Best strobe to freeze action?

Discussion in 'Lighting Equipment' started by john_e|2, Feb 9, 2014.

  1. Which studio strobes would be the best for shooting action shots of dancer leaping. My camera shoots at 12 fps and I would like strobes that can keep up. Currently, I'm trying to time the dancer at their peak which is hit and miss. I've researched the Paul Buff Einstein and from what they've told me and the specs it seems the Einsteins will keep up with the camera's 12 FPS continuous shooting ability and has the short flash duration to freeze the action. Before I buy,however, I'd like some input from other's who may have experience in the area to determine which strobes would be the absolute best ones for the job.
  2. Best or capable? Best would be Broncolor. Someone else will have to answer about Einsteins.
  3. For a single Einstein or even the new Profoto B1 to keep up with 12fps it will need to set at or near the lowest output
    (watt-second) setting as I did here: and even with a very efficient reflector , work at a close
    flash to distance to the subject or a high ISO setting to get sufficient depth of field for dance photography.

    I think the Einstein is terrific and while the Profoto B1 has taken the crown to be the state of the art monolight (at 4x the
    Einstein's price) FP for you a better alternative maybe to gang two or more Einsteins together into a light bank and use
    the PocketWizard MultiMAX triggering system to rotate the firing between the heads. This will allow you to work at a
    higher output level per light which will require also longer recycling/ recharging times. By "ping-ponging" between flashes
    there will be more time per flash for recharging the flashes capacitors.

    Short of the Profoto 8, Pro 7 Freeze, and A high end Broncolor system the Einstein and the B1 are the high power
    flashes with short enough flash duration and consistency in color to do what you want.

    Even better ? Learn how to time your shooting to the peak of the action, and go with the B1 or the Einstein for the very
    short ( less than 1/3,000 second at t0.1 ) flash duration.

    Make sure you understand the difference between measuring flash duration at t0.5 and t0.1. The short hand version is
    that measuring at t0.1 gives you the number you need to know about actually freezing motion.

    Are you familiar with the work of Lois Greenfield?
  4. Ellis: would the B1 be a better choice than the Einstein, not considering the price difference?
    I've been timing jumps at their peak but each dancer is different and are not professional dancers that can deliver perfect jumps every time. it becomes time consuming when shooting 30 different ones. Unless there's some reason not to shoot in continuous mode at 12-14 fps with stobes that can keep up, I'm not seeing the benefit to continue timing the jump and getting one shot when shooting the entire sequence is possible. shooting a dancer through out the entire jump would also allow me to merge all of the photos together which would be one more item to sell.
    According to PCB the Einstein's freezing action gets better as the power is reduced. I''ve tested my camera out at 16,000 ISO with astonishing results, so I believe I should have the ISO to deal with the low power settings.
  5. "Is the Profoto B1 a better choice than the Einstein, not considering the price?"

    That is a tough question to answer definitively. Both units produce very high quality light consistently. What you need to
    consider is that with the Einstein, you need to add a Vagabond Mini-Lithium to achieve the same no AC functionality, and
    the Einstein does not have the TTL capabilities of the B1.

    On the other hand, the Einstein has a 250 watt modeling light which will help not only with seeing the shape of the light,
    but also focusing. The B1 has a 20 watt LED modeling light which is at least as bright as a 70 watt tungsten or quartz-
    halogen modeling light. The B1's modeling light runs far cooler than a quartz-Halogen light of any wattage , but especially
    a 250 watt one, which requires a good size internal (built into the Einstein). I don't recommend using the Einstein's model
    light if you are using a battery to power the flash - that's not an issue with the B1.

    The B1 has the modeling light and flash tube in a shallow but fixed reflector that is built into the head. This might limit your
    range of choice of light modifiers.

    If you are in a city with good in-town photo rental options, the B1 has the advantage of renting more gear as you need it:
    reflectors, light modifiers and additional lights.

    As with the Einstein, the B1's flash duration gets shorter as you dial down power. My experience is that any t0.1 flash
    duration of 1/2,500 or shorter will do a very good job of freezing most human motion. The shorter the better of course.
    And once again make sure that the specs you are reading are specifying that the t0.1 F.D. is being used, not the t0.5
    measurement. If a flash says the F.D. is 1/3,000 but doesn't say whether t0.1 or t0.5 is being used , assume it's the t0.5
    standard being used and that the t0.1 measurement is close to 1/1,000th second.
  6. As an Einstein user, the Einstein in action mode starts at 1/13,500 second at the lowest power setting and slows to 1/600 sec at full power. For that sort of thing, I like a good deal of light dof or slow fall off especially if the subject is stretching laterally. If you are ok with harder light a 6' ab silver parabolic is extremely effient so can be pulled back quite a bit for that slow fall off yet stay at a lower power. I don't remember if this was the para I used elsewhere on this shoot or a 3x4 sbx. Might have been the para and diffuser. As a kicker used a medium stripbx. This was shot at f/8 at 1/200 sec with Einsteins at about half power as she flew right to left. The second dancer couldn't get off the ground and I coulda shot him at 1/60 sec with ambient. Told him not to quit his day job.
  7. Second "dancer."
  8. My experience with shooting dancers and lighting them with flash is where you are most likely to see blurred motion is at
    the extremities - hands, feet, and hair. When you think about it that makes sense because those are the parts of their
    body that are moving the fastest.
  9. Why are you bothering with studio strobes at all John? By the time you've reduced the power to something that can keep up with 12 FPS, you might as well be using a speedlight set on a similar power. Especially if you think that you can use 16K ISO.
    Some speedlights actually have a repeating flash option that delivers a preset number of low-power flashes at a rate of up to 20Hz or more. For example I have beside me an old Nikon SB-25 that I can set to deliver 6 flashes at 20 Hz and 1/32nd power. If I drop the rate to 10Hz I can get the power up to 1/16th. However that's not something I'd be willing to do to the poor thing all day every day!
  10. "Why are you bothering with studio strobes at all John? By the time you've reduced the power to something that can keep
    up with 12 FPS, you might as well be using a speedlight set on a similar power."

    AC (mains) vs. batteries would be a good reason, having a modeling light in the light is another.
  11. Ambient light levels are where your ghosting will come from... including your modeling lights. This image was made in a pretty dark gym... t
  12. and this was with the same set up... t
  13. In Tom's examples the lace to look for blur is in the hair, the feet and hands.
  14. Which is created by ambient light levels and the 1/200th shutter speed, not the duration of the flash. If I do that again, I'll
    use my Einsteins in the same way (with grids), but lower the ISO to keep the ambient light's effect less prominent, and
    shoot at 1/250th with a smaller aperture.
  15. Short answer: Profoto Pro-8, breathtaking quick and ultra short flash duration.
    Long answer, everybody makes claims how quick they are. Dial them all down (in power) and the flash duration shortens. Recycle and consistency define the pro tool and as much as i like Bron and am very aware of the accomplished history and usage of the brands products, for this kind of shooting it's Profoto.
    Now, very long answer, and a good point, if you have the electric and manual power, i would check in HMI or even tungsten lighting. To get ultrashort exposure times you need a serious amount of light (12k HMI, and for creative proposes i'd get multiples) and flash might be a much more economic and potentially sharper way to go, especially re. flash duration- exposure time. Also, shooting with multiple extreme large hot lights it gets tropical very quickly...besides, your subjects need to keep their eyes open.
    And the flash version offers you great versatility re. light former and placement...
  16. I have many Paul Bluff strobes and I can assure you Rodeo Joe is correct here. Strobes will only freeze action if the room is completely dark. A Canon 580 EX II set to High-speed sync will be a better option because you can increase shutter speeds beyond 1/250 to I believe 1/1000. You will be better off shooting this like a sporting event using on-camera flash and a very fast lens like a Canon 85 1.2L and a shutter speed of 1/500 or faster.
    When using strobes out of studio it is almost impossible to control ambient light which will cause you to use a smaller aperture to shut out the ambient light. A better solution would be hot lights a fast lens and higher shutter speeds.
    You camera will also be more responsive to 12 FPS continuous shooting when a faster shutter speed i.e. 1/000 is used. So i would suggest either a Canon 580 EX II or other TTL flash with High-speed sync which allows syncing at shutter speeds faster than 1/200 or Hot lights like ARRI, Light panels or Flos.
    PS - if you are going to use strobes it is not about firing off fast shots and making the strobes have to recycle to keep up, but actually timing everything so that you are predicting the dancer jumping into the frame and using timing so that you pop at just the right time. A powerful flash at the right time will give you more room to work. Low power quick flashes will mean the strobe will have to be very close to the dancer and exposure consistency will be extreme as dancers move further from strobes.

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