Studio lighting equipment? Help me shop!

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by Photog, Sep 16, 2006.

  1. Photog

    Photog Guest

    Hi,

    If it's not too much trouble, I'd love to solicit your advice on which
    studio lighting equipment I should consider purchasing. I've done a lot
    of research, but I'm still really confused.

    I'm an amateur/hobbiest photographer looking to learn more about studio
    lighting. I've taken a studio portraiture course, and now I'd like to
    purchase my own lights for home use. I am willing to start small (I
    have a small space!) and expand my studio as I gain experience.

    I'd like to go with strobe units, and I'm trying to stay around $750 -
    1000 to start with. If that means I only end up with one light, fine.

    My main concern is that I'd like to do some casual portraits, but also
    some still-life/product shots. I am shooting with a Canon 20D. What
    kind of power should I be looking at so that I don't sacrifice either
    area? Seeing as how I need a lightstand or two, umbrella(s) and/or a
    softbox and maybe a boom arm, I may only have enough money for a
    monolight instead of a head unit and separate power unit, huh? Is that
    a bad idea? Does that make it difficult to straddle the power between
    my interests of portraits and products?

    Thank you SO much for your thoughts! I know this question is asked a
    lot, and I did read a lot of the other threads, but I am still lost in
    my own situation.

    Cheers!
    Susan
     
    Photog, Sep 16, 2006
    #1
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  2. Photog

    Steve Wolfe Guest

    > I'd like to go with strobe units, and I'm trying to stay around $750 -
    > 1000 to start with. If that means I only end up with one light, fine.
    >
    > My main concern is that I'd like to do some casual portraits, but also
    > some still-life/product shots. I am shooting with a Canon 20D. What
    > kind of power should I be looking at so that I don't sacrifice either
    > area? Seeing as how I need a lightstand or two, umbrella(s) and/or a
    > softbox and maybe a boom arm, I may only have enough money for a
    > monolight instead of a head unit and separate power unit, huh? Is that
    > a bad idea? Does that make it difficult to straddle the power between
    > my interests of portraits and products?


    I don't think that it does. Given your budget, look at Alien Bees. For
    the price, they're a tremendous bargain. Through a 3' softbox in a
    single-light portrait, I usually have to drop my AB400 down to about 1/4
    power to keep an aperture of f/8, so unless you're stopping down quite a bit
    for DOF reasons (which you might be on closeups of the products), there's
    plenty of power even in the "weak" model. They give pretty accurate guide
    number figures on their site, so you can do calculations yourself.

    Boom arms get very expensive, but cheap ones do exist. I got one from
    Adorama that isn't as convenient as some, but cost less than $45. The setup
    would lean and shake like a willow on the cheap light stand I bought, so I
    picked up a Bogen Century stand, which is VERY solid. You don't need a boom
    for all of your lights, though, just one would probably be plenty. Your
    budget could probably get you one strobe with a stand and boom, another on a
    stand, a softbx, and umbrella if you shop around.

    steve
     
    Steve Wolfe, Sep 16, 2006
    #2
    1. Advertising

  3. In article <>,
    Photog <> wrote:

    > If it's not too much trouble, I'd love to solicit your advice on which
    > studio lighting equipment I should consider purchasing. I've done a lot
    > of research, but I'm still really confused.


    Avoid Novatron. I've always used Photogenic in the studio and Norman
    for portable.
     
    Randall Ainsworth, Sep 16, 2006
    #3
  4. Photog

    Photog Guest

    Steve Wolfe wrote:
    > > I'd like to go with strobe units, and I'm trying to stay around $750 -
    > > 1000 to start with. If that means I only end up with one light, fine.
    > >
    > > My main concern is that I'd like to do some casual portraits, but also
    > > some still-life/product shots. I am shooting with a Canon 20D. What
    > > kind of power should I be looking at so that I don't sacrifice either
    > > area? Seeing as how I need a lightstand or two, umbrella(s) and/or a
    > > softbox and maybe a boom arm, I may only have enough money for a
    > > monolight instead of a head unit and separate power unit, huh? Is that
    > > a bad idea? Does that make it difficult to straddle the power between
    > > my interests of portraits and products?

    >
    > I don't think that it does. Given your budget, look at Alien Bees. For
    > the price, they're a tremendous bargain. Through a 3' softbox in a
    > single-light portrait, I usually have to drop my AB400 down to about 1/4
    > power to keep an aperture of f/8, so unless you're stopping down quite a bit
    > for DOF reasons (which you might be on closeups of the products), there's
    > plenty of power even in the "weak" model. They give pretty accurate guide
    > number figures on their site, so you can do calculations yourself.


    Yes! I do think I'd really like the Alien Bees - I've read a lot of
    good things about them and I've been leaning towards getting one or two
    of their units. I have a question though, what is the difference
    between producing "true" wattseconds and "effective" wattseconds of
    power? The B400 is claiming to have 160 true wattseconds and 400
    effective wattseconds of power, so I was wondering what that means.

    Also, when considering lightstands, is there a certain brand or
    specification to look for? Obviously I need to consider the weight of
    my flash unit and umbrella or softbox, but stands seem to range from
    $20 - $200! Any tips?

    Thanks again!
     
    Photog, Sep 16, 2006
    #4
  5. Photog

    Photog Guest

    Randall Ainsworth wrote:
    > In article <>,
    > Photog <> wrote:
    >
    > > If it's not too much trouble, I'd love to solicit your advice on which
    > > studio lighting equipment I should consider purchasing. I've done a lot
    > > of research, but I'm still really confused.

    >
    > Avoid Novatron. I've always used Photogenic in the studio and Norman
    > for portable.


    Thanks Randall! I'll keep that in mind - I actually looked at both
    Photogenic and Norman as well. I have my eye on a couple of things
    already if/when my budget increases. : )
     
    Photog, Sep 16, 2006
    #5
  6. Photog

    Steve Wolfe Guest

    > Yes! I do think I'd really like the Alien Bees - I've read a lot of
    > good things about them and I've been leaning towards getting one or two
    > of their units. I have a question though, what is the difference
    > between producing "true" wattseconds and "effective" wattseconds of
    > power? The B400 is claiming to have 160 true wattseconds and 400
    > effective wattseconds of power, so I was wondering what that means.


    They explain it all on their web site, but here's a rehash:

    In a traditional pack-and-head setup, the capacitors are in the pack, and
    have to discharge along the cables to the heads. The rate at which power is
    delivered during a strobe flash is very large - for a brief moment, you are
    delivering power at a rate of up to (or OVER) 1,000,000 watts (yes, a
    *million* watts). Because of that, you lose a very significant amount of
    power along the cables, before it even gets to the heads. With a monolight,
    the transmission distance is measured in millimeters, or at most a couple of
    inches - not dozens of feet, so you lose far less power.

    So... their "400" unit, with 400 "effective" watt-seconds delivers about
    the same amount of light as you get from a 400 watt-second pack-and-head
    design. Now that's not absolute, some 400 WS pack-and-head setups may
    deliver more, some less. Many (perhaps most) strobe manufacturers either
    don't give actual light output (the guide number), don't specify how they
    measure the guide number, or flat-out misrepresent the guide number. Alien
    Bees are exemplary, they give actual guide-number outputs through each of
    their light modifiers, and those with calibrated light meters have said that
    the numbers are either spot-on, or so close that it makes no difference.

    > Also, when considering lightstands, is there a certain brand or
    > specification to look for? Obviously I need to consider the weight of
    > my flash unit and umbrella or softbox, but stands seem to range from
    > $20 - $200! Any tips?


    Alien Bees are very light for monolights. Umbrellas aren't heavy,
    either - but they present a long moment-arm, creating a lot of torque. The
    best thing for that is a stand with a wide base, but you don't have to go
    crazy looking for ultra-wide stands, most any will work just fine. For
    stands where you're not using a boom arm, I don't find a terrible amount of
    difference other than the speed and convenience of adjustment and whether
    they're air-cushioned or not. For those, a cheap stand works fine. For a
    stand with a boom arm, you need a solid base and a stiff stand, the boom
    arm, light, modifier, and counter-weight are a lot of weight. It's not
    uncommon to use 10, 15, 20 pounds (or even more) just in the counterweight.
    The heavier your counterweight, the more you can extend that strobe!
    (That's another area where the light weight of the Alien Bees is handy.)

    steve
     
    Steve Wolfe, Sep 17, 2006
    #6
  7. Photog

    wilt Guest

    Steve Wolfe wrote:
    > > Yes! I do think I'd really like the Alien Bees - I've read a lot of
    > > good things about them and I've been leaning towards getting one or two
    > > of their units. I have a question though, what is the difference
    > > between producing "true" wattseconds and "effective" wattseconds of
    > > power? The B400 is claiming to have 160 true wattseconds and 400
    > > effective wattseconds of power, so I was wondering what that means.

    >
    > They explain it all on their web site, but here's a rehash:
    >
    > In a traditional pack-and-head setup, the capacitors are in the pack, and
    > have to discharge along the cables to the heads. The rate at which power is
    > delivered during a strobe flash is very large - for a brief moment, you are
    > delivering power at a rate of up to (or OVER) 1,000,000 watts (yes, a
    > *million* watts). Because of that, you lose a very significant amount of
    > power along the cables, before it even gets to the heads. With a monolight,
    > the transmission distance is measured in millimeters, or at most a couple of
    > inches - not dozens of feet, so you lose far less power.


    The 'effective watt seconds' doesn't have the value of a hill of beans!
    The reflector you have or the softbox you use renders direct
    comparison absurd unless you are using exactly the same criteria...bare
    tube on both, or both in same softbox. The only way you can compare
    two light units is to measure with a flash meter! Chimera makes
    softboxes, and their brochure is very revealing in how 'same power'
    (watt second) claims amount to very different results as measured!

    > So... their "400" unit, with 400 "effective" watt-seconds delivers about
    > the same amount of light as you get from a 400 watt-second pack-and-head
    > design. Now that's not absolute, some 400 WS pack-and-head setups may
    > deliver more, some less. Many (perhaps most) strobe manufacturers either
    > don't give actual light output (the guide number), don't specify how they
    > measure the guide number, or flat-out misrepresent the guide number. Alien
    > Bees are exemplary, they give actual guide-number outputs through each of
    > their light modifiers, and those with calibrated light meters have said that
    > the numbers are either spot-on, or so close that it makes no difference.


    Years ago I saw a 'shoot out' at a trade show, comparing White Lighting
    1500 (1500 watt second equivalent) to Photogenic Powelight 750, and the
    Photogenic won EVERY comparison in light output! (Buff makes both WL
    and AB)
     
    wilt, Sep 17, 2006
    #7
  8. Photog

    Photog Guest

    Steve Wolfe wrote:
    > > Yes! I do think I'd really like the Alien Bees - I've read a lot of
    > > good things about them and I've been leaning towards getting one or two
    > > of their units. I have a question though, what is the difference
    > > between producing "true" wattseconds and "effective" wattseconds of
    > > power? The B400 is claiming to have 160 true wattseconds and 400
    > > effective wattseconds of power, so I was wondering what that means.

    >
    > They explain it all on their web site, but here's a rehash:
    >
    > In a traditional pack-and-head setup, the capacitors are in the pack, and
    > have to discharge along the cables to the heads. The rate at which power is
    > delivered during a strobe flash is very large - for a brief moment, you are
    > delivering power at a rate of up to (or OVER) 1,000,000 watts (yes, a
    > *million* watts). Because of that, you lose a very significant amount of
    > power along the cables, before it even gets to the heads. With a monolight,
    > the transmission distance is measured in millimeters, or at most a couple of
    > inches - not dozens of feet, so you lose far less power.
    >
    > So... their "400" unit, with 400 "effective" watt-seconds delivers about
    > the same amount of light as you get from a 400 watt-second pack-and-head
    > design. Now that's not absolute, some 400 WS pack-and-head setups may
    > deliver more, some less. Many (perhaps most) strobe manufacturers either
    > don't give actual light output (the guide number), don't specify how they
    > measure the guide number, or flat-out misrepresent the guide number. Alien
    > Bees are exemplary, they give actual guide-number outputs through each of
    > their light modifiers, and those with calibrated light meters have said that
    > the numbers are either spot-on, or so close that it makes no difference.


    This makes sense now, thanks for explaining it. I had tried to read it
    on the website and got a little lost.

    > > Also, when considering lightstands, is there a certain brand or
    > > specification to look for? Obviously I need to consider the weight of
    > > my flash unit and umbrella or softbox, but stands seem to range from
    > > $20 - $200! Any tips?

    >
    > Alien Bees are very light for monolights. Umbrellas aren't heavy,
    > either - but they present a long moment-arm, creating a lot of torque. The
    > best thing for that is a stand with a wide base, but you don't have to go
    > crazy looking for ultra-wide stands, most any will work just fine. For
    > stands where you're not using a boom arm, I don't find a terrible amount of
    > difference other than the speed and convenience of adjustment and whether
    > they're air-cushioned or not. For those, a cheap stand works fine. For a
    > stand with a boom arm, you need a solid base and a stiff stand, the boom
    > arm, light, modifier, and counter-weight are a lot of weight. It's not
    > uncommon to use 10, 15, 20 pounds (or even more) just in the counterweight.
    > The heavier your counterweight, the more you can extend that strobe!
    > (That's another area where the light weight of the Alien Bees is handy.)
    >
    > steve


    Thanks so much for your help Steve! I went ahead and ordered an Alien
    Bees unit - the B800 for now to get started, and I'll add one more (and
    another stand and an umbrella) when I get my next pay check. I have a
    stand, boom arm, and soft box, on the way from bhphoto.com. : ) I can't
    wait to play!

    Susan
     
    Photog, Sep 17, 2006
    #8
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