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Seeking recommendation on lighting options

Discussion in 'Studio Equipment and Lighting' started by Kevin Scott, May 18, 2005.

  1. I'm in the process of deciding on studio lighting and am thinking of Alien Bees and/or SB800/SB600. I really like the idea of the CLS of Nikon but think it might be more practical to mix and match. So currently, I'm thinking of 2 AB800s and 1 SB800 and 1 SB600. My thinking is I would then use the ABs as Main/Fill and the SBs as hairlight/background when I shoot in studio. Having the SBs, I would then have a very portable lighting option for shooting outdoor location shots.

    Does this make sense? Is there anything I'm overlooking that's obvious to those in the know? Will I have wb issues with mixing these two lighting sources? Would I be better served going straight AB or SB route? Any feedback would be greatly appreciated.
  2. Gale


    Jan 26, 2005
    Viera Fl

    I have a feeling this forum is going so fast, noone is hchecing page two.

    This bump is for you.
  3. Kevin, this is a good plan. I use the SB800's for all my location shooting and they work fine. Joe Marquez achieved wonderful things with hil Alien Bees before he converted to Elinchrom strobes.
  4. Kevin, we're on the same track

    Despite tons of pricing and shopping around for other options, the Bees certainly have an incredible value for money equation. They meet the couple of "must have" requirements that I have - very short flash duration (I've started shooting dancers, in flight, and even a profoto 2400 at half power is producing some blur on the faster moving parts of the body, like toes), easy to pack up, able to run off battery packs if I want to do set shots outside a studio environment.

    My biggest issue with them is that having a regular light bulb as a modeling light puts the modeling light source way, way in front of the flash tube - that means the modeling light spread is only an approximation of the flash light spread. Shorter halogen screw in bulbs will help that a bit.

    I've looked at the Calumet Travelite units (which are just Bowens with Calumet labels - even a Bowens rep here in NYC told me that he has no idea why Bowens is doing this, that I should buy the Calumet lights because they're cheaper retail than the Bowens are wholesale.) Flash duration is longish, not sure 1/700 will stop flying dancers other than at a peak of jump. Other than that, they are amazingly sturdy, well put together units, and if you just need 375WS lights, cheaper than the Alien Bees in sets, I think.

    I'm also intending to use SB800 on camera as a light source mixed in. Well, kind of on camera. I just got my Custom Brackets bracket for getting the flash way up high and always over the camera. Also got a Chimera softbox made for going on small flash like this. It's a 12x16" softbox, assembles quickly, looks goofy, but for still lifes and some of the headshot work, it may be better than studio flash. I just couldn't seem to get smooth enough diffusion with the plastic diffuser.

    Greyflash, any idea why Joe converted to Elinchrom?
  5. Thank you Gordon and Edna for your feedback and Gale for your free bump! :wink:

    It sounds like I'm ok with my plan. I knew ABs had a battery pack to make them portable but I didn't want to bust the bank by getting that initially.

    I appreciate the validation and comfort knowing I'm not making a horrendous mistake.

    Best regards,
  6. I would hesitate to mix your manufacturers. There will be a difference
    in color balance between the heads. This may not be obvious if they
    are close but... I personally use Bowens self contained heads, they are
    extremely well made. I put these heads through hell and they always
    work. The calumet option would be a great step up IMHO from the Alien
    Bees. They all have a battery option so going portable should be easy.

    Have you looked in White Lightning strobes?
  7. Battery Options, mixing flash

    In terms of battery options, electronic battery controls have made that a pretty wide open field. There's a company www.innovatronix.com that makes a battery pack for powering units in the field, about $250, less than what the units at White Lightening go for. I've kind of removed that as a concern from my list.

    Mixing the camera top flash with other flash can be awful or it can be wonderful. I use various tricks to shift the color of my Nikon camera top units - from gels to kleenex to popcorn bags, all fair game... I intend to play white balance bingo with whatever I get for awhile to dial in the right gel mix. (i find Nikon's notion of 5500K to be colder than almost anyone else, maybe it's the UV in the flash? But that's easy to solve with a light amber gel.)

    Just a side note - I just finished up surviving an hour long conference call's boredom by doing a comparison of a couple other brands of flash with White Lightening, and was pretty surprised at the outcome. Both Hensel and Elinchrom are now offering 500 and 600WS units that are really, really efficient, and that achieve light levels per dollar spent equal to White Lightning. Elinchrome in particular was interesting to me because they've got a wireless digital control capability that I can put on my Christmas list... The Alien Bees are still less expensive than any other options out there, but I'm now leaning towards a slightly less elaborate kit based around Elinchrom or Hensel simply because they get incredible reviews for rock solid reliability. And the 600WS Elinchrom units put out almost the same amount of light as a number of 750WS units.

    All of this gives me a headache.
  8. Re: Kevin, we're on the same track

    Joe is turning professional with his own studio and wanted a top of the line set of strobes. Elinchrome fits that bill.
  9. Elinchrom makes nice gear, I have used it. But the
    system I was using was a micro 3000 power-pack with
    The flash tube UV covers were put on with spring clips
    and the speedrings for the softboxes were hard to put
    on because they were poorly machined.
    The packs themselves were wonderful to use with push
    button variable power. I just found that the heads were
    not that well thought out, and the housings were plastic.
    The monoblocks might be a totally different experience,
    but the s3000 heads were terrible.

    If I were going to spend that type of money I would
    personally go for Broncolor, Bowens or Profoto.

    Just my .02 cents
  10. AndyE


    May 2, 2005
    Vienna, Austria
    one thing you could/should consider is change in color temperature. I have no experience with Alien Bees, Elinchrome or Norman, but some units I tested here in Europe changed the color temperature by more than 500 degrees between min and max setting. Before you buy your preferred unit check out how much it changes. Easy to test.
    Depending on your usage (and revenue) scenario you can also go the expensive route with a unit that keeps the color temperature (Broncolor, Profoto) over 8 f-stops. Expensive, but no hassle in postprocessing.

    Kind regards,
  11. Hi Robin and thanks for your feedback. I was unsure of an imbalance between the light sources, which is partly why I asked. I have looked at the White Lightning strobes. I liked the idea of Paul Buff strobes being fan cooled. Some of the others even at a slightly higher cost didn't have this feature. I know the WL are sturdier and better built. I'll give them a 2nd look.

    Thanks for taking the time to help me out!
  12. Re: Battery Options, mixing flash

    Hi Edna. This is interesting. I had seen Hensels a while ago but dismissed them for being more than I wanted to spend initially. I briefly checked Elinchrom today and didn't think they were too badly priced.

    Thanks for giving me some more to think about. (seriously)
  13. Hmmm....looks like I should do some more checking! :wink:

    This is exactly what I was hoping for. I value everyone's opinions. Thanks bunches!
  14. Well, after the D2X and today a 300 f4 AFS, I'll probably need to stick to a tighter budget for lights, at least to begin with. The color consistency is important to me as I'd prefer to spend less time piddly-ing in PS tried to make those types of adjustments. I haven't mastered that technique as well as others. Just need to keep practicing at it though.

    Appreciate your feedback!
  15. cwilt


    Apr 24, 2005
    Denver, CO

    I went through the same thing when I got my D70. Currently I have 1 SB800 and 3 SB600's and use softboxes for modifiers. With the D70's ISO200 the speedlights had plenty of power for portraits at f8 to f11. Now with the D2x's ISO100 I wonder if they will have enough power for ISO100 portraits. I have not had time to get my daughter to sit in studio for me to test this though.

    What I can say is that Nikon's CLS is an excelent system. There are a few tips for its use though. When using the CLS on children and some adults the pre-flashes will cause them to blink. Use FV lock to stop this. I would also recomend a flash meter, even if its a cheap one for those tough sujects (bright colored clothing) that can throw off the flash metering. In those cases I switch from i-TTL to manual. If you already know this then disregard. :) 

    Here is one sample using the SB's with softboxes.

  16. Which size softboxes?

    I just got one of the "small" softboxes that mounts on the flash bracket, haven't had a chance to test it yet.

    You know, since getting my D2x, I think I've shot it at iso100 maybe for 20 or 30 shots. ISO 200 is pretty much noise free, and i've decided that i'm going to try to become "iso indifferent". On the other hand, I never shot 100 speed film, either...
  17. as an FYI

    Clearly the digital revolution is dropping the prices on studio flash like a stone. I just got completely floored by pricing out Photogenic monolights, and they came out as inexpensive as White Lightening, almost at AB territory, but with the 500WS heads putting out way more light than even the top AB head. In every case, the newly affordable (if I hock my kid) units are highly digital, including offering the ability to control lighting ratios and adjustments from your laptop.
  18. Hi Edna,
    Do you have a link to these Photogenics that you mention?
  19. Roam around B&H site...

    Here are links to a couple of the "kits" at B&H. Depending on what you're looking for in terms of light power and light modifiers, they may or may not work for you. In my case, I'm looking for 3 or 4 lights, the ability to blow out a fair expanse of white backdrop to pure white while liighting either two people in some sort of encounter, or one flying leaping dancer (so you need to light a reasonably large area since it's not TOTALLY clear precisely where you're going to find her). In the second case, and in the case of some of the images I'm trying for, I also need to be really sure I'm able to stop people in mid flight. That's what attracted me to AB and White Lightning initially, was stopping power at cost.

    But then I found these kits. First, Hensel, which has an amazing reputation for rock solid (but mostly outside this country since they have a weak distributor here) and they can be controlled via a Hensel wireless remote kit that is very reasonbly priced.


    Unfortunately, this is the kid that has the most stopping power, at full power has a shorter flash duration than most pack flash at half power. And, it's incredibly efficient, great amounts of light for the size and weight, and has a wireless controller available that's a lot more reasonbly priced than the flash itself. But yikes, it costs a freakin' fortune. That said, I may be able to get my head around building a lighting kit over time, I'm pretty good about long term budgeting...


    Here are the Photogenics. Also cordless control capability built in. At 500WS per light, with a guide number of 365 for one light, it's an amazing deal, and Photogenic has an excellent reputation. The attraction here is that I can rent Photogenic pack lights as need be to supplement, and they'll be perfectly in tune with the light qualities of these, and the studio spaces I'm going to have access to all have rentals in or nearby that rent photogenic packs. The 500WS heads are just about enough to stop flying dancers; the 1000ws heads (future purchase, if I can nail down a deal I'm working on with a dance company) are below the margin.


    I'm heading down to B&H today to handle the lights, get a sense of weight, what quality of stands come with the kits, etc (wife and work permitting). The one thing that's killing me in terms of forcing me into a longer term strategy (two or three lights now, one or two high powered ones later) is that I'm trying to get myself into a role with a couple of dance companies (I love photographing athletes, and there are no athletes like dancers). If I was just going to shoot stock-y stuff in light controlled studios, I could save a lot of $$.
  20. postscript

    by surfing/shopping the web during booooring conference calls (I have had too many in my life the last few weeks - whew, more people should take a vow of silence) I managed to do to myself what we probably all do - save a bunch of money on what I was looking for, and then by being so happy at such a great deal, blow the budget for the project on a couple other things.

    found a couple showroom floor demo elinchrom 600rx for about $200 less than the new york new prices. nobody discounts this stuff usually, i was totally thrilled. then blew the budget by getting a 1200rx at the usual price of a 600rx. sigh. after buying umbrellas, light stands, etc, i'm over budget by the price of that 1200rx. back to the old camera gear to look for more things to dump on ebay, and this week's conference calls feature shopping for deals on good softboxes and stands (nobody's discounting the really well respected softboxes. there's got to be a find out there somewhere...)

    i ended up with elinchrom versus hensel 100% because of flash duration. every sports shooter i talked with shoots elinchrom monolights because they're the only ones that will stop sports action. (there are a couple packs that will do it, but they're terrifyingly more expensive.) this dancer thing better work out...

    fyi, Hensel emailed me and told me that the reason the Integra units are being offered at incredible deals is that they're rushing to get their radio controlled version into the market here - which is identical to the original Integra other than built-in radio control. you can get incredible deals on them right now.
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