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.
Continue reading DIY Vagabond – Part Four: The Results
So I have now sent back the Samlex inverter for return, and I have placed an order for the real deal Vagabond II inverter.
I don’t want to imply that I think the Samlex inverter is not a good product. That is not the case at all. The 150w model is just is not sized appropriately for the task. (My fault I know) And to move to a model that is up to the job is nearly as expensive as getting the actual Vagabond II. Another benefit of the Vagabond II is that it has built in battery charging which the Samlex does not. This was not an initial consideration for me as I already own a BatterTender, but for the same price I might as well get the all inclusive option.
So I guess it is really becoming less a ‘DIY” Vagabond. I’m eagerly awaiting the new inverter to see if it really will work as I need it to!
So here we go, the results. And it’s not good news.
I got the setup hooked up and going last night. I had some initial frustrations with fuses that were too small (7.5a) that were blowing very quickly. After I got the right sized fuse in line I tried some test shots.
It is looking as though the 150w Samlex inverter will not be strong enough to power my two Elinchrom BX 500 Ri monobloc strobes. When using the GFCI plug adapter the circuit on the GFCI plug trips before the Elinchrom can even initialize and charge up the capacitor before the first flash.
I took the GFCI out of the loop to narrow down the problem. The Elinchrom would then initialize and begin the capacitor charge getting to the ready state as it normally would. During this charge, the Samlex would beep briefly but everything would continue. I could then fire the flash, and it would begin the cycle again, but the Samlex would beep every time. After validating in the Samlex user manual (yes, I know, RTFM) it turns out that the unit will beep when the AC power is deeply drawn. It seems as though it is squawking at you because it is struggling to keep up. During all this the Elinchrom is also no quite itself as the power switch light flickers during charge and just doesn’t seem quite right.
My guess is that when the Elinchom is charging the power level drops too much in the Samlex which causes the beep, and in addition it is too low for the GFCI and it trips the circuit. Obviously I would want to keep the GFCI on there for safety reasons. I also want to be able to run both of my BX 500 Ris and I’m thinking that the Samlex wont even come close to keeping up with both of them drawing off of it.
So for now a bit back to the drawing board. I’m afraid I may have to get an RMA on the Samlex and either get a bigger unit (300w or 600w even), or suck it up and get the Vagabond II inverter. In this YouTube video there is a guy running my exact Elinchrom BX 500 Ri strobes off the Vagabond II so I know that it will at least work that way, although more expensively.
Has anyone else had any experience with these strobes and a Vagabond II or a DIY alternative?
I got the inspiration for this when I was searching around looking for portable power for my mono-bloc strobes. I ran across this blog post and thought I would give it a try. I’m collecting up the costs associated to see how closely I can get to the cost to what Jacob describes.
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
$12.95 local Home Depot
Battery Tender adapter
(2) $6.99 = $13.98 local Batteries Plus retailer
I did make a design change that actually reduced the cost by a bit. I went with the two Battery Tender connections for simplicity, instead of the wire/connector that he indicated, as that will easily hook up to my Battery Tender that I already own.
This is enough more than Jacob’s $170 ($40.52) that I have to mention it, but in the grand scheme its still $90 less than the retail price of the Vagabond II, and $110.57 less including shipping (which they quote as $21.14 to my area)
I have not had a chance to hook this all up and test yet, I will make another post with my results shortly.