Help choosing between strobe VS continuous lighting with RB67 (film-strobe fears)

Discussion in 'Lighting' started by WriterOfLight, Dec 19, 2011.

  1. WriterOfLight

    WriterOfLight Member

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    I'm making a return to photography and film and I need a little help choosing between continuous lighting and strobes. I'll be getting an RB-67 as a lighter and cheaper to feed alternative to my 4x5. I'd love to get some strobes so that my sitters (and myself!) don't need to deal with the heat coming off 500W continuous heads and enjoy the benefits of not needing to filter tungsten, however I have no experience with using strobes and feel a little frightened at not getting the instant-feedback with film. Obviously people have been using them for decades so they've got to work well but I have a few fears and uncertainties around them.

    My first question is what is the best way to hook them up to the camera? I'd like to avoid the expense of pocket wizards but I'm kind of a klutz and I'm sure that I'd be tripping over long sync cords. In addition, how would you connect multiple units together to be triggered at the same time? I also mentioned not being sure what the end result will look like; a flash meter and the modeling lamps will help but it's not the same as actually seeing the results. Is there any way around this?

    For those who use hot lights, particularly when photographing people, how do you mitigate the effects of the heat in an enclosed space? I've also found very little information on using continuous lighting in the context of still photography instead of video, could you direct me to some resources around that? I got a copy of the "Professional Portrait Lightings" book mentioned a few threads down which was a lot of help with understanding classic style lighting but I don't want to mess with trying to balance fluorescent tubes to colour film!

    Thanks for the help, it's great to be back on APUG!

    - Justin
     
  2. tomalophicon

    tomalophicon Member

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    With studio strobes you can sync one to the camera and then sync the rest to the main strobe. Or just use one light.
    Fuji instant films are available which are the right size for the RB and you can get common Polaroid holders for them. No problems there. So you can get quick feedback.
     
  3. Danielle

    Danielle Member

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    Firstly, hooking up the things to an RB is your choice between the new age remotes and the long cables. Not sure if anybody would have much to add there. You can always just go a cable until you decide you may want the fancy cordless triggers later.

    Secondly, get a decent light meter. Your choice. I use an older minolta autometer IVf, its fine (does cord and non-chord as well as ambient and reflected with the accessory piece)

    I've only ever used hot light in reasonably large studio's. If they got too warm, we'd put on a fan. But I only used them seldomly and only for product/set up (non-people related) shots. You can get soft boxes and other light shaping accessories made to cope with the more intense heat from them from various manufacturers. Comparing that to strobes, well... it depends on what you want out of it.

    Im going to eventually buy my own strobes too. Depending what you need them to do, there's a reasonably vast array from any of the big names (broncolor/bowens/elinchrom) to others. Wether you can get by with a small entry level kit is very dependant on what you need it to do. You never mentioned what specifically you need it for. If your doing small sets in a studio, you may not need a million jules from the big dollar manufactures. But then if your taking them on location doing reasonably large fashion sets, you'll need battery packs etc etc all adding dearly to cost. And not to mention the choice between mono lights and generators which can be vastly different in cost too. I'd suggest starting with mono lights, wether you need the battery pack (could add like a grand to price) is depending on the above.

    Bowens have good priced starter kits with their mono lights. If your like me though, the added cost of the battery for location is essential. But you can't go wrong. Go have a look around around the bowens site for example. Depending what's available in your area, you may have more choices, but as a side comment, I'd suggest buying from a company with good product support if your about to spend some good dollars on equipment.

    Studio lights rule. There's no going back. You could even hire some for a day/weekend to come to terms with them first too. I hope that helped... a tiny bit. Im sure other's will have many other things to suggest.
     
  4. WriterOfLight

    WriterOfLight Member

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    I guess I should mention what I'm using them for! It'll be mostly shoots involving 1, occasionally 2 people until I have a better grasp of lighting and some still life stuff. I was thinking about starting with one head in the range 400-600W/s to start with from a well-regarded manufacture so that any accessories I buy will fit other heads I eventually get. I'll probably spring for a power pack at some point but I have a pretty tight budget so all of my shooting will be in my home or at someone else's. It's pretty bewildering looking through all the choices at the multi-manufacturer online catalog of B&H! I definitely have a lot of research to do.

    tomalphicon, is that the Fuji Instax stuff and the RB Polaroid backs that take the 100 and 600 series film? That would great, it's a LOT cheaper than the impossibleproject film!
     
  5. tomalophicon

    tomalophicon Member

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  6. Danielle

    Danielle Member

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    There's also some studio lighting tutorials on youtube. BowensTV, accessible through their site too has a few, as much as they are also kind of advertisements for their gear. And without trying to be an ad myself, bowens also has adapters to fit light shapers from other manufacturers. Bowens is what I'll likely buy myself in the future. Mono lights are probably the most cost efficient across the board, as much as I'd also desire power packs long term.

    If you do decide on tungsten hot lights, be sure to get tungsten film too. But strobes are a LOT more powerful and I think useful.
     
  7. hoffy

    hoffy Member

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    With risking getting shot down in flames, I suggest that working with digital AND film in the studio will be the best start. Use the digital (if you have one) as your polaroid. As for your question, Strobes is what I would choose (and did choose).

    Just a couple things from my experience, cables are the cheap option and with most monoblocks, you should only need one (optical slaves will fire the other strobes), BUT are a PITA. I was always getting the cable caught, which would dislodge and then deform the plug on the cable. A bit of duct tape to ensure that they are in the socket does wonders OR get cables with a threaded nut.
    Obviously, the best option is to use a remote trigger. You can get triggers far cheaper then the Pocket Wizards, but they will not be as reliable (I.E., the ones I have seem to mis-fire every so often). With digital, that's not really a problem, but with film can become a pain.

    I also back up Danielle's post. Make sure you get the strobes that are right for the environment you are shooting in. If all you are doing is a garage, don't buy 1500Ws units, rather look at something around the 500 or even 300Ws size. I have a set of el-cheapo ebay units, rated at around 300Ws. They hardly ever see a setting above 1/16th of full power when used in my garage. But, if you intend to light up bigger area's, consider going with more powerful strobes.

    If you go for cheapies, consider what features they have. How adjustable is the power? What light modifiers can they take? The cheaper units I bought take the Bowens 'S' mount light modifiers. They are also infinitely adjustable down to 1/32 of full power. Some of the even cheaper units can only take their own light modifiers or you must use the clunky four screw 'fits all' type accessories. Some of them are also only adjustable buy a couple of levels, which makes it a pain.

    And yes, get a decent light meter! Even with using the pixel burner as a Polaroid, a light meter will help getting that base setting closer to start of with and will also help when it comes to measuring ratio's, ect.
     
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  8. Danielle

    Danielle Member

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    Hoffy has a good point, its just that I didn't suggest it because this is an analog site and I didn't want to get flamed as well :tongue:. Digifail is a fantastic polaroid to test your lighting with if nothing else, doesn't of course mean you escape a decent light meter though. It does mean that you won't potentially burn good film, especially 5x4 film.

    As said above, there are cheapies. I wouldn't get 'cheapies' if you want to do this long term. A good decent branded system with a decent set of light modifiers will be a lot better long term as well as being a system you can build on. However the choice is there.
     
  9. hoffy

    hoffy Member

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    While I seem to lean to the cheaper systems, I am not going to disagree with you here! The cheap strobes that I have do me fine, for the limited usage they get (probably once every 3 to 6 months). For me, it was rather hard to justify the price of a starter Bowens or Elincrome kit, simply because my usage is purely for my own enjoyment.

    That being said, I have noticed that after 8 years, the seller has disappeared off of ebay, which means (probably) no support. If I get a failure, I will more then likely look at a named brand.

    If you think that this is going to be a regular part of your photography, invest in a name brand now!
     
  10. Danielle

    Danielle Member

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    Yup exactly. Depends on your usage and requirements.

    As you would have picked up in my posts and likely read inbetween the lines, a studio strobe set for me personally, won't just be for my enjoyment. It will be an adaptation of helping me pump up my bank account. But if its for your own personal enjoyment, oh yeah, why put a mortgage on your home for this stuff? :smile:

    @ WriterOfLight, research now. Nail it down to what you need to get the job done. You can get so lost in the sea of this gear and it all starts to look like a blur after a while otherwise (a big white blur... LOL). And keep asking people, as we've probably all done. And remember, a failed shot is something you learn from.
     
  11. markbarendt

    markbarendt Subscriber

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    Here's a bit of reference on strobes, http://www.paulcbuff.com/sfe.php

    There are very nice continuous light setups now that use flouresants and don't have the heat or color temperature issues.

    The big difference between the two is that strobes will generally freeze the action and that the continuous light sets allow you to see what you get before you shoot.

    With regard to a Polaroid or other testing tool, these can be beneficial for learning or designing a setup and in checking for errors. This is not required though if you have a flash meter, something like a Sekonik L-358.

    Using a flash meter you can can ask the question what should the light be doing here in relation to my subject? Darker, lighter... Takes a bit more thought but it's not to tough.

    Many modern strobes are set up with a sensor that "sees" the flash from other lights and that can trigger the pop. It is reliable as long as it can "see" the other lights pop but that fully depends on the orientation of the lights and isn't always workable. A trigger on or wire to each light is the most reliable.
     
  12. TheFlyingCamera

    TheFlyingCamera Membership Council Council

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    Digital is NOT a good polaroid substitute! I have yet to see a digital camera whose ISO 100 is the same as a handheld flash meter's ISO 100. If you are ultimately making film exposures, then just learn your light meter and learn lighting ratios, which are easy enough. You can use the digital to proof the lighting ratios, but do not use it as a substitute meter!
     
  13. ParkerSmithPhoto

    ParkerSmithPhoto Subscriber

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    White Lightning

    I highly recommend the White Lightning/Paul C. Buff setups that Mark mentioned. There is not a better price to value available anywhere in strobe lighting.

    We run a portrait studio, and I have five of the older Ultra 800 units which provide plenty of light for my work. Most of the time I use them dialed down to minus 3f. The larger units are quite powerful, but for portraits, you probably won't need it. I can dial the 800s all the way up and pull f16 from a silver bounce umbrella at about 8 feet, which is plenty for white knockout backgrounds.

    These units were purchased used, and I have been wearing them out for years. They perform without fail. The only time a tube has blown has been when I broke it, and only once have I had to send in a unit for work. They covered the work under the original warranty even though I was not the original owner, and I had it back inside a week.

    One of my clients just set up a studio in their warehouse for product photography, so we bought four new X800s for them. Plenty of power for all applications.

    One head, a big white foam core reflector and a decent soft box is all you need to start. If you like a kicker light look you can add a silver reflector at 45 degrees behind the subject to bounce the main. (I do some pretty complex lighting but I still love pure simplicity in portraits.)

    If you grab a Cyber Sync receiver and transmitter, you'll be all set: the transmitter has a miniphone plug that you can use to connect to the PC on your RB. Any other units can sync through the slaves.

    Paul C. Buff: love them long time.
     
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  15. ParkerSmithPhoto

    ParkerSmithPhoto Subscriber

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    It's easy enough to figure out that ASA125 on your meter is ASA100 on your camera, and the digital makes a great Polaroid. In fact, digital hits its peak in the studio under controlled lighting and contrast, just as film does.

    I routinely make flawless 20-30" prints from a Canon 5D. I couldn't make a living shooting studio portraits on film. :blink:
     
  16. johnielvis

    johnielvis Member

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    suggestion--synch cables

    I've tripped over calbles myself---I use the optical slave on the strobes and, what I do in place of any "radio trigger"--I use the first "radio slave"--the optical slave...

    get a teeny tiny flash--like a AAA powered morris micro slave--they take one AAA battery--attach this to the camera with tape or whatever--connect synch to that---fire--it fires the teeny flash which triggers the big strobes

    I've never used powerpacks but use calumet (bowens) travelights for over 10 years...without having a want to use anything else--they seemto answer the call no matter what I want to do.
     
  17. CGW

    CGW Member

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    Couldn't disagree more. Concur with Parker Smith. Usually use a DSLR and a Sekonic 558 for studio shoots. Maybe your film and processing are free. Mine aren't.
     
  18. Rick A

    Rick A Subscriber

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    Continuous lighting doesn't necessarily have to be hot, the newer CFL systems are loads cooler and are color corrected for color films. Check out this source:

    http://www.cowboystudio.com/index.php

    I have a small set of continuous w/umbrellas for portrait and still life work.
     
  19. artonpaper

    artonpaper Subscriber

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    I haven't read all the responses, so others may have said this, (I must off to work) but as a commercial/industrial photographer for most of my life, and I taught Color Studio at the Germain School of Photography for many years, hands down you want studio strobe when photographing people. I had comet strobes and found them to be great. Wireless remote is a good idea, and if you buy an older used system, you must have wireless remote for many cameras, as the camera's circuitry can be harmed by the voltage of the older system. I guess there's a feedback of some kind. I have an old used Speedatron now, and when shooting digital, or when students want to plug in cameras with electronics, like some of the later Cannon film cameras, I rent a remote. Also, for some cheaper cameras without a flash connection post, (PC, etc.) the remotes are hot shoe compatible. And speaking of renting, you may want to rent once or twice to see how it all works for you.

    Best, Doug Schwab
     
  20. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

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    First, welcome to APUG, from across the Georgia Strait.

    I'm going to make a slightly radical suggestion. Keep your eyes open for some studio strobes (monolights) that are cheap (really cheap) and used. They won't satisfy any long term needs, but if you have plans to experiment and familiarize yourself first, $200 spent on Craigslist might teach you a whole bunch about what you really need.

    If you then decide to buy a new setup, make sure you get something mainstream. The cheaper knockoffs are generally poor value.

    I'm happy with a single cord to one light, with the others triggered by optical slaves. Optical slaves don't work well, however, on location if there are others present taking photos (think weddings).

    Ebay has thousands of cheap radio triggers. Most people I've talked to have been reasonably happy with the results they have obtained from them. They are, however, a bit less dependable than something like a Pocket Wizard, and don't offer the wiz-bang extra features for interface with and control from the latest model digital cameras that the top of the line Pocket Wizards have.

    If you buy older, used flashes, they may have a high trigger voltage. That can damage newer electronic cameras (both digital and film) and radio triggers not designed for high voltages. I have a set of very old Bowens monolights that have very high trigger voltages - I won't connect them to anything other than mechanical cameras, or older optical slaves. A Wein "Safe-Synch" would be another option.

    A 6x4.5 back for your Mamiya RB67 would give you a 50% increase in the number of test shots per roll when you are learning to use your lights.

    A good flash meter is a must, and the ability to trigger the flash from the meter (by cord or otherwise) is a valuable feature.

    The modeling lights in strobes definitely vary in quality. Placement relative to the position of the flash tubes is critical when using direct flash.

    A separate digital camera can be an okay substitute for a Polaroid. A digital back would be better (same camera position and lens) but the cost is, of course, unrealistic.

    A separate digital camera is less accurate as a replacement for a flash meter.

    If you can swing it, a visit to either Beau Photo in Vancouver (good knowledge and some rental selection) or Glazer's in Seattle (great knowledge and rental and sales display selection) could really help you in your choices. There are also a couple of places in Vancouver that rent equipped studios.

    Hope this helps.
     
  21. TheFlyingCamera

    TheFlyingCamera Membership Council Council

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    The point of ASA is that it's a STANDARD. If on my Canon 5D it is actually ASA 125, but on my friend's Nikon D3x it's ASA 80, it's not a standard anymore. It's not that you can't figure out what it is and compensate, but you shouldn't have to. I like to set my power settings so that I'm using the same f-stop with my test exposure as I am my final exposure, so that I know what I see in my proof is the same as what I will see in my final print. If you're shooting a 35mm or APS-C sensor, AND your digital camera's ASA 100 is not the same as your film's ASA 100, then what you see on the LCD on the back of the digital camera will NOT be indicative of what you will get on a 6x7cm negative in your RB-67. You have to make enough changes between the two systems that it defeats the purpose.
     
  22. hoffy

    hoffy Member

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    We are talking a Beginner here. The difference between ISO 100 and ISO 80 is going to be negligible at best.

    Anyhow, isn't what you are describing similar to saying that HP5+ is box rated to ISO 400, but it's true speed is more like 320?

    I know I am at risk of being booted off of APUG with such outrageous comments, but by far, the easiest way to learn how to shoot in a studio is with a pixel burner. Yes, there are going to be differences (not to mention differences in DOF when going from say a 150mm lens on a MF to a 80mm lens on a 135 to a 50mm lens on a APSC ), but having the ability to check on the fly is going to speed up the learning process.
     
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  23. waynecrider

    waynecrider Member

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    Cold/Hot lights are great for seeing what your going to get on film right off. I tho started out originally with strobes and made alot of mistakes and it took me a bit of time and multiple pops to setup each light at a ratio with a hand held meter. Thankfully I was shooting a friend and not a paying customer. Overall, I found that classic strobes (mine were 800ws White Lightning's) were overkill. I always had to scale back the settings almost as low as they could go since I was going for softer enveloping light with the strobes closer to the sitter and thru softboxes. I also didn't want to blow out my sitter's retinas. In the end I turned to using multiple camera strobes such as the Nikon SB series and others. Smaller, powerful enough, scalable settings and angle of flash, I can point them into an umbrella with a light stand adapter. It makes for a small carry bag and for used prices on camera strobes you can put together a pretty cheap kit. Best way to set them off is with an on camera flash and slaves for each light. There are hot shoe slaves so you can screw them onto a light stand adapter which takes an umbrella. To start off practicing a digital camera is great, but the RB is a great portrait camera.
     
  24. markbarendt

    markbarendt Subscriber

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    Actually I think the easiest way is using a flash meter and drawing a map of the studio set.

    Subject x centered on the paper and a camera position x at the margin. Draw a line through both clear across the paper to the background.

    At the subject's position note the camera setting you are going to use. This reading, IMO, is best taken with the back of the meter touching the subjects nose, the dome extended, and pointed directly at the camera. This reading should always match the planned setting. (Studio lighting is adjusted to the camera's need.)

    Now for the back ground do you want it darker or lighter and by how much. So write on the map + or - 1, 2, ... Or whatever. Adjust the lighting there.

    For right to left differences, measure with dome retracted, meter pointed at each light source.

    The ratios, right to left, that you want are purely subjective. If you keep good notes the need for digital is minimal. The only thing digital is, is faster.

    I find mapping is the best way for me to understand what's happening, analog or digital.

    With a Polaroid (by whatever means) I am looking for things I've missed; like trash in the scene.
     
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  25. TheFlyingCamera

    TheFlyingCamera Membership Council Council

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    No, I'm not talking about rating HP5+ at 320 instead of 400. That's consistent. You do one set of tests, and then you establish a personal film speed rating for your way of shooting, and then when you set your meter at 320, and take a reading, you know it will in fact record correctly on your film. Digital doesn't work the same way - most if not all digital cameras can't be set slower than ISO 100. Period. And again, if you're aiming for a specific f-stop to control depth-of-field, if your sensor is off, you end up with having to adjust the aperture up or down to compensate, or you spend all day screwing around with your lighting set-up to get the exposure right. If you're constantly moving your lights to adjust the exposure at the subject, what you see on the digital camera LCD will not be what you record on film. Changing the distance from source to subject is always changing the quality of the light as well as the quantity.

    I'm NOT bashing digital as a tool - digital cameras can do wonderful things in the studio. I'm just saying don't mistake them as an analog (pun intended) for a film camera. You CAN use a hammer as a screwdriver, but why? You'll still have to get the screwdriver out to finish the job. What digitals do is provide instant feedback. This is their blessing and curse - you can see right away if what you shot is giving the right look to the lighting set-up, to a point. The little LCD on the back of your camera does NOT have the same contrast range as your computer monitor, or your inkjet printer, so what might look like an ok highlight may be blown-out when you view it full-size. I've also seen and heard way too many people say that "I don't need a meter - I can just test it with my digital until I get it where I want it". The speed of feedback gives the false impression of control, and leads to sloppiness.
     
  26. WriterOfLight

    WriterOfLight Member

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    Wow, lots of info! I've bookmarked the Paul C. Buff website for their tips and products, I also really like the idea of using a 645 back to minimize costs while learning. After doing more reading it seems like strobes will be best suited to my goals and I'll be picking up a flash meter. The only digicam I have right now is my iphone so I'll have to go the instant route for test shots and take lots of notes while using roll film. I do have a few questions about the RB regarding polaroids/fujiroids and other stuff but I'll save those for the equipment forum. Thanks for the help everyone!

    - Justin