Photography Lighting Kits and Camera/lens help

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by 064629009, Nov 12, 2010.

  1. 064629009, Nov 12, 2010
    Last edited: Nov 12, 2010

    064629009 macrumors member

    Jan 8, 2010
    2 questions (help with either would be great):

    1. I'm looking for a lighting kit and I found this on Amazon:

    I was wondering this is a decent price or if there's anything better online. I'm only an amateur so it doesn't have to be anything too fancy, and I'm looking for something under $400 (maybe $300) with the basics (lights, umbrellas, maybe filters and softboxes).

    2. I currently use a rebel XS with a 50mm f1.8 lens. I was wondering whether I should upgrade the camera (to a 50d or 60d) or the lens. I'm assuming most of you will say it's more sensible to upgrade my lens, and if so, do any of you have any portrait lens recommendations (under $400 preferably) that is shorter than 50mm (I find that I have to get too close to my subject)?

  2. Cliff3 macrumors 68000


    Nov 2, 2007
    SF Bay Area
  3. jackerin macrumors 6502a

    Jun 29, 2008
    I have a hard time thinking of large studio strobes as "portable", especially since I can carry with me 2-3 small hotshoe flashes and the camera in a regular shoulder-bag. If you know you need the extra power, and you don't mind being limited to locations with wall-sockets, then you'll definitely get more light for your money with the studio strobes.

    I'd start with umbrellas, around 48". Softboxes are nice, but you can get almost as good results with homerolled solutions.

    I'm not sure what you mean with this, since "I find that I have to get too close to my subject" sounds like you want more distance between you and the subject, meaning you want a longer lens...

    But if it's shorter, you could look at a large-aperture standard zoom like the Tamron 17-50 f/2.8 non-VC. Should be available for under 400. Image quality said to be good for the price.
  4. toxic, Nov 13, 2010
    Last edited: Nov 13, 2010

    toxic macrumors 68000

    Nov 9, 2008
    as far as lighting goes, start simple - strobes and some umbrellas or softboxes. having extras like barndoors is more than you need and potentially a waste of money, because most photographers end up using only a few types of modifiers.

    what is your intended use? that will decide whether you should look at hotshoe flashes or monolights.

    if all you have is an XS with a 50mm, get another lens. Tamron 17-50, Canon 18-55 IS, Sigma 17-70. 50mm is a poor general-purpose lens on your camera.

    finally, there is no such thing as a "portrait lens". portraits are simply too varied to be associated with any certain focal length range. in any case, you will need to maintain at least 6 ft, preferably more, for a flattering perspective. if you're out of space for a head-&-shoulders with a 50mm, get a bigger space.

    in your place I would buy a standard zoom, basically anything like the zooms I mentioned above, and pair it with an 85mm lens.
  5. firestarter macrumors 603


    Dec 31, 2002
    Green and pleasant land
    That lighting kit on Amazon looks like a load of junk.

    It's difficult to find a single good studio strobe for $400, let alone three and a kit of other stuff. This stuff will be rubbish.

    You can get a long way with just one light, one brolly or softbox and a reflector.

    Alien Bees seem to be the most popular budget light in North America. You should be able to get a single 400W head, an umbrella, couple of stands and a large reflector for $400. Look at the Lastolite foldable reflectors.

    If you're going the studio-flash route, make sure the light will turn down enough. I often find that the problem with some lights is too much light not too little. A 200W head should go down at least 4 stops (1/16th power) and a 400W head should go down at least 5 stops (1/32 power).

    Others have recommended regular on-camera type flashguns, used 'strobist' style. That's a great way to do lighting - but studio strobes are fun too (and the constant modelling light makes lighting easier). You can get a good simple kit for $400 - just go for less good stuff, rather than a load of rubbish.
  6. Edge100 macrumors 68000

    May 14, 2002
    Where am I???
    +1 for Alien Bees. A "Beginner Bee" package consisting of an AB800, a stand, and umbrella will run you $358.66. And if you don't need a light that powerful (which may be the case, since these lights only go down to 1/32th power), you can get the package with an AB400 for $303.66. The AB400 is only 1 stop less powerful than the AB800, and should be great for most uses.
  7. toxic macrumors 68000

    Nov 9, 2008
    I'd take Calumet Genesis or Elinchrom D-lites over AlienBees any day. if you really want cheap, look at Adorama Flashpoints.
  8. compuwar macrumors 601


    Oct 5, 2006
    Northern/Central VA
    An AB400 with a stand and shoot-through/reflective umbrella should be a good start, though I personally prefer having 3 lights as a minimum. Shoot-throughs are much easier to work with than softboxes if you're traveling, and the combo gives you more options.

    Almost any lens can be a good portrait lens so long as it's 50mm or longer- a lot depends on how much space you have and what the minimum focusing distance of the lens is, as well as how much of the person you intend to get into the portrait- I find something in the 35-70mm zoom range to be relatively flexible on a crop sensor body. You'll have to also decide how you're lighting too, remember the closer the lights, the "softer" the light, so you'll need a lens that's got a narrow enough AOV that you're not getting the lights in the shot. You can happily shoot at f/8 though, so no need to spend on high-end lenses.

  9. harcosparky macrumors 68020

    Jan 14, 2008
    I think a better 'starter kit' is the Elinchrom D-Lite4 kit.

    What you get:

    2 x 400 D-Lite IT Flash Head ( true 400 watt second ) Strobes
    Skyport ECO Transmitter
    2 x 367B Basic Light Stand - 9' (2.7m)
    2 x Portalite Softbox 25.5x25.5"
    Protective Cap for Glass Dome
    16' Remote Control Sync Cable
    Wide Angle, Umbrella Reflector
    Stand Bag (33230)
    EL 33198 Tube Bag (Black)
    D-Lite User Manual
    DVD-Guide, D-Lite Intro
    Elinchrom Warranty

    RF remote receivers are built in, and the transmitter has a range of almost 900 feet if I recall correctly.

    It's all good quality stuff, a complete, ready to go two head setup for $850.00
  10. mahood macrumors member

    Aug 6, 2009
    I'd second this. While there are situations where you need 'proper' studio lights, I've done a few shoots where we turned off the portable studio strobes and used flash guns alone.

    They're cheaper, much more portable, more flexible (I feel) and you can do just as much with them (as long as you get them off the camera). The only drawback is you might not look as much of a 'photographer' without a load of big lamps on stands and huge umbrellas - but light is light, and once you learn the tricks of the trade, you can use any source.

    Learn the ropes cheaply, and when you find you need something different, you'll be in a better position to judge your requirements.


    PS I do also work in a studio sometimes, so have used the 'pro' equipment too - it's hard to do high key with flashguns - but I feel you learn more about light the less you use!
  11. Edge100, Jan 3, 2011
    Last edited: Jan 3, 2011

    Edge100 macrumors 68000

    May 14, 2002
    Where am I???
    Agree with everything here, except the 'cheaper' part. An AB1600 can be had for $359, and provides at least three stops more light than an equivalently priced 580EX, for instance. Obviously, you can get by with a $100 Nikon SB-24, and Alien Bees are not the most costly strobes, but on a per watt-second basis, strobes can be a lot more cost effective than Speedlites.

    For me, the main advantages of using Speedlites is portability and the ability to run off small batteries, not strictly cost.
  12. mahood macrumors member

    Aug 6, 2009
    Granted, but you don't 'need' a 580EX to go the strobist route - you're paying for all the ETTL cleverness which you ignore when you treat it as a manual light source. You can easily use a $50 manual flash instead, which is definitely cheaper. Your comments on the amount of light are of course true - but I rarely use any light source at full power, so it's not critical in my experience. And you can easily stack 7 'low-end' flashes for the cost of your AlienBee, which I suspect might be enough ;)

    I have the 580EX II myself, so I'm not knocking it - and I accept i'm sort of comparing apples and oranges - but given that the AlienBees etc are all going to be used in manual mode, the bottom end of the flashgun range is more comparable than the top end.

    Portability & battery swap / recharge are the biggest advantages, absolutely.


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