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  1. #1

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    Studio Flash - how do I choose?

    I have been thinking about my lighting - in particular lack there of....

    Currently, all I have are SB900 (Nikon) and two Metz 45CT-3. I also have a set of small umbrellas and stands. What I like taking is environmental portraits.

    I am aware, Watts/Seconds and GN are totally different measurements and they don't really compare....

    I am currently looking at Alien Bees units. B400 is 160Ws, and B800 is 320Ws. How do these compare to what I have in terms of light output? Let's say I have SB900 pointed to my small umbrella and B400 pointed to the same umbrella. How's the output in comparison?

    I know we have portrait experts in here.... Are there any rule of thumb for environment portrait such as "don't bother with such a small unit!" or "you are way overkill...."

    Or - are there recommendable units rather than AlienBees? I know these are considered a lower end Volkswagen kind of units.

    I'd appreciate any input.
    Develop, stop, fix.... wait.... where's my film?

  2. #2

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    I think the quality of light is better from a strobe due to a bigger head... Also the b400 will be brighter and you get a modeling lamp... IMO I would buy no less than the b800 bc the b400 might leave u wanting more at times

  3. #3
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    I have white lightning which is the same family and they've been good to me. These old white lightning 10,000 and 5,000 are more powerful and quicker recharging than an attached flash, and are wimps compared to the alien bees and related newer more powerful monolights. The whole guide number thing sorta gets thrown out with the bath water because it's intended to be an easy way to simply flash power calculations and it doesn't apply when you are using things that redistribute, rediffuse, block, and modify the light in as many ways as there are options for studio gear. Look how many umbrellas there are just for one; some are fully silvered, partly silvered, different sizes, transparent umbrellas, etc...

    You'll have lots of fun with the quicker recharge times; the modeling lights on mine dim slightly while recharging so I know when it's ready and it's about a second for full power. The modeling lamp is super nice (and a dslr is good to verify the lighting proportions)

    More power is good for a few reasons, and they don't apply to everyone.

    LF; if you want the depth of field for a multi-person photo, you might be shooting at f22 or 32 in 8x10 or 4x5. That needs lots o light.

    Group photos; you have to light a big area.

    Outdoors group photos; (like a large wedding party) You need something powerful to take out shadows sometimes if you can't put a group where the lighting is ideal. You can't get too close with your gear with a superwide lens because it'll make people on the ends look fat. So you have to back up and shoot with nearly the power of the sun. Passive reflectors are blinding.

    Fast recharge times. Theoretically, a b800 may recharge and be ready faster than a b400 since it is basically operating at half power. Spec sheets online would provide the details.

    Lighting sports venues is also a popular use for monolights. A set of 4 top of the line alienbees will nicely light a hockey rink or basketball court.

  4. #4

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    Quote Originally Posted by jp498 View Post
    A set of 4 top of the line alienbees will nicely light a hockey rink or basketball court.
    Wouldn't that incinerate a few players also?

    Thank you for your response! Can you give me an idea what would B400 be able to do? Say I have a couple standing under a tree. B400 aiming a 40" umbrella located 15 feet away as a key light. Fill is natural lighting. It's a full length portrait. Would that be sufficient?

    I have no reference as to how many WS can do what....
    Develop, stop, fix.... wait.... where's my film?

  5. #5
    jp498's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tkamiya View Post
    Can you give me an idea what would B400 be able to do? Say I have a couple standing under a tree. B400 aiming a 40" umbrella located 15 feet away as a key light. Fill is natural lighting. It's a full length portrait. Would that be sufficient?

    I have no reference as to how many WS can do what....
    My WL10000 would do that, so I suspect a b400 would do that quite sufficiently as well. They are probably comparable power. If the umbrella is a partly reflective umbrella; no problem. If it's a sheer umbrella, you might want the more powerful one. It's not much more $ for the b800.

  6. #6

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    The modeling lights on these are regular 150watts incandescent lights. Is this a disadvantage compared to ones that use halogen type?
    Develop, stop, fix.... wait.... where's my film?

  7. #7
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    I've heard that hot shoe speedlights, like the Nikon SB900 are roughly equivalent to 100Ws. You could probably use a light meter with a flash mode to measure the relative f-stops of light coming to your subject from each light source, and simply use them in normal portrait lighting ratios, like 1:2, 1:3, etc.
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    "Embrace the negative with absolution, your final positive reward." --IQ, "The Province," Frequency

  8. #8
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    I have several of the B1600 flash units and having the ability to use them indoor and outdoor without always running at full power has contributed to their 5 year+ life. Always buy over the power level you will need.

    My favorite shoot with them was at a wedding, a pair of them in the choir loft at 80% power and a remote trigger. Groups up to 30 family members ASA 160 @ f9 was a "dependable" joy. While the ceremony was going I just turned off the transmitter. When the bride and groom walked out, I had practiced the iris changes as the A. B. Just kept firing as they walked out.

    The group shots were a dream afterwards too. My assistant placed our other two heads outside at a pond and a wishing well, so I just moved to the next location, as the helper set up the next site with the other pairs.

    Even pre lighting the dance floor with the bees was good. Two with gels and two were white light. The Bees are hard to beat and survive my drop prone hands too.

    Lee

  9. #9

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    Do you EVER find at 1/32th power (that B1600 goes to) you STILL had too much light? While you do wedding, I might do head shots. The light will be pretty close to the subject, say 4 to 10 feet.
    Develop, stop, fix.... wait.... where's my film?

  10. #10

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    Or - is this a case where trying to buy one to cover ALL situation itself is a bad idea??
    Develop, stop, fix.... wait.... where's my film?

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