I have been thinking about upgrading my small portable lighting kit from two Nikon SB-800 speedlights to something a bit more capable. I have used Speedlights for years and even developed my own modifiers for them. Back before speedlight modifiers were readily available, I would create snoots out of paper towel rolls, soft boxes out of a cardboard cereal box, rig up custom light mounts with umbrella adapters, etc. The cardboard modifiers were not very durable and didn’t last long. Over the years I settled on a couple of light stands, a couple of umbrellas, and some hand-made cardboard flags to create snoots and flag the light how I wanted it. This all fit into a handy AR-15 rifle case that I could sling over my back and easily take on location. Everything was battery-powered and fairly easy to set up, but not all that powerful and the light was somewhat difficult to control.
If needed I could bring a much bigger and heavier roller bag with Paul Buff Einstien lights, soft boxes, full-sized light stands, wireless triggers, grids, snoots, and a variety of other light modifiers. But this was heavy, cumbersome, took time to set up, and not very portable. I would use this if I needed to set up a small studio on location, but I just used it less and less because it was hard work to carry around.
Westcott FJ-400 strobes
I took time to look at Westcott FJ-400 strobes and really liked what I saw. They were affordable, had a great Bowens mount so lots of adapters available, had strong USA-based service, and seemed like a well-build and well-thought-out kit. I even tested them at a recent photo walk and liked them quite a bit and priced a set out.
Flashpoint Xplor 300 and Xplor 100
But I talked to a pro photographer friend of mine about my search, and he suggested I take a look at the Flashpoint Xplor 200/Godox AD200. They were portable, battery powered flashes with a lot of light modifiers available. So I did my typical internet search and watched quite a few YouTube videos on them, and compared them to the FJ-400.
But then I came across a YouTube video about a small portable light kit made up of a single Flashpoint Xplor 300 and a couple of Xplor 100’s. The kit was tiny yet powerful, lightweight, and best of all, affordable. This photographer coupled them with some lightweight carbon-fiber light stands and his entire light kit came in at around 18 pounds. I was impressed.
So I spent more time looking at the AD-300 and AD-100 lights. These offered 300-watt seconds of power and 100-watt seconds. My speedlights put out closer to 80-watt seconds of power. So with this Xplor 300 and two Xplor 100 kit, I had more power in every light than I had in the speedlights, plus I had a very powerful 300-watt main light. Not as much power as the FJ-400, but enough for what I wanted and far more than I had been using with the speedlights, which had worked well for most of my location portrait lighting needs.
I finally ordered a set from Adorama. I already had a couple of small Manfrotto stands I used with my speedlights. I ordered a Godox-mount softbox to go with the Xplor 300. The Godox mount is much smaller than the Bowens mount so better for this small portable kit. I can add a Bowens mount to any of these lights, although I probably won’t do that.
What I am really impressed with is not only the small size of the kit, but also the integrated magnetic-mount light modifiers that are available. I got a barn door, fresnel lens, grid, snoot, bounce card, and color gels all in one tiny magnetic-mount kit for under $40. Bingo. Big win and the ability to better control my light with well-made modifiers.