View Poll Results: Alien Bees or Speed Lights

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  • Alien Bees

    5 71.43%
  • Speed Lights

    2 28.57%
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  • 1 Post By o hey tyler

Thread: Alienbees vs Speedlights

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    Alienbees vs Speedlights

    Okay, so some of you may now I have borrowed two of my friends Alien Bees B800 and she has shoot through white umbrellas and stands. I was looking to invest into some lighting like this in the future. This is my question though, is it easier to just get multiple speed lights rather than Alienbees with a portable power pack?

    It seems that speed lights would be much more accessible and easier to carry around for on location shoots. My question is are speed lights going to be as good as Alien Bees or would you just recommend portable power pack with Alienbees
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    Joe McNally typically uses speedlights instead of strobes, but then again, he also has custom brackets so that he can shoot 4 SB900's at the same time, and all of those are connected to external battery packs. That generates about the same power as a decent strobe.

    So, which is easier, using one strobe and a battery pack, or using 4 speed lights and 4 battery packs with a custom bracket?

    IMO, they both have their place. For me, I couldn't imagine having at least one of each. It allows you to use the right tool for the job instead of trying to make another tool work.

    Just as mounting a strobe to your hot shoe is impractical, so is mounting 4 speedlights in one soft box.

    Just my .02
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    Quote Originally Posted by 412 Burgh
    Okay, so some of you may now I have borrowed two of my friends Alien Bees B800 and she has shoot through white umbrellas and stands. I was looking to invest into some lighting like this in the future. This is my question though, is it easier to just get multiple speed lights rather than Alienbees with a portable power pack?

    It seems that speed lights would be much more accessible and easier to carry around for on location shoots. My question is are speed lights going to be as good as Alien Bees or would you just recommend portable power pack with Alienbees
    Dollar for dollar, mono lights offer more light for cost and recycle much faster. Also, the amount of area it covers is something is hard to beat. But speedlights can fit anywhere where mono's can't, have many many modifiers, and can fit in a back pack. Personally, I'd opt for a mono light set up. Pick up some manual flashes too if you wanna keep it light. I have some older Nikon speed lights that can be had for under 100 bucks and are great. But dedicated speedlights work with cls, and auto fp. Of course theres other ways for high speed sync if you need to battle the sun. Otherwise, stay out the sun.

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    I have an AB800, and a few speedlights. I prefer to use the AB when I have a lot of room, mostly for the modifiers. But I also have a speedlight mount for my lightstand which allows me to use an umbrella in conjunction with it for smaller "on the go" jobs. Often, I will use the AB as the main light, and the speedlight as rim, or another type of light that I may need to move around the subject during the shoot. I think I may go with a flashpoint monolight as my next one though. They seem to be a better price point, and do what the AB units can do as well.

    Here's a shot I took last night demonstrating a Mono & Speedlight setup.



    ^Took that with the AB800 + 30x60 softbox and a 430EXII for the sidelight.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mach0 View Post
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    Thanks for the tips. Does anyone think getting just one B800 would be stupid? I did a dog shoot the other day and one seemed to work well. (tight space and had natural lighting as well) so I only needed one. I was thinking of combining a B800 with my SB-700
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    Quote Originally Posted by 412 Burgh View Post
    Thanks for the tips. Does anyone think getting just one B800 would be stupid? I did a dog shoot the other day and one seemed to work well. (tight space and had natural lighting as well) so I only needed one. I was thinking of combining a B800 with my SB-700
    That's what I have is one B800. You'll probably want at least a PLM or softbox to go with it though.
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    Yeah I was definitely going to get a modifier for it and light stand.
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    I have the softbox on the far right. It really is gargantuan, and you may be more comfortable with something smaller. It's tough to mount it to the faceplate of the AB on your own. Paul C. Buff - Foldable Softboxes

    Here's the PLM I have. It's the white towards the bottom. 64" if my memory serves me correctly. Paul C. Buff - The PLM System
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    I run an AB400 with a 30 x60 soft box and I love it. I don't have a vagabond so I only use it at the house. I use my sb900 and vivitar 285's for rim or background lights or when I'm out and about. Even with 3 speed light to take out with me I still want a vagabond mini to take my ab out and About
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    You need option "C".... Both.

    I started off with Nikon speedlights, got up to 5 and one died. Instead of the Alien Bees, I went with the White Lightning line, 1x 1600 and 2x 800. The price difference wasn't too much and the reading I did seemed to favor the WL's for color temperature consistancy and build quility.

    I use the speedlights and mono lights in tandem at home. On the road it's speedlights.

    The thing is..... modifiers, you gotta have 'em. The decision of which to use is a personal choice though.
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    Modifiers is one thing on my list to start picking up
    Nikon D7000/D300 with 24-70 F/2.8, 70-200 F/2.8, Nikon 35mm F/1.8, Nikon SB900 several other flashes and stuff.

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    I agree, you need both monolights/power pack w/heads, and speedlights.

    I too preferred using speedlights on location, since I often used 2 speedlights at each light position, I had 14 speedlights. (my iShoot radio receivers each had 2 hot shoes.)
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mach0 View Post
    Dollar for dollar, mono lights offer more light for cost and recycle much faster.
    Sure, if you have them plugged into a wall. Stick a powerful light on a battery and then not so much. I've seen people talking of recycle times over 7 seconds on higher power strobes on certain batteries. I'm sure that you could probably get that even slower with the right combination or strobe and battery.

    I'd prefer something other than Alien Bees, personally.
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    A mix of AB and SB

    Quote Originally Posted by 412 Burgh View Post
    Okay, so some of you may now I have borrowed two of my friends Alien Bees B800 and she has shoot through white umbrellas and stands. I was looking to invest into some lighting like this in the future. This is my question though, is it easier to just get multiple speed lights rather than Alienbees with a portable power pack?

    It seems that speed lights would be much more accessible and easier to carry around for on location shoots. My question is are speed lights going to be as good as Alien Bees or would you just recommend portable power pack with Alienbees
    On my shoots I use my AB 800 and AB1600, SB-800 and SB-28. Each tool have its pros and cons so here are my observations:
    • Alienbees are much bigger than Nikon speed lights
    • Alienbees take up more room and weight more.
    • Alienbees put out much more light over a larger area then the SBs.
    • Cost for Alienbees vs SB-910
      • AB800 with a Vagabond mini is about $520
      • At Amazon the SB-910 is $546.
      • Why is the SB-800 at Amazon are going for just under $1,000?

    • This past week on a shoot I had a mix of Alienbees and SB-800 and SB-28.
      • As expected Speedlight batteries started to run down, we observe their longer recycle time.
      • The SBs were getting quite warm and the plastic lens was quite warm as well; a hair from hot.
        • We took out the batteries. We carry a small cooler, with those cooling gel packs, to place the SB in to cool them.
        • We were not rapid firing them. As they recycled we would again shoot, it did not take long for them to heat up.
        • Recall, the SB900 has a heat cut off switch, that was a pain for shooters so Nikon came out with the SB910.
        • Okay now what, wait around for the Speedlights to cool off; on your next shoot see how well that works for you.

    • The Alienbees were popping right along
      • Getting good vibrations from them
      • Never heating up
      • The Vagabond Mini Lithium, VML did not run down nor out.


    Speedlights are wonderful to hide for rim light, fill in behind something or someone. They have their downsides that folks rarely mention:
    • Though CLS is good in the correct locations if the Speedlight sensor cannot catch the on-camera flash it will not flash
    • If CLS is not performing reliably you will need to purchase some type of radio trigger; an extra cost added to the speedlight price.
      • Doing so makes the Speedlight more expensive than studio strobes such as Alienbees.
      • That price most likely will be added to each Speedlight.

    • Many times when using Speedlights with softboxes the power must be 1/2 to full thus batteries fast run down.
    • As they run down the recycle time extends at some point it will become unacceptably long. Change batteries and hope the Speedlight is not hot.
    • Speedlights will have less light output as well.
    • Do not discount the cost of AA batteries and maintaining them.


    Again, each device, studio strobe and Speedlight have advantages and disadvantage. We must use the correct tool for the job. Our job is to shoot, not attempt to make a pig fly.

    Joe McNally produces wonderful amazing photos with Speedlights. As I understand it, I could be wrong, Nikon gives them to him. To the person that has fourteen of them that is an expense I would not want to pay. Not knowing their shooting situation, I would suspect a few studio strobes would do the job and save them tons of money.

    Though I use and enjoy Speedlights, and I started out with them, I am using my Alienbees much more than the Speedlights. There are many times Speedlights are the best tool to use. When I use them it is with a Cybersync radio trigger; I want to make sure it will fire. A few years ago I stopped using CLS, for me it is too undependable, now everything is manual.

 

 

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