Visico is a fairly new brand in South Africa and I have been playing with some of their lights now in review conditions. The smaller sets are not meant for the rigours of a hard working studio (although the bigger lights really can take a beating) but they do seem to be an excellent alternative to lights in the 200-400watt range. These units are not expensive and have some features you would expect on much more expensive units.
This head is small and light. It can run of the supplied battery pack or mains power. It has a modeling light, optical slave cell, beep on recharge, and a digital power adjustment through 60-steps. You can trigger via the mentioned slave cell or a cable, or cable attached remote trigger ( cable ending in a standard mini jack)
The modifiers is the standard Bowens mount, which is nice. You can get expensive, really well made Bowens-mount Diffusers and modifiers from various companies (I personally like Creative Light’s modifiers) but you can also get dirt cheap Chinese knock-offs if you are on a budget. The Visico modifiers are not expensive at all, although a bit limited in their range.
The battery pack has a small charger, so you can charge the batteries right in the pack. You can also charge extra batteries directly, so you can be shooting and charging at the same time. you do not need the pack to charge the batteries. The Battery pack also has an LCD display that shows it’s remaining power. Dead simple. Plug in, switch on. Nothing to it. Lastly… you can charge these from your cigarette lighter in your car as well. Big Plus for me.
The battery that runs in the pack is a 12v, 3600mAh NiMH battery. I hope that at a later stage, we will see L-Ion or Li-Po batteries, but for now, I think these will do fine.
I have not yet had the chance to kill a battery, so I can’t say how long they will last or how many times they will recharge. At optimum charge, a NiMH battery should give you about 1,000 charge cycles. This value drops according to various factors, but the main one we are concerned with is if the supplied charger, charges too fast. This reduces the life of the battery considerably. I will give feedback on this over time.
Brand new and out of the box, I had no trouble getting over 300 shots on a charge. If my experience is anything to go by… the pack should reduce in capacity by about 10%-15% over the next few charges and then stay there until the battery is about to go, so I expect to be able to get about 250-280 Full Power shots per charge.
Recycle times are pretty fast. You are looking at about 3 seconds for a full power charge. Flash duration is a bit on the slow side. 1/800th to 1/1,200th of a second, so I will stick to my strobist kit for high speed action.
This is not a fan cooled head, but I don’t expect it to be. Lots of mobile heads are not. One of the reasons are that you are possibly not using them in a nice clean studio, but rather on location. Chances are that its going to be dirty and dusty, and a fan will suck all of that in and cake on the inside of the light, causing it to possibly overheat (and, I have seen, catch fire or short out)
Also worth mentioning: while on the battery pack, you do not have a modeling light – Generally not a problem, but a MAJOR PAIN when shooting at night or in dark locations. Bring a torch to help with focus assist. Lucky for my the Canon 5DmkIII now actually focusses in the dark, so it didn’t bother me too much.
I like my big watt lights… 800 is where I like to live! But I never felt hamstrung by the 300 watt. It’s a different light for a different solution, and you will most probably use it on locations where you need more fill than main light in any case.
I could happily shoot at night at half power from about 2m against a 80cm umbrella and achieve f/8 @ ISO100 which is really enough for most scenarios where I would typically use this light.
While testing though, I have to mention that when the pack started to warn me that it’s getting low on power, three or four shots were not spot on, on the power output, but in the preceding 300 shots or so, it was perfect every single time. I tested it by simply shooting a Sekonic L309s light meter on “delayed reading” mode and checking the reading every time.
Something that is really nice about this setup is it’s ability to function with a “Voice Activated Mobile Light Stand”… or better know as an “Assistant” – The light is light enough to carry around easily or mount on a stand to extend, and the battery pack comes in a shoulder bag, and is really not heavy. Having shot on the streets of Johannesburg’s CBD with heavy Profoto 7B’s in this same time, lugging those beasts around is tiring (but then again… the Visico’s wouldn’t have been able to function in that scenario)
They are also really brilliant for doing location pack shots and product shots because of their light weight and size. Keeping tons of cables out of a work place or workshop area where people are not used to have them, means a lot less duct taping of cables, and a lot faster set-up and break down, limiting your interference tremendously.
If you need a small light, that can move around easily, and give you about the same “shots per charge” as your strobist kit, for a very decent price. This is the one to look at. Because it’s fairly small and light, you should have no problem super-clamping them to stuff
by Sean Nel
All images copyright Sean Nel
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