Committing to a lighting setup - thoughts

Discussion in 'Photography Equipment & Products' started by Overread, Jan 20, 2014.

  1. Overread

    Overread has a hat around here somewhere Staff Member Supporting Member

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    I know I asked along similar lines before with uncertain budget and purchase but now I've decided to commit to the following lighting setup:

    1 x Manfrotto 420B Combi Boom Stand with Sandbag - Black
    2 x Lastolite Lumen8 Pneumatic Lighting Stand
    1 x Lastolite Ezybox II Square Medium - 60cm
    1 x Lastolite Ezybox II Square Large - 90cm
    2 x Lastolite Ezybox II Speedlight Bracket

    That gives me two stands and two soft boxes for regular shooting as well as the option to use a box and the boom for some overhead lighting and to bring the light lower than the stands can go for lower angle shots.

    I've had a look at similar priced light kits which can even go up to 3 lights (when I include a new speedlite with the above setup) with stands and boxes/umbrellas. However whilst they do offer more power and more lights it slaves me to requiring a mains power source or heavier (and thus more expense) batteries. Ok for indoors, but a nightmare for outdoor.

    Power for cost speedlites are more expensive; same again on refresh and typically less shots before over heating is a concern. About the only gain is size, weight, mobility with regard to power and the duration of the flash light itself (typically only a concern for high speed photography).

    I plan to use 600EX-RT flash units, whilst not cheap they negate the need to invest in a separate wireless setup - that keeps complexity down (less batteries/cables/items in the field) and negates the need to invest in a separate wireless setup (cheap units are ok and wouldn't break the bank whilst pocketwizard are a fairly expensive option).



    So that's the plan and the reasoning, anyone got any thoughts or suggestions on the reasoning or upon alternative products to consider?
     
  2. tirediron

    tirediron Watch the Birdy! Staff Member Supporting Member

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    My immediate comment is spend the extra money to get the boom arm with the integrated counter-weight. That sand bag is a huge PIA and you will likely want to pitch across the studio by the second time you use it.
     
  3. Derrel

    Derrel Mr. Rain Cloud

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    I looked at the boom stand and the Lumen8 light stands on-line...those all look okay. I've never used the sandbag counterweight, just the solid "metal" kind that clamp onto the boom arm. I suppose this system ought to be highly portable, and not too dreadfully expensive. The 600 EX-RT speedlights I have seen on CreativeLive.com from Lou Freeman; she uses them extensively for her glamour and boudoir work, all over the USA. It's kind of surprising how well they work in even some of the HUGE modifiers, like 7-foot umbrellas and so on.

    I'm not really all that "sold" on the need for sophisticated TTL speedlights for use inside of umbrellas, but hey...if you have the money and want to go with high-quality name brand TTL speedlights, then I guess it makes sense. I'm geared more toward mains-powered box-and-cable flash (Speedotron) and a big, 18 pound pure sine wave inverter/battery from the Tronix company for no-electricity flash, but hey...I HAVE SEEN how sweet the Canon 600 flashes DO WORK when driven by small 6-cell AA external packs...it really is a nice, modern, sophisticated system.

    The thing is--once you buy this, this is like a decade or more of need, satisfied, right there, so the money outlay really is an "investment", more so that just a useless expense. It's like a top-quality L-series zoom...it's an investment in "you".
     
  4. Overread

    Overread has a hat around here somewhere Staff Member Supporting Member

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    Hmm I was hoping the sandbag approach would let me (at least a few times) get it into the field without lugging deadweight with me. Though if its as much pain as you say it might be easier with set counterweights.

    Derrel I can agree on what you say and I to have had good results with the AA battery packs to compliment the batteries in a speedlite (makes a night and day difference with the recharge rate of the older twinflash - even cuts down its whine sound a touch too). I could go cheap with the speedlites and radio triggers, but like you say I'd rather make an investment in some solid gear that I know will last the test of time plus offers additional features if/when needed in the future.
     
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  5. runnah

    runnah Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

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    How much do you shoot inside vs outside?

    If you do more inside I'd strongly suggest an alien bee or Einstein strobe.
     
  6. Overread

    Overread has a hat around here somewhere Staff Member Supporting Member

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    Runnah a mix of both at present but certainly a lot of outside. Like I said I very much agree if I were shooting indoors I could get powerful lights for less than a speedlite and use them indoors - its just an issue when retaining mobility and distance outside (esp if one doesn't want to lug a generator around).



    And since the thread is a little old I've moved on some purchases. The 90cm * 90cm softbox, flash+box bracket and light stand have all arrived. I've held off on the rest as I need to gather up a lot more funds to afford a second speedlite.

    First impressions
    Lastolite Ezybox II Square Large - 90cm

    Easy to put together, light weight and large. The only downside I'd say is working out how the heck you fold the darn thing up again (the instructions provided are a little short on any words or much elaboration on how one does this dark art). It folds down to almost nothing and comes with its own carry bag.
    Bracket to connect the flash to stands is made of a thick, chunky plastic. Despite being plastic its thick nature makes it feel like its got a long life ahead of it.

    Lastolite Ezybox II Speedlight Bracket
    Bigger than I expected in size, but well made. The construction of the main body is thick plastic and like the bracket mentioned above its a good chunky tough plastic. The connection point from the main body to the stand is a metal fitting, with a chucked angle changer to pitch the stand forward or back; with the chucks it gives a good solid lock that won't be going anywhere.
    The bracket has room to hold two speedlite flash units with the brackets also being removable so that you can mount one to the centre of the bracket (default is one either side). This allows for using a single speedlite and keeping the light central instead of just off to one side.
    Brackets are simple design and hold a flash well, though you can't use a sealed locking mechanism like those found on a Canon 580EX2 as the boarders of the bracket are thicker than a standard hotshoe mount (a byproduct I suspect of them being plastic - again thick plastic) .

    Only downside as I can see it is that there is no provision in the kit for mounting to a standard tripod mount; although I suspect this is fairly standard over the lighting market and that there is likely a screw thread to light stand mount adaptor out there.

    There's an abundance of plastic in the Lastolite setup which keeps weight down and the thick nature should ensure a longer life span when accounting for general wear and tear through use.


    Lastolite Lumen8 Pneumatic Lighting Stand
    Light weight and sturdy metal construction makes for a good overall quality. Lets can be set closer or wider for a most stable stand and it holds the 90cm sotbox well without problems. The air cushion is an added bonus and provides a smoother decent of rods, good if one gets a little loose with heavy equipment mounted upon it.

    Only downside is that after trying it out for a bit I'm surprised it uses a round rod shape and not an oval or other shape that would prevent rotational turn. Whilst rotational turn makes it easy for simply during the light sources where you want them it could be a concern in outdoor shooting on uneven surface or with any degree of wind.
    Edit - after further testing the screw locks on the tripod do give a surprising amount of grip on the rods, enough to prevent general turn (turns out when I first tried it I'd left one a little loose).
     
    Last edited: Feb 12, 2014
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  7. Derrel

    Derrel Mr. Rain Cloud

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    Nice write-up on the products. I have some various lighting accessories, umbrella swivel mounts, and also softbox speed rings made of that thick black plastic, and they are around 25 years old...that stuff is TOUGH! The lighting industry has kind of standardized on it...it doesn't get hot the way metal does, and it's easy to manufacture, so, win-win.

    These days, most light fixtures use a female, 5/8 inch diameter mounting hole, and light stands today use a 5/8 inch diameter mounting stud (the older standard was 3/8 inch stud). The top of the studs on most light stands have a 1/4 x 20 National Coarse thread, same as a standard tripod thread, so it's easy to fit a brass "spigot" onto a tripod in order to have the right type of mounting stud to fit your lighting accessories onto.

    Flashzebra's page here shows many types of spigots and mounting accessories. Enjoy the new lighting kit!

    FlashZebra.com: Umbrella Adapters, Flash Brackets, Flash Stands, Clamps & Spigots

    THIS is one good option: http://www.flashzebra.com/products/0083/index.shtml
     
  8. Gavjenks

    Gavjenks TPF Noob!

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    I've never heard of a serious strobe light OR speedlight that doesn't have an optical slave mode. You don't need "sophisticated wireless setups" for all your lights. You only need wireless on one, for general purpose stuff.

    Unless you want to do some crazy crap like having 5 lights all firing HSS at once with a 1/2000 shutter speed, or doing location shoots in the middle of a jungle (unlikely given all of the heavy stuff you already listed that you plan on toting around to shoots), I'd generally advise strobes for multi-light fancy setups. Then just use them in slave except for one hooked to a reliable wireless or even just a $5 30 foot PC cord and $5 thing for your hotshoe that outputs to PC cords.

    Speedlights are essential for on the go lighting and action and vacations and whatnot. But if you're already humping 30 pounds of stands and ridiculously bulky softboxes wherever you're going, the advantages of the speedlight melt away very rapidly.

    Personally I recommend alienbees for cost effectiveness. But there are bajillions of them, just like speedlights.



    Also, strobes give you MODELING LIGHTS, which kick ***
     
    Last edited: Feb 12, 2014
  9. Overread

    Overread has a hat around here somewhere Staff Member Supporting Member

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    Made an adjustment to my early impression for the stand; turns out one of the locks wasn't fully tightened when I was first testing it out. When fully locked there's a good strong grip - enough that you'd have to be in pretty serious wind to cause turn (and by that point you'll have way more problems with thing blowing down the beach).


    Derrel - thanks for that, I did assume that there would be adaptors out there, it just mostly surprised me that the kit didn't account for this in the kit itself.

    Gave - I can agree with much you say, however "5 lights all firing HSS at once with a 1/2000 shutter" is something I can see a use for. Indeed I was originally looking at getting a set of those mini-strobes; the kind that come with a portable battery pack and give long life whilst being very small in size (as small or smaller than a speedlite). Thing was I came to find that the flash duration for most strobes is significantly longer than for speedlites. As a result whilst for portraiture its no problem, for action or high-speed photography it does make a difference; which further pushed me toward speedlites. From there its a case that getting any reliable wireless setup is increasing yet more cost - by which point a 600EX radio starts to look like a very affordable alternative whilst keeping the bulk an wire complexity down.

    I'd love to go for the strobes - I can spend a lot lot less on them and get a lot more power and more lights than I can with speedlites - just at present I see far more scope for versatility with the speedlites.
     
  10. pixmedic

    pixmedic Critical Care Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

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    we went with speedlights for exactly the same reason. it gives us one set of lights that can be used pretty much anywhere.
    we went with umbrellas over softboxes though.
     
  11. Gavjenks

    Gavjenks TPF Noob!

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    Overread: the reason why I said "crazy crap like having 5 lights do HSS" is because the main use of HSS is to kill ambient light. However, if you have 5 powerful studio strobes, then there are much better ways of doing this than HSS. Namely, you should simply slap on a neutral density filter, and then crank up the massively higher power of studio strobes to overpower even the sun, to kill ambient light. This requires MUCH less synchronizing hassle and expense and issues compared to HSS. Thus, HSS is unnecessary and of lesser practicality when you have a high powered light array at your disposal. It also is just better than HSS creatively, because you can control DOF while still killing ambient, unlike the HSS approach. There MIGHT be some sort of corner case where HSS is superior, but I can't think of one. The reason for that technology is simply that speedlights are too weak to do it the other way.

    Also, the simple fact that most of the time, if you're using a bunch of lights and stands and stuff, you are probably doing a scheduled shoot, and can thus simply choose to schedule it not outdoors during harsh midday sun when you would need to kill huge amount of ambient light in the first place.

    If you want to freeze motion, there are strobes on the market that can go to very, very short durations. For example, the Paul C Buff Einstein model flash, which goes up to 1/8000th of a second flash duration. This is only about a stop and a half slower than even the fastest speedlights on the market at their lowest power settings, and 1/8000 is enough to easily freeze any human activity. The only time I would feel I needed the extra boost up to 1/20,000th of a second would be for something like highly magnified droplet splash photography. But I wouldn't be using a multiple light setup for that anyway, probably, so.... not that relevant still.
    Andy Gock : Newcastle Photographer Actual Measured Flash Durations of Small Speedlight Strobes
    ^
    flash durations of various models, including speedlights and the Einstein unit.
    The Einstein still costs the same as your speedlights you're considering, and seems like it offers everything you need + 10x as much power output and much higher workhorse capability for long shoots, etc. PLUS a modeling lamp PLUS updateable firmware PLUS wireless receivers built in just like the speedlight PLUS a significantly larger power range than the speedlights (9 stops versus 8, in 1/10th stop increments), PLUS a built in speedring for better and easier modifiers like most strobes.
    Paul C. Buff - Einstein E640



    Speedlight have hotshoes on them, and weather sealing, and AF assist beams, and ETTL, etc. for a reason. They're very much designed for use on your camera. Nobody manufactures speedlights that have features cost-optimized for stand lighting studio applications instead, simply because there's already a better tool for that in 99% of situations: a studio strobe. If you use a bunch of speedlights, you're simply paying a bunch for 5 different auto assist beams and 5 different weather sealing and ETTL systems and hotshoe hardware and blah blah that you aren't using, because that's not what they're for. And you're getting less of the features you actually need for that application as compared to a strobe.

    It's sort of like buying half a dozen ferraris to haul tiny amounts of gravel to a worksite at once at 20 MPH, instead of just getting a pickup truck.
     
    Last edited: Feb 12, 2014
  12. Derrel

    Derrel Mr. Rain Cloud

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    Well, Gavjenks makes some good points, but the whole "committing to a lighting setup" is one of those choices where sometimes logic and cold hard facts and what the other guy wants to do doesn't matter. If you want the LIGHTEST source of portable light for indoors and outdoors, speedlights weight less than even the lightest, smallest monolights.

    Optical slaves work well in bare-speedlight conditions, but as Lou Freeman mentioned, the problem with optical triggers and infra-red triggers is that they DO NOT WORK reliably, or at all, with many of the light modifiers people want to use with speedlights in the 21st century. Like some of the new enclosed umbrella devices and softboxes, where the speedlight is literally INSIDE the modifier, and is hidden from view, and accessing the light unit requires that a front diffusing panel be removed; the new trend of using those new, popular modifiers with speedlights is one of the reasons Canon went with a RADIO-frequency-controlled triggering and power adjustment protocol in the 600 RT flash. Radio Triggering works BETTER than optical triggering in many situations...hence the Canon 600 RT flash system was born.

    Some of the newer modifiers from Westcott, and other makers, have the light INSIDE the device, often facing the curved side of folding, umbrella-style softboxes, so access to the flash unit itself is kind of a PITA, and once again, the radio trigger and radio adjustment makes those issues moot. I watched a three-day Creative Live seminar. Lou Freeman was the second woman to ever shoot full sets for Playboy magazine, and she's got allll the money needed for any flash setup she'd like...she's using the Canon 600 RT in a full-blown studio type glamour/boudoir mode and is VERY happy with it. creativeLIVE: Lou Freeman - free online courses

    I myself prefer box-and-cable studio flash to monolights or speedlights, but I've used speedlights with umbrellas many times. They do work. Having seen the Canon 600 RT used with external, supplemental battery packs, Westcott modifiers, and regular studio gear used by Freeman for three days, I have to say, the new Canon speedlights are really a pretty good high-portability, no wall-current option. The whole flash and trigger and sync system in integrated, integral, HSS, and ALL-Canon. You pay for that, yeah. But man, it is slick! And it just *****g "works".

    I think for somebody "committing to a lighting system", there are a number of factors, and the options are really numerous today. The problem as I see it is that so few people can actually buy based on hands-on trials or demonstrations...not many places actually SELL the studio lighting gear, so a lot of it is bought on specifications, and web articles and so on. And costs range from Broncolor down to Yongnuo...ie...brand-new Toyota Camry car pricing to monthly bus pass pricing. Personal preferences and ideas seem to factor into buying on lighting, and the MAJORITY of the manufacturers have absolutely HORRIFICALLY LAME web sites and promotion of their lighting gear! Paul C. Buff has the best and most promotional material. Some of the other makers have almost nothing worth a damn on their sites.
     
    Last edited: Feb 12, 2014

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