I finally have some money saved up, and need some advice.

Discussion in 'Photography Equipment & Products' started by John_05, Sep 14, 2008.

  1. John_05

    John_05 TPF Noob!

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    I managed to save up $600 since my last photography related purchase, and want to buy something new.

    Here's a list of what i have so far...

    2 - 250w (5600k) continuous lights with shoot-through umbrellas.

    3 - light tents (12", 24", 40").

    1 - shooting table.

    3 - 5-in-one reflectors (24", 36", 36x60").

    1 - reflector arm and clamp.

    1 - 580 EXII flash.

    1 - Rebel XSi with kit lens.

    1 - 50mm f1.8.

    1 - Sigma 70-300 f4-5.6 DG Macro.

    2 tripods, 2 light stands, 3 camera bags, 5 sets of rechargeable batteries, 6 - 2GB memory cards, 2 CP filters, 4 and 6x Cross Screen filters, 2 UV filters, 1 fluorescent filter, 1 red filter, etc....

    I'd like to start learning how to use strobes and try some portrait type shots, but I still love shooting outdoors too.

    I'm not sure if I should get better glass, or maybe buy a cheap set of strobes from Ebay to practice with. I also want to get a few other things like an infrared filter, more batteries for the camera, a better neck strap etc....

    I was looking at a few different sets on Ebay, and found these 4.

    http://cgi.ebay.com/PRO-640-W-S-HIGH-OUTPUT-FLASHS-STROBE-SOFTBOX-MUSLIN_W0QQitemZ200254350561QQcmdZViewItem?hash=item200254350561&_trkparms=39%3A1|66%3A2|65%3A16|240%3A1308&_trksid=p3286.c0.m14

    http://cgi.ebay.com/Digital-2-x-300W-Strobe-Monolight-Studio-Flash-Kit-NEW_W0QQitemZ360086993037QQcmdZViewItem?hash=item360086993037&_trkparms=39%3A1|66%3A2|65%3A16|240%3A1318&_trksid=p3286.c0.m14

    http://cgi.ebay.com/3-Studio-Flash-Strobe-2-softbox-3-backdrop-wireless_W0QQitemZ310082608019QQcmdZViewItem?hash=item310082608019&_trkparms=39%3A1|66%3A2|65%3A16|240%3A1309&_trksid=p3286.c0.m14

    http://cgi.ebay.com/3-studio-flash-strobe-softbox-3-backdrops-more_W0QQitemZ160281061494QQcmdZViewItem?hash=item160281061494&_trkparms=39%3A1|66%3A2|65%3A16|240%3A1308&_trksid=p3286.c0.m14

    I don't know much about strobes other than the cheaper ones probably wont last as long or be as reliable as more expensive ones, but after seeing the prices for more professional quality stuff, I see it would take me about 5 years to get something similar to what is in those sets.

    Since I'm only looking to learn, have some fun, and I'm not trying to do anything "professionally" with whatever i get, I think I would be better off getting something cheaper for now. If later on I decide I would like to try to make a little money with my photos, I will feel better about spending $1500+ on a better set.

    What I would like to know is if anyone with more knowledge with me, or perhaps someone who has owned any of those sets, could tell me if any are worth buying, and which one would be a better value for the money.

    I was also thinking about getting another flash and using it with the one I have now, but I'd like for both to be off camera, and preferrably wireless. The XSi doesn't have a PC terminal, so I don't know what I would need to operate 2 flashes off camera.

    Also, should I just buy a new lens and keep working with what I have? I'd like to get a lens that's sharper than the ones I have now, but somewhere in between the range I have now. I dont need anything over 300mm, but I would like to get something that's about as wide as the kit lens I have, but with more at the telephoto end. Something around 17mm - 150mm or so would be ideal.

    I apologize for the long post and needing so much input, but it takes me a very long time to save up any money, and when I finally do, making the decision on what to buy becomes difficult. Right now I'm leaning towards getting more glass and improving my photography more, but I really want to learn how to use strobes as well. Since I cant do both right now, any advise or opinions would be extremely helpful.
     
  2. D-50

    D-50 TPF Noob!

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    I would suggest saving up for some decent glass. You seem to have a lot of accessories yet few good lenses. Its not how much gear you have but rather how good the gear you have is and how well you know how to use it.
     
  3. John_05

    John_05 TPF Noob!

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    The first 5 things I listed cost me about $220. Thats why I have it. I couldn't pass up the deals. Everything combined (minus the camera) cost about as much as the flash. I got it new, and it cost me just over $600 total with tax and shipping.

    Do you have any suggestions as to what lenses I could afford that fit what I'm looking for? I can borrow a couple different primes from a friend of mine, so I'm really looking to get something in the 17-20 to 100-150mm range.
     
  4. Village Idiot

    Village Idiot No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    I little light can make your pictures look 100x's better than a new lens if you know how to use it.

    http://strobist.blogspot.com/2006/03/lighting-101.html

    Read through that link and blog.

    You have the basis. You can get a cheap set of Gadget Infinity Cactus V2S triggers and a 2nd hand vivitar 283 for about $80 on ebay. Two light stands, umbrella adapters and white shoot through umbrellas for about $110 through B&H. There's pretty much no lenses you can purchase for $200 that can give you the results that knowing how to light can give.

    2 speed lights make a nice basis for a beginner's lighting kit.
     
  5. John_05

    John_05 TPF Noob!

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    I have $600 to spend, not $200.

    I know it's not a lot, and that's why I am having such a hard time deciding what to get.

    I also know better lighting equals better pictures, and that's why I'm considering some sort of lighting set up that's a little better than the lights I have now.

    How would buying those 2 flashes compare with one of the kits I posted links for? Would it have as much power as say a 160ws strobe? I"m pretty sure it wouldn't have nearly a much as a 300ws.

    I would prefer to get something a little more flexible while I have the money. Getting strobes, stands, backdrops etc.. all for $600 or less seems like a better way to go IMO.

    If I don't buy additional lighting and decide to buy a lens, what would be a good lens in the $600 range that's between 17-20mm and 100-150mm range? I was considering the 70-200mm f4 L, but I already have a 70-300 that wouldn't sell used for more than $100 and I would still want something in the range I specified.

    Also, if you don't mind looking, which of those sets I posted would you buy if you had an extremely limited budget but wanted something to learn with? I pretty much decided against the first set, and I'm not really liking the 3rd one either.

    If you wouldn't buy any of them, is there something in my price range other than the Vivitar flash set up you suggested that you would buy?
     
  6. Village Idiot

    Village Idiot No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Ok.

    two sunpak 383's = $160
    Three Pocket Wizard PII's = $540

    Is that better?

    It's not how much you spend, it's how you use it.

    A 160 w/s strobe will give you more power, but if you need to shoot in a park, how are they going to help you?

    What are you planning on doing? I have a set of speed lights and a set of studio strobes. I'm doing a wedding this weekend that the studio strobes will come in handy for, but next weekend I'm doing a shoot at an abandoned building. 1000ft. of extension cords is not an object.

    Decide what you want to do and give an explanation before you expect an answer you like.

    And I have a kit lens and a 300D. I'm going to use it at the shoot next weekend with my cheap speed lights so I have photos just to prove my point.
     
  7. usayit

    usayit No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    I am more inclined to go with the "The DigiBee" package from AlienBees as a starting point for a "real" strobe set (adding portable power).

    But I'm not to that point when it comes to flash photography.... I'm happy with what I have: http://www.thephotoforum.com/forum/showthread.php?t=131896 which is similar to what VI is referring too. There are some limitations as well as advantages to this style of setup. Definitely something that you can use to learn.
     
  8. John_05

    John_05 TPF Noob!

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    Thanks for the input.

    I looked around for the Sunpak 383's, and couldn't find any for sale new. There's 1 or 2 on Ebay, but they'll be gone before I can make the order.

    It looks like they've been discontinued. Is there another flash you would recommend in the same price range with a similar amount of power?

    After having a look around. I figured I would be better off going this way rather than buying one of those sets. I have limited room for anything in my apartment, and I can improvise everything that comes with those kits to make it work.

    Thanks again for your advice. I appreciate it.
     
  9. John_05

    John_05 TPF Noob!

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    I thought about buying an AlienBees kit, but that's way out of my price range. it would take me a 6 months just to save enough for a softbox and mounting hardware.

    I had a look at the kit you bought, and had a question. Would the triggers work on the 580 EXII flash I have? If so, I can save about $100 and only buy one flash instead of 2.

    Thanks for the advice too, and the link to your post. You and VI have helped a lot. :thumbup:
     
  10. Village Idiot

    Village Idiot No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    You can use pretty much any of those triggers with your 580ex II. It has a sync port. The triggers in USayit's post aren't the most reliable though.

    Alienbees make the Cyber Syncs, which are the cheapest reliable triggers I know about, Elinchrom Skyports are a bit more, and the the Pocket Wizards are the most expensive.

    Vivitar 285HV's are decent strobes. Even look at older Nikon sb 28's on ebay.
     
  11. John_05

    John_05 TPF Noob!

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    I was able to find a pair of the Vivitar 285s for a good price.

    I also had a look at the Cyber Syncs. I would need to get a transmitter and 3 receivers tho, and $270+ is a little out of my price range.

    Just how unreliable are the Cactus triggers? I'll mainly be using them indoors, and I take really good care of everything I own.

    My list so far includes....

    1 - Cactus radio slave set.
    3 - receivers.
    2 - LumoPro LP632s
    3 - hot shoe to PC connectors.

    With the 2 285s, I'm at roughly $350. That leaves me enough to buy a lens (28-135mm) a friend of mine is selling. I know I'll be getting 4 receivers and only need 3, but I like to have a spare whenever possible, and would rather get one now than need one later and be stuck paying more.

    Is there anything I might have forgotten?

    Thanks again for all the help.
     
  12. Village Idiot

    Village Idiot No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    stands, umbrellas, and adapters?

    They're hit or miss. Some come DOA, some act funny. One guy had a light that wouldn't trigger when the receiver was close to another receiver. Random misfires.

    And I believe the cactus uses a 3.5 miniphone jack.

    Also, just getting the cables you need may be more reliable.

    Two 3.5 to Vivitar cables and one 3.5 to pc.
     

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