Product Review

Product review: Vagabond Mini™ Lithium from Paul C. Buff, Inc.

If you're a regular reader of this blog, you know that I don't talk much about photographic gear. Camera gear especially holds little fascination for me, although I certainly can appreciate a well made camera or lens. I generally feel that while expensive cameras and lenses do produce superior images, pro-sumer gear can create excellent results, often better than prior generations of pro gear could, albeit with more effort and less convenience.

That being said, I recently decided to buy a piece of lighting equipment about which the photographic community is buzzing, so I thought it was worth mentioning. I am referring to the new Vagabond Mini™ Lithium from Paul C. Buff, Inc.  So far, and I have only used it on a small product photography shoot in the studio to get used to it, it is an amazing new toy. It charged in a couple of hours, as advertized, and was ready to fire two AlienBees™ B1600 flashes. It is light and small.

Vagabond Mini™ Lithium (120VAC model)

It has two 120 volt outlets, but the documentation states that it will drive up to 4 flashes using a grounded power strip. The charger plugs into the front panel as well and there is a USB socket. Although I have not tried it, I have heard from other reviewers that the USB charging results are not great. I have the 120 volt version but they sell a 230 version for sales outside of the US as well.

I plan to use it on location this week and will update this post with anything significant that I learn from that shoot. So far though, I am impressed; it's light, small, charges quite quickly and just works! And it lets you take your mono lights anywhere! At $240US, it's kind of a steal.

While there seem to be no show stoppers, here are a few things that I don't care for.

I am not wild about the strap. It's there and it works, but like most straps, it's in the way most of the time. I hate camera straps as well, so maybe I am not a good source for this aspect. I think the strap should be an option, but I wish that the pack had a rigid handle on the top, which I would use in place of the strap. It also has a small battery release tab on the bottom (or is it the back?), that prevents it from standing, so it really needs to be hung from a stand or laid down which make the controls difficult to see. Again, not a show stopper!

The big complaint that I have seen, and with which I agree, concerns the stand clamp. The documentation here is brief, so you are on your own to figure out how it works, which it barely seems to do. Hopefully, Buff will work on a modification in future versions. One good thing about it is that it attaches to the body of the pack with a standard tripod threading. This gives you several options in lieu of using this supplied clamp. Here is one method that I came up with using a SuperClamp.

Vagabond Mini™ Lithium attached to a light stand with a Super Clamp
If you have one of these Vagabond Mini™ Lithiums and have any thoughts or corrections, please post your comments here.