Flashpoint Monolight 1220a & 1820a Strobe Review
The Flashpoint Monolight 1220a and 1820a Strobes are well-made, powerful, and generally excellent strobes for an exceedingly low cost (under $300). One strobe outputs enough light to light a full subject, head to toe. Downsides include lack of umbrella fastener and relatively slow flash duration.
Highly recommended for all studio photographers. The price cannot be beat.
Flashpoint Monolight 1220a & 1820a Overview
I have to say, I am a huge fan of these strobes, and I own two of them. They are not without their downsides, but their incredible price, under $300, coupled with stellar, reliable performance makes them a no-brainer in my book.
Flashpoint is the in-house brand of Adorama, an online photography supplier. Both these strobes are essentially an identical design, with different watt/second output. The fan-cooled strobes are sturdily built with every feature you could want, including built-in modeling light, optical slave, audible recycle alert (that can be turned off), and continuous power adjustment from full to 1/16th (or 1/32) power.
The flash can be triggered either via a sync cord or through the built-in optical slave (sensor mode can be turned off), and in testing the optical slave trigger seems very responsive, working in almost all conditions. From certain angles in very bright conditions however, the optical sensor failed to pick up the camera-mounted flash used in testing.
|Flashpoint 1220a||Flashpoint 1820a|
|Power (in Watt Seconds)
||1/600 to 1/1,000||1/600 to 1/1,000|
||Full to 1/32||Full to 1/16|
||1 to 3 seconds||3 seconds|
||250 Watt||250 Watt|
|Voltage||110 volt A/C||110 volts A/C|
|Weight||5.25 lbs||6 lbs|
||6 volts||5.6 volts|
Color Temperature Consistency
I tested the color temperature consistency by mounting the camera on a tripod and taking a series of identical shots under identical conditions — changing nothing in between. I then reviewed the histogram from shot to shot to determine whether there were any fluctuations in color temperature.
The color temperature was very consistent from shot to shot, with virtually no shift between shots.
Users should note, however, that like all strobes, new bulbs have a breaking in period. A fresh strobe bulb will commonly have color temperature variation for the first several dozen (or more) fires until it settles down to deliver consistent temperatures from flash to flash. Always break in a new bulb, regardless of what strobe you’re using.
The listed flash duration for these strobes is 1/600 to 1/1000, with 1/1000 as the duration of the flash at full power (strobe flash durations get longer as you decrease the power). This is, however, the T.5 value of the flash, not the T.1. For a full discussion of the quirks of strobe flash duration, see our Strobe Flash Duration Guide.
The T.1 duration at full power tests closer to 1/300th of a second, significantly limiting the strobes motion stopping power. It should be noted that for truly fast flash durations you will need to use flash heads and not strobes.
A 1/600 to 1/1000 T.5 flash duration is on the slow end for monolight strobes, and this appears to be one of the sacrifices made for the extremely low cost of the Flashpoint strobes. You can get full power T.5 flash durations of 1/2000 or 1/3000 fairly commonly, though you should expect to pay twice to three times as much for it.
Ease of Use
The Flashpoint strobes are about at easy to use as you could ask for. All you need to do is set them up, turn on your optical slave switch on the back, and start taking pictures. Personally, I was particularly fond of the audible alert to let you know when the flash was recycled and ready to fire again, and equally pleased that you could flip a switch to turn the option off (last thing I want is every light chirping a second after each shot).
The listed recycling time for the 1820a is 3 seconds; however, I found that most of the time it was closer to 1-2 seconds and only reached 3 seconds at full power. At full power the strobes are easily bright enough to illuminate a full subject from head to toe at f8 – f16.
Both the strobe bulb and the modeling bulb are easily replaceable, and happily the flash bulb does not cost the outrageous amount that is often seen on the most expensive strobes.
The Flashpoint strobes are well built and sturdy. So long as care is taken with the bulbs, these strobes should travel well and safely.
The Umbrella Problem
The only real downside of the Flashpoint strobes that I found was the vexing issue of the umbrella. The strobe shield has a hole for inserting the umbrella, but there is nothing else on the strobe housing to secure the umbrella pole in place. This is an odd oversight in an otherwise stellar design.
The solution for the umbrella issue is simple enough: by attaching a one dollar hand clamp to the strobe mount the umbrella pole could easily be kept in place and adjusted as needed. Personally I’m happy to shell out a couple bucks for some clamps rather than several hundred more for a strobe with a built-in umbrella pole mount; however, it’s a truly bizarre thing to leave out of the light. It’s sort of like building a car with no cup holders, and I certainly hope this is something that is corrected in the next generation of Flashpoint strobes.
1220a vs 1820a
One of the interesting things about these two Flashpoint strobes is that they are priced identically. Since the 1820a has a significantly higher power output and the same flash duration, I would recommend the 1820a without hesitation.
That said, the 1220a has a slightly faster recycle time at lower power outputs, and has the ability to stop the power down further. So if you want the ability to use your strobe as a very low fill light, the 1220a probably serves that need better.
Flashpoint Monolight Review Summary
The Flashpoint 122a and 1820a monolight strobes are an incredible bargain, and I highly recommend them to any photographer for most studio applications. The lights are built well, produce consistent light output, are easy to use, powerful and are just about anything you would want in a strobe at any price.
The downsides of the Flashpoint strobes is a slower flash duration that limits motion-stopping ability and makes it a bit risky to shoot handheld at very long focal lengths (though it’s unlikely you’d be using such a long lens in a studio). The recycle time of 1-3 seconds is not terribly fast. And finally, there is no convenient fastener for the umbrella pole, requiring a hand clamp or other handmade solution. Of these, the first two downsides you will likely never notice in the vast majority of studio lighting situations, and the final one is annoying as heck but also very easily remedied.
At under $300 for a 900 Watt Second light, it’s hard to go wrong with the Flashpoint series.
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