I'm a little late to this thread but just to toss in my $.02. If you can afford professional equipment get it. I think the Alien Bees monolights represent the best value right now for new pro monolights.
Originally Posted by yoda310
However... there are those who can't afford pro stuff immediately or are like me and would virtually never use it. There is nothing wrong with experimenting a bit with inexpensive equipment. I have also purchased a couple of Britek 120WS monolights for those rare times I'm shooting anything indoors. They were $89 US each and have a 150 watt halogen modeling lamp.
Shooting Portra 160 I get f11 when bouncing them off white umbrellas for a portrait. The lights are about 4-6 feet from the subject. I've also used them (just 2 lights) for group portraits of up to 8 people. I have to move the lights farther back and I only get f8 but for portraits that's small enough. In fact most of the time I'm doing a portrait I move the lights back or use the 1/2 power switch (not a lot of control range there!) to get f5.6 or f4.
More than one way to skin a cat I guess. Still if I thought I would use the lights more than half a dozen times per year I'd pay the money for Alien Bees 640WS lights I think.