DIY Vagabond – Part Four: The Results

Yesterday I received the official Vagabond II inverter.  It came with all the cables necessary to hook it up.  I was surprised to see that the package had no paperwork in it at all.  No specs sheet, no warranty info, no manual.  Interesting but not the end of the world as the manual is readily available on the website.

I was able to hook up the inverter and get it up and running within just a few minutes, and then came the moment of truth.  Initially I hooked up just one of my Elinchrom BX 500 Ri strobes.  It was set to the lowest power setting prior to turning it on, and it was able to do its initial charge off the Vagabond without issue!  I fired many flashes and it worked without issue and the recharge was very fast.  So far so good.

Next I bumped the strobe up to full power and test fired it again.  It worked as expected and although the charge time was slower that was to be expected.  Following that I hooked up the 2nd strobe and ran both strobes at low power.  This also worked as I had hoped so I went for both strobes at full power.  They both were able to fire and recharge at full power and I was able to run them exactly as they should.  I wasn’t able to notice a dramatic difference between land power and the battery power, and there were no issues with the inverter keeping up with the load.  Success!!

I fired the strobes at high power in rapid succession as I wanted to see what the results would be when the fans on the strobes were running.  This took probably 20 test fires and then the fans came on for both the strobes.  I kept firing after this another 20 or so times and even with the fans running there was no noticeable change in performance.  I then realized that the fan on the Vagabond was really running too, so that is 3 fans running continuously and the two strobes firing at full power in rapid succession and everything working as I had hoped!

This setup is really now meeting my expectations.  I have to mention that this is not really not a ‘DIY’ Vagabond anymore.  I have to give credit to the folks at Paul Buff, they have a great product.  And although they say in several places that this is not to be used with dual power gear (110v-240v strobes like the Elinchrom) it does work.

Here is the cost breakdown with the original items in place to show what it would have been.

Vagabond II Carry Case
$19.95 + $7.80 shipping = $27.75 from Paul Buff online store

PowerSonic 12v 18ah AGM Sealed battery
$49.98 local retailer

Samlex PST Series 150W Pure Sine Wave Inverter, 12VDC 120VAC
$94 + $11.86 = $105.86 online

GFCI plug
$12.95 local Home Depot

Battery Tender adapter
(2) $6.99 = $13.98 local Batteries Plus retailer

Vagabond II Inverter
$199.95 + $8.77 shipping = 208.75 from Paul Buff online store

Grand damage

If I had just ordered the complete setup direct from the web store, including shipping, it would have been $321.09.  So that is a savings of $34.61.  In hindsight, knowing what I do now, I would have just done that and saved myself a lot of time.  There was not enough information about the Elinchrom strobes for me to know there would be a problem with the DIY setup.

I’m headed out this evening to do my first ‘real world’ test with this new setup.  I’m doing a portrait shoot for my brother and sister in-law’s 25th anniversary at a local park.  Hopefully all goes well!

4 thoughts on “DIY Vagabond – Part Four: The Results”

  1. It has been stable and still working as expected. The Vagabond II really is a great setup and I still recommend it for mobile power.

  2. Hi Kevin.

    Since the last time you tested your vagabond II with 500 BX IR, what would you say the reliability of this set? Still works fine?

    I also have 500 BX IR and I am thinking of buying Vagabond II also.



  3. Thanks for the comment!
    I suspect that if the inverter has enough watt output that most multivoltage monolights would work with it. The model that I was trying to use just didn’t have enough output to power my Elinchrom set.

    Have you run the Gemini set on the 600w Samlex yet? If so, how were the results?

  4. Hi Kevin,
    Thanks for this write up! I got myself a 600W Samlex inverter (220V for Europe) to power my Bowens Gemini Esprit 500W. This is not a multivolt head (it can operate on a minimum voltage of 190V I have been told by the Bowens technical department)

    I have been told that the Samlex inverter, when pushed, has current limiting and lowers the output voltage (as opposed to other inverters that just shut down). Do you think that all multivoltage monolights will work with the Samlex inverter?

    All the best,

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