Walimex PBS-400 portable battery flash reviewed

We have been testing the Walimex PBS-400. How did this budget minded portable power unit fare? Head inside for our hands on review!

Setup shot with the Walimex PBS-400 and 150cm Octabox

Performance and Exposure

The claimed recycle times are accurate: around 4 seconds for full power and a little bit faster than 2 seconds for the lowest power setting. The output power range is from 1/1 (400Ws) to 1/4 (100Ws). As for syncing it at the max sync speed, my D80 hadn’t any problems at all syncing it at 1/200 via radio triggers (Cactus V4) or using the included sync cable. However, remember that different camera brands, models and qualities of radio triggers may affect your experience.

As for the exposure, I took 10 readings at each full stop setting on the PBS 400 with a Sekonic L308s to see if there were exposure variations. Happily I can tell you that the PBS-400 does a great job, because exposure was consistent from pop to pop at every power setting.  Let’s see how it fares. I tested the PBS-400 with the included reflector and my light meter one metre away, set to Iso 100, 1/250 second. I obtained the following results:

  • 1/1 – f/32.5
  • 1/2 – f/22.5
  • 1/4 – f/16.9

I am impressed with these values as they are really consistent from pop to pop (took 10 readings) and the unit is fairly powerful too, thus no problem in this area at all. These meter readings of course will vary if you use different modifiers: some are more or less efficient (in any flash unit of any brand you use). An umbrella reflector or beauty dish is way more efficient than, say, an octabox.

To make some sense of what I am explaining here for those who don´t have much experience in how different modifiers will affect exposure I will use a Quick Assemble 1.5 meters Octa (from Viewfinder Photography) and do some meter readings. This time the PBS-400 has the 1.5m octabox with both front and inner diffuser fitted. The Sekonic L308s is set to Iso 100, 1/250, 1 metre away giving the following readings:

  • 1/1: f/11.7
  • 1/2:  f/8.08
  • 1/4:  f/5.68

NB: Octas from other manufacturers will behave differently.

Something to notice is that the PBS400 doesn’t sport an auto-dump feature so remember: whenever you reduce the output power bleed the excess by pushing the test button or by firing it with your radio trigger before taking a meter reading. Colour consistency is also really good. There are no color shifts when you reduce the output power, so there aren’t nasty surprises here.

As for the build quality of both the head and the pack: there are no creaks or hinges, the materials used are a really nice mix of metal and good quality plastics,  the only nitpick I can find is the gap between the accesory mount and the body of the head which is quite big. I think it is there to help the unit ventilate efficiently, however I would warn you to cover it if using it in the rain or snow. Keep in mind there’s no manufacturer that makes a weather sealed head, so you have to keep them protected from the rain or snow too. The charger for the battery won’t let you know when the battery has been fully charged (you have to remember that it will take 3 hours to charge).

Next page: On Assignment and Conclusion

Eduardo Frances
Based in Spain, Eduardo Frances is a professional photographer specialized in portrait, fashion and advertising photography. You can check out his work in his website: www.eduardofrances.com