Some Lighting Set-Up Questions...

Discussion in 'Photography Beginners' Forum' started by BirdyIsMe, Mar 25, 2010.

  1. BirdyIsMe

    BirdyIsMe TPF Noob!

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    Hi, everyone. Here's the scoop. I have the following lighting gear, and I'm looking for a more robust set-up, probably for the purpose of expanding my shooting capabilities. I'd like to spend <$1000 now if possible, but I'm willing to continue to add a few hundred dollars worth of stuff each month for the next few months, if it will equate to a solid set-up when all is said and done.

    Here's what I have right now:
    Manfrotto Boom Stand on Casters w/ Counterweight
    Westcott 50" Apollo Softbox
    Nikon SB-28 (2 of them)
    Vivitar 283
    Cactus Triggers

    I'm thinking I'm going to go the White Lightning X1600 route, since it has a 1/4 power switch. 8 full stops (full to 1/128) of range, and a good reputation. Adding a Vagabond for portable power and a beauty dish brings me to $880. Once I pick up a more portable boom stand that will hold all of it, I'm at roughly $1050.

    I'm thinking this set-up makes sense, since I can add a couple B800's and modifiers over the next few months, and have a pretty decent set-up.

    Thoughts? Other options you'd consider in this price range?
     
  2. Big Mike

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

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    So are you looking for a very portable system, or more of a studio type setup?

    Carrying (or wheeling) a boom stand around, doens't strike me as all that 'portable'. Certainly not compared to a couple speedlights that will fit into your pocket.

    But if you really need a lot more lighting power, then there is nothing wrong with the WL. And if you want to make that portable, then adding the Vagabond can help with that...but it isn't everyone who wants to/or can travel around with such a big/heavy kit.
     
  3. LBPhotog

    LBPhotog TPF Noob!

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    Any of the Paul C. Buff products (white lightning, alien bees, zeus) are great options they are great products and very economically friendly.

    I've been using AB for almost 5 years now and I've never missed a "click" and I think I've changed 1 bulb ... highly recommended to anyone who asks.

    P.S. Probably THE BEST CUSTOMER SERVICE/SUPPORT you could ever ask for.
     
  4. BirdyIsMe

    BirdyIsMe TPF Noob!

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    Basically, I'm looking to shoot some bands for fun. I want a set-up that will let me do whatever I need to do (kill Florida sun, if needed). Most of the stuff will be on location, but set-up time isn't a primary concern, I'd imagine.
     
  5. Derrel

    Derrel Mr. Rain Cloud

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    The output level of the White Lighting 1600 is about the same as Speedotron's economy series D402 Brown Line 4-outlet power supply, which costs about $120 less money, brand new. The actual power output of a Brown Line using a medium-efficiency flashtube and M-11 light head is a measured GN of 270 at 10 feet using a 50-degree beam spread 11.5-inch grid-capable reflector, while the Paul C. Buff White Lighting is a measured GN of 222 with their 80 degree 7-inch standard reflector. Using a smaller, more-efficient flashtube like that found in a Brown Line M90 flash head with it s built-in 8.5-inch reflector, you could get a higher GN than with an M-11 head.

    The thing with the White Lightning 1600 is you're getting a 640 real watt-second flash unit that compares less-favorably than an economy 400 watt-second Speedotron Brown Line pack available used for $100-$129. And, with the monolight you have only ONE flash head, not four flash heads, or three, or two. So, when you buy what is basically a 1600 WL, you get a "400 watt-second",single flash head, for $489. When you buy a 400 watt-second power pack, you get the option to use it with one,two,three,or four lights.

    When you start talking $1,000 on White Lightnings, you really mean two, individual monolights, each with about 400 w-s of power, despite the "640" and "1600" numbers they throw around. I think you'd find that GN of 222 at 10' is actually too much power for today's digital cameras at ISO's like 200 to 400,and that the WL 1600 is actually TOO powerful to be as useful as a lower-powered monolight, and that lower-powered monolights are atually more cost-effective, and that pack-and-head systems are actually the most-cost effective option when you want to have 3 to 4 lights.

    Monolights cost a lot of money PER light head. And the WL "1600" is about as efficient as Speedotron's D402 power supply is, so you're not really getting "1600 watt-seconds" in any way,shape,or form. In my book the WL 1600 is overpriced at $489 in terms of a single light, with the power of a economy Speedo pack and head that can be bought off of eBay for $200...
     
  6. shortpballer

    shortpballer TPF Noob!

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    Derrel, you know why too much stuff man lol. I use white lightning X1600's and have been very happy with them until all this lol.
    Anyhow, I do recommend the X1600's they produce nice light, and recycle faster than having several heads on a powerpack (Forgot to mention that one Derrel ;) ). I use mine with a vagabond for on location work with no problem. Its definitely a lot to carry with all my lenses and second body etc. I have a matthews boom and rolling stand and would NEVER bring it on location unless someone was paying me to do so...

    Hope this helps! X1600's are great lights!

    Eric
     
  7. c.cloudwalker

    c.cloudwalker TPF Noob!

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    I believe you need to sit yourself down and decide what it is you want. In several ways. #1 would be the kind of photography you want to do: 1a/ studio or outdoors; 1b/ easily portable or better, but not so easy to tote around. #2 would be the subject matter.


    #1: 1 a or b actually should make no difference in your choice of light gear unless you are going to go to some remote places and you have few muscles. If, like me, you don't have a lot of muscles, hire some volunteers to help carry the gear.

    #2 doesn't really make a whole lot of difference in my book either.

    However true that is, there are other things to consider. Distance between lights is one and with a pack and head system you are limited by the length of the cord between the pack and the head. Last time I checked there were no extension cords. Although that is not a problem in a lot of cases, it can be when shooting groups.

    Also, you have cords running all over the place. As someone who has shot a lot of bands and will again very soon, I would not use a pack-and-head system. With such a system, you have a lot cords running to a central point (the pack) which means cord all over the shooting area. But with a monolight system, 90% of cords can be kept out of the shooting area.

    That was/is important to me because musicians are often (at least somewhat) stoned or drunk and the fewer cords for them to trip on the better. The monolights allow you to keep most cords (if not all) outside the shooting area and that is a major plus. For insurance reason, you don't want people tripping on cords. You also don't want them to do that so you don't have to replace lights on a regular basis when they bring them down and kill them.

    Another thing to consider is that there is a very good reason most photogs keep their lights in the same brand if not the same family of a brand. The obvious one is that you have strobes that all work and react the same. The second most obvious one is that the accessories fit whichever light. No need to figure out what you are using where, so what accessory do I need...

    Flash units are designed to be used on (kind of) camera for light (not heavy duty) use. Strobes are designed to be used for heavier work. Your choice of gear should therefore be determined by what exactly you want to do.

    AB has some decent strobes for starting photogs at decent prices. That may be be your way to go.

    Hope that helps.
     
  8. Derrel

    Derrel Mr. Rain Cloud

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    There are extension cords available for packs and heads, and have been for many years. With a 5-monolight setup, you need five AC current plug-ins and five AC power cords. With a pack and head system, you need one AC outlet to plug in the generator, and then most generatoirs will power 3,4,or 6 light units, from that one single generator,depending on the brand and model of pack. I find the whole 'tripping on cords' argument to be amusing, especially in light of the "no extension cords" statement. As far as people who are stoned and drunk tripping on cords...wow...tape cords down whenever possible if you are actually shooting stoned and drunk people or better yet, don't even bother with people who are stoned and drunk at the time of their photo shoots. I fail to see any net advantage in cords in monolight versus pack-and-head setups; it seems that each light type requires one cord per light head; monolights require one AC power cord per light, running from an AC outlet point to the monolight itself. Pack and head systems can power up to six light units from ONE AC power cord that runs from an AC outlet to the power pack, and then a cord runs from the pack to each head in use. The entire 'issue' about cords seems largely imaginary to me.

    Monolights that weigh 5.9 pounds each, like WL 1600's do, are fantastic at tipping over unless stands are stout, and used well. Lightweight pack and head heads, which weigh significantly less than a high-power monolight, are less-likely to be tipped over since there's more stand weight as ballast and less weight from the light at the top. However, there are ways to prevent people from tipping over a light stand, like: 1) use a roller base stand or :2) cord-clip the cord to the center column of the stand low,near the floor level. Then, if a person trips or pulls on the cord, the "pull" comes at the bottom of the stand! A professional knows that safety comes from working methods and precautions, like taping cords down, and using sandbags along with **quality** light stands and knowing how to keep cords secured at the bottom of the stands, where they belong, not hanging free and in the way of both subjects and the camera view. If you buy turtle base stands like Avengers or Matthews, you will have far,far fewer stands tipping over than with cheaper, folding aluminum-only stands that cost $40 each. Same with roller-foot stands...they almost never,ever tip over indoors--they roll along the ground! A roller-base stand WITH the cable clipped to the bottom of the column,near the floor, is virtually IMPOSSIBLE to tip over. Even if a drunk guitarist grabs a heavy based rolling stand at the top of the stand,it will roll,and he will pass out face-down while the light continues shining. It is false economy to put a $500 light on top of a $39 Bogen lightstand that weights 4 pounds. Drunk,stoned 'musicians' (Hendrix? Morrison?) deserve high-quality light stands be used around them. (grin).

    Recycle times on the WL 1600 are 2.0 seconds. The economy D402 I mentioned recycles in 1.7 seconds,no matter how many flash units it has connected. The pro-level Black Line 405 recycles in just 1.3 seconds,and is a nice location pack. As far as a system for using with portable sine wave inverters, the WL 1600s are automatically fan-cooled when they get hot, which will cut your sine wave's capacity quite a bit. For location shooting, a convection-cooled head (meaning one with no fan needed for cooling) is a benefit. As far as carrying this stuff, you want a wheeled handtruck type of system if you are going to do much location work--it just makes life easier.

    Wheeled carts and wheeled backpacks have advanced hugely within the past 5 years. THere are now many more 'roller solutions' than there were just a few years ago.

    Consider how long you want the lights to last. Is this a stepping-stone system or one that will not be used heavily? Does the system you are considering have all the features you will want "someday"? Will there be a "someday"? Will you eventually want a light that offers a 35 degree to 90 degree beam spread like a Speedotron 202 Variable Focusing head, or will simpler light heads with simple reflectors be enough?

    I will give you one bit of advice,and that is to buy just one WL monolight and see how it actually performs for you, in your own particular shooting situations. You might find, as many people do, that you have more power than needed under many,many circumstances,and that you are very frequently dropping the power level down quite low, making Full Power not very useful many times. I think many people tend to over-estimate the needed flash power for people work. I would rather have five,or six lights of 200 W-S than just three 400's.

    One place I would speak to about lights are the folks at Calumet Photographic; Calumet sells more lighting equipment to more studio and location shooters than probably any retailer or e-tailer in the USA, including B&H or Adorama. Calumet has people who really KNOW lighting on staff,and can give you advice about things you don't even know you want to know about,and they handle more brands of lighting equipment than any other retailer in the USA as well. For instance--do you really want to buy new lighting equipment??? I prefer used--the savings are absolutely huge and you can afford backups galore that way and save money.

    Like c.cloudwalker says...you need to sit down and decide a number of things. For example--cost versus weight. And modifiers you really need. If I were buying new today, I would also look at Adorama's low-price FlashPoint 320 monolights at $99 each,and buy six of them, as opposed to buying just two $489. I think the power level of the lower-cost lights would be more in line with my needs,most of the time,and would rather have more,lower-power lights than fewer,bigger ones. Everybody's needs are different however, and that's why there are 25 or so lighting manufacturers.
     
  9. JimmyO

    JimmyO TPF Noob!

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    Wow lots of great info in this thread. I dont do a whole lot of work where i need alot of power but when i need more then my speedlights i have 2 interfit EXD200 200w/s monolights. If shot bare they can tame the sun really easily, and with modifiers they can still knock down the sun a stop or 2 for portraits outdoors. I havent had a huge need for portability yet but im gonna rent a vagabond and see how i like it.

    Bare flash on a partly cloudy day

    [​IMG]

    Through umbrellas

    [​IMG]
     

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