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Portable Power

Discussion in 'Studio Equipment and Lighting' started by Ruffles, May 22, 2007.

  1. Ruffles


    May 5, 2005
    Rexburg, ID
    There has been a lot of talk on DPreview about building portable power systems like the Vagablond. I decided to put one together myself. I got the Samlex 300 Watt inverter for $118 from here. I then bought two 12V 12Ah batteries from Walmart designed for kid cars ($35 each).

    The charger is 1.5amps @ 15V. I got it from Toys R US for $20- also intended for kid cars. I put the whole thing in an Ammo box and here is the result. I did a test and I got 275 full power flashes with my 900 Ws Flashpoint 1820 monolight before the low voltage alarm started to sound. These were continues flashes too, every 4 seconds as soon as the strobe recharged. I think this is a worst case scenario as I wouldn't ever shoot that way. If I had gone slower, I think I could have gotten more.

    The inverter buzzes a bit while it's charging and I talked to Samlex who said this means it's being pushed to it's max. If I were doing it again, I'd get the 600 Watt version. It also gets a little warm but has it's own cooling fan that kicks on and if I stop shooting for a couple of min, it cools right back down and the fan switches off.

    I thought about wiring the AC plug and the charging plug to the outside of the box so that I could access them with the box closed but decided that it would be safer to leave them inside thereby requiring the lid to be open which allows the batteries to vent. The batteries are Sealed Lead Acid but this is a big warning on the side to not charge them in an air tight enclosure.

    Over all, I'm really happy with it and recommend anyone who want to take their lights on location to give it a try.

  2. Gr8Tr1x

    Gr8Tr1x Guest

    Thanks for sharing, Ruffles. I don't use any strobes other than my SpeedLights, but this is good info to have. DIY proects are quite satisfying, aren't they?
  3. Ruffles


    May 5, 2005
    Rexburg, ID
    Yup, DIY is tons of fun but most importantly for me...cheaper (usually).
  4. and the first shot is a lovely studio shot.
    I like the metal bg -its tuff!:cool: 
  5. sic1


    Feb 9, 2007
    Chicago IL
    Would this work? Sorry you have to copy and paste,wouldnt save as link?

  6. Ruffles


    May 5, 2005
    Rexburg, ID
    I've read that the inverter must have a true sine wave output to avoid damage to the strobes. I couldn't find any detailed specs on the one you linked to so I don't know if it would work.
  7. GoGo


    Apr 20, 2006
    New York

    Hey Ruffles,

    Is this similar to what BlindMike built last year? I have not seen him around but I seem to remember the Samlex component?

    Just as an asside, I own and have been using a single outlet Vagabond unit. That power source is very robust as I have yet to wear one out on a shoot. I use a 320ws light with it and it just flashes and flashes showing no sign of the charge dissipating (I use the light at about 25% power). Amazing power scource, it really surprised me.
  8. cgrab


    Jan 3, 2007
    Thank you for the inspiration and instruction. I will try to round up those parts. What did you use for insulation? Ther are quite some amps sloshing around in that metal box!
    Best regards
  9. DanWhite


    Jul 10, 2005
    Lansdale PA
    are you using an inline fuse between the battery and inverter? Also do you use a grounding rod?

  10. Ruffles


    May 5, 2005
    Rexburg, ID
    For mounting the batteries, I used a couple of pieces of 1" aluminum angle iron and some small wood blocks. I had initially planned to use expanding foam but thought that might insulate the batteries too much and make it harder to dissipate heat. I also used a 40 amp inline fuse on the positive side. I've not used a grounding rod.
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