As digital cameras increasingly tout their video shooting capabilities, the lighting companies are catering to this perceived demand with the development of “hybrid” style lights, meant to be suitable for both stills and moving images.
Fomito of China has announced the Voeloon 331EX speedlight (also known in some markets as the Oloong 551EX), sporting a traditional xenon flash tube paired with a continuous LED video lamp. There is an E-TTL version for Canon and an i-TTL one for Nikon, each with wireless master and slave modes and high speed sync (HSS).
The Voeloon 331EX has a sleek, compact design. But, hang on â€” haven’t we seen this somewhere before? Canon users in particular might find the form factor strikingly familiar. Spot the difference!
Once again, it looks like the Chinese have pulled another product out of of their trusty 3-D photocopier. The casing and general feature set of the Voeloon 331EX have been taken wholesale from the Canon Speedlite 320EX. Even the name is (vaguely) similar. I think it is unlikely that anybody, even the most unwary of photographers, will set out to buy a Canon flash and get a Voeloon one by mistake, but since the latter firm has decided to copy the 320EX so closely, the two products warrant a comparison.
|Brand||Canon||Voeloon / Oloong|
|Model||320EX||331EX / 551EX|
|Guide number (GN)||32||30|
|Recycle time||2.3 seconds||2 seconds|
|Zoom positions||24mm, 50mm||24mm, 50mm|
|Manual power||Full – 1/64||Full – 1/128|
|Optical slave S1/S2|
|Control panel||Physical switches||Backlit LCD screen|
From the manufacturer’s specifications alone, it looks like the Chinese-made product can match, if not exceed, the capabilities of the original Japanese design. Certainly, Nikon users have an easy decision to make since there is no Nikon-made equivalent to the 331EX to compete with it. And Canon users can get a flashgun with both an LED lamp and wireless master mode, the latter of which the Speedlite 320EX lacks.
However, what is listed on the box and how things work in practice are not always quite the same thing. We have not tested the light output or recycle times of the Voeloon so there is no telling if the datasheet is exaggerating or truthful. Similarly, build quality, light and colour consistency, overheating protection and working lifespan are all variables that may (or may not) let you down when opting for the cheaper, less reputable brand.
Moreover, even if everything works as it should, the 331EX having more functions and an LCD control panel is not necessarily a good thing for all users, since it might make general use of the device more involved with complicated menus, versus the simple set of sliding switches on the 320EX.
With its advanced wireless capabilities and an LED lamp suited for modelling, autofocus assistance and video lighting, the Voeloon 331EX has a wide range of different applications. It cannot match bigger flashguns for raw power or recycle time (especially since no external battery packs may be used) but the benefit is in a simpler, more compact device.
For the dealers’ asking price of $160 (Â£105) you will find other flashguns available, but none with quite the same set of features as the Voeloon 331EX / Oloong 551EX. The Yongnuo YN-568EX also has high speed sync, but no LED lamp or master mode, while other Oloong brand speedlights have the same wireless capabilities but no high speed sync or LED lamp. The Canon Speedlite 320EX, from which the 331EX’s form factor has been shamelessly taken, does many (but not all: see above) of the same things for $250.
For more information on the 331/551EX and other products from this manufacturer, visit the Fomito or Oloong web sites. For eBay listings, click here.