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Thread: strobes for home studio

  1. #1
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    strobes for home studio

    Hi,

    So I have a small home studio that I use for commercial videos (presentation on websites and stuff). It's basically a room in my home where I've set up a big 3m x 6m white backdrop and three 5500K pretty powerful continuous light soft boxes.

    It's awesome. Since it's made with economy bulbs it doesn't heat much at all either. I've also done a few photo shoots and they turned out very well. But there are two things I don't like about it for still photo:
    - My DOF is limited, the most I can stop down my 100mm lens and still keep decent ISO / shutter speed is about f/3.2
    - Since the light is continuous and kind of intense, the people have their personal aperture completely stopped down, and we all know that slightly dilated pupils look better

    I'd like to experiment with flash. I'd like at least three heads and ability to make some soft/diffused light.

    I have been doing a lot of research, read some articles all over the net and watched videos on youtube.
    From what I gathered, here is what I should look for :
    - Manual or E-TTL : either go e-ttl for ease, go manual and buy a light meter
    - Radio trigger : some kind of remote thing that plugs into the side of the camera
    - Solid enough stands including one "boom" one.
    - The manual solution seems pretty cool as it's a lot cheaper and it feels like I'd learn a lot more with it.
    - Have a modelling bulb on the flashes

    Here are two examples that I found on ebay.
    (I copy pasted the description as to not put links - this is not an ad ^^)

    What do you think? Do these kits make sense for that price?
    I'm not looking for a pro setup, just something that I can use for a while and learn with.
    I do realize that going manual means I would have to add a light meter, but it's not like I'm a pro who needs to optimize his shooting times because he shoots daily to pay bills and can't bother to spend time fiddling with settings. I enjoy experimenting and learning.

    Anyway here are the two packs:

    $428 inc. shipping:

    [/QUOTE]4 x 200W Flash Strobe (Ref. Y348)
    4 x 50W Modeling Bulb
    4 x Light Stand (190cm H)
    1 x 50 x 70cm (Soft box) (Ref. SL5070)
    1 x 60 x 60cm (soft box) (Ref. SL6060)
    2 x White umbrella (33")
    1 x Snoot Honey Comb with 4 Color Gels (Red, Yellow, Bule, White)
    1 x Barn door with 4 Color Gels (Red, Yellow, Bule, White)
    1 x 16-Channel Wireless Radio Trigger Unit (Transmitter + Receiver) (Ref. Y234)
    3 x Extra Receiver for the Trigger (Ref. Y234R)
    1 x Carrying Soft Case for Flash & Stand

    Specification:

    200W Studio Flash
    Power Range 200W
    Power Control Variable
    Guide No. 40GN
    Recycle Time 0.5-3s
    Angle of illumination 55 degree
    Triggering Photo sensor, Sync Cords, Test Button, Wireless Trigger
    Power Sources AC 240V OR AV110
    Continues Lamp 50W
    Color Temp 5500K
    Accessories Includes Power cord, Sync cord, Modeling lamp[/QUOTE]


    and another one for $295


    • 3 x 180W Strobe Light
    • 3 x 75W Modeling Bulb
    • 1 x AU plug cable & sync cable
    • 3 x Light Stand
    • 2 x Soft box
    • 2 x 84cm(33") umbrella
    • 1 x wireless Trigger
    • 1 x barn door
    • 1 x Carrying Bag (72 x 25 x 25cm)


    Description:

    • This is a complete package for setting up your own lighting system. Our kit combines the strobes and 2 soft boxes with top quality light stands. This is a great set designed to work with any digital or film camera system. With this setup you are ready for fashion shots, product shots, or pack it all up as a travel set for those weddings or location shots.


    Specifications :

    Studio Strobe:

    Flash Output Guide Number
    (ISO100)
    Flash Time Power Control Recycle Time Color
    Temp
    Model Light
    180W 45 1/2000
    -1/800s
    1/8-1/1 stepless 0.5-2s 5400K
    +/-100K
    75W
    the flash has au plug with fuse . (Fuse: 5A )
    Light stand:
    height:0.8~2M
    soft box
    sizes: 50cm x 70cm
    front cover
    Wireless Radio 2-Channel Trigger:

    channel :2-channel
    1x transmitter + 1x receiver
    (one receiver can trigger 3 flash light )
    barn door:
    fits sizes:70mm~98mm diameter
    4 color gels
    umbrella:
    sizes: 33" (84cm) diameter
    color : balck/silver & white soft

  2. #2
    if its a small room the 180 watt ones will do I would think. I have 300w in a smallish room and its over powered. Solution to DOF with continuous lighting might be to get a ND filter for your lens. I have an ND8 and use it on my 24-70 to dial in f2.8 sometimes. I find it effects ability to get focus sometimes and at 2.8 is a bit soft so generally go to f4. If the 180's are still to bright, feather them, turn them away from the subject a bit so its not so direct OR put white bed sheets over the soft boxes to cut down their illumination.
    ______________________________________________

    Adrian Fischer
    Brisbane, Australia

    Gear: Nikon D80, D300, Nikon 35mm f1.8, 50mm f1.8, 85mm f1.8, 105mm f2.5, 18-200 VR, 70-200 VR, Sigma 28-70mm f2.8, Sigma 50-500, Tonkina 12-24 f4, SB-600, various YongNuo Strobes, various umbrellas, 6 x 300w studio flashes, various softboxes, reflectors, stands, transmitters and receivers.

  3. #3
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    Thanks but how does it relate to the fact I would like to set up some strobes?
    I want more power, not less power.

    Cheers

  4. #4
    are you serious? Shelley's Avatar
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    You don't say what brand you are looking at. I use elinchrom and their kits are pretty good value I think. I have four lights, but keep going back to one light, reflector and sometimes hair light using a honeycomb grid. I have the dlite 4 (400 watts), they are Skyport, so don't need to get triggers or anything.
    Shelley
    (constructive criticism welcome)

    www.shelleypearsonphotography.com


  5. #5
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    Thanks for your reply
    The ones I have listed seem to be some china made no-name flash heads. The whole kit is less expensive than a single brand-name flash head. There will be a difference in build quality, I'm sure they'll break easier if I drop them or get worn out after a few years, but is there anything else I should look out for, or are studio strobes straight forward enough to all be pretty similar in general operation?

  6. #6
    you said you dof was limited. I took it to mean you couldnt stop down because you had to much light. And you did post that you were looking at 180 w strobes and also 200w strobes and I responded saying in a small room 180 might be enough. I use Chinese flashes for studio and OCF. I use them commercially for 4 months of the year and have done so for a few years doing dance studios. IN and out of the back of my car 3-4 days a week over that time. They have worked without hiccup. An expert might be able to tell you that the light isnt as good as a brand name but I havent had any complaints from clients. Same with Tirggers. yongnuo all the way.

  7. #7
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    Thanks for your reply and sharing your experience with using no-name strobes.

    I took it to mean you couldnt stop down because you had to much light
    Since you work commercially, I can't possibly imagine that you don't have at least a basic understanding of exposure. After a lot of thought, my conclusion is that a possible scenario is that for some reason when you were learning you mixed up the meaning of "stopping down a lens" with "opening up a lens" and this reverse naming stayed with you.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stopping_down

    There is no way my current two continuous lights are going to overwhelm any kind of camera, particularly considering that since I have no flash to sync, even I had an incredible 50mm f/1.0 full open, all I would need to do is increase the shutter speed, it can go up to 1/8000. I currently want more light not less. I recall my last shooting was 320 ISO, 100mm f/2 @ 3.2, 1/250. I would have liked to have a bit more DOF, maybe f/5.6 or f/8 but it would have meant motion blur or high ISO. Only strobes can give light that allows me to stay at low ISO, 1/250 or faster shutter, and close the lens to about f/8.

    Cheers

  8. #8
    Moderately Underexposed I @ M's Avatar
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    Patrick, I really reckon you are being a little harsh on someone trying to give advice.

    If you have the knowledge to repudiate the suggestions offered by others then surely you know to stay well clear of the no name brand lights offered on ebay etc -----

    Simply put ---

    Accept advice graciously, buy the best at the start and forget the "bargain basement gear"
    Andrew
    Nikon, Fuji, Nikkor, Sigma, Tamron, Tokina and too many other bits and pieces to list.



  9. #9
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    Hey IAM.

    Thanks for your comment. I kind of hesitated, but I can't just ignore someone who tells me in two posts in a row that too much light will prevent me from stopping down a lens. Maybe I didn't answer in the best way. How would you have said it? I haven't ignored what he said about the actual studio strobe experience. It's good to know that cheap ones have served him well for several years.

    Having a strong scientific background, the theory behind continuous lights, strobes, exposure and so on are kind of easy concepts for me. It doesn't mean I have any experience with the actual products. My current experience with strobes is only the regular battery powered flash units (Nissin, Canon).

    Therefore I don't really know what kind of studio strobes I should buy for my needs. Depending on the type of goods, cheapo ebay knock offs can be completely OK or a big problem. For example, buying a "high quality" $100 HDMI cable is completely useless, as it will transmit exactly the same data as your $5 HDMI cable, which is why I have no problem using the cheapest one. Same for a lens hood, the $5 ones will just be there. Then there is the grey zone, such as the tripod. In most cases (except outdoors or heavy equipment) any tripod will do the job, and having a more expensive one is more about comfort/durability than some direct benefit to your photography. And last but not least, there are the critical engineering parts, such as lenses and camera bodies, which are made by about ten manufacturers and it is agreed that anything else is total crap or at least super risky.

    So where does a flash go in this scale? A flash doesn't seem like a very complex device to me. The disadvantage that I see with a cheap one is that it may have a bit more chances to break if dropped and be less reliable. I'm OK with that, to cover this risk all I have to do is have an extra one. For some big time fashion photographer who would lose money/reputation if his flash breaks, I completely understand the need for high build quality. I don't have that type of constraint.

    What are the other caveats with cheap flashes?

  10. #10
    Ausphotography Regular Tommo1965's Avatar
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    hi Patrick

    I have a Bowen 250Watt Gemini set..consists of two heads, translucent brollies that also have a reflective sliver cover that you can use for reflective light..they come with stands etc and all squared away in a nice carry bag..certainly small enough to transport for a off site shoot as long as you have 240v or a battery etc...great kit

    I use them in my garage which id 7mx8m and they have plenty of power I also combine them with two speedlights if needed..I use Cactus V5 radio trigger..$55us for two pack..they are transceivers so can be used either on the camera to trigger or on the light to receive again a great product .

    I think the bowens retail for around $900 in some places
    Cheers and my name is Steve


    Nikon D800 a few Nikon lenses ,some studio gear..and a couple of bags to put it all in

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/steve_tompsett/
    http://tommo.smugmug.com/

  11. #11
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    Thanks. I'm seeing mainly stuff by people who have "expensive" strobes and are happy about them - which is kind of expected, the expensive strobes should be good! For now I have one person happy with the cheaper strobes and nobody else who actually talks about any experience with them - good or bad.

    So what is it that can go wrong with cheap strobes? What is better in the more expensive ones? For cameras/lenses the answer is obviously: image quality, sensor, speed, af and other features, but for strobes I still have no idea ...
    Last edited by patrickv; 18-05-2012 at 12:46pm.

  12. #12
    Moderately Underexposed I @ M's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by patrickv View Post
    So what is it that can go wrong with cheap strobes? What is better in the more expensive ones?
    Can go wrong and will go wrong are two entirely different things so unless a particular brand / model has a known and repeating fault that will cause them to go wrong I will address my replies with more general comments.

    Many, not all of the cheaper range of lights will have flash tubes that will need to be replaced by a dealer / factory, of course some say that if you are handy with a screwdriver, pair of pliers and a soldering iron you won't have any problems. That of course depends on whether you can actually buy a replacement flash tube for that light. They are after all just a light globe and we all know that globes can blow at any point in time.
    If you have to either return the heads to an overseas supplier or source replacement parts from overseas the repair costs can start mounting.

    The colour temperature of the light may not be consistent, or indeed anywhere near what the maker claims. That is not limited to just "cheap" lights but it is far more prevalent that the cheaper units don't have the same QC as the dearer units in that dept. We have one "cheap" but reliable light that is supposed to be around 5600 k but if I set the camera to 5800 k to suit the other three lights we have the "cheap" one ends up casting blue through any white and actually reads around 5000 k.

    Build quality. No, I don't mean strength of them if you throw them down a flight of stairs, I mean the way the cases are put together, I have seen some that have distorted the plastic casings purely from the heat of the modelling lamp. Also, the peripherals like clamps and mounting spigots may be, shall we say, second rate.
    As is usual, the more you pay, the more you get. Fan cooling of the heads is often lacking in cheaper versions. The actual output of them may be slightly "exaggerated" in the advertising material.

    Patrick, if you want to go "middle of the road" with gear, have a look at the Visico range. They have user replaceable (and in stock in Australia) flash tubes, fan cooling, reasonable recharge times, they are well made, give consistent colour and have a 2 year replacement warranty. That means that if they do stuff up within 2 years you have a new one in your hands almost immediately instead of having to either send your gear overseas for repair or even to have to wait for it to be repaired in Australia.

  13. #13
    Ausphotography Regular Tommo1965's Avatar
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    I told a lie..my bowens are the 400 watt Gemini kit

    you can still get them in certain places for $990..which I feel is pretty good value


    http://www.trustedreviews.com/Bowens...cessory_review


    I agree with Andrew.. I've bought plenty of cheap gear in the past { not camera gear}..and always regretted it

  14. #14
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    I agree that the cheapest gear is not usually a good choice. I don't want to go crazy either...
    Middle range equipment in general seems good to me. I currently use a middle range camera (7D), some middle range lenses (Sigma 30 1.4, Sigma 10-20 3.5, Canon 100 2.0, Canon 50 1.4, ...) and I'm very happy with them.
    So Visico is the middle range. Thanks for the advice!

  15. #15
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    I just picked up an Elinchrom BXRi 500/500 Kit! Two strobes, two stands, two soft boxes, very nice!

    I have first tried to go with my already existing speed lights, got a couple triggers, umbrellas and mounts, but the whole thing kind of annoyed me after a short while: low power, charging batteries, not too good build of the whole thing, the fact that to have the strobe light in the center of umbrella I had to use a second stand... Still happy to have them, it was pretty cheap and can still be used on location if I don't have any power.

    I'll probably be adding some 3rd party large soft box, there are some nice large ones with an Elinchrom mount, as the current ones aren't that impressive...
    Last edited by patrickv; 15-07-2012 at 8:59pm. Reason: typo

  16. #16
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    Absolutely love the quality of the light of these strobes. Shot with 60x60 kit portalite soft boxes. First one is with only one strobe and a reflector to the side, second one is with one strobe to one side, closer, more power, and other further + less power. The photos are practically straight from the camera. I just imported the raw files in lightroom, applied my standard presets (clarity+20, contrast +20), all the rest default), clicked away a couple little pimples with the spot removal tool on the foreheads and clicked on export. Focal length about 50mm on Canon crop so it's just about like a standard 85mm portrait lens.

    IMG_2569.jpg

    IMG_2724.jpg
    Last edited by patrickv; 23-07-2012 at 8:25pm.

  17. #17
    Ausphotography Regular Tommo1965's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by patrickv View Post
    I just picked up an Elinchrom BXRi 500/500 Kit! Two strobes, two stands, two soft boxes, very nice!

    I have first tried to go with my already existing speed lights, got a couple triggers, umbrellas and mounts, but the whole thing kind of annoyed me after a short while: low power, charging batteries, not too good build of the whole thing, the fact that to have the strobe light in the center of umbrella I had to use a second stand... Still happy to have them, it was pretty cheap and can still be used on location if I don't have any power.

    I'll probably be adding some 3rd party large soft box, there are some nice large ones with an Elinchrom mount, as the current ones aren't that impressive...
    sorry I missed this post Patrick

    sounds like a great Kit you ended up with ..yes I know the frustration of speed lights..I think one of the biggest advantages of dedicated studio strobes is the modelling lights ..and ease of use..no more fiddling with the little buttons on the speed lights

    - - - Updated - - -

    cant really give you any CC on these mate as its not a CC forum...but all I will say is the last image looks a tad hot on the left hand side ..post them in a cc forum and see if others can steer you in the right direction

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