Cheap studio lights or a bunch of Speedlites ?

Discussion in 'Lighting Equipment' started by jean_marc_liotier, Dec 7, 2006.

  1. I own a Canon Speedlite 580EX and a 380EX. I would like to have morecreative options for lighting people - mostly portraits but also social and artistic events that fit within range of small scale lighting. Let's say my budget is around 1000 Euros +/- 300 Euros. For that price I can get cheap kits with 350/350/250Ws or 600/600/420/260Ws both with umbrellas, softboxes, gels, snoot, wireless sync and tripods. Or I can get a couple of 430EX or 580EX with a ST-E2 that I could maybe later replace with a few Pocket Wizards although I dread that expense.
    I know that the lighting kits I am talking about are not from one the well-known brands. They are from a brand named Walimex made in China by Yinyan. They get surprisingly good reaction in various forums. It seems that they are good value for money. The Aurora brand is also sometimes mentioned as another cheap chinese brand with slightly better quality.
    A few DPReview threads about them :
    Users of the better brands recommend the better brands but those cost three times the price of the cheap ones. They may or may not be better or more reliable, but for an amateur that is a moot point if the price is three times as high.
    The cheap lights provide more power than the Canon portable strobes will ever put out. But I can carry the portable strobes anywhere in my bag. As Strobist says : "larger strobes have their place, but they tend to spend a lot of time in trunks and stuffed under beds. But the small, everyday strobe is always in the waistpack ready to go".
    So I'm a bit torn over this issue.
    For now, since the main application will be indoor portraiture, the couple of 430EX with a STE-2 to complement my 580EX have my favor : sufficient power, portability and low cost look like a winning combination to me and I do not think I need more power.
    But what do you think ?
  2. I am using a few Falcon Eyes units. Also Chinese and very good value for money.
  3. Either way could be fine depending on what you are going to do with them. If location shooting is your primary use, three Canon Speedlites will be easy to pack and set up, and will still work well. They are power limited, and don't have a real modeling light.

    Three monolights (or whatever) put out more power, and so are more versatile, but they require access to AC power or a large & expensive battery, and are harder to pack & setup. But they do have modeling lights. Shooting with digital cameras, one can dispense with modeling lights, but a 2 inch LCD review is not really the same.

    I have one modeling light left. Sold the others as I never used them anymore. They were too much bother. I then tried Canon's Wireless multi flash E-TTL for a while. That was far easier to use, but I found myself reverting to manual flash exposures anyway, so why have all that money tied up in metering technology I didn't use? I now use cheap, used Sunpak 522/544/555 flash units mounted on light stands with umbrellas. I trigger them with cheap Chinese made radio slaves (about $30 each). Again, I have no modeling lights, but with digital it doesn't matter so much, and for me, it's a compromise I.m willing to make.

    Buy what you think you will use.
  4. I have and use 3 580 flashes in ettl mode.
    Works well for me with the knowledge I have of them.

    I didn't go with the ST-E2, because I heard it can only has 2 channels or 2 groups.
    (Can't remember if it was only 2 channels or 2 groups of flashes. The 580ex has 3.)

    This is how I was taught and what I use.

    I don't know if I can bother with several a/c powered strobes and flash meter.

    So far the 580's have been enough for me, but in the future I may need a couple more.

    At that point, strobes may be the best way cost wise although I would still keep my 3 580's...

  5. It really is amazing what you can do with a couple 580 (or similar) strobes. I rarely pull out my studio flashes anymore. Even my wedding work is done with the 580's.

    However, take this with a grain of salt. As straight-up studio work is a very small percentage of my photography. I might feel differently if I were a serious studio photographer.
  6. What did I say? "I have one modeling light left." What's that supposed to mean?

    That should read "I have one monolight left."

    I should add that I'm going to use it Friday for the first time in ages. But that's why I keep one around.
  7. Thank you for your answers. I have given more thought to the issue this week-end and I have concluded that portability wins over power. So I'm going for the hotshoe strobes. But since I don't want to be frustrated by insufficient power and slow recycling I went for the pair of 580EX instead of the pair of 430EX. So I'll have a ST-E2 and three 580EX - I guess that this will be more than enough for my needs.

    The reason I chose to pay the E-TTL premium of the Canon flashes is that social occasions will represent about half of my use cases. For those occasions, real-time adaptation to changing conditions is important. Manual control looks perfectly sufficient for studio work, but in the wild it seems to me that E-TTL adds significant value.

    So I just ordered from Adorama - a friend of mine will receive the hardware and bring it back to me when she comes to France next week. Buying in the USA costs me about 30% less than buying in France !
  8. Ever since I started shooting with digital cameras, I've come to use smaller
    and lighter flash sources. My #1 kit these days includes a brace of Sunpak
    shoe mount strobes fitted with optical slaves, powered by HV battery packs
    and triggered with a radio slave. It's makes a small kit that's easy to carry and
    quick to set up and shoot. Sunpaks sell for about 70 bucks, vs Canons that
    are about $380. I only use the canon flashes for mouting on the body. The
    sunpaks are used with various attachments and mounted on lightstands.

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