Hahnel Modus 600RT review

Hahnel’s first entry in the speedlight market has resulted in the release of the Modus 600RT, which has a guide number of 60 and a shortest flash duration of 1/20,000. This flash is sold in three versions: the flash by itself, the flash together with a Viper TTL radio transmitter and finally, two flashes with the Viper TTL. I received the second version to try out the new product.

Hahnel’s unique selling point (USP) for the Modus 600RT is that it’s powered by Hahnel’s own Extreme Li-ion battery pack. This power solution promises up to 500 full power flashes with a 1.5 seconds recycle time. In my tests, the Modus 600RT had a recycle time of 1.8 seconds. This was 0.10 seconds faster than the other flashes in my recent tests, which all were powered by four eneloop Pro AA-cells.

To test output consistency, I fired the flash five times in a row, one cycle at full strength and one cycle at half strength. The Modus 600RT varied with 1.7% at half strength, while maintaining 100% output at full strength. There was no visible bright spot using the Modus 600RT.

The Modus 600RT I received was a Canon model with the following capabilities:

  • On-camera E-TTL II autoflash, manual flash, HSS, multi-strobe and second curtain sync
  • Optical master and slave with four optical channels
  • Remote E-TTL II and manual flash, both in master and slave modes, five groups and the settings for each
  • AF Assist LED that comes on automatically.

The flash can be set to a shortest duration of 1/128. In multi-strobe mode, the flash’s shortest duration will be 1/4, which is quite high — higher being better.

The LCD screen has the typical flash menu, but in specific modes you get to see a very user-friendly depiction of the flash range — in fact, I found the graphical representation of its flash range to offer a quicker understanding than the numeric display of the Mecablitz 64 AF-1. There’s also a graphical representation of the flash head on the LCD panel. In my opinion, that one should have been shown on the Viper TTL — it’s a bit superfluous as I can easily see from the actual head position when I’m close to the unit which position it is in.

By the way, I’m not going into detail with regards to the Viper TTL transmitter. It’s a robust transmitter but in my view, if I were to properly test the Viper TTL combined with the Modus 600RT flash and frankly, even the grouping capabilities of the Modus 600RT, I should have had three flashes — perhaps even mixing the Canon one with a Sony model to see how they behave when remotely operated if they work in such a mixed setup at all — which I hadn’t.

Modus 600RT: features and experiences

The biggest selling point for Hahnel’s Modus 600RT is its battery. Hahnel’s experience and knowledge with regards to inexpensive but well-performing battery technology is well known and the Modus 600RT’s major attraction is that it is powered by a Hahnel HLX-MD1 high-power Li-Ion battery. It gives about 1,000 half-strength flashes — that’s about 600 more than flashes powered by AA-cells — but there is a minor downside to having a proprietary battery power a flash as well: there’s only one charger capable of charging the HLX-MD1, so either you end up with yet another charger to store and use or you have to buy only Modus 600RT flashes. Even if you decide on the latter, you’ll end up with a bunch of these chargers as each flash by itself is again sold with that same charger.

The Modus 600RT being adapted to specific brands of cameras you’ll get all the features the brand flash will support. For example, with a Canon model like my test unit you’ll get Flash Exposure Compensation, Flash Exposure Bracketing and modelling flash in E-TTL mode. Just like with a Canon flash, those work brilliantly and with the same results.

To use the Modus 600RT in remote mode, the camera’s shooting mode should be set to P, Tv, Av, M or B. If the flash has been mounted on the camera, it can be used as a master to other Modus 600RT speedlights. If it’s on the Viper TTL, it needs to be set in Slave mode. If you’re using the Master/Slave option whereby one on-camera flash is Master, the system is designed so that the settings of the “Master” attached to the camera are automatically applied to the wireless slaves. This allows you to shoot in the same way as E-TTL with only one flash.

As with the other Hahnel radio transmitters, you can use the flashes — with or without the Viper TTL — in digital channel matching (DCM) mode to avoid interference with other systems. In remote operation mode, the Modus 600RT supports Flash Exposure Compensation, Flash Exposure Bracketing, Flash Exposure Lock, HSS, manual and stroboscopic flash. You can also set the output ratio between the three groups that you can control from the on-camera flash. However, you cannot remotely set the zoom factor and the second curtain sync will only work if you’re using a Viper TTL transmitter.

The user guide mentions that when you’re using a Canon EOS released since 2012 (which I had to my disposal), such as the EOS-1DX (except for EOS 1200D), you can shoot with a different flash mode set for each firing group, with up to five groups. The flash modes that can be set are E-TTL II auto flash / Manual flash / off. When the flash mode is E-TTL, exposure is controlled to result in standard exposure for the main subject as a single group. It adds: “This function is for advanced users (which I am not when it comes to Canon dSLRs) who are very knowledgeable and experienced in lighting.”

Conclusion

The Hahnel Modus 600RT is Hahnel’s first professional speedlight and its main USP is its Li-Ion battery. The result is a fine flash with many features that you won’t find in others. The Hahnel Extreme battery that comes with the flash gives a slightly faster recycle period than comparable flashes that I tested with eneloop Pro AA-cells. However, there’s no alternative power interface on the Modus 600RT, so in the event of a battery break-down on location, you’d need to have a second one with you.

The Modus 600RT costs €289. The version that comes with a Viper TTL transmitter costs €329.

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