The EX100A 2-light kit was my first experience with using monolights, and for the $200 I spent on it, I have been pretty pleased. Sure, it’s not AlienBees, Elinchrom or anything fancy, but not everyone needs (or can afford) those brands.
As noted above, the EX100A is only 100 watts, so it doesn’t give you a whole lot of juice. However, there’s still enough there to deal with a couple of subjects for simple portraits. The flash output is adjustable from full power down to 1/8th power via a analog dial on the flash head.
The EX100A has a user replaceable flash tube and a 60 watt modeling light. The flash recycle time is 3 seconds at full power, although I rarely shoot at full power so it’s much quicker at lower settings.
It can be triggered via PC sync cord input (the kit also includes a sync cord) or the built-in slave cell. I regularly use a single wireless trigger on one light and let the second light’s slave cell trigger it. Around half power or more, there’s never any problem with the second light firing – even when the slave cell on the back of the EX100A is pointed the other way.
As a basic monolight, the EX100A does not have an auto-dump function, which means that it won’t automatically adjust the power setting if you drop the power setting – like going from full power to 3/4 power. You have to fire the lights and let them power back up to the 3/4 power setting. Some lights that cost a little more can do this internally without firing the flash. So, just keep this in mind if you decide to pick up the EX100As.
The inclusion of the softboxes and stands is a big part of the bargain in my eyes. Even for the less expensive monolights, it’s hard to find just a monolight head that offers variable power adjustments for $100. With the EX100A kit, you get 2 monolight heads, which you could probably justify spending $100 on each; however, you also get 2 stands, 2 softboxes, 2 reflectors, a 43″ umbrella, and the case. The accessories alone would probably run more than $200 if purchased separately. And while you can buy the kit in a one light configuration, you’ll pay $140 for just half the gear.
Now, I don’t have a whole lot of experience working with softboxes, but I feel like these are pretty good for such an inexpensive kit. They have internal baffles to help spread the light around so that it’s not overly hot in the center part of the softbox. The downside is that it is a little time consuming to put them together. As a result, I generally just leave them assembled.
I’ll be the first to admit that I’m no lighting expert, and I have a long way to go when it comes to artificial lighting. However, for the light portrait use that I put the EX100As through, they do the job just fine.
Here’s a couple shots that I’ve produced with this kit:
I’ve had my kit for a few months now and haven’t had a single hiccup. If you look at the user reviews on B&H’s site, you’ll find mostly happy users giving it an average of 4.5 out of 5 stars. Some of those users have put the lights through a whole lot more use than I have and they are still kicking hard. The EX100As come with a 1-year warranty and, for a little extra peace of mind, B&H also offers a 2-year protection plan for around $30 on the 2-light kit.
I’m not going to say that the Impact EX100A lights are the best thing since sliced bread. However, they are solid, basic monolights at a ridiculously low price.
For someone shopping for their first set of monolights on a budget, this kit is very hard to beat. Anyone looking to dip their toes into the studio lighting will be well served by the 2-light EX100A kit as a great starting point.
Below, I’ve listed the variations of the kit in 1-light and 2-light setups.