Product Review: LumoPro LP120 Flash

The Prince of Cheap is BACK… and now he’s a Strobist style shooter as well!!

Been away working on some fun and involving projects! Now I’m back to give you a review of another piece of “Cheap Worthy” gear – the $129.99 LumoPro LP120 hotshoe flash! Its the flash that’s caused quite a stir in “strobist-land”. Strobist for those who aren’t familiar are the guys that believe firmly in lightening their load when possible and using hotshoe flashes instead of large monolight heads when its possible. The King of the Strobist, David Hobby, recently ran an article on the wildly popular Strobist website announcing the debut of the new LumoPro LP120 flash. The LP120 is said to be developed by strobist for strobist by (so far) exclusive/designer seller Midwest Photo Exchange (MPEX for short). This is an almost no frills flash that get the job done without TTL metering (working with the camera – its just dial and fire).

Here are the stats:

GN 100 (True value, no EV compensation inflation, equivalent to Vivitar 285HV)
Swivel 270 degrees
Tilt 180 degrees
Zoom 28mm, 50mm, 85mm
Wide Angle adapter Yes
Sync ports Miniphone, PC, Hotshoe and Optical Sync Slave Built In4
Shoe Standard ISO size, center pin contact, locking ring
Optical Slave Yes, Switchable On/Off
Power Variable 1/1, 1/2, 1/4, 1/8, 1/16, 1/32
Power 4 AA (Alkaline or NiMh recommended)
Warranty 2 years – International

What’s so special about it?

Did you read the fact that it offers 4 ways to sync your flash? That’s a first! No hotshoe flash ever made (in my research) has had so many options for a connection – meaning most anyone can find a way to use this flash! The only drawback is that the sync options can’t all be used simultaneously something that Moishe (King of MPEX) reported to me that will be changed in an upgraded version of the flash. Now I know what your asking. Why is the Prince telling us about some hotshoe flash when I wanna learn to shoot with studio light! Well, with the LumoPro LP120 it pretty much is a studio light! It syncs optically like your studio flash, it has a pc sync port like your studio flash, it has a 3.5mm plug just like your studio flash and you can put it on top of your camera like your dedicated flash to trigger your flash (sorry, but us Sony users are S.O.L. in this department if we don’t have a hotshoe adapter from ebay or Sony).

Because it has the same output as the Vivitar 285HV now being produced re-branded as the KF36 by ebay seller Gadget Infinity, it lends itself well as an additional flash in studio situations and makes having a portable studio not only possible… but fast and backpackable! For example I invested in a small softbox kit that has a pop up softbox, light stand and a special designed bracket for hot shoe flashes. You can find it here. What I find is that this small kit actually works. This made it easy to test out the flash on location in a non-threatening (job) environment. Breakdown and setup of this flash was damn near instant! Meaning, there are options for light modification of the LP120 besides the typical umbrella setup.

What’s also funny is that by it having 6 different power output levels its probably got just as much or more output options than your studio flash! Only major difference is that at it wont have the same power as your studio flash. But if you have a foot in strobist land you know that that doesn’t stop you. It makes you work smarter. I myself have become a a hybrid I mix hot shoe flashes with my monolights. Why you ask? My monolights offer the light modifier I’d like to use. The hot shoe flashes act as garlic lighting for me. (You know about garlic lighting – its the spice that if used just right can make the perfect burger or pasta… use too much and it ruins the whole pot, use too little and its not even there.)

I’ve recently purchased the venerable Vivitar 285HV as well as a LumoPro LP120 to lighten my load and be much more efficient at setup and take-down. What I’ve found is that the Lumo is just as powerful as the Vivitar 285HV. When I metered it 5ft away with my trusty Shepard Polaris meter my reading was F22 at full power on ISO100. Remember, the shutter speed has no effect so I left the meter at 1/250th a second. What did this mean? Since I usually shoot my studio work at between F5.6 and F16 I had at least 1 stop of light more that I could use from this small flash to accent, or fill my subject as needed. If I am clever enough I can also use LP120 as my main light (provided I keep the flash close enough to my subject and how large a light modifier I use on it).

What does all this mean?

Could the LumoPro LP120 be the new studio flash? Yes and no. Here’s the breakdown. As with any studio lighting system you have to have a way to trigger it. MPEX has covered most of there bases by making it the most accessible and one of the most versatile hot shoe flashes in existence. The optical system is VERY sensitive (a boon for those that place there lights a bit of distance away from the subject). However if you can’t trigger it optically or from on camera you’ll have to resort to a wireless system. Systems range from the ultra-expensive yet very-reliable Pocket Wizard to the ultra-cheap yet very unreliable ebay triggers (commonly called “Phucket Wizards”, “Gadget Infinity Triggers” or “Garage Door Wizards”). Paul C. Buff CyberSync ultra reliable – ultra cheap (Probably the best deal of the whole lot cause they’ll trigger most any thing that you can get a cable for and at $69 for a trigger and $59 for a receiver make it the killer deal of the bunch!). Now that you’ve gotten a way to trigger them you want to modify them somehow. This is where you can look for a hot shoe flash adapter. Ebay has millions of options from $16 bucks on. As for softbox options: Photoflex, Lastolight and and Westcott all have there solutions… expensive but they work.


Here you can see the Head and size comparison between the LP120 and the defacto standard (in inexpensive manual hot shoe flashes) Vivitar 285HV


For those of you who need a VERSATILE, PORTABLE, USABLE flash to replace your broken Vivitar 285HV or need an additional studio flash to light your edge or background, MPEX has created your answer with the LumoPro LP120. Its just enough at a price of $129.99 to make the cheap cut. Having used it for a small fashion show by clothing designer Tainisha Collins, as well as some studio testing, this flash delivers its promise of consistent, reliable output and just plain being a functional flash for those looking to lighting there load (like myself). Since I’ve been working on lightening my load I found the LP120 an invaluable tool in improving my lighting! I found that I will always pull it out to edge my subject for some snap or spot light my background for a cool highlight! Bottom line… the LumoPro LP120 flash is here to stay. It easily makes my cheap list for 7 reasons: its easy to assimilate it into your lighting work flow because of all its sync options, its lightweight, the 2 year warranty is undeniably its third best feature, it zooms and swivels, it has optical sync as well as a plug in sync, though not as powerful as the Nikon SB-900, Canon 580 EXII or Sony HVL-F58AM flashes its about 1/3rd the price. Meaning? You could buy 3 of these for the price of one-practically making an entire small portable studio! Sheesh where was this flash when I got started? I know I’m gonna catch some flack for this post so let me head that off right now. Understanding the Strobist Philosophy of lighting smarter I’ve incorporated two small hot shoe flashes to save on weight and increase my speed during sessions. That’s the point of this post, introducing you to another alternative to another $899.00 flash to get the F8 you want and keeping you up on another great product that I’ve had a chance to use.

NOTE: After a small email exchange with Applebaum… what the hey… read it for yourself,

“-For batteries: The Quantum Battery 1 and Battery 1 Compact will work with the MA2 adapter in addition to Alk and NiMh… LumoPro Universal Translator now available!  Adds Miniphone and PC female outlets to any camera hot shoe! (Sony/Min excluded.)…These will be bundled into the Strobist kits with Mini-Mini 16ft cords for the extra reliability… Hoping to have the following extra features: 1 stop extra power, High Voltage port for Quantum Turbo’s, multi-sync option as discussed, and as an extra sync option (the ability to fire the flash via wired sync as well as optical sync) “Digital Optical Slave!!!”  This will mean that this option will ignore the pre-flash that most TTL cameras/flashes emit when using the TTL function.”  – Moieshe Applebaum, MPEX

I don’t know about you… but I’m actually getting a bit excited! Sounds like MPEX is working on a tool that will become the “go-to-tool” the way the 285HV was. Speaking of the old classic. If you wanna know why I haven’t said much about the old dog is cause for some odd reason it seems that Sakaar has given up on them and its no longer produced as the Vivitar 285HV instead the KF36 from Gadget Infinity. Sorry can’t recommend it cause the future with them is very unsure. Why the LumoPro LP120 over the Vivitar 285HV for that matter? Bounce and Swivel, equal power, newer most of the time means better technology, lower sync voltage, 2 Year Warranty, Mpex is in Ohio not China, better head size so its pretty standard and easy to add accessories to it like the newly released Speedlight Pro Kit (just think of what could upset David Honl the most see link here).

Catch the ongoing discussion over at flickr

Or go directly to the Midwest Photo Exchange website for more information.

This is a two part post! Next post will show tools on how to modify your hot shoe flashes to get the most out of them! Now there you have it… NOW GET TA SHOOTIN!

Published by David Griffin

The Prince of Cheap I am a "Jesus Freak" and a DIY photography junkie! I'm also the *second* cheapest man alive... but only 'cause my Dad is the first!