Flash Equipment Recommendations

Discussion in 'Beyond the Basics' started by B Kennedy, May 3, 2009.

  1. B Kennedy

    B Kennedy TPF Noob!

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    So I have been photographing a bunch of events lately, specifically Sweet 16's. I've been doing my research trying to find a somewhat affordable off camera flash setup. I was looking at the alienbees b1600 heads (2 of them) as well as manfrotto stands. I have been able to get away with just using my 580ex2 with a gary fong diffuser and would bounce off the low ceilings (~15' high). The problem I encountered, which led me to start looking for a more powerful source of lighting, was that I had trouble bouncing the flash at my last event. The dance floor had a higher ceiling than then rest of the room, and this area was filled with balloons! I thought I would be ok bouncing in this area, as it was too far away from a wall to, but apparently I didn't get enough bounce and some of the images came out too underexposed and of course accompanied with a dark background.

    So a long story short, does anyone have recommendations for flash units? I was hoping not to break the bank with this first purchase of flash heads/wiring/tripods (!$1500). Has anyone had experience with Alienbees? They seem to be a favorite among the best bang for the buck. Thanks in advance.
     
  2. William Petruzzo

    William Petruzzo TPF Noob!

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    Go for Alienbees. They've definitely got a lot of bang for the buck. But, I would scale back to the B800's. I originally had some 1600s and frankly, they're too powerful. I found that it was sometimes hard to get them shooting low enough or far enough away to get creative with your camera settings.

    I bought almost all my equipment from the Alienbees store (hardware, wires, umbrellas, etc). Everything was fine. The stands were actually quite good. The light modifiers were a little cheap, but the price was right so it's okay. If I were you, I'd go ahead and get everything from their store. Plus you'll get a discount for it.
     
  3. B Kennedy

    B Kennedy TPF Noob!

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    Thanks for the reply! I'm mainly going to be using them for "large" halls for like sweet 16's and weddings. For portraits I use the 580's. Have you used the 800's in like 150+ size halls?

    Also I see you have the 5dm2? Have you had any issues with it? I just got mine like 2 weeks ago, and got an error 22, turned out I had to return it for exchange. I just got the new one and there's a black spec somewhere between the viewfinder and the mirror and I can't seem to get it cleaned off. Now I have to send this one back too! Very frustrating.
     
  4. Big Mike

    Big Mike I am Big, I am Mike Staff Member Supporting Member

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    Firstly, you would be going from battery powered flash units to AC powered studio lights. Make sure you are prepared for that. You can get a portable battery for the studio lights but that's an added expense.

    Part of your problem may be light that is wasted by the 'Fong Dong'. It spreads light in all directions...and if there isn't a surface close enough to bounce off of, that light is wasted. Not to mention the light that is eaten up by the plastic itself. If you are bouncing off of the ceiling anyway, try using bare flash, maybe with a bounce card.
     
  5. William Petruzzo

    William Petruzzo TPF Noob!

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    Nope, I'm using the original 5D, so I can't help you there.

    I've used the 800's on fairly large halls and they work quite nicely. The only time they're insufficient is on very bright days when the units need to be more than about 30 feet away from the subject. But if the primary use is going to be very large areas, then I'm sure the 1600's will serve you well.

    And, Big Mike is right. Power has to be considered. I power mine with a Vagabond unit from the Alienbees. It works great and I hear good things about the new one that came out a couple years ago. I would feel safe recommending that as a viable solution. But remember if you need more than one light you're either going to need power wires running all over, or else you'll need independent battery packs for each light--which in the case of the Vagabond unit isn't too devastating.
     
  6. B Kennedy

    B Kennedy TPF Noob!

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    Definitely planning on running wires all over the place. I will most likely have my flashes setup next to the DJ/Band so I'm assuming there will be at least powerstrips/outlets for me to plug each flash into. I saw the vagabond's on the bee's website, but I'm going to hold off for now since I'm trying to keep costs low. Between (2) manfrotto stands, the heads and accessories and a light meter, I'm already flirting around $1200.

    Big - I've read many a forums about the fong dong, hahaha, but it has worked for me so far in giving a good amount of light for the smaller halls I've been shooting, especially when they always seem to want to turn the damn lights down so dim. Once I get the AC powered flashes I'm going to start using the 580 powered down to just expose the subject, rather than trying to light the damn place up so I don't have a black background.

    Thanks for the advice, I'm definitely going to be going with the Bees
     
  7. Big Mike

    Big Mike I am Big, I am Mike Staff Member Supporting Member

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    So you are thinking of using a combination of Bees with an on-camera 580?

    I do that on occasion (only with a 430EX). I'm usual not concerned with lighting up the hall with the studio lights, but creating an off-camera light source for the people in the hall. You can set your position, angle and flash settings to have one be your main and one be your fill/accent light, then change those settings and switching them.
     

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