 is that 1/3-stops are the only way to adjust flash power — there’s no way to skip directly from full power to half-power without passing through two clicks in between. This is only a minor annoyance, especially considering its predecessor didn’t even have the option of 1/3 stop control. However, the Yongnuo YN560-II (as well as other manual flashes) gives the user the choice of jumping full stops or going through the 1/3-stops in between.

Soon after, I began to notice a rattling noise — it seems the front fresnel lens (the grooved plastic on the front of the flash head) doesn’t fit perfectly in the casing. Again, this is a minor annoyance.

Within a couple of months, though, I began to notice that the locking hot foot isn’t ideal. It doesn’t give me as tight a fit as the traditional screw-down lock, so the flash wobbles a bit, especially when mounted to a radio trigger. This wobbling means the firing pin loses and regains contract with the trigger, and the flash fires every time this happens. It’s especially noticeable when handholding the flash off-camera.


Zoom Settings


Since I generally use bounce-flash (off a white ceiling), the zoom control isn’t as important to me as other settings. The zoom head on the LP180 is quieter than on my other flashes. And, unlike the LP160, this one remembers where you set it so the next time you turn it on, it’s already there (the LP160 defaults to 35mm zoom every time you shut it down and start it up again).

Additionally, it can sense when the wide-angle diffuser isn’t tucked away, and displays “14mm” and an icon depicting the diffuser panel.


Backlit LCD screen showing 14mm zoom and diffuser icon



Power Settings


I've already mentioned the power settings (and complained about them), and my LP160 review has a table depicting 28 images at various settings. In short, there are twenty-two power settings — 8 full stops and 0.3 and 0.7 notches between each one (8 + 14).

David Hobby (Strobist) has complained that the power and zoom settings “wrap around” — when you get to 1/128 and click the down (minus) button, it goes to 1/1. Personally, I love that feature; I hate to drive almost all the way around the block to find out I’m on a dead-end street and have to go all the way back the way I came.

I also like that you can go both up and down, which is the case with most manual flashes, but on the LP160, you could only go down on the power settings (and then wrap around). Several times, I went one too far and had to go all the way through them again.


Trigger Options


Like the LP160, the LP180 has four ways to trigger the flash (hence the “Quad-Sync” in the name): 3.5mm (1/8”) miniphone jack, PC Sync cord socket, optical slave (several modes), and a hot foot. A miniphone cable was included in the box.

I already have reliable wireless radio flash triggers (Cactus V4) with both hot shoes and miniphone jacks, and will most often be firing it that way. I know it’s nice to have the four options; I don’t know of any other brand that offers all four in one flash unit.


Behind a rubber door are these connections: 1) battery pack jack,
2) PC sync jack, 3) mini-USB port, and 4) miniphone jack



Extra ‘Ready’ Light


All of my flashes have a red “ready” light on the back that illuminates when the capacitor is charged (flash is ready to fire). Like the LP160, the LP180 also has one on the front, which is rare, and is very handy when you're using off-camera flash.


Sleep Options


I was happy with my LP160’s 30-minute auto-shutoff option, but the LP180 took it up a notch. The “sleep” function is off by default; if you activate it, it doesn’t kick in until 30 minutes have passed. Without it, the flash will stay on and ready until the batteries run dry. Personally, I have yet to do a shoot where I need more than 30 minutes between flashes, so I activated the sleep function. This is a huge boon to strobists everywhere, who’ve grown tired of walking around their flash setups and turning on each flash that fell asleep after 90 seconds.


One-Hand Swivel And Tilt


I also liked that the swivel/bounce head can be swiveled and tilted without having to press a safety catch. (My Canon Speedlite requires two hands, since you have to press the safety button before swiveling or tilting the flash head.)


Durability / Longevity


Build-wise, the LP180 feels as solid as any other flash I’ve owned. At 425 grams, it’s certainly the heaviest, beating the second-heaviest (YN560-II) by 75 grams. Like the LP160 and YN560-II, it has a metal hotfoot. However, the rattling sound (mentioned above) tells me it’s not perfectly built.

I’ve also mentioned the locking foot above. It was supposed to be an improvement over the hard-to-access locking wheel — it’s just a thumb-switch. Instead, it seems to be a downgrade.


New locking switch for hot foot



What's In The Box


Sometimes, what's included in the box can make a product more valuable too. I'm reminded of all the Canon-brand lenses that come with just lens caps, while their Sigma equivalents come with a full padded carrying case.

In the case of the LP180, it came with a padded case. Unlike the cheap container that came with the Yongnuo YN560-II, this one had a belt loop, was comfortably padded, and had an extra pouch on the back with a Velcro closure — big enough for extra batteries, or a pack of gels.

And speaking of flash gels, the LP180 came with a set of 24 vari-colored gels for altering the color of the light. The flash head has a built-in gel slot (a first?). Having tried these gels a few times, I’ll say that the built-in holder is a pain to use, the gels melt/warp easily even when the flash is on low power, and they're not labeled in any way so it’s difficult to remember which gel provided which effect. If you want to use gels, I recommend the MagMod Basic Kit.


Everything seen here was included in the box



24 gels were included — one is translucent and can barely be seen (at right) in this image


There was also a miniphone cord for syncing, a user manual, and the little plastic stand. Unlike some stands, this one has a metal 1/4”-20 female thread on bottom.


Humor Helps Too


I generally enjoy it when a manufacturer has a sense of humor about its products, as long as it’s not taken too far. LumoPro was clearly proud of this flash and obviously had fun designing and marketing it. The box and the user manual both contain examples of humor that made me smile as I was unpacking this product.

The first one I saw was on the bottom of the box:


“Ahh! Don't Open Me Upside Down!” on the bottom of the LP180 box


Seeing that made me curious if there was more, so I began looking. On the back of the box was this story:


Fun story on the LP180 box


In the user manual (I didn’t take any photos of it) were a few more bits of humor too, including these tidbits (the first one is from the front cover):

“Life lessons, short stories, and other tales for photographers who own the wonderful and magical LP180 Quad-Sync Flash.”

“Weight: 15 oz. (0.9 lbs.) (425 grams) (0.0004 metric tons)”

“Do not attempt to use the bounce card as a mini trampoline.”

“We had extra room at the bottom of this page, so we’re leaving you with a haiku about the LP180:

Oh LumoPro® Flash
Photons explode from your head
and light up my life.”


“Do not attempt to use the LP180 for underwater photography, unless your name is Hilgard Muller.”

“Using the flash components to build time machines or wormholes is not advised or covered under warranty.”

“It is not recommended that you use the LP180 as a tanning device. Though it is really, really bright, you'll go through many AAs to get ready for your days at the beach.”

There’s a lighting diagram page at the back. The bottom of the page says you can get more diagrams for $100,000, or for posting feedback on their website.

(Part of me wondered if at least some of this wasn’t a nod to Yongnuo's famously mistranslated manual.)


Conclusion


Due to the three complaints mentioned above, I can’t say I’m completely happy with this flash for the price. It certainly has more features/settings than the LP160, but has about the same power output and isn’t quite as solid or reliable. And for a third of the price, my Yongnuo YN560-II is a brighter, more reliable, and easier to use speedlight.

A year of using the LP180 alongside the YN560-II has changed me into a Yongnuo fan.



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