Different strobe quality

Discussion in 'Lighting Equipment' started by john_ashby|2, Feb 5, 2010.

  1. I've been lucky enough to get to use broncolor G4's for some studio work, and I'm starting to look into getting my own equipment. I was kind ot shocked to realize that between 3 heads, the power supply and some modifiers, I'm looking at about $20,000 for the gear I've been taking for granted.
    Is there really that much difference between using these and, for example, the AlienBee B1600's (aside from the obvious difference in power)? Given what I'm used to will, I be disappointed with a sub-$1000 lighting kit? What do the G4's really give me? I know people talk about consistancy in color and power, but are the cheaper lights noticibly bad?
    Thanks for any insight you can give.
  2. I've used Broncolor lights for almost 20 years and can give this input.
    If you're shooting digital, you don't need a 3200 w/s pack or 3200 w/s lights. I have 3 - 1600 w/s packs and 5 heads. With digital, even using one pack dialed down in power I often end up shooting at f/16 (for products), f/11 for headshots. It depends on what type of subjects you shoot, the recycle speed you need etc, but the 3200 w/s packs are better suited to film in my opinion. When I shot 4x5 and 8x10 I'd often be shooting at f/45 for enough depth of field.
    Buy used or demo units as much as possible. I try to find very clean equipment on e-bay and have had very good luck. Many photographers are having a tough time and need to sell off this stuff at a deep discount. It's built to last and can be repaired.
    Broncolor offers a very wide range of accessories and light modifiers and put out very consistent intensity and color of light. The quality of the light from the standard reflectors is also excellent - a very smooth, even beam.
    If all you use is umbrellas and soft boxes, you may be better off with Dynalite. They are very good and in my opinion, made to a higher quality standard than Alien Bees.
    You might start out with one digital pack (like a Topas - they're great) for two heads and one older model pack for your third head.
    It's also useful to have a couple of packs for when you need lights placed too far apart to run off of one pack.
    You may e-mail or call me during the day if you have other questions. My contact info is very easy to find with a Google search.
    Rich Quindry
  3. When I use flash, which is rarely, I use the Visatec monolights made by Braun (Broncolor). Excellent lights, and much less expensive than Broncolor, while just as efficient.
  4. Alien Bees are an excellent value. Sturdy, inexpensive, and lots of power. Some folks have noted that the color temperature drifts a bit with changes in power, but that isn't a problem for most shooting (it is if certain critical applications). If you absolutely demand consistent color temperature and you have a budget, then you may want to look at the soon-to-launch Paul C. Buff Einsteins.
  5. I second the einstein strobes. With the wireless capabilities of the Cyber Commander you are light years ahead of everyone else and it costs a fraction of the cost. There customer service is second to none. A good example of this is if you really need lights before the einstein strobes ship Pual Buff has said to buy the Alien Bees and return them in the 60 day trial period when you get the einsteins shipped to you. WHAT company would tell you to do that to get your business. That and warranty issues aren't dealt with through a chain of people seeing as it's made in USA. I've watched this company develop for the past five years and their inhouse designed technology is taking studio lighting to what people have only dreamed of possible. They also recently opened up a support discussion forum.
  6. Did I mention the Cyber Commander has a built in light meter....
  7. Thanks for your reponses.
    What I'm taking from the thread so far is that the broncolor's are better but for the price difference it's just not that big a performance difference so I should be fine with something much cheaper. I've heard of the Einstien's but not read much about them except they're supposed to have a wide power range. I do have time to wait since I have access to the broncolor's until April.
    A little thing that really turned me off broncolor was the price of the grids. If they jack up the price on a simple modifier so much, it just makes me feel the whole system is similar.
  8. The Buff Einsteins aren't shipping yet - they're supposed to ship this month. So that should give you time to read a few user reports before you decide.
  9. John: there are various aspects of studio lighting that you may want to consider, which can determine price, value, cost, and so on. Here are some features to investigate:
    Check the specs for flash duration. The more expensive lights have shorter flash durations. For example the latest Bowens Gemini-Pro 500ws monolights have a 1/2900sec. flash duration, which is almost as short as many pack and head systems like Profoto.
    It may seems trival now, but the stand mount is really important. Some cheaper lights have mounts that break after a while. Check out the stand mounting system on the light head or monolight carefully. I use Bowens which has a very durable stand mount.
    Some systems provide digital lighting electronics and even digital output displays. The Profoto, Bowens, Elinchrom and so other brands, all include lines with such features. Precise control and the ability to replicate a shoot can be essential with a client demands re-shoot, for something and simple a hair and makeup problem or wrinkle in clothing.
    Some system include built-in wireless trigger support. The newest Bowens lights include a plug-in module that supports various triggers including their own brand and PocketWizard.
    Some system include radio remote control of the light settings to control output levels without have to climb a letter and adjust knobs on the units physically.
    The Profoto line includes support for controlling settings remotely from computer software using USB and/or wireless USB.
    Some lines support using strobes with AC/mains power or battery power packs, another feature that costs money.
    Some lines are built like tanks, others have too much plastic or plastics that aren't durable enough for professional use.
    Check out what light modifiers are availiable for brands you are interested in. I chose Bowens because of the huge number of snoots, fresnels, beauty dishes, and such that use its standard "S Mount", that can be purchased from Bowens, Calumet Photo and other vendors.
    Check out the web sites of companies like Profoto, Elinchrom, Hensel, Broncolor, Bowens and so on to compare the features and costs to make an informed decision.

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