2 b400's or 1 b800?

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My birthday is in a couple months and my is wanting to know what I would like...I am considering by the DigiBee kit from ALienBee's but not sure if the b400 is a good choice? The other option would be to just get one B800.(getting 2 would push me out of the "wife-range"). I will be using these for a small basement studio that I will be setting up in may(yay new place!). Any thoughts?
 
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D5000, and "small basement studio"... the B400s will easily be the best choice. The larger flash will just have to be turned down more.

I have two of each, and for ISO 200, I much prefer the B400s.

In a large softbox (40 inches), for close portraits, the B400 does f/10 at about 1/8 power (ISO 200). A B800 would be 1/16 power there. A B400 in a reflected white umbrella main light might hit 1/4 power. Portraits use the big lights "as close as possible", to be as soft as possible, and this is the opposite of needing high power.

At full power, one B400 does f/8 in a white umbrella at ten feet for groups (ISO 200). Two lights is near double the light of one light (depends on overlap and lighting ratio). How much more power do we need?

I bought the B800s first, because people advised it, it seemed mainstream. I did not realize the importance then that they were using ISO 100, and I was not (and if you were using ISO 100, it could be a different story). Now that I have also have the B400s, I relegate the B800 to background and hair use... a grid knocks their power down and they are not critical back there.

Realize that these two situations are exactly the SAME:

B400 at IS0 200, or B800 at ISO 100.
Same aperture at the same power level and distance.
Both situations will do f/8 at full power in a white umbrella at ten feet for groups.
So at ISO 200, a B400 **IS** a B800. :smile:

Turned down so much is not the best thing. Not an actual problem, but the more they are turned down, the more red shift occurs, and the less stable the power becomes. True of any flash, this is not singling out Alienbees. But not all flashes will even turn down to 1/32 power. Regardless, we still have to deal with White Balance (just get a white card). They just work better closer to full power. And a smaller flash is faster too, and a big slow flash turned way down is just slower yet.

In the same umbrella (individually), the B400 is a good stop stronger than a SB-800. Probably 1.4 stops more than a SB-600. And B400 recycles noticeably faster.

Start with the B400s, they will be enough power in any reasonable studio situation.

You may be interested in http://www.scantips.com/lights/setup/ (showing some actuals)

See http://www.scantips.com/lights/slaves.html about adding your SB-600 into the mix, like for background (but you will have to wait for it to recycle).
 
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Joined
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If all you are planning is in a small studio, then I would agree with Wayne. If you think you would also like to use them outdoors, then the additional power of the AB800's will be appreciated.
 
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thanks everyone, I am leaning more towards the b400's at this point, saves me some $ that I could put towards other equipment. Someone once told me that they have a program though that you can trade in your old ones and pay a small amount to upgrade? is this true?
 
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Someone once told me that they have a program though that you can trade in your old ones and pay a small amount to upgrade? is this true?

My own thought is that this "trade in" is only part of their 60 day Absolute Satisfaction Guarantee. For 60 days, you can ship them back, or trade up and pay the difference, or whatever you want to do.

I could be wrong. Better phone the company and ask them... they are great about accepting calls, and actually happy to talk to us. :smile:


EDIT: OK, so I was wrong... See http://www.alienbees.com/guarantee.html

Bottom of that page says upgrade within the two year warranty for $25 plus the model price difference.
 
Joined
Jan 25, 2005
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North Carolina, USA
Seems to me this depends a lot on your intended purpose.

If your intent is primarily shooting people in a studio environment, you'd probably be better off with 2 B400s.

Other types of shooting (product, still life) may require you to stop down for depth of field, in which case more power can be useful. I routinely shoot at iso 100 with apertures of 13-17 doing product work and my B800s are are stretched at times. Depends on the type of modifiers used as well.

I agree with Wayne -- call them. Explain what you want to do, and they'll give you some good recommendations. I've had nothing but good experiences with them so far.
 
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Orlando, FL
Probably outside your budget, but the Paul C Buff Einstein lights are amazing. 640 w/s all the way down to 2.5 w/s with constant color. Best of all worlds.
 
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Depends on your intended use, but would provide all the power you need when you need it - plus it will play nice in a small studio. Also, there is a lot to be said for starting with just one light.
 
Joined
Sep 28, 2007
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NYC
I went through the same dilemma, couldn't decide which ones to get. I ended up buying 2 B800's figuring at some point I'd want to upgrade rom the B400's. Couldn't be happier with my decision.
 
Joined
Jul 9, 2008
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1,418
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Tulsa, OK
D5000, and "small basement studio"... the B400s will easily be the best choice. The larger flash will just have to be turned down more.

I have two of each, and for ISO 200, I much prefer the B400s.

In a large softbox (40 inches), for close portraits, the B400 does f/10 at about 1/8 power (ISO 200). A B800 would be 1/16 power there. A B400 in a reflected white umbrella main light might hit 1/4 power. Portraits use the big lights "as close as possible", to be as soft as possible, and this is the opposite of needing high power.

At full power, one B400 does f/8 in a white umbrella at ten feet for groups (ISO 200). Two lights is near double the light of one light (depends on overlap and lighting ratio). How much more power do we need?

I bought the B800s first, because people advised it, it seemed mainstream. I did not realize the importance then that they were using ISO 100, and I was not (and if you were using ISO 100, it could be a different story). Now that I have also have the B400s, I relegate the B800 to background and hair use... a grid knocks their power down and they are not critical back there.

Realize that these two situations are exactly the SAME:

B400 at IS0 200, or B800 at ISO 100.
Same aperture at the same power level and distance.
Both situations will do f/8 at full power in a white umbrella at ten feet for groups.
So at ISO 200, a B400 **IS** a B800. :smile:

Turned down so much is not the best thing. Not an actual problem, but the more they are turned down, the more red shift occurs, and the less stable the power becomes. True of any flash, this is not singling out Alienbees. But not all flashes will even turn down to 1/32 power. Regardless, we still have to deal with White Balance (just get a white card). They just work better closer to full power. And a smaller flash is faster too, and a big slow flash turned way down is just slower yet.

In the same umbrella (individually), the B400 is a good stop stronger than a SB-800. Probably 1.4 stops more than a SB-600. And B400 recycles noticeably faster.

Start with the B400s, they will be enough power in any reasonable studio situation.

You may be interested in http://www.scantips.com/lights/setup/ (showing some actuals)

See http://www.scantips.com/lights/slaves.html about adding your SB-600 into the mix, like for background (but you will have to wait for it to recycle).
Wayne - if you ever decide to run for President I will vote for you :biggrin:
 
Joined
Apr 3, 2006
Messages
5,608
Location
Texas
LOL. Won't happen, it is an unpopular view. :smile:

I bought the B800s first for a ISO 200 D70S. I quickly swore my next camera was going to be ISO 100. But then the D300 came out, so I just bought the B400s for main and fill. It has been a great decision.

Apparently everyone imagines some heroic situation someday when we will need extreme flash power. Such situations do exist (maybe not in the living room), but the problem is that we have to deal with that power at every use until then. Maybe it is just me.

My SB-800 speedlights are normally enough power (comparable to a B200 maybe), the only issue is not power, but that they recycle slowly, are not AC, cannot flash many times fast, and are not convenient for any modifiers.
 
Joined
Jul 20, 2006
Messages
656
Location
Homosassa, FL, USA
I picked up an UltraZap 800 used off craigslist; I'm using it for still life/table top. It seems to have lots of poop, at about 4 feet at about half power I'm shooting at f/22 (200 ISO) with my D2H. That's with a silver umbrella, I'm going to try a soft box next.
 
Joined
May 8, 2005
Messages
4,638
Location
Orlando, FL
Apparently everyone imagines some heroic situation someday when we will need extreme flash power. Such situations do exist (maybe not in the living room), but the problem is that we have to deal with that power at every use until then. Maybe it is just me.
Not really heroic - it just depends on what kind of photography you do. I have had to light huge rooms, 100+ people on balconies on a 3-story building and overpower the Florida sun for dramatic band shots. All have benefited from having 640 w/s. Most of the time in a studio environment, I agree, 160 w/s would have done the job which is why I am transitioning to Einsteins. Having said that, I have never had a problem with using AB800's.
 

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