Jinbei Digital Pioneer DPsIII review

Foto Morgen of Germany kindly sent us a Jinbei Digital Pioneer DPsIII-500 to try out. The Digital Pioneer sIII series are Bowens-mount mains studio flashes which can be wirelessly controlled by way of an optional handheld controller.

Jinbei Digital Pioneer DPsIII 500

Foto Morgen of Germany kindly sent us a Jinbei Digital Pioneer DPsIII-500 to try out. The Digital Pioneer sIII series are Bowens-mount mains studio flashes which can be wirelessly controlled by way of an optional handheld controller.

Technical specifications

ModelDPsIII-300DPsIII-400DPsIII-500DPsIII-600DPs-800
Energy300J400J500J600J800J
Guide number6066728090
Recycle time0.5-1.5s0.5-1.7s0.5-1.9s0.5-2.1s0.5-2.2s
Flash duration1/3000s1/2600s1/2200s1/2000s1/1800s
Modelling lampE27 250W, proportional, full power or off
Colour temperature5500 ± 200K
Power adjustmentFull to 1/32 power in 1/10 stop increments
VoltageAC 200-250 Volts (50/60Hz)

If you order a DPsIII-500, €314.90 gets you:

  • A 500J flash head with flash tube pre-installed
  • Bowens mount protective cap
  • Modelling lamp
  • Power cable
  • Sync cord
  • Foto Morgen dust cloth
  • Instruction manual

For an extra €39.90 you’ll receive the Remote Control JB-RC, which comes with a short 2.5mm-to-PC cord to sync with your camera.

The Digital Pioneer has an all metal shell which feels like it could take a few knocks in its days of use. The plastic protective cap fits over both the modelling lamp and flash tube, unlike the CononMk GE400 we recently reviewed. The cap rattles about a bit while in place, but stays on securely, so I’m fairly confident it’ll keep the head safe in transit and storage.

Jinbei Digital Pioneer DPsIII 500

The light stand bracket is positioned near the front of the flash, allowing the Pioneer’s own weight to help counterbalance heavy accessories. The bracket can also be removed from the bottom of your DPsIII and attached to the top of the head if your studio setup calls for it.

Jinbei Digital Pioneer DPsIII 500

There is no built-in reflector and no removable reflector is included in the box, so you have a true “bare-bulb” effect for diffusion of light within softboxes.

Jinbei Digital Pioneer DPsIII 500

All of the controls are found on the rear panel, and settings are displayed on the large LCD screen. The display is logically laid out, but not that easy to read at an angle or over a long distance.

Rather than having dedicated buttons for each feature of the light, Jinbei have decided to implement a menu system through which you have to scroll and adjust using up/down and left/right arrow keys. So to turn the ready beep on or off, adjust the power or wireless channel it’s not just a one-touch operation. It’s not the slickest experience and can feel clunky at times.

When you turn the power down, the Digital Pioneer will automatically discharge the capacitors. Unlike the Hobo Merlin, which does this by invisible magic, the Jinbei fires a visible test flash to get rid of the excess energy. If you don’t know about this process then you may think the head is misfiring.

Jinbei Remote Control JB-RC

A main selling point of the DPsIII series is its remote controllability using the optional JB-RC handheld remote. The display and buttons are analogous to the interface on the back of the DPsIII itself. Apart from the on/off switch, there are only arrow keys and an OK button.

Jinbei Remote Control JB-RC

The JB-RC is powered by two AAA batteries, not included.

Jinbei Remote Control JB-RC display

The remote can be irritating to use for taking meter readings, since there is no dedicated test button. Instead, you find yourself having to select the lightning bolt symbol in the menu (not the “Test” option, which is for pairing) and then hitting OK. To change the channel, ID or power level and retest you must cycle through the menus, make your adjustments and then cycle back again.

Jinbei Remote Control JB-RC with PC sync cord

One of the benefits (on paper) of the JB-RC over the likes of the Hobo Merlin‘s RM1 remote is that it can be linked to your camera and used as a radio trigger. Unfortunately this doesn’t work out as smoothly as it first sounds. There is no hotshoe foot, so you have to use a PC cable and then find somewhere unobtrusive to put the controller. If your camera doesn’t have a PC port then you’re a bit stuck. What’s more, it’s not as simple as plug and play. The JB-RC will only synchronise with your camera if you select the lightning bolt and press the “up” key. Outside of this mode, nothing happens.

When linked up, the Jinbei Remote Controller has a sync speed of 1/200 second with a Nikon D700. At 1/250 there is a shadow at the bottom of the frame, and at 1/320 there is significant banding.

Graph of colour temperature against flash power level for studio lights

The DPsIII-500 was measured to be slightly warmer in colour than other lights we have tested. From full to minimum power the colour temperature is fairly consistent, varying by less than 400 Kelvin over the whole range.

In practice

We tested out this flash during a fashion shoot, in tandem with the N-Flash Wireless Studio Flash. Over the course of the day we found the modelling lamp was stable and bright and the flash output consistent. No noticeable colour or exposure shifts appeared over hundreds of images. With the modelling lamp on and firing the flash repeatedly for long periods, the light didn’t seem likely to overheat, even kept inside a large softbox.

At 1/2 to 1/4 power the recycle time was noticeable enough to have to pause between shots. Moreover, the remote control can take a while to respond to power adjustments, especially if you forget that you need to click “OK” after each change. The lack of a hotshoe foot on the JB-RC meant we used the N-Flash’s own built-in radio trigger and switched on the DPsIII’s optical slave to synchronise with the N-Flash.

Fashion shoot for thenewblack

Fashion shoot for thenewblack

Lighting setup for catalogue shoot

The Jinbei Digital Pioneer DPsIII-500 is an excellent studio light – powerful, sturdy, versatile, consistent and highly adjustable – let down by the JB-RC remote control, which needs improvement.

Where to buy

The Jinbei Digital Pioneer DPsIII is sold by Foto Morgen, who are based in Germany and will ship to countries in the European Union. DPsIII 300J, 400J, 500J, 600J and 800J models are available with prices starting at €226.90. The JB-RC Remote Control is sold separately for €39.90.

David Selby
Based in Paris, France, David Selby is editor of Lighting Rumours, a part-time photographer and a quantitative analyst.
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