Studio Lighting

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by sud, Dec 10, 2008.

  1. sud macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Apr 26, 2008
    Location:
    Australia
    #1
    Am planning on some lighting in January but not sure what's the best option.

    My budget is between $1200 to $1500 Australian dollars. The lighting should be portable, for location work at the same time good enough for a hard days work in a studio.

    Option 1. 2 x 580ex mk2 with a pair of pocketwizard triggers, a battery pack for the 580's with legs and shoot through brollies.

    Option 2. Some type of studio light kit with a generator or battery pack to suit my budget, perhaps the Alienbees B400 kit plus a battery pack

    What are your thoughts, the main purpose would be to shoot portraits on location when required and then in a studio. I am keen on the 580ex idea but not sure if they have enough grunt, then are they robust enough to last me a few years?

    There is also the Metz or perhaps the Quantum Qflash products that look fantastic, anyone with any experience with this?

    If yo have any pics of a similar setup of yours it might be a great help with some pics of what its capable of producing.

    Thanks in advance.
     
  2. compuwar macrumors 601

    compuwar

    Joined:
    Oct 5, 2006
    Location:
    Northern/Central VA
    #2
    Besides budget, a lot depends on what you intend to shoot, and under what conditions. Shooting outdoors requires more power, since you have to overcome the ambient light- so obviously outdoors in the summer near mid-day means you need a LOT more power than indoors or outdoors at dawn. Depending on who your target market is, you also may find the perception of flashes to be worse than that of strobes.

    While 1 shoot-through is as good as a softbox for the key, I prefer a silver reflected umbrella for the fill light, as the silver gives some texture to hair

    You should also try to budget for an additional light to use as a background light for high-key work and a hair light (with a grid- even if it's a mass of drinking straws taped and cut.)

    You'd have to have the bees modified to work in Australia, purchase a hefty step-down transformer (~750W) or always shoot them off a Vagabond II- which would remove the potential of using the modeling lights. Also, 400's are ok for a small studio or living room, but if you're going to do outdoor work, then you really want at least the AB800s. Because you're not in the US, I'd recommend going with Bowens or Elinchrom over AB- Paul C. Buff is the biggest strobe manufacturer on the planet (with a 50% market share) but they don't tend to cater as well to the international market and just being able to get spare flash tubes locally will be a big deal at some point.

    I'm sure they'd last, but I'm not sure if the power levels will be enough- that depends a lot on how you shoot. Also, if you're going to go the Strobist route, the Vivitar flashes are cheaper than the 580EX route, allowing you to get more units- so you can put more light on the subject and have some redundancy.

    There are some kits in your price range at:

    http://www.kayellaustralia.com.au/photosite/
    http://www.photocontinental.com.au/shop.htm

    If you're going to do indoor work, then one of the Elinchrom kits would be where I'd look first if I were you- and if you can go with a sync cord for one light and the rest will flash slave, then that'll save you some initial outlay over the PWs.

    If you go with monoblocs, you can mix and match power levels, so you can go with a high-power unit for a key at a later date, and monos tend to have more power range adjustments than pack and head systems.
     
  3. sud thread starter macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Apr 26, 2008
    Location:
    Australia
    #3
    Had a look at your links, the Elinchrom do look compelling and the price seems with in my budget, Thanks,

    Do yo have experience with the Qflash or Metz units?
     
  4. termina3 macrumors 65816

    Joined:
    Jul 16, 2007
    Location:
    TX
    #4
    My boss uses (used, actually) Enlichromes, and has had terrible luck. They've crapped out entirely twice (both lights, two times each), and sporadically have problems.

    When they're working, they're great. They are easy to setup and take down, and the system aspect makes things simple.
     
  5. compuwar macrumors 601

    compuwar

    Joined:
    Oct 5, 2006
    Location:
    Northern/Central VA
    #5
    Very little and a long time ago. You'll have a much easier time getting full-sized brollys and softboxes with the Elinchroms, and I think the Qflash only goes to 150ws max. Not a lot of room in the power category.

    Here are my generic thoughts on strobes vs. flashes:

    You'll get way more power out of an AC unit, more power is the majorly important bit because while you can scrim down too much power, if you don't have enough, you don't have enough. The ability to adjust power a lot is very desirable- look for lights that allow it either way. Strobes win this hands-down.

    You have less to worry about in terms of batteries, battery life, and battery storage. You need a pure sine wave inverter for most strobes, but that and one battery pack is much less to worry about than three or four battery packs. You generally don't get the option to mains power flashes, so strobes mostly win this (except the flashes get portable power all the time.)

    Battery packs will take longer to recycle than AC units. Strobes win.

    Your modifier choices are much wider for most strobes than for most flashes- softboxes want to be about the size of your subject- and a 5' strip box can be a wonderful thing- but you'll want some power to get past the internal diffuser as well- strobes win hands-down.

    Modeling lights on the few flashes that have them suck. Modeling lights on most studio strobes work well. Strobes win.

    Monoblocs need an outlet for each light, so you need extension cords and power strips. Pack and head systems need a good outlet for the pack. Flashes can use batteries. Flashes win unless your batteries die.

    Flashes are generally more portable, flashes win.

    Flashes can overheat if they don't have thermal protection circuits. Good strobes come with fans and don't have heat problems. Strobes win.

    Flashes are generally cheaper than strobes, so in terms of immediate economy flashes win.

    If you have high-end clients (the best kind!) then having strobes and good modifiers will be better than flashes with small modifiers and stands in terms of image. Strobes win.

    Finally a closing thought- anyone who can afford studio strobes can afford a raft of flash guns instead- if they were close to equivalent, then there'd be a lot more folks shooting with flashes instead of strobes. Don't get me wrong- the strobist site and techniques are very cool, but they're primarily on-location for newsprint stuff- you can do better if you've got the time and equipment to set up- but not better if you're dashing from assignment to assignment on a time budget. If you've got a max of $300US, flash guns are a workable "I can't do any better" alternative to not lighting- much better than cheesy cheap hot lights IMO, but if you can get a good set of strobes, you'll find it easier and quicker to get to the results you want.
     
  6. compuwar macrumors 601

    compuwar

    Joined:
    Oct 5, 2006
    Location:
    Northern/Central VA
    #6
    That's odd, the European photogs I know swear by them over Bowens in terms of reliability so long as you don't bash them about. Were they the low-end units? What did Elinchrom have to say about the failure? Did they repair or replace them? (Alien Bees are cheap and reportedly PCB will happily work through a high failure rate supplier offsetting with customer service just replacing units- my Bees have been good, but I'm always worried about failures.)
     
  7. sud thread starter macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Apr 26, 2008
    Location:
    Australia
    #7
    Thanks guys, Looks like I should wait a bit longer and get some studio lights. What I was trying to do as I have no flash at the moment was "kill 2 birds with one stone" get the flashes and then they could double up as a studio setup.

    So the next question is, Having no flash's at all should I just get a single 580 for now and save a bit more? or would you recommend another flash and why?

    Thanks again
     
  8. termina3 macrumors 65816

    Joined:
    Jul 16, 2007
    Location:
    TX
    #8
    They're D-Light 4's (so yes, relatively low-end). They were taken care of though, not to the most exacting standards, but always taken down and stored appropriately (I know this because I took them down/stored most of the time).

    What happened (all times, I think), is that the lamp crapped out (not the modeling lamp, the actual flashing bit; very, very prematurely–premature in a matter of thousands of flashes). It's an expensive piece to replace (but self-replaceable), and I don't think Elinchrom replaced it in all four cases. Whether my boss needed the lights ASAP and had to forgo the wait for free replacement is still a question though.

    Because of this, my boss is renting cheapo lights while Elinchrom figures out what's wrong; that is, what's causing this repeated problem. Favorite theory right now is a power management issue that sends too much voltage to the light (or something like that–this is over my head).

    Personally, I'm saving right now for photography equipment, but don't know what to get. I'm stuck between a D3 (sports, fine arts events) OR a full intro-strobe setup and a nice new lens. I was going to get some D-Lights, but with all these problems, I'm leaning towards Alien Bees (IF I decide against the D3). Anyway, that's a different thread for a different time.
     
  9. compuwar macrumors 601

    compuwar

    Joined:
    Oct 5, 2006
    Location:
    Northern/Central VA
    #9
    I'd go the cheapo Vivitar route (with a Safe-Sync just to be sure) as strobist.blogspot.com and some cheap optical triggers- you can get two lights and stands for what you'll spend on a 580, so if you don't think you need TTL, that'd be the low cost route to 2-3 lights.

    Personally though, I'd go to one of the local retailers and try out the Elinchroms and see what their repair rates are like.
     

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