Interfit launched the Venus range last year with various kits based around the two models available, the Venus 150 and 300 and I've been looking at the 2 head, 2 brolly Venus 300 kit. The Venus looks stylish and sleek and I was impressed by the look of them, but how did they shape up?
What do you get with a Venus kit, well inside the nice looking black kit bag you get 2 Venus 300 heads with modelling lamps and mains leads, 2 reflectors, a white 91cm brolly, a silver 91cm brolly, 2 COR 750 3 section lightweight stands and 2 standard 3.5metre sync leads.
The actual Venus kit bag is great, it's pretty small, only 80cm long, 30cm high and 25cm wide and has double zips along the top, good carrying handles and plenty of space inside for all the accessories including the stands. It also has a double zip on one end of the bag so that you can slide out the stands and brollies from a separate compartment. All in all this is a nice bag and will be easy for anyone to carry and the whole kit is not that heavy at only 11 kgs. The bag also comes with a big shoulder strap that attaches to either side of the case, a nice touch.
The Venus 300 head is small, light, made from ABS and has a rubberised grey finish. With a stylish design the Venus only measures 20cm long and only weighs 1.7kg. On the top of the head is a large amber coloured panel, which is in fact the built in slave cell. Like all the Interfit range, the Venus heads use the same 'S' fitting accessories and just above the flash tube assembly is a quick release clip to change accessories. The flash tube is user replaceable and the Venus 300 uses a 60w ES fitting modelling lamp. With only a 5v trigger voltage, both the Venus 150 and 300 are quite safe to use with any digital camera.
All the controls are on the rear oval panel and are well laid out. The Venus 300 has a 4-stop step less range simply controlled by a small grey knob. To either side of the power knob are the ready light and charge light, just under these are a row of buttons marked Cell, Model, Sound and Test that operate those functions, the sync connection is just to the right of the mains socket and fuse holder so all pretty easy to understand and operate.
As the standard reflectors don't have umbrella brackets, there is a hole on the stand bracket of the head through which you can attach and fix brollies. There is a quick release lever that locks the head into position and knob that attaches it to a stand.
The Intefit COR750 lighting stands that come with the kit are pretty good and as the heads are so small and light, you easily get a Venus up to 2 metres high with the 3section stands. The brollies are fine, the white being quite translucent and easy to shoot through or bounce, the silver not too matt and giving a nice amount of contrast.
In terms of output, the guide number published for the Venus 300 is 55. In my test I measured f11 at 2 metres, that's at full power with the camera set at 100 ISO with a shutter speed of a 125th using the bounced white brolly. The recycle time is a respectable 1.5 seconds at full power and you can turn on the sound to let you know when its recharged. Unfortunately I couldn't get any information about the actual flash duration of the Venus 300, Interfit say that they don't have any figures. So by the look of the tube, it's only 2 terminal, I would guess that it's not quick enough to capture movement, but I can't give you an accurate answer.
The controls for the modelling lamp are basic I have to say. The Model button only turns the lamp on or off and the modelling lamp only works in proportional mode. That means that when the power is turned from full to minimum, the output of the 60w lamp is a bit dull. I had to keep turning the modelling lamp up to check shadow details. It would be nice if a 100% control could be incorporated in the design, so that you can set the modelling lamp on full power as an option.
That said when it comes to price of the Venus range it does offer great value for money. You can buy a 2 head kit for as little as £350 and it's worth buying the kit just to get that nice bag! The Venus 300 kit will appeal to any enthusiast who would like to develop their studio skills, plus the basic kit can be added too. Interfit offer a decent range of basic accessories, including a snoot, background reflector and a choice of soft boxes, plus infra red or radio cordless syncing devices.
Talking of soft boxes, Interfit offer a choice of three Venus kits, the two brolly kit I used, a brolly / 60x60 soft box option, or a two 60x60 soft box option, a great idea depending on your application and need to be portable.