Portable generator recommendations needed

I am looking for a field-portable generator suitable for running a couple of studio flashes (without preview lights). Total current draw would be quite low. Main requirements are:

  • Quiet
  • Reliable
  • Lightweight
  • Simple in operation

Any suggestions on what to buy and what to avoid?

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19 Responses to Portable generator recommendations needed

  1. Clint says:

    PCB Vagabond™ Lithium Extreme
    Portable Power Storage and Fuelless Generator

  2. Joe says:

    Honda EU2000 is great

  3. Kevin says:

    If your load doesn’t exceed 800 watts or so, the Honda EU1000 is 26lbs and conversation level quiet (57db) and will run for 6 hrs or more on about 3/4 gallon in eco mode. The EU2000 is it’s bigger brother at about twice the weight and cost. Honda engines last very well. And this is an inverter gen with a clean output. Yamaha makes a similar model at a little cost savings, but I paid for the Honda because they have a stellar reputation. It’s possible to parallel two of the EU1000, or 2000 to get double the capacity with a special cable, so if you only occasionally need more than 1000 watts, having two of the small ones might make transport easier.

  4. Paralleling can also work with a second borrowed or rented generator, for that matter (of the same model).

    Hmmm; White Lightning says the “average current draw” is 6 amps across the X800 to X3200 and from 1/4 to full power — which means they’re not giving enough info to spec a generator (that probably includes modeling light, if nothing else). If you take this at face value *one* unit is over 700 watts. A 250 watt modeling light is a hair over two amps, so that still leaves nearly 500 watts per unit for those. (It might actually be constant — do the bigger ones recycle slower? Ah! Yes, they *do* recycle slower, in exactly the right ratio, so maybe possibly 500 watts per unit is fairly close to the actual load without modeling light for any of their X series. That’s not what you have, but the power draw is on the data plates for it so you can look it up, and subtract the modeling light probably.

    • Oleg Volk says:

      I would not be using modeling lights outside, they won’t be visible anyway.

      • Yeah, I understood that, but the manufacturer’s stated current draw almost certainly *included* the modeling light, so it’s necessary to factor it out to get a useful estimate of the actual current draw for just recharging the flash.

        I haven’t worked the numbers on the other approach — a big inverter, and maybe a second car battery (and charger for it at home). Clearly this is *much* worse than a generator for long-term load (since a 5-gallon can isn’t that big), but the flash draw is fairly intermittent and this might work out well for your actual use. It’s a lot cheaper. Somebody has to make nice housings with handles for a battery for this, right? (Because just a bare car battery is a pain and pretty nasty really.)

  5. JD says:

    honda eu1000 or 2000 depending on your electric draw. Fantastic little units, reasonably light, quiet, and very simple to operate.

    If you don’t use them frequently (monthly), make sure to use fuel stabilizer.

  6. Mike says:

    Another vote for Honda EU1000 or 2000. We have an EU2000 that’s run over 100hrs/yr and just works.

  7. Richard Douglas says:

    A vote for the Yamaha EF2000 series. We use one in the field to run laptops for HazMat response and public education demonstrations outdoors (at Farmer’s Markets, job fairs, etc.). Very quiet. We run it roughly 10 feet from our table, and it sounds like someone mowing the other end of a football field.

  8. Dan says:

    I work in the R&D side of this industry. The Generac (not my company) iQ2000 is the current target to beat for gas generators of about that size – they advertise that it beats Honda and they’re not lying.

    This isn’t to say the Honda is bad, I just think this generation Generac was designed to beat last generation’s Honda and Honda hasn’t responded yet.

    • Eric says:

      I saw them at an industry show and they really were spectacularly quiet. I’d say either that or the Honda. Several people I know have hondas and love them.

      Also get a bottle of Ethanol Shield Fuel Stabilizer. It is excellent stuff. You can get it online or at your local hardware maybe. I get it at our local Doit Best hardware. Our lawnmower was starting to run rough and I started using that and it cleared it up.

  9. Josh says:

    Whichever generator you choose, you can help with the noise by investing in a heavy duty 75′ or 100′ extension cord. Nothing defeats noise like suitable distance.

  10. jon spencer says:

    Either one of the Honda’s.

  11. I have a Yamaha EF2000iSv2. I wanted something portable that could be carried relatively easy, but also had the ability to parallel run with a twin. That left me with either the Honda or the Yamaha.

    The Yamaha has some features that the Honda does not, which is why I chose it. Namely a fuel gauge, which the Honda doesn’t have, and a distinct fuel petcock plus On/Off switch. Honda just has one switch. Having 2 distinct switches allows you to drain the fuel from the carburetor so it can’t gum it up over long-term storage.

    Yamaha engines are also built with better materials and have a 500 hour extended rating, which is twice what the Honda has. The other brands like Generac are rated at 125 hours. So you pay less but you get a whole lot less durability. People we met in the waverunner tourist business in Key West swear by Yamaha engine durability — they have to replace them after 2 seasons, but with the other brands, they weren’t making even one season without problems.

    Lastly, I was able to find the Yamaha for about $100 less than the Honda, so that kind of sealed the deal for me.

  12. RB says:

    The Honda EU 1000 and 2000 are the gold standard. And since they are so popular, you can also find loads of accessories for them as well.

  13. Jeff says:

    Bang for buck… Go with the rec’d Honda’s. Generac is nice, but very pricey. Stay away from the cheap stuff offered at Harbor Freight and Northern Tool. Also… Key to making these beasties last is to actually run them regularly. It can be a huge pain if you have kept them stored and unused for long periods. So run it and maintain it. Or have somebody do it for you!

  14. Historian says:

    Have had excellent results with the Honda eu2000. My 100 lb wife can start it easily, reliable, very quiet, easy on fuel. YAmaha may be better, but I know the Honda is very good. Highly recommended.

  15. Lynn says:

    Tractor Supply has a nice small one for under 200 bucks. I bought mine for the rv and it is quiet, as in having a normal conversation while it’s running. And light weight.

  16. poobie says:

    If you’re really just interested in using it to run your studio flashes, why not use a lithium battery system with an inverter? We use the Paul Buff stuff at the office, and have been really happy with their portable power supplies. The ones we’ve got are a couple of generations old now, but still running great. The link below is to the newest model. They’re also cheap, relative to a generator, at $400 for the battery and inverter.


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