Studio flash

Discussion in 'Lighting' started by Daniel_OB, Jun 21, 2006.

  1. Daniel_OB

    Daniel_OB Member

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    Thinking to get a studio flash. I feel the decision should be between Alien Bees B800 (800 Ws) or B1600 (1600 Ws) and Elinchrom digital 3000 Ws. The same will be used for my studio, portrait and products, as well as to carry around to customers home. Monolight is, I think too heavy.
    Anyone with experience with these flashes and a little bit of time.

    Thanks a lot
     
  2. Nick Zentena

    Nick Zentena Member

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    I really don't think those WS numbers are right. Also all the alien bees are monolights. Isn't the Elinchrom much more expensive then the other choices?
     
  3. blansky

    blansky Subscriber

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    I prefer monolights. Always have always will. No messing with a bunch of cords running back to power packs. Easy to control. If one goes down you still can use the others. If the power pack goes down on a pack and heads kit, you're screwed.

    Power packs are pretty heavy so I think 3 monolights in kit would be about the same as a powerpack and 3 heads.

    I believe Alien Bees are monolights and Elinchrome also has monolights and I think they have pack and heads. Alien Bees are low on the scale and Elinchrome are pretty high up, money wise, although I hear Alien Bees have great customer service.

    One thing to check for on monolights is that the number that they are, is very often not the Watt Second number.

    I use 600ws (Photogenic) for portraits and it's fine. 600ws in an umbrella as fill at 12-15 feet is only around F5.6.

    If doing groups or large format 1600ws is probably necessary.

    When buying them you could start with a 1600ws monolight, then get a couple of 800ws and then even smaller ones for backgound or hair.


    MIchael
     
  4. Daniel_OB

    Daniel_OB Member

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    Alien Bees are so small that I did not realise it is monolite. Thanks, and it is just around 30% price of elinchrom monolite for nearly the same Ws. Great customer service is something confusible to me. Is that means they fails again and again and just get quick repear? Or might be I am wrong and reliability of Alien Bees is not behind elinchrom.
     
  5. blansky

    blansky Subscriber

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    I really can't say.

    I've used Photogenic lights for 30 year and never ever had a problem and have only ever replaced a modeling light. I have 6 monolights that are 10-15 years old.

    Alien Bees started out as a "starter" set of lights. Very inexpensive compared to almost all others. When people had problems they always reported that they sent them in and got them back very fast.

    I have no idea if they break down more than any other light or not. One thing about strobes is that they have consistant output. Meaning will F8 be F8 consistantly. One would suspect that more expensive lights would probably be better in that regard or have faster recycle times or some reason for the extra cost.

    That being said, I compared my Photogenics to Broncolor lights for a day, firing them off maybe a hundred times and they were just as good. So who knows.

    The other thing to consider is how much they will be used. Some studios shoot every day and a lot of shots per day. Others shoot a couple times a week for a couple of hours. These two scenarios may need different qualities in their lights. If you shoot less often, maybe lesser price lights will do extremely well for you.


    Michael
     
  6. wilsonneal

    wilsonneal Member

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    For me, two issues sent me in the direction of Speedo Blackline.

    1. Reliability
    In all my years assisting, I'd never seen a Speedo pack fail on a job or cause anyone any harm (like blow up, catch fire, etc.) If you have reasonable backups (tubes, model lamps), you can make it through the job.

    2. Availability of rental accessories
    Odd reflectors, specialty heads, etc...the rental houses in NY, Chicago, LA have always been ready to give me anything in the Speedo line.

    It's heavy stuff, but very robust, and when something does fail it's been relatively cheap to fix. All of the above also holds true (in my experience) for Norman, and to a lesser extent Dynalite. Norman is more popular on the westcoast than the eastcoast, but still the rental support is there almost everywhere I've tried.

    Also, the resale value in Speedo is consistent. If you buy gear and it's not for you, in my experience you can get out of it what you put into it.

    YMMV,
    Neal
     
  7. JBrunner

    JBrunner Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    I didn't do a ton of flash work, but as the need increased I wanted to buy some units, mostly to get out the hassle of having to pick up and return rental units. I chose Alien Bees, hoping that they would be good enough and last long enough to get me by, until I could afford something better. That was 4 years ago. They have turned out to be really durable and consistent. To say I am pleased, is an understatement.

    They do not have the heft and feel of metal units, and I now understand the difference between polycarbonate, and plastic. The heads themselves are pretty tough. I have used other systems, and the bees accessories are not at the same level as more expensive offerings.

    If you are on a budget, the bees are fantastic value, and have delivered more than I expected. Are they on a par with Speedotron, or Elinchrome? No.
     
  8. AeisLugh

    AeisLugh Member

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    While we're talking about flashes, I keep seeing, on ebay, these flash units that are basically a bulb that you can screw into a normal light socket (or so it looks). They are pretty cheap compared to monolights, but since I've never used anything in the way of studio lighting (monolights, hotlights, or whatever) I'm not sure if they're even worth the small cash they'd cost. As far as I could see they will just plug right into the wall and away you go (but I could be wrong).

    Has anyone had any experience with them? are they worth even bothering with?
     
  9. JBrunner

    JBrunner Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    I have a couple, and they are useful in conjunction with a more powerful system as accent lights, or to make practicals (lamps in a shot) light up.
    They are not very powerful by themselves (50ws claimed, I think. Keep in mind that many lower end products play fast and loose when rating outputs.) and the ones I have are optical slave only, meaning they will only trigger from the pulse from another flash that is synced to the shutter.

    The bees seem to have output equal to their claim BTW.
     
  10. AeisLugh

    AeisLugh Member

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    The ones I've been seeing actually have the ability to link up to the camera via a sync cable. Hell, Henry's has a kit, brand new, for 150 bucks ("flash" stand, and umbrella reflector). I'm been contemplating it for months now, I'm just afraid to pay the money out for it and find out it's crap. Of course, the absense of a modelling light is a real drawback
     
  11. JBrunner

    JBrunner Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    Yeah, I know what you mean. I have been the victim of "you get what you pay for" more often than not when I try to save money. Thats why I was so impressed with the bees, because even though they are more expensive than the kit you mention, they are still at the lower end of the price scale. Oh, not only do the bees have a modeling light, the modeling light tracks with the amount of output, which on the bees is a sliding, not stepping adjustment.

    Sheesh, I sound like a salesman :rolleyes:

    They aren't the very best units out there, like the be all end all of mono lights. The accessories (stands, brellas, boxes etc.) feel a little cheap, but I didn't pay $120 for a stand either, and everything has held up so far.
    They have been a helluva value for me.
     
  12. mgphoto

    mgphoto Subscriber

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    Personally, I am a pack & head guy and I can't say enough good things about Dyna-Lite. Lightweight, powerful, reliable, lots of reasonably priced accessories, good color balance and an industry standard in rental houses along with Profoto and Speedotron.

    Also, one word of caution with lower end or manufacturer direct strobes like Alien Bees and white lightning. I have heard reports of bad UV problems with some of those strobes in the past.
     
  13. Nick Zentena

    Nick Zentena Member

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    If it's what I think they are you'll find a list of issues.

    1) Real slow recycle times.

    2) Not much power

    3) A lack of control. So either too little or too much power.

    4) Bulbs can't be changed. Worse I think the rated number of flashes might be low.

    5) No way of mounting a speedring.

    The question becomes do any of the issues matter to you? Depending on how you intend to use them none or possibly all the issues might matter.

    I haven't looked at the Henry's kit for awhile but IIRC it's a not very good stand and not that exciting umbrella. Personally I'd I wanted the light I'd buy it on it's own and then buy a good stand and umbrella. This way latter you won't feel the need to upgrade the stand along with the light.
     
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  15. AeisLugh

    AeisLugh Member

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    Yeah, I wasn't fooling myself, I figured they were pretty rudimentary, and I knew that if the "blub" went, it was gonna be 50 or so bucks to replace. I've just never worked with flashes outside of the internal flash on point and shoot cameras. I was taught to use an SLR with ambient light only, so am kind of nervous about shelling out money for equipment I have no idea how to use. At the same time though, I want to learn that aspect of photography, so I need to get my hands on the equipment.

    I think my best bet is going to be doing some more looking for someplace that'll rent equipment out in my area and just do some experimenting. I just wish there were someplace in town, all I'm finding is stuff in toronto, and I don't drive :sad:
     
  16. Nick Zentena

    Nick Zentena Member

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    You could just get one of the bigger camera flashes and mount it to a tripod. You can get an umbrella holder and a slave sync or just use a cable. Won't cost anymore then one of those little lights and you'll be able to use the flash on the camera when you need it.
     
  17. Ed Sukach

    Ed Sukach Member

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    I also use, and swear by DynaLites. They have the lightest heads of all that I've seen, and every ounce becomes "very" important when they are hanging on the end of a counter balanced boom.
    They also have a TON of power! Even used with the most inefficient light boxes an umbrellas, I am on the edge of reaching for ND filters.

    I wouldn't call either "lower end". I know a few that use both and like them as much as I like my Dynas.

    ALL DynaLites come UV corrected. I'd check the Alien Bees and White Lightning specifications ... I haven't heard of any color balance or UV problems with them.
     
  18. AeisLugh

    AeisLugh Member

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    Any recommendation on what I should be looking for in a camera flash? I'm using an old minolta xg-9, are there any issues with certain flashes not being compatable with older cameras?
     
  19. Nick Zentena

    Nick Zentena Member

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    Newer flashes might have features that you're older camera can't use. They can also lack manual controls. No worries plenty of older flashes out there. Best because they aren't the whiz bang new stuff they cost a lot less then the new stuff.

    If it was me I'd look for an older Metz 45. Avoid the CT-5 model. If the CT-1 or CL-1 is cheap enough it'll do fine on a manual camera. If you have any cameras with TTL flash then look for the Ct-3,CT-4,CL-3 or the CL-4. Todays market they aren't much more expensive then the non-TTL versions.

    If you find a good deal on a bigger Metz 60 that will work fine to. But these seem to have held thier value better.
     
  20. AeisLugh

    AeisLugh Member

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    out of curiousity, what's wrong with the CT-5? thanks for the advice though, I've been puzzling over the flash units for some time trying to figure out how I know what will work with my camera that won't turn it into a glorified point and shoot.
     
  21. Nick Zentena

    Nick Zentena Member

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    The CT-5 uses the no longer produced 500 series of camera modules. That would be okay if the flashes sold for a discount but they seem to sell for prices similar to the newer CT-3 and CT-4. I think they are also all high voltage so will cause problems for newer cameras. That should also lower the selling price.

    The oldest CT-1 are also high voltage. If you go to the Metz website they should have a serial number cutoff that shows which are high voltage and which aren't.

    If you're camera is new enough to have problems with high voltage you can deal with that in a few different ways.

    The nice thing about the TTL Metz [CT-3,CT-4,Cl-3 and CL-4] is with the right module they'll support most/all the features your camera would provide a dedicated flash. Or you can switch them to auto mode and let the flash do a pretty good job. Or you can switch them to manual mode and do all the thinking yourself.
     
  22. colrehogan

    colrehogan Member

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    What flash unit(s) might be good for LF studio portraiture?
     
  23. blansky

    blansky Subscriber

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    As I said I use Photogenics monolights, that have 600ws at full power. If I were shooting large format I'd be looking at units that have maybe 1800WS per head.

    Obviously fill lights need more power since they are further from the subject. As I mentioned I only get 5.6 at about 15ft with an umbrella at 600ws, but as a mainlight at about 4 ft I only use about 200ws of power.

    So maybe look for units that can give you about 1800.


    Michael
     
  24. Lopaka

    Lopaka Member

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    Another thing to keep in mind is that watt-seconds is not a measure of the light coming form the flash head - it is a measure of the power sent to the flashtube. Actual amount of light generated to the subject can vary somewhat depending on a variety of factors: length of cord from pack to head, design of flashtube and reflector, and angle of coverage.

    Bob
     
  25. AeisLugh

    AeisLugh Member

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    Thanks. looks like I can get a CT-3 from KEH for like 40 bucks, that's not bad at all. Doesn't have the NiCad battery pack with it (thats an extra 50 bucks on the price) but it's still a good start. At least I know a good one to look for now :smile:
     
  26. Nick Zentena

    Nick Zentena Member

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    I wouldn't get the Ni-Cad battery. Used to be some guy on Ebay selling AA battery holders for I think less then $10. If it's just the flash you'll need at least a cable. Maybe even a bracket. Good thing is I think all the current parts from Metz fit the CT-3. Except maybe the new Nihm battery holder.