OK I know my post count is low, but I would be super grateful if someone would be able to chirp in before I go spend my money at *removed - read the site rules (3-7) * tomorrow I have about $600 to spend on the lot and have quite a shopping list:
Softbox OR dual purpose umbrella (translucent with reflective silver cover)
Speedlite accessories (gels, snoot, mini softbox, mini reflector, hotshoe mount, mini honeycomb)
The bulk of the budget will be going towards tripod and head, the rest is just for me to experiment with.
I've done about 6 hours worth of research and I'm sold on the Benro CF tripods. Portability isn't that much of a concern as I don't do much travelling interstate/overseas (unfortunately) so I'm looking at either the classic C2570T ($280) or versatile C2970T ($295) models. From what I've read, 3 section tripods are generally less prone to vibration. 12kg load capacity on both models. The versatile model looks more... well, versatile, but it also has more moving parts. In my hours of research online I could not find a comparison between the two, only a favourable review for the versatile model. I'm leaning towards the C2970T for its versatility (heh). Height wise the camera viewfinder would be just on my eye level at nominal height on both of them when mounted on a Benro B1 ball head, with the B2 giving me an extra 10mm. Has anyone had experience with these tripods? Is one favoured over the other?
Ball head. The Benro B2 fits within the budget, but is rated at 20kgs whereas the B1 is rated at 12kgs, matching the tripod. Is it worth the extra money to go with the larger ball diameter for stability, ignoring the weight rating? At the moment it will be supporting a Canon 60D, EF-S 15-85mm F4-5.6 and 430 EXII but future plans may include a 70-200mm (or maybe even 70-300mm) telephoto and battery grip. I won't be touching the super telephotos (300mm+) for a while, if ever. So the question is, B1 ($135) or B2 ($160)?
Last main query: I will be shooting flash both indoors and outdoors. The stand I'm getting is el cheapo, but I'd keep this in mind and would avoid the wind like the plague. *removed* has a 60x90 speedlite softbox for $45 or they have a dual purpose white with black/silver cover umbrella for $30. The umbrella can be used both shoot-through and reflective. Eventually I'll get both, just trying to keep things within budget for now. Is there a dramatic difference in light intensity/quality between the shoot-through umbrella compared to the softbox? Is one recommended over the other for first-time strobists like myself who will mainly be using family and friends as subjects?