Alien Bee Pro Worthy...

Discussion in 'General Shop Talk' started by mooney101, Feb 26, 2008.

  1. mooney101
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    mooney101 New Member

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    OK i'll be moving soon, been working at a studio for 10 years and i'm moving and starting my own business so money will be tight for awhile. I Will be dealing with seniors and Pets and some family's. Will be on location at first then in studio as I settle in. I'm use to using Photogenic and White lighting lights and I've heard good things about alien bees. I just want to no can they give Pro results. I'd imagine yes but I like to hear form those who use these in a business not just in a hobby situation. Feedback please, before I go and make a big alien bee purchase.

    Thanks...
  2. Big Mike
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    Big Mike I am Big, I am Mike Staff Member

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    I use them and like them but I haven't used other brands for comparison.
    I have seen several pros using them...and I've heard a few gear snobs poo-poo them.

    I would recommend them.
  3. mooney101
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    mooney101 New Member

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    Thanks for the reply. One thing that i'm very curious about is that even though you buy light modifiers for them like umbrellas and soft boxes for example and one have trouble butting other light modifiers on them and finding modifiers that fit alien be for example larson soft boxes.
  4. Big Mike
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    Big Mike I am Big, I am Mike Staff Member

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    Not having used other lights, I'm unfamiliar with the different speed rings...but from what I understand...there are several different styles of speed rings for different brands of lights & accesories.

    I know that you can buy speed rings from AB, and maybe you can adapt other modifiers to use that ring.
  5. notelliot
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    notelliot New Member

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    alien bees has a whole line of modifiers that i have no complaints about. they also sell the mounting "speed-ring" separately, i imagine this is for other brands of modifiers.

    the lights themselves are great. no complaints about them.

    customer service is also excellent.. i think i posted a big thing about my experience with AB a couple days ago..
  6. JIP
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    JIP New Member

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    If you read The Strobist you will see you can get professional results from just a couple of Vivitar flashes . some cardboard and, some Duct tape. While I am a big advocate of the right gear when it comes to cameras if you can produce with something that is what you should use.
  7. nicfargo
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    nicfargo New Member

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    I have alien bees. They are not what I'd consider "pro" grade, but that does not mean I can't get professional looking shots with them. You can get professional looking shots from any light source if you know your stuff. The reason why I don't consider them "pro" grade is because they are plastic. If you drop these, chances are they will break. I do love my alien bees though despite that I wouldn't consider them "pro" grade. To me, pro means they can take a beating. I think of the difference between the Canon 1D and the 30D. Both can pretty much produce the same image, but the 1D is a little more rugged.
  8. Big Mike
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    Big Mike I am Big, I am Mike Staff Member

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    Using hot-shoe flashes is certainly an option...especially if portability is an issue. Also, if you are going to be needing dedicated flash units anyway, they can do double duty.
    It should be noted that while the power of a bare hot-shoe flash can come close to an AB light...once you start using modifiers like umbrellas or softboxes...the power of the hot-shoe units fall quite a bit short of the studio strobes...that's what I've heard from those who have measured it.
  9. Nimitz
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    Nimitz New Member

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    Hi - I have 3 AB 800s plus softboxs, umbrellas, barn doors, grids, gels - all from Alien Bee.

    I do professional in-home pet portriats so I shoot 'on-location' all the time. I also use them in my home studio.

    I love them and have had no issue with them. The collection of light modifiers available for them from AB is substantial as well.

    IMHO you can't go wrong here with ABs ...
  10. mooney101
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    mooney101 New Member

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    thanks guys I feel allot more comfortable in investing in AB's now.:sexywink:
  11. guitarkid
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    guitarkid New Member

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    i use nothing but AB's and love them. won't use anything else. price is right and our photos are great. it is pro series to us, and also very user friendly. also, customer service is some of the best ever!
  12. Phranquey
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    Phranquey New Member

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    I have to agree with nicfargo. I have a pair of 800's, and I usually use an SB-800 for background/hair, etc. The AB's are fantastic lights, are comparitively lightweight, and produce professional "results" for the money, but do be careful with them. These are not to be "tossed" into the trunk. If you trip over a cord or lightstand and send one for a tumble, you can likely kiss the whole unit goodbye, not just the bulb.

    Otherwise, if you're on a budget, and as long as you are careful with them, I think you will be happy.
  13. JodieO
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    JodieO New Member

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    I have four AB 800s. I originally purchased three of them because they were cheap but had a "decent" rep. I didn't expect to use them much.... I wanted to stay natural light but use studio every now and then.

    Fast forward, 4 or 5 years later, I am STILL using them and have ZERO problems with them... they are just fine. I would purchase something different since I am full time and have a studio, but they won't break! lolololol!!!! When they break, I will invest in something else....
  14. Alpha
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    Alpha Troll Extraordinaire

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    The question of whether they're "pro-grade" boils down to two things.

    First is color. I can tell you because I've tested it myself with a meter that the color changes significantly across their output range (i.e. it's different at lower power and high power and in-between). This may or may not be a problem for you, and it depends on how precise you need your light temp to be. For example, let's say you have two AB's setup. One you're using as your primary, and at full power. Another you're using at low power as a hair light. They're putting out different light temps.

    The other thing to consider is modifiers. You basically have to buy all your modifiers from AB. That may or may not be a problem for you. They have a decent selection. But there are some modifiers that other companies make that are not available from Buff. Some of these are specialized or over-the-top. You won't find, for example, a parabolic umbrella, or a particularly great spot attachment. Some modifiers or lack thereof are more problematic. I don't think they have a very good lineup of reflectors. In fact, I think they flat-out suck. They're made out of cheap semi-matte brushed metal crap...like they were salvaged off of a 1980's Bowens monolight. They also only come in two diameters. I find that quite limiting. Further, while you may pay a premium for premium reflectors from other companies, I find they're vastly superior. While the reflectors for my own Broncolor strobes are becoming too rich for my blood, anyone who's used the Profoto adjustable reflectors will attest that they are the smoothest, most precise, and sexiest reflectors ever. And for everything they're capable of, they're not that expensive. So if you're only going to be using a softbox, and/or don't care about light fall-off from your reflector, then AB's will probably suffice.

    I also will throw in something I add to every AB thread. No matter how many positive reviews they get from semi-pros, I do not trust a company that uses such shady marketing terms as "effective watt-seconds" which trivialize the validity of their stated power specs.
  15. mooney101
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    mooney101 New Member

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    Thankyou for that information. Actually color and accuracy is very important to me. Even now with our lights in my current studio I run into that problem because we have a mixture of light manufactures.:( I'm a perfectionist and I want it to show in my work. I hate spending extra time in Raw processing because I have to look at almost every image because of a color shift or somthing.:D
  16. JodieO
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    JodieO New Member

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    That is completely FALSE.

    I don't have one modifier from AB. I have four AB 800s and here are my modifiers: 50x50 Westcott Apollo softbox, 28x28 Westcott Apollo softbox, 4x6 Larson softbox, a simple softliter, and a 2x4 Photek? softbox. Here they are - set up www.jottephotography.com/studio.htm all on ABs.

    Why would you have to buy your modifiers only from AB?

    Don't get me wrong, eventually I WILL buy different lights but the ones I have will not break - I won't replace until they break...



    .... and I am a (now nationally published) pro, not a semi-pro, so you can check my website to see my results.
  17. Alpha
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    I'm going to ignore the last sentence because you're making moot point in a fruitless argument.

    As for the rest...fine...I'll rephrase. You get a speed-ring. Hooray. A soft-box is a soft-box. What really matters, if you use them, are the modifiers that are brand-specific. In AB's case, you get a selection of cheap crap. This isn't a whose **** is bigger question. It's a matter of function, and to some extent also a matter of cost. Take Profoto's adjustable reflector, for example, which can literally take the place of multiple reflectors. Or the reflectors I use on my Broncolors, which have built-in gel holders (some other companies also do this). What if you're getting light loss because of your crappy reflector and therefore not making the most of your strobe's output capacity?

    Furthermore, you literally do have to buy from AB if you're buying their stuff because they won't license to any retailers. That makes renting a lot easier with other brands, and it also makes fast purchases easier. If there's a modifier I don't have, for example, that I'd like to use, I can go somewhere local and rent it. It also makes it easier to tack on rental equipment to an existing setup. What if you have a Zeus and a head but you need another? What if you have two and one breaks? Screwed. If I had nearly any other brand and needed another head, or even another pack to work with my existing equipment, I could simply rent it when necessary. I could never do that with AB's.
  18. JodieO
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    JodieO New Member

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    Well, honestly, that is why it's not a big deal for me. I don't rent anything. When I want something, I buy it... even if it assignment specific, I will just buy it... I need to buy things to offset my taxes or I am screwed at the end of the year....

    I"m not saying by any means that ABs are GREAT lights because like I said, as soon as my ABs break (and they have been going strong for four years), I am switching out to something else - haven't made a final decision on what yet... but for someone who wants something cheaper to get their feet wet or not invest in a ton of equipment because they only plan to do studio lighting only part of the time, there is nothing wrong with using them....

    But anyway, my lights are ABs, and all my modifiers, and everything else I buy for studio is NOT AB brand. When I go to buy other lights, I will just need to change out the lights, everything else will pretty much stay the same - same equipment, just interchanging the lights.

    By the way, LOVE LOVE LOVE the Larson reflectors that have built in stands....
  19. Alpha
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    How did you adapt other non-speedring modifiers? Your reflectors are not AB?
  20. mooney101
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    mooney101 New Member

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    Nice work jodieO. Thanks for the feedback everyone. I must say though i'm starting to lean away from the AB's just because I like to buy things once and not have two buy things twice. AB's seem like they will probally work for the most part but for the long run I think i might look on to yes more expensive but professional lights. Keep the feedback coming though it will be a couple of month or two before I make the purchase.

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