Phottix Indra 500 TTL Review

In late 2014 the Phottix Indra 500 TTL was released. Phottix has a well-established reputation for delivering effective, simple, well built, reliable and affordable products. So when the company said that monolight would include TTL capabilities for both Nikon and Canon cameras in one monolight in addition to many creative control that other lights offered, it definitely appeared to be a win-win situation right off the bat.

Then the unit arrived. At the time I didn’t know my DSLR Camera was on its last legs. We also weren’t aware that the Odin trigger’s first version (used for transmitting and controlling light) really didn’t work all that well. We ended up switching both the camera and the trigger and we  didn’t have many problems after making these changes.

At Photo Plus 2014 we played around with Phottix Indra, and thought it was a really good deal. In one package, there is light that is DC and AC capable, has TTL transmission for Cannon and Nikon (and possibly Sony in the future), well built body, ports for PocketWizards and other transmitters, adjustable modelling light, stroboscopic mode and manual light control.

Phottix Indra 500 TTL is incredible, and although it may not be a perfect monolight, it is probably the closest to that available in today’s marketplace.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • TTL light transmission at 500 watts of power
  • Simple menu interface. Sometimes too long, but more compact than all of the rest.
  • Survived a six foot drop
  • With this unit we were able to perform a second curtain flash using the Canon 5D Mk II
  • Compact size
  • A very comprehensive and affordable package

Cons

  • The frost glass dome cover broke. The impact prevention design also could be improved even when the umbrella reflector is attached.
  • When high speed sync is used, the battery dies very fast. When using this feature, it needs to be charged after every shot.
  • It would be nice if the original Odin performed better with this unit. Triggering the light is all it basically does.

Ergonomics

phottix indra500 ttlIn many ways the Phottix Indra 500 TTL looks very similar to other monolights. However, it is a lot smaller than most of the other ones that are currently being offered in the market. It is also lighter. The thing you will notice immediately is the monolight’s bright green branding. It really hits you between the eyes and stands out.

On the top you will notice that there’s a place where an umbrella can be inserted and locked in. An umbrella reflector can be paired with the umbrella.

In the front, you will see an area connecting the spreedrings, umbrella reflector and the place where the light comes form.

On the other side, you will that the face is very minimal except for the small port cover. When you lift that up, you will see that there is an area for connecting a sound cable and USB cable for radio triggers.

All of the action takes place on the back part of the monolight. This is where the LCD screen is, along with a modeling light button, a control button, several tactile buttons, a ready light and much more.

Build Quality

This is a very solid monolight- greater than the Paul C buff Einstein E640 and less solid than the Profoto B1 air units. The real test took place when a gust of wind came through when the monolight had a big umbrella attached to it and was on a light stand. We tried to keep it steady using our weights. However, mother nature definitely had other ideas.

The umbrella and monolight both fell. Unfortunately, the umbrella cannot be used any longer. However, for the most part, the monolight was still fine. The one problem that we experienced was that the glass on the frosted dome shattered. This dome adds extra diffusion, cools down the color temperature and provides the flash bulb with protection. The only inconvenience to us that was caused is that in post-production we had to do some white balancing. However, that was easy to fix.

Of course these types of things will happen, so we weren’t all that surprised. Honestly just about any monolight will have these kinds of issues, except for maybe the Profoto B1 air units. You have to expect these kinds of things to happen from time to time. They don’t have it due to the fact that the battery and reflector have been incorporoated into the design. So you pay extra for the design.

The battery pack is pretty small. However, if you don’t have any problems using it, and don’t anticipate you’ll be doing crazy things while you are shooting when you have an umbrella on a day that is slightly windy, then you don’t have anything to worry about.

Ease of Use

phottix flash trigger testing
From flickr by Jerry Lai

Many of the settings can be changed on the Phottix Indra 500 TTL monolight. For controlling the light, you can use the Odin 2 or Odin 1.5. However, you aren’t able to see the physical changes reflected on its LCD screen. You can be quite confident about the fact that your transmitter will be completely taking over.

If you’d like to change the actual light settings, there are about four menus you can use by pressing on one of the four that are available and then using the green button to scroll through to find what you are looking for. You can also click the button to confirm all of your settings. Once all of our issues had been worked out, we couldn’t believe how amazing the quality delivered by the Indra 500 TTL was.

Light Output

Erica
From flickr by Fabio Salmoirago

According to our light meter readings, the light puts out light at 500 watt seconds on a consistent basis. Throughout the shooting it also didn’t have a tendency to lose power. It delivers spectacular and beautiful light. Also, 500 watt seconds is beyond what a majority of photographers actually need.

 

Power

We rock the city
From flickr by awgnashua

Would you like to overpower the sun? With this light it can be done via high speed sync capabilities or just using an ND filter. Just about any challenge or situation that you might run into when shooting can by handled by this modern digital camera technology and light.

We tried to test the light using our old Canon Elan 7 SLR that we had from our film days. However, the Odin 1.5 did not fit right in the hot shoe. Eventually we will try this out.

Color Consistency

Forest Sunrise
From Flickr by Allan

Our test didn’t find any color consistency problems when this monolight was used. When they did occur, they were minor. You will not get the performance of the Broncolor or Profoto. However, for most photographers it will more than acceptable, if they know how to use the edit sync features on Lightroom.

Conclusion

We have asked to have a monolight that could do both manual transmission and TTL transmission for years. Profoto provided us with that. Now Phottix has released their exciting solution, which took years to develop.

Getting into lighting is easier than ever. It is a very exciting time for the world of photography.

The Indra 500 TTL monolight has tons of light output, is sturdy, easy to use, compact for carrying, and doesn’t kill my back after a long day of shooting. We really couldn’t ask for anything more.
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