Advice on Alien Bees

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by epicwelshman, Dec 28, 2009.

  1. epicwelshman macrumors 6502a

    epicwelshman

    Joined:
    Apr 6, 2006
    Location:
    Nassau, Bahamas
    #1
    Hey all,

    I'm looking to pull the trigger on a basic Alien Bee set (two AB800's, light stands, umbrellas, Vagabond power pack and some radio triggers).

    Up to now I've been using Nikon speedlights with cheap eBay radio triggers.

    So here's my question. How can I make my speedlights play nice with the AlienBees? Would my cheapy triggers would in conjunction with the AB ones if they're on the same channel... or...?

    Any advice is, as always, appreciated :)
     
  2. compuwar macrumors 601

    compuwar

    Joined:
    Oct 5, 2006
    Location:
    Northern/Central VA
    #2
    What size room are you going to shoot in? AB400's are fine for house-type rooms, unless you're going to shoot outdoors a lot (I'm guessing from the fact you're getting a Vagabond that you intend to travel or use them outside.) I found some shoot-through/reflective umbrellas on Amazon that I really like and they were cheap and are pretty flexible. I tend to use a shoot-through as my key and fill with a reflective umbrella. All of the AB grids fit on their default reflectors, so you can buy a cheap grid for a hair light- you don't have to get the holder thing.

    Your choices are to trigger with the same trigger brand across the board (I like the CyberSyncs) but if you have SB600's or lower, you're going to need PC-Sync to hotshoe adapters (~$6 each) as well as receivers for each unit.) If you have SB800's or SB900's, you can simply put them in SU-4 mode and let them be flash triggered like the Bees are by default. Finally, you can get more of your cheap trigger receivers if they have sync ports and use those.

    I tend to just use my SB800 with my ABs as a background light in SU-4 mode when I need it, though I've got enough CyberSyncs to use one as well as my SB600's.
     
  3. epicwelshman thread starter macrumors 6502a

    epicwelshman

    Joined:
    Apr 6, 2006
    Location:
    Nassau, Bahamas
    #3
    Hey, thanks.

    I'll be using them outside quite a bit, and considering that the 800's are only $55 more than the 400's for a full stop or so, I'd say it's worth it.

    I have SB-600's which, as you know, don't have a sync port. I think I might go with the hotshoe adapter and get the CyberSyncs. The eBay triggers I have are alright for casual work with the speedlights, but they're hardly the most reliable option.
     
  4. compuwar macrumors 601

    compuwar

    Joined:
    Oct 5, 2006
    Location:
    Northern/Central VA
    #4
    Outside is the clincher- otherwise you'd likely be happier with the adjustment range on the 400's (I actually considered purchasing 400's just for in-home work.) That works for me, though I just found out the other day that the transmitter battery on my Cybersync died- I *knew* I should have gotten a spare transmitter, as it's easy for the button to get pressed in the pack it normally travels in, and unlike the receivers, it's not easy to get on Xmas day!

    I've read with the eBay ones you get more reliability on a single channel (don't recall which) and by redoing the antenna. The only thing I'd add to the CyberSyncs is some way to velcro them to the smaller flashes, as they tend to jump off anything I try to balance them on.

    Looks like Adorama is out of the 40" shoot/reflective brollys I got, but they have something similar:

    http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00093BDU4?ie=UTF8&tag=ubertechnolog-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=B00093BDU4


    Paul
     
  5. stagi macrumors 65816

    stagi

    Joined:
    Feb 18, 2006
    #5
    Triggering your speed light and AB's together are no problem, you just need a receiver for each light. The AB's do have a built in slave trigger but in my experience with this it doesn't work too well. i use pocketwizards to fire all my flashes (a mix of AB's, vivitar's and canon speedlights)
     
  6. compuwar macrumors 601

    compuwar

    Joined:
    Oct 5, 2006
    Location:
    Northern/Central VA
    #6
    Hmm, indoors I've never had a failure to fire with the built-in optical triggers. I've never tried them outside, after a bad experience with the wired remote, I went with the CyberSyncs. What sort of shooting conditions have you had problems in? One light or multiples?

    Thanks,

    Paul
     
  7. stagi macrumors 65816

    stagi

    Joined:
    Feb 18, 2006
    #7
    I almost always had problems outdoors with the built in triggers (I think when there is too much ambient light they have trouble triggering). But even indoors (I don't shoot much in studio, so indoors for me does still have ambient light) and sometimes they would work and sometimes not (normally running 2-3 lights). After awhile I gave up and went with pocketwizards which have worked 100% of the time.
     
  8. compuwar macrumors 601

    compuwar

    Joined:
    Oct 5, 2006
    Location:
    Northern/Central VA
    #8
    PWs are great, and I like the remote camera triggering option, but I couldn't justify the delta on price for my use, I don't need the extreme range. I do need to get an extra xmitter battery- which isn't a problem with PWs since they're all transceivers.

    Paul
     
  9. epicwelshman thread starter macrumors 6502a

    epicwelshman

    Joined:
    Apr 6, 2006
    Location:
    Nassau, Bahamas
    #9
    I'm not going to be upgrading to PocketWizards (at least not yet), but I don't like the idea of the optical triggers - I like to know that my lights will fire when I hit the button, regardless of where I may be in relation to the optical sensor.
     

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