An Affordable Medium Strobe
The Bolt VB-22 might look like something out of a 1930’s horror flick, but this medium strobe packs a monster of a punch. Its ability to produce power while still being lightweight and portable is the key to its success.
Watch the Bolt VB-22 Medium Strobe Video Review
Bolt VB-22 Performance
We are very impressed at how much power the Bolt puts out. At full power it delivers a guide number between 250 and 260, which is equivalent to 4 or 5 pocket strobes. This makes the Bolt very handy on location when extra power is needed (to overpower the sun perhaps). Keeping with the deadly weather-related naming scheme, the Bolt is powered by the Cyclone PP 400DR battery pack.
However, there are a few things that drag the Bolt down to having an average overall performance rating. Ironically, the Bolt is not fast as lighting, it’s actually quite slow. In performance, the Bolt does what is expected for a mid-size flash but its recycle time is as slow as the walking dead at 7-8 seconds full power. The Bolt also lacks flash consistency, both in intensity and color. This most heavily comes into play when you are doing a fashion or highly professional shoot where perfect color and exposure is a must.
Being a manual flash you will also need a third-party radio triggering system. For this task, we suggest one of our favorites, the Pocket Wizard 3.
Bolt VB-22 Features
The Bolt is also only average when it comes to the amount features available. It has a 3.5mm sync port, PC sync, and USB connectivity which makes it update-ready for new firmware. The standard 1/4”-20 screw mount is both on the bottom and side of the body, making it very convenient. The UI is pretty easy to navigate as the buttons and its functions are simple to understand without reading a manual.
While the Bolt is user friendly, it requires a little ingenuity to add modifications. The Bolt is soon to provide its own brand of modifiers but beware that it might not have the best relationship with your current gear. Prepare to do some “jimmy rigging” to get your existing modifiers to work with the Bolt VB-22. In our own diabolical experiments, we used the Profoto RFi Speed Ring and attached 2 Bolts making our own powerful creation able to produce 10 to 12 pocket strobes worth of power. Attaching a monopod, we gave our creation legs and affectionately named it “The Big Boom Stick”.
Bolt VB-22 Design
As already said, the UI is pretty easy to navigate. Manual flashes are not that complicated to begin with and the Bolt is no exception. The Bolt’s most characteristic feature is its protruding bulb. This is designed for fast and easy bulb replacement when an old one burns out.
While the bare bulb design gives the Bolt its unique look, it’s also unprotected with no cover included. The only possible protection would be the modifier that comes with your Bolt. This offers sufficient protection but at the cost of adding roughly ⅓ more bulk, thus making it less ideal for transport. However, this is only a slight inconvenience and still deserves 4 out of 5 stars.
Bolt VB-22 Quality
The Bolt is very solid in it’s overall build with most of the body molded in high quality plastic. The mounts and all ports are made of metal. We have used these on countless shoots and not a single unit has stopped working or malfunctioned. They are simply built to work well.
Bolt VB-22 Value
The Bolt starts at $500. Now, there are a lot of cheaper flashes out there, so why does the Bolt exceed in value? It’s what you can do comparatively, it beats the competition. This makes the value of this medium range strobe unprecedented when compared to what you would have to do to produce the same power output using pocket strobes. Even if you wanted to do a full set up using 2 bolts, the battery pack, radio triggers, cables, and the modifiers, it would still be less expensive and simpler than setting up 10 pocket strobes.
Bolt VB-22 Conclusion
The Bolt VB-22 is an amazingly powerful strobe system. It offers power without breaking the bank with a portable yet sound design. Its ease of use as well as its value are unique to how high it outputs in terms of guide number. Simply put, the Bolt is an outstanding strobe and is definitely worth checking out.
I hope you enjoyed this review. If you’re interested in learning more about lighting foundation and mastering on-camera flash then be sure to check out Lighting 101.
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