Lighting Costs

Joined
Jan 4, 2008
Messages
740
Location
Sacramento CA
I was fooling around on another board and started thinking about lighting costs. I am looking at adding a studio strobe or two. I came up with a metric that I have not seen much: Cost per watt second. Below numbers based upon Paul C. Buff lights and his listed prices. Makes the B1600 look like a steal and the Einstein close behind. Yes, I know there are many other factors in light choices. Hate to think what my speed lights cost...

B400 160 $1.41
B800 320 $0.88
B1600 640 $0.59
Einstein 640 $0.78
 
Joined
May 8, 2005
Messages
4,638
Location
Orlando, FL
I would pick the Einstein over the AB 1600. The ability to turn it down to 2.5 w/s with 0.1 stop precision and with no color shift is huge.
 
Joined
Mar 24, 2009
Messages
75
Location
Cali
A listing of important distinctive features compiled into a table with applicable numbers for different brands and models would be a great resource. Then buyers could weight the categories themselves.

Of course not all features are easily quantifiable, but at least those that are would have to be devoid of nonsense units like w/s.
 
Joined
Sep 4, 2007
Messages
3,246
Location
Fairfax, VA
It all depends on the application and environment. I use my 16'x23'x8' living room as my light studio. AB400s suffice in that small space and I don't recall needing full power even shooting f/11.

It is a good way to look at the purchase business wise if you have the need and space.
 
Joined
Apr 3, 2006
Messages
5,614
Location
Texas
I was fooling around on another board and started thinking about lighting costs. I am looking at adding a studio strobe or two. I came up with a metric that I have not seen much: Cost per watt second. Below numbers based upon Paul C. Buff lights and his listed prices. Makes the B1600 look like a steal and the Einstein close behind.

If we needed to accumulate many watt seconds, this cost parameter surely would be a concern. There are other parameters more reasonable however.

One way to look at it is that if we (likely) only need B400 power levels, then the larger lights are simply a more expensive way to provide it... with added downside that they are less stable and more white balance shift (more red color) when turned way down to be able to use them (with likely exception of the Einstein).

There are of course uses for higher power, normally always involving more extreme distances (basketball court, or on stage, etc), but studio portrait lights are used up close (close as possible), and don't need so much. I use a B400 at 1/8 power in a Large softbox for main light (ISO 200 at f/10). A B400 fill light might be 1/2 power when placed behind the camera.

A worst case? Used for groups, a B400 at full power in a white reflecting umbrella will do f/8 at ten feet (ISO 200). How much more power do we need indoors?

If we do not buy enough power, we can always increase ISO, open aperture, or place the lights closer. A 75 watt second SB-800 speedlight is normally mighty effective (except for slow recycle speed and possible modifiers).

If we buy too much power, we have harder limits. We can only turn them down so far, and can only lower ISO so far. Greater distance decreases the light quality (softness). Lower power settings decrease stability and color balance.


The D7000 was a surprising exception, but most of the Nikon cameras now are ISO 200. This already doubles the effective power of the light (over what ISO 100 needs). That is to say:

ISO 100 320 watt seconds, and ISO 200 160 watt seconds,

are exactly the same situation (same aperture at same distance, if at same fractional power level setting). ISO is an important factor. So, many of us already need only half of the power some others need. I started with B800s, but at ISO 200, I had to always turn them way down, main light at 1/16 power, and found that to be a lot to always deal with. So I added B400s which I now use (still have to turn them down), and now I relegate the B800s only to background and hair light use (can use grids to knock their power down, and color is less important there).

So there seems another usable theory that a B400 is all the power living room portraits will ever need (ISO 200). Then each larger light simply costs more than necessary, and Einstein possibly excepted, only provides the disadvantage of having to turn it down more (only causing less stability and redder color balance). If you do have occasional use to overpower the sun outdoors, or to do ceiling bounce in the gym, etc, then yes, you do need a larger light, but it ought to be a second light, not the same light you want to always deal with to use for living room portraits.

Sometimes less is more.
 
Joined
Jun 6, 2007
Messages
800
Location
The Woodlands, TX
If we needed to accumulate many watt seconds, this cost parameter surely would be a concern. There are other parameters more reasonable however.

One way to look at it is that if we (likely) only need B400 power levels, then the larger lights are simply a more expensive way to provide it... with added downside that they are less stable and more white balance shift (more red color) when turned way down to be able to use them (with likely exception of the Einstein).

There are of course uses for higher power, normally always involving more extreme distances (basketball court, or on stage, etc), but studio portrait lights are used up close (close as possible), and don't need so much. I use a B400 at 1/8 power in a Large softbox for main light (ISO 200 at f/10). A B400 fill light might be 1/2 power when placed behind the camera.

A worst case? Used for groups, a B400 at full power in a white reflecting umbrella will do f/8 at ten feet (ISO 200). How much more power do we need indoors?

If we do not buy enough power, we can always increase ISO, open aperture, or place the lights closer. A 75 watt second SB-800 speedlight is normally mighty effective (except for slow recycle speed and possible modifiers).

If we buy too much power, we have harder limits. We can only turn them down so far, and can only lower ISO so far. Greater distance decreases the light quality (softness). Lower power settings decrease stability and color balance.


The D7000 was a surprising exception, but most of the Nikon cameras now are ISO 200. This already doubles the effective power of the light (over what ISO 100 needs). That is to say:

ISO 100 320 watt seconds, and ISO 200 160 watt seconds,

are exactly the same situation (same aperture at same distance, if at same fractional power level setting). ISO is an important factor. So, many of us already need only half of the power some others need. I started with B800s, but at ISO 200, I had to always turn them way down, main light at 1/16 power, and found that to be a lot to always deal with. So I added B400s which I now use (still have to turn them down), and now I relegate the B800s only to background and hair light use (can use grids to knock their power down, and color is less important there).

So there seems another usable theory that a B400 is all the power living room portraits will ever need (ISO 200). Then each larger light simply costs more than necessary, and Einstein possibly excepted, only provides the disadvantage of having to turn it down more (only causing less stability and redder color balance). If you do have occasional use to overpower the sun outdoors, or to do ceiling bounce in the gym, etc, then yes, you do need a larger light, but it ought to be a second light, not the same light you want to always deal with to use for living room portraits.

Sometimes less is more.

Wayne,

Once again love your insight. Always look forward to reading your posts.
 

Latest posts

Links on this page may be to our affiliates. Sales through affiliate links may benefit this site.
Nikon Cafe is a fan site and not associated with Nikon Corporation.
Forum post reactions by Twemoji: https://github.com/twitter/twemoji
Forum GIFs powered by GIPHY: https://giphy.com/
Copyright © Amin Forums, LLC
Top Bottom