Continuous fluorescent lighting for 4x5 format?

Discussion in 'Lighting' started by menglert, Dec 2, 2006.

  1. menglert

    menglert Member

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    Never having used studio lighting, is it possible to use continuous fluorescent lighting for 4x5 format?

    Ideally, I would like to set up one or two simple lights, learn the basics of lighting, in order to do some portrait photography. The reason I would like continuous lighting is that I want to easily focus, and see what I am going to get before I take the shot. I know there is another recent forum about lighting for LF, but it seemed to focus mostly on flash lighting.

    Current lenses are a 210mm f6.8 & 90mm f8.

    I saw fluorescent bulbs equal to 500w, 650w, and 850w. Would a couple of the 500w be sufficient, or any of the others? The price triples once you buy into 650w and 850w, but I may be willing to spend the money if thats what I need.

    I would like to be able to have a larger DOF so I can have most of the face in focus.

    Let me know your thoughts.

    Regards,
    Martin
     
  2. jd callow

    jd callow Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    have you thought about simple 500 watt $10.00 hologen shop lights?
     
  3. menglert

    menglert Member

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    Yes I did consider something like that. Although I think I would have much less heat from a fluorescent bulb, and they are balanced at 5000K. The 500w version of the bulb I was looking at costs about $25, so its not too much more.

    I'm more concerned about if the 500w bulb, or a couple of them, would be enough light with my 4x5 camera for my intended purpose.

    Thanks,
    Martin
     
  4. wildbill

    wildbill Member

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    yes it's possible. 3200k,2900k, and 5600k tubes are available in most sizes from kinoflo.com but they don't have as much output as other light sources. Shop lights would work for b+w or tungsten film but they are quite hot. A chinese lantern with a 500watt ECA is another option for a soft source.
    The cheapest incandecent fixture with the most output for the money is the Par Can which use par 64 globes. They're what you see at rock concerts and other live events. They can be had used for cheap, $40-60 and don't spill light everywhere since the globe is recessed within a long barrel. Many globes from wide,medium,narrow,very narrow, and 1200watt "firestarter" are compatible. Most are 1000watts but 500watt versions are also available in the med and wide type.
    vinny
     
  5. menglert

    menglert Member

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    I think I should have been more clear, and its my mistake. Here is a link to the bulbs I'm looking at LINK, the bulbs are located at the bottom of the page.

    They are screw in bulbs, and I was planning on using them in a reflector.


    Thanks for the input so far.

    Regards,
    Martin
     
  6. Greg_E

    Greg_E Member

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    I don't really know how this will effect film, but fluorescent lights are not generally continuous spectrum. Their emission is rather spikey. Other than that, I don't really have any comments on the type of lamps you want to use. They may work well inside a softbox that has internal reflecting material like a Rifa light (only larger).
     
  7. Helen B

    Helen B Member

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    I followed your link and looked at the 105 W 5000 K lamps. They have a CRI of 84 or 85. That would not be good for colour portraits, but it would be OK for B&W of course.

    What sort of aperture and what film do you want to use?

    It's difficult to give even a ball-park figure, but two of those lamps used with a basic reflector and light diffusion material might give you something like 1/30 at f/5.6 with ISO 320 film when five feet away from the subject. In Chinese lanterns you might get about the same or more likely a bit less. Omit the diffuser and gain about a stop.

    I think that their incandescent equivalent values are optimistic, especially if you are comparing them to 3200 K photographic lamps. You would expect between 11,000 and 13,000 lumens from a 500 W quartz halogen lamp. Those florries are only giving out 7,000 lumens.

    Best,
    Helen
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 3, 2006
  8. menglert

    menglert Member

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    Hi Helen,

    Thanks for your response. What would be a good temp for color portraits (what CRI)? They sell another version that is rated at 4100K.

    As far as film, for b&w using ISO 400 wouldn't be a problem. Although, when I start doing color work films I'm interested in using are ISO 160.

    I would like to have the ability to stop down a little more, so I could have the head in focus if possible. The other thing is, I believe since these lights are fluorescent, I can have them somewhat closer to the subject because they are suppose to produce less heat.

    Thanks for your help.

    Regards,
    Martin
     
  9. JBrunner

    JBrunner Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    Martin,

    In addition to the discountinous spectrum issues, be aware that florescent light are a ballasted light source and are subject to sine wave flicker just as an HMI would be, so use safe shutter speeds. (not to much of a problem, on the slow side.)
     
  10. keithwms

    keithwms Member

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    This is true, good point. Because of the mercury vapour, the energy-efficient fluorescents have the characteristic spikes at 436 and 546 nm etc. This is an issue quite separate from the CRI/ white balance issue. And I found that there are very few fluorescents that don't have mercury spikes, the only ones that come to mind are the the solux bulbs.

    Anyway, my experience is that the spikes don't matter too much with most films, the spikes bandwidth is so narrow that they usually aren't as much of a problem as one might fear. But digital is another story- with digital they wreak havoc!

    The other important point raised by JBrunner, the flickering, will be most relevant at shutter speeds of ~1/120 sec or faster. I think there are some fancy, more elaborately rectified power sources that solve this issue.

    The bottom line is that I thought about getting into fluorescents at some point because they are cool and they seemed inexpensive. But upon more research I discovered that the ones that solve the above problems are rather pricey...
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 3, 2006
  11. jd callow

    jd callow Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    With daylight balanced neg film anything within 4800k to 5500k should be aok. 5000k would be the best. With T filtration or T balanced film 3000k -3400k should be fine.

    I've used halogens for portraits and interiors with great success. If shooting with neg film the colour temp is not a big issue to overcome. Simply use a T balanced film or on camera filtration. I have also shot chromes using these lights with success.

    Strobes are better in that they are cooler and allow for a wider range of film or faster film speed. The lights you are looking at would be cooler (produce less heat), but appear to be too weak.

    I would be fearful of the colour temperature claims of most fluorescents unless you are buying lights made for and marketed to photographers.
     
  12. Nick Zentena

    Nick Zentena Member

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    Martin go over to the large format forum and check the current thread titled " Flash or Continuous lighting?" I think the points mentioned are valid.
     
  13. Helen B

    Helen B Member

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    Most of your questions have already been answered, but I'll chip in anyway.

    CRI (Colour Rendering Index) is not an easy property to draw hard-and-fast conclusions about. It is determined by comparing the appearance of eight semi-saturated colour patches in the light under test and in incandescent light of the same CCT (Correlated Colour Temperature). CRI is an average value across the spectrum, and it doesn't tell you how well any particular colour will be reproduced. Some colours could be better than others.

    However, CRI is a moderately good guide to how well the spikes have been smoothed out. The higher the CRI, the more smoothing there is. Tubes with a CRI of 85 are used for photography, particularly with tungsten-balanced tubes (eg Osram/Sylvania Studioline tubes, as used in Gyoury lights). Video/digital tends to cope a little better than film when the CRI is marginal. Daylight-balanced tubes are available with CRIs of 90 and over, and these are usually good for film and video/digital.

    The colour balance (CCT) is a different issue from the CRI, as already pointed out. You'll be better off with tubes with near daylight balance, in general.

    The rough numbers I gave should indicate that it is going to be difficult getting plenty of depth of field at a workable shutter speed with just two 105 W lamps. Though it is worth knowing about, flicker shouldn't be an issue. The self-ballasted lamps that you are considering usually have electronic ballasts that work at a much higher frequency than line frequency. The larger of the lamps you gave the link to are definitely self-ballasted with electronic ballasts.

    Banks of Osram/Sylvania Studioline Daylight 55 W tubes can be turned into good soft sources for portraiture without diffusion being necessary. Those tubes are quite widely used for photography.

    If you decide on flash, I'd consider getting old Dyna-Lite D series packs and heads, or something like that, from eBay.

    Best,
    Helen
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 3, 2006
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  15. JBrunner

    JBrunner Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    Just to chime in again, I use flo sources (almost always Kino Flo) for motion picture, and video, on a regular basis.

    The advantages are low heat, low power consumption, and light weight compared to hot lights. The disadvantages are flicker, low output in relation to the size of the unit, bulk, and they are decidedly more fragile, harder to handle, and harder to control.

    For stills, I can't really think of a situation where a cheap monolight like an Alien Bee wouldn't handily outperform any flo.
     
  16. menglert

    menglert Member

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    Thanks for all the replies, I appreciate the help and suggestions. I'll check out the forum suggested over in LF also. Most likely I won't invest the money in this set up because it doesn't seem to be sufficient for my uses. So, its probably better if I put it off for a while until I could afford a decent flash set up.

    Thanks again,
    Martin
     
  17. Robert Oliver

    Robert Oliver Member

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    experiment. for very little $ you can pick up a pair of 4' long fixtures w/ lights at your local home improvement store. They also work well in garages too.

    post your results.
     
  18. Rolleiflexible

    Rolleiflexible Member

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    FWIW, I use a big home-made soft box lit with 12 screw-in fluorescent bulbs when shooting LF portraits. It is a perfect light source, at least if shooting for BW. If nudity does not offend, visit my web page at www.mcnew.net/portraits -- the key light for all of the images there (all shot in 4x5 and 5x7) is this softbox.

    Beware the admonitions to use the daylight-balanced lights -- I found them harsh for portrait work. If you stick with the warmer bulbs you get at the hardware store, you'll get a flood of light with a greenish tint, which actually is quite flattering in a B+W portrait.

    I made my softbox with a big plastic under-bed storage bin, lined with aluminum foil. You can make the entire rig for maybe $100 if you can get a deal on the bulbs.

    Sanders McNew
     
  19. Steve Smith

    Steve Smith Subscriber

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  20. keithwms

    keithwms Member

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    So, on a related note, what are everyone's thoughts on Martin Schoeller's "big heads" series? Here are a few examples:

    http://www.artnet.de/artwork_images_424236030_188315_martin-schoeller.jpg

    http://www.artnet.de/artwork_images_424175658_186938_martin-schoeller.jpg

    In my opinion the shots look clinical; they are clearly not intended to flatter. As I recall, Schoeller used kino flo banks for these. Notwithstanding the unusual cat-like catchlights, the highlights seem a rather cold white to my eye. Looking at the kino flo site's gallery, all of the skin tones have that same cast:

    http://www.kinoflo.com/Product Uses/Photography/Photography.htm
     
  21. Helen B

    Helen B Member

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    Good point. I was referring to colour when recommending the daylight-balanced tubes, you are referring to B&W, I think.

    As far as the cold results with Kinos go, you can have what you want. I suspect that the examples referred to are exactly as the photographers wanted. If you wanted them warmer, you could have them warmer.

    Best,
    Helen
     
  22. wilsonneal

    wilsonneal Member

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    When I was a kid, in one of the Photo Books I borrowed from the library, there was a terrific black and white portrait of Louis Armstrong, holding his horn, and the quality of light was very clean, diffuse and broad. I immediately liked the way it rendered the skintones. There were additional photos that showed how this portrait was made. It was in a studio with a giant homemade bank of fluorescents. At the time, my pre-teenage lighting skills were limited to on-camera flash, so this was a revelation to me.

    Others on this thread know more about the science of it all...color temps, etc...but I saw that image more than 30 years ago and it still is fresh in my mind. I would think that for black and white fluorescents could be a good source and worth experimentation.

    Neal
     
  23. keithwms

    keithwms Member

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    Neal, with colour film, I have yet to see a shot that had the skin tones that I like.
    Of course, everything is worthy of experimentation, but at the end of the day, films are optimized for more natural spectral power distributions so one cannot expect them to behave optimally if that is not the case.

    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 5, 2006
  24. Helen B

    Helen B Member

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    Here are two comparisons of sources of equivalent CCT using specific, rather than generic, tubes: the Kino-Flo tubes.

    Best,
    Helen

    [​IMG]
     
  25. keithwms

    keithwms Member

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    That's helpful, Helen. I would have thought that the kinos wouldn't use mercury vapour, which is the source of the spikes. But there are the spikes, plain as day in the cinema tubes. It's basically the same thing you get for any fluorescent that involves mercury vapour (i.e. all "energy efficient" bulbs).

    [Glancing at the kino site, I got the quick impression that if one uses chromakey or similar backgrounds with colours similar to the spike maxima then one might achieve better separation. I can imagine adding emission lines to a bulb to make the chromakey pop.]

    Anyway, while we're on the topic of spectra, here is the one for a solux fluorescent, which has has a smooth spectrum:

    [​IMG]

    For reference, the spikey data is for a standard fluorescent containing mercury vapour. So basically, it looks like the solux bulbs are simply mercury-free.
     
  26. Helen B

    Helen B Member

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    Keith,

    Solux lamps are incandescent, not fluorescent.

    The Kino-Flo tubes are likely to be mercury discharge because there isn't much of an alternative. Any discharge lamp, including HMI, will produce a spiky spectrum by its very nature.

    Best,
    Helen