How long will my flash tubes last ? How long is a piece of string ?

Discussion in 'Lighting Equipment' started by laurencecochrane, Jun 30, 2021.


Upcoming failure

Poll closed Jul 7, 2021.
  1. Likely to go on on a while.

  2. Never fail

    0 vote(s)
  1. Bougt a pair of Bowens DX1000's recently, VERY cheap. The both work absoloutly fine. The flash tubes in both are starting to blacken at one end of each tube.. Is failure iminent ? Or will they go on a while with irregular use. I know. How long is a piece of string ?
  2. Update. New tubes are available and are reasonably afordable. Might buy one as a spare.. Bonus. Same tube will fit my 750 Bowens Gemini plus as well.
  3. Hi, it's pretty common to get darkening inside the tubes at the end. There's really not much you can look for, visually, to indicate a tube going bad.

    My experience, with a large chain outfit, was primarily with pro-level gear from Norman, Photogenic, etc., from prior to the digital camera age (lots of flash power was common back then). We would commonly get on the order of 150,000 to 250,000 high-power flashes out of a tube. When they failed they would often get intermittent, but might just stop firing. The standard test method was just to have the studio swap in a spare flash tube.

    I would expect for modern gear, being fired at much lower output settings, to have very long flash tube life spans. But if you are shooting professionally it's always worth having spares/backup gear.

    I would strongly recommend, if you're doing anything like portrait work, to buy only what they call "UV-coated" tubes. The non-coated tubes put out enough UV light to make things with "brighteners," such as white dress shirts, fluoresce, which gives them a slight bluish tinge. Which does not happen with UV-coated tubes.

    Best of luck with the new gear.
  4. Thanks. UV tubes are easily acailable for the DX1000 or 750 but ONE new UV tube is even more than the cost of the two strobes. Also the prices I found on tubes are for a later model The right ones are not cheap at all. Found a brand new one from one ebay seller AT THE RIGHT MONEY. so now have a spare for my two 1000's and my 750. Plus I have two 600w Chinese heads to back em up. 1000 W X 2 & a 750 is more than I really need anyway. Bigger is better Right ?
    Last edited: Jun 30, 2021
  5. All I can add is that I've seen more tubes physically broken by accident or carelessness, than I've seen 'worn out' tubes.

    The makers usually put an expected lifetime of at least 100,000 full-whack flashes on medium power studio tubes. Meaning that with light use it's not uncommon for the electronics or some other component to go bad before the tube gives out.
  6. Hi, yeah, I'm just the opposite, they're all "worn out," but never broken. The difference, probably, is in the construction of the flash tubes. The stuff I would consider "pro-level" has the flash tube mounted on its own ceramic base, with a substantial glass shield around it. So the user never handles the actual flash tube itself, but rather the plug-in module containing the flash tube. So there is no risk of the user accidentally touching the trigger wire (and potentially receiving a shock), nor of accidentally breaking a delicate leg, etc.

    We used to replace hundreds of flash tubes per year, and there were almost never any visible indications of failure. Thus the test method of... swap in another flash tube.
  7. Unfortunately, that was never part of Bowens design philosophy. All the Bowens units I've seen have unprotected and wired-in tubes.
    laurencecochrane likes this.
  8. Flash tubes and their components are briefly exposed to temperatures hotter than the surface of the sun. Eventually the glass will yellow and possibly craze. Metal from the electrodes will vaporize and be deposited inside the tube with significant darkening. Tubes are all about the same size, but the discharge may range from 50 joules too 10,000. Figure maintenance into your charging structure.

    Touching the (cool) tube with unprotected fingers will leave grease, which will eventually create a hot spot, causing failure.

    All of my flash units are 1000 joules or less, and I have never "worn out" a tube in nearly 50 years.
  9. Thanks all. The new ebay tube arrived safely. Hopfully the pure threat of having a spare will keep the 2 1000's and the 750 working without issue. No hurt in having a spare as new tubes for these are getting hard to find and expensive, not going to get any easier either...
    Last edited: Jul 7, 2021
  10. Great! You ought to be in good shape. Fwiw, aside from scaring the other units into continuing to work, the spare is equally useful for troubleshooting a unit that suddenly stops working. Without a spare tube that means you'd have to remove the apparently delicate flash tube from a working unit, etc., and possibly risking breakage of said tube, which could potentially disable a second flash unit. Now, if you have a good mechanical "touch," or "sense," or whatever you might call it, the risk is pretty small, but a lot of people seem to have never developed such skills.

    Anyway, best of luck with your new gear.
  11. Oh I know from having spares for old Triumph cars the threat of having spares usually pays off. SKUDS SELF.

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