Bolt Bare-Bulb Flash Location Lighting Kit

I’ve been getting lots of question from readers asking for a hot shoe flash kit that’s lighter and cheaper than my Profoto B1 flashes. As I head off for talks and lighting workshops in Hong Kong, I’ve put together a light yet powerful kit of Bolt Bare-Bulb Flash Kits with Cyclone PP-400DR Power Packs that offer a lot more punch than standard hot shoe flashes & speedlights.

Bolt Bare-Bulb Flash VB-22

Bolt Bare-Bulb flashes are the modern smaller, lighter, cheaper version of the venerable heavy-as-lead Norman 200B and 400B flashes that I used when I was starting out. These flashes because they offer a lot more punch than standard hotshoe flashes. Their bare bulb is much more versatile making the heads are fully compatible with the wide range of reflectors made for Lumedyne, Quantum and Norman battery flashes. Bare-bulb flashes more effectively fill soft boxes, beauty dishes or other lighting modifiers with more even light than speedlights.

Bolt Bare-Bulb Flash size comparison to Sony HVL-F60M flash
Bolt VB-22 Bare-Bulb Flash Heads are only slightly larger than a full size speedlights like Sony HVL-F60M

The best deal is to buy them in a kit with the battery pack:

Bolt VB-22 Bare-Bulb Flash Kit + Cyclone PP-400DR Power Pack ($510 at B&H) offer 360 watt/second (Guide Number 262) output or Bolt VB-11 Bare-Bulb Flash + Cyclone PP-400DR Power Pack ($445 at B&H) offer 180 watt/second (Guide Number 196) flash output bundled with Cyclone power pack.

I decided to go with a pair of VB-22 flashes Even though the weigh in at half a pound more and cost $65 more than the VB-11 – it’s worth it to know I’ve got the extra stop of power when I need it.

Everything gets packed into a Lowepro ProTactic 450 AW Camera and Laptop Backpack ($250 at B&H) which makes this a great location kit for travel and location portrait photography.

Bolt Bare-Bulb Flash Location Lighting Kit

(2) Bolt VB-22 Bare-Bulb Flash Kit with Cyclone PP-400DR Power Pack
(2) Bolt PP-400BP Cyclone DR Lithium-Ion Battery Packs
(3) Impact PowerSync16-80 Transceivers
(2) Photek SMA-1000 Shoe Mount Umbrella/Light Stand Adapter
(2) Elinchrom EL Handheld Boom Arms
(1) Pro Gel Tungsten/Daylight 12×12″ Conversion Filter Pack
(1) ProTapes Matte Black Gaffer Tape
(1) Lowepro ProTactic 450 AW Camera and Laptop Backpack

Rather than light stands, I’m using a pair of Elinchrom EL Handheld Boom Arms ($49 at B&H) that extends from 25-61″ allowing my assistants to position the light where I want it.

Flash Bolt VB-22 Bare-Bulb Flash Bolt VB-11 Bare-Bulb Flash
Guide Number 262′ (79.86 m) ISO 100 196′ (59.74 m) ISO 100
Exposure Control Manual Manual
Vari-Power Manual 1/1 – 1/128 1/1 – 1/128
Bounce Head -15° to +90° -15° to +90°
Swivel Head 15° 15°
Coverage with standard reflector 28 mm 28 mm
Flash Terminal 3.5mm, Proprietary, PC 3.5mm, Proprietary, PC
Recycle Time Approx 0.1 – 5.2 seconds Approx 0.05 – 2.6 seconds
Flash Duration 1/300 – 1/10000 sec 1/300 – 1/10000 sec
Flash-ready Indicator Yes Yes/td>
Slave Timing Modes Instant Sync Instant Sync
Wireless Transmission None None
Dimensions (WxHxD) 7.9 x 3.7 x 3.0″ 8.1 x 3.5 x 2.8″
Weight Weight: 2.09 lb / (950 g) 1.50 lb / (680 g)

Bolt Bare-Bulb Flash Location Lighting Kit
Bolt Bare-Bulb flashes come supplied with interchangeable stand and shoe mounts that allow secure attachment to either a light stand or hot shoe. They can be triggered via hot shoe, PC sync cord, 3.5mm cable, as an optical slave, or with a dedicated remote control.

Bolt Cyclone DR PP-400DR Dual Outlet Power Pack

Bolt Cyclone DR PP-400DR Dual Outlet Power Pack + Bolt PP-400BP Cyclone DR Lithium-Ion Battery Pack

Battery Type: Lithium-ion
Output voltage: 11.1 VDC
Capacity: 4500 mAh
Recycle Time: Approx 0.05 – 5.2 seconds with VB-22 or VB-11 flashes
Number of Flashes: Approx 125 at 360 w/s; 250 at 180 w/s, 500 at 90 w/s; 1,000 at 45 w/s; etc…
2x orange LEDs indicate flashes are fully recycled
4x blue LEDs show remaining battery charge
Belt Clip and Shoulder Strap Loops
Input Power: 100-240 VAC, 50/60 Hz, 0.6 A
Operating Temperature: -4 to 104°F (-20 to 40°C)
Operating Humidity: 0-85%
Dimensions: 4.33 x 6.29 x 1.57″ (11 x 16 x 4.0 cm)
Weight: 1.2 lb (0.54 kg)

PLEASE NOTE: These packs are very light and small for their output – so when using these flashes at full power give the pack time to cool down. If you’re planning to LaChapelle away on your next fashion shoot – buy Profoto instead.

Flash Triggers

Impact PowerSync16-80 Transceiver (B&H)

Rather than my usual PocketWizard III, I decided to try Impact PowerSync16-80 Transceiver ($100 at B&H). These wireless transmitter/receivers have 80 channels for elimination of interference, as well as 4 groups that can each handle multiple devices that can be triggered individually or simultaneously. Besides remote flash triggering with the appropriate optional cable, the PowerSync 16-80 can be used as a wireless shutter release that can focus and trigger your camera in single, continuous, and bulb modes.

Bolt Bare-Bulb Flash Location Lighting Kit

Impact PowerSync 16-80 is used with at least 1 other unit. One transceiver slides onto the camera’s hot shoe. The Bolt Bare-Bulb flash foot fits into the transceiver hot shoe or attaches with a mini-plug sync cord to trigger flashes at distances up to 720′.

Color Correction Gels


Pro Gel Tungsten/Daylight Conversion Filter Pack 12×12″ ($23 at B&H) bundles the most useful lighting gels are warming and cooling gels together in a single kit. This kit includes one each of: Full C.T. Blue, 1/2 C.T. Blue, 1/4 C.T. Blue, 1/8 C.T. Blue, Blue Diffusion, Blue Frost, Full C.T. Orange, 1/2 C.T. Orange, 1/4 C.T. Orange, 1/8 C.T. Orange, Full C.T. Orange + .3ND, and Full C.T. Orange + .6ND in 12×12″ sheets which can be cut into quarter sheets that cover small reflectors or used in full sheets on larger reflectors.

See more options for Color Correction Filters & Gels here.

Gaffer Tape


The one must-have item in any lighting kit is a roll of gaffer tape. It comes in handy for everything from attaching gels to securing lights and modifiers. I prefer ProTapes Matte Black Gaffer Tape ($6 at B&H) with 12 yards of 2″ gaffer tape that doesn’t take up much space in your bag. Also available in gray.

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6 thoughts on “Bolt Bare-Bulb Flash Location Lighting Kit”

  1. Great info here, Brian, thanks. They remind me of the old converted Vivitar that Armato’s in NYC used to do, but these look a heck of a lot more sophisticated.

    1. Exactly what I was thinking. The Armatar. I used to have one. They were converted 283’s or 285’s. Also, had a Norman 400b for a while. Both had a very nice quality of light but both also had iffy batteries.

      Batteries are so much better these days. Lithium-ion (which the Bolt has) makes such big difference.

  2. Hi Brian – good read. These sell as the Calumet Genesis or Lencarta Atom here in the UK and are my go to lights for location work as both powerful & compact. Haven’t let me down yet!

  3. The original manufacturer of these lights I believe is Godox who sell them as ad360 and ad180 for quite a bit less than the Bolt price at B&H. They also sell a ‘Y’ connector to the battery pack that halves the recycle time, a very cheap trigger system – ft16 – where usb receivers that need no batteries are US$15 and a bunch of reasonably priced accessories.

  4. Brian, I am 90% sure that Godox is the original manufacturer of this product…

    …but you are right in saying that they are sold under numerous brand names – Cheetah as another example. Probably it is best to buy with the brand name that gives you the best after sales service. However, Godox does have a bunch of very reasonably priced accessories that should work with any of these branded products – inc a flash trigger system that lets you manually control power as well as modifiers. (HSS is the biggest problem with this product). I cant find a way of getting it to work with Sony even those these units are HSS compatible.

    Also Godox have launched a 400watt/sec ring flash that is essentially built around these flashes that seems very interesting – the AR400.

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