Mario Moschel, a photographer from Germany, has shared his own personal review of the Innovatronix CPFlash. It was originally published on his own web site, which you can find at derknipser.de (in English and in German).
What is the CP550W – and what is it not?
The Innovatronix CP550W is an LED flash and LED continuous light in a compact housing powered by a single 18650 Li-ion battery. The device is in a very high-quality and stable aluminum housing, which also has a removable metal bracket for mounting on a photo or flash tripod. With this bracket you can tilt the CP550W and do not need your own flash tilting head.
The aluminum housing is 8 cm wide, 4 cm high and 16 cm long. On the underside there is also a ¾ inch thread for mounting on a flash tripod, ball head or flash head. At the front you can find the LED panel, on the back the button for the video light (continuous light, or different light programs, more on that later), a blue flashing “ready” LED, a test button for triggering the flash and a dip switch to set the receiving channel for triggering or radio control.
On the right side is the on/off button, a 3.5 jack socket for connecting standard lightning cables or radio receivers from other manufacturers. Next to it is the battery compartment for the round cell, the metal screw cap of which can be opened with a coin.
According to the manufacturer Innovatronix, the CP550W is a “three-function” flash that was developed to illuminate photo and video recordings with a smartphone, a DSLR and a mirrorless camera. There is also an app for the smartphone that controls the master flash via Bluetooth. This in turn controls other integrated CP550W flashes by radio. But the free smartphone app called CPFlash (for iOS and Android) can do even more. It also serves as a photography app and flash trigger. The small program is superimposed on existing photography apps and enables the setting of the flash output or the brightness of the LED permanent light and the triggering of the mobile phone camera including flash. What this little program can do is incredible! More on that below.
The CP550W, on the other hand, cannot be compared to a normal xenon flash. It can do some things better than a normal studio flash, others less – depending on the application.
What is included?
The scope of delivery includes:
- flash unit itself
- the tilt bracket that is already mounted
- a 18650 battery with 2000mAh according to the label
- a rechargeable Bluetooth remote trigger for flash and / or smartphone
- a radio trigger with center contact for use on DSLR and mirrorless cameras
- a micro USB cable for charging the flash and smartphone remote control
- 6 magnetic acrylic glass filters in the colors blue, green, red, orange, yellow and white as a diffuser
- an English-language manual
What can the CP550W do? Can the CP550W be used as a flash replacement in the studio and on location?
Yes you can. Innovatronix emphasizes that the CP550W was actually developed more for smartphone photography, but one does not rule out the other. Especially since the housing is very similar in shape and size to the very popular AD200 pocket studio flash developed by Godox.
The CP550W fits wonderfully into the clamping devices from Godox (Bowens S-Bracket), Neewer and other Chinese manufacturers, which make the small flashes compatible with the huge range of reflectors, softboxes, snoots and other light shapers with the popular Bowens bayonet. And they also make a formidable umbrella holder. For a few euros additional investment in such a Bowens bracket, you can quickly open up the entire world of studio flash functionality. The popular Magmod accessories such as honeycombs made of silicone, snoots, etc. also fit wonderfully on the CP550W.
How much power is the CP550W delivering?
There is one limitation, however: the LEDs of the Innovatronix flash are not as powerful as the xenon flash tube of a Godox AD200, for example. The latter offers 200 Ws of power, while the CP550W as a flash can be equated with a good clip-on flash in terms of output and has an output that is around a guide number of 60. For comparison: Nikon states the performance of its current top flash SB-500 with guide number 34 at 35 mm focal length and ISO 100 and guide number 55 at 200 mm focal length and ISO 100. Canon’s Speedlight EL-1, according to Canon, also has guide number 60 at 100 ISO and 200mm focal length.
Roughly speaking, the guide number of plug-on flashes corresponds to the joule or watt-second specification of studio flashes. Thus, the CP550W develops almost a third of the power of an AD200 compact flash from a single 18650 battery, whose battery is around four times as big.
However, you cannot trigger a xenon flash with a smartphone, i.e. not a classic studio flash or AD200, because the exposure time of a mobile phone camera is not short enough for the fast xenon flash.
The battery operation
The CP550W shows its strengths together with a high-performance mobile phone camera. With little luggage you can quickly put together a handy, light, almost full-fledged studio set with the LED flash. Not only does the flash not require a special charger, a micro USB cable is sufficient, it can even be charged using an external battery pack while in operation.
However, it is a bit of a shame how the lid of the battery compartment is loosened. The groove for the coin is quite shallow, opening the rotating lid is quite fiddly. Innovatronix itself shows how it can be done better. In a promo video you can see an alternative battery compartment lid with a toggle, for which you don’t need a coin (minute 3:27):
During extended shootings, a pre-charged second small battery in the photo bag would make sense for a quick change, because charging with the power supply unit or power bank simply takes too long (up to four hours and more, depending on the battery capacity). With the toggle lid, changing the battery would be much faster and easier than with the coin. A little tip: A drop of WD40, silicone spray or equivalent lubricant in the thread makes turning the lid easier.
Innovatronix specifies a battery range of 100 flashes at full power and between 300 and 500 flashes under “normal conditions” of a shoot. The values refer to the enclosed 2000 mAh battery. According to Innovatronix, the battery inside takes around four hours to be fully charged via the micro-USB socket.
However, there are also more powerful batteries of this type with, for example, 2600 (presumably real) mAh or up to 3000 (presumably not real) mAh for little money. Then the charging time is extended accordingly.
Since the 18650 battery format is used both in powerful flashlights and, for example, in vaporizers and has long been established, there is a large selection of external chargers for this type of battery. Important: Only a battery with a flat positive pole fits into the battery compartment. Those with a raised pole are too long. When buying, you should make sure that the battery has a PCB protection circuit (“protected”) that prevents overheating and short circuits.
The manufacturer’s decision to use this size battery is a very good idea. The only thing that is a shame is the relatively high self-discharge of the battery in the device, even when it is switched off. Therefore, you should always fully charge the battery or the CP550W before a planned use or take a charged power bank with a suitable cable.
The CPFlash app for iOS and Android
Incidentally, the flash intensity cannot be set on the device itself (and cannot be recognized in the absence of a display), but only in the smartphone app. This is very convenient, however, with the finger slide or with the plus and minus buttons to the exact percentage, between 0.5 percent and 100. The app also shows the capacity of the battery in the CP550W at the top left, albeit rather imprecisely. It is enough for a rough estimate.
The CPFlash app can be downloaded free of charge from the Google Play Store and the iOS App Store. The little miracle program works with both iPhones and Android smartphones. In the small program, you can switch the video light on and off, select the transmission frequency used by region (in Germany flash and trigger radioed on frequencies between 863 MHz and 875 MHz, as in most EU countries and a number of Arab countries) and the flash duration set between 80 and 500 ms. And it is precisely this adjustable flash duration that distinguishes the CP550W from flashes with xenon tubes such as studio flashes, camera flashes or compact flashes such as the AD200 from Godox and similar models. Because this is exactly what makes the CP550W suitable for mobile phones.
The highlight of the CPFlash app, however, is the camera mode. In this case, a small transparent window with shutter release, timer button, flash duration setting slide as well as configuration options and permanent light switch is located over the existing photo apps of the mobile phone and not only triggers the camera but also the flash.
Multiple trigger options
Triggering with the photo app is one of the triggering options for the LED flash. However, this can also be done with the remote control supplied. It is the size of a wireless car key, is powered by a micro-USB rechargeable battery, connects to the flash and mobile phone automatically via Bluetooth and has only two buttons: test and video light. You can use it to trigger the camera app of the connected smartphone as well as the LED flash at the precise time, or you can switch the LED permanent light on. The remote control can be set individually for both the master flash and the flashes connected to it using the DIP switch on the underside. The remote control does not have an on / off switch and, according to the manufacturer, has a range of around 20 meters if there are no obstacles between the remote control and the mobile phone or flash (“line of sight”).
For owners of SLR or mirrorless system cameras, the supplied radio trigger is important. With center contact and knurled wheel, it fits on any camera with a hot shoe (except the old Sony cameras with a generic hot shoe). It has an on / off switch, is operated with a flat battery, has an LED with a test button on the top and a channel selection via DIP switch on the bottom as well as a 3.5 jack socket for cable connection to the PC socket of the camera, for example. The camera trigger triggers flashes via radio and does not actually need the camera app. However, you need that to set the flash output.
The permanent light functions
The continuous light modes of the CP550W are interesting for filmmakers. With a maximum of 20 watts of continuous light output, the CP550W illuminates YouTube videos as well as professional interviews or other film projects. Here, too, the power of each flash can be set from 0.5 percent to 100 percent via the app; this also applies to each flash in a larger network. According to Innovatronix, there is no limit to the number of other devices controlled by a master flash.
The adjustable permanent light modes are:
Continuous light, flickering continuous light, flash mode like in a thunderstorm, TV simulator, paparazzi (rapid flash sequences), police (looks very real on videos together with the blue magnetic disk!), stroboscopic flash (ATTENTION! Can lead to epileptic seizures in some people!) and a flickering open fire (very convincing when filming, if the orange magnetic disc is used).
The CP550W can be used both indoors and outdoors, but is not waterproof. A freezer bag can keep rain out, but it shouldn’t come into contact with the LEDs because they get very warm, especially when the light is on. The bag could melt and probably stick forever to the plastic disc that protects the LEDs. So it is better to only use light shapers such as flash reflectors in front.
The CP550W is – as the name of the manufacturer already suggests – actually an innovative product with a unique selling point. I am not aware of any similar battery-operated LED flashing and continuous light. But the CP550W multifunctional flash only becomes really interesting thanks to the well thought-out additions in the form of an app, two triggers, tilting bracket and colored acrylic filters. Even the battery is included and the necessary charging cable.
Overall, the device is very versatile and interesting for smartphone photographers as well as those who work with “real” cameras, as well as for filmmakers. Both interview situations and video podcasts are well and quickly illuminated with it, as well as portrait photos. The LEDs have daylight quality, the housing is very valuable and robust. The price is 199 US dollars plus 20 dollars shipping costs (ATTENTION! Customs and sales tax are added when importing!) More than okay. Especially since the CP550W as a single device can do what other manufacturers only two or even three different devices can do. At Innovatronix you get all of this in a single mobile flash unit, which is also well made with many well thought-out details.
There would be some wishes (whining at a high level) for the next version of the CP550W:
- A “real” switch that prevents the battery from being sucked empty when the device is not in use.
- A battery compartment lid with a toggle instead of a fiddly coin crack.
- A protected battery included instead of the one without a protective circuit.
- Real photographic magnetic filters instead of “just” colored plastic disks, for example CTO and CTB filters for white balance correction. They are available from various manufacturers for clip-on flashes, but unfortunately not with the smart magnets.
- A suitable bag or protective cover would be great in the scope of delivery, also as an additional offer.
- And if you want to be very outrageous, you could want twice the battery capacity, in other words: the use of two instead of one 18650 battery. ☺
Who is Innovatronix?
Ramon Castillo, an engineer who worked for Intel in the Philippines in the field of computer components and integrated circuits, left Intel in 1987 to start Innovatronix. He started his own business as a developer together with a technician to develop innovative electronics. Innovatronix worked first for Intel, then for Motorola and Telefunken, and later for other companies, also in other industries. In 1991 the small company developed and built the display boards for the South Asian Games in Manila. Components for house air conditioning systems followed.
In 1998 Ramon Castillo realigned the company after the financial crisis in Asia. At the right time when digital photography started, the amateur photographer developed Tronix Imaging Centers in various shopping centers in the Philippines in 1998, which printed out digital photos.
In 2006, Innovatronix developed the Tronix Explorer, an external battery that made it possible to use studio flashes with a total output of up to 1200 watt seconds on the go and without a power socket. The Tronix Explorer is still very popular with photographers in different versions up to 2400 Ws output because it is affordable and very reliable.
After years of constant growth, the company has been based in Antipolo City, a large stand not far from the Philippine capital Manila, and now employs over 100 people.
The manufacturer gave me two CP550Ws for testing. The experience report gives my honest opinion on the product. This is a first experience report, photos from practice and the use of the CP550W in photo shoots will follow.
I am happy to answer questions, but ask for your understanding that the answer can sometimes take a while. The same goes for suggestions.