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Author Topic: Do Alien Bees flashtubes degrade over time?  (Read 2699 times)

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« on: December 21, 2013, 14:21 »
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I wasnt able to do any studio shooting for a year or more. My Alien Bees B800 units sat in a closet during that time. I finally have a space to set up a studio. When taking some test shots, I am just not able to get the results I am expecting.

I use a Sekonic flash meter to get an approximate idea of the settings from the light. I set the camera to those settings. My Canon 50D is tethered to my MacBook Pro and I am firing from the Mac through the EOS utility. When I make adjustments, either stopping up or down, or changing exposure, I am not seeing the results I am expecting. in some instances, drastic changes in either settings don't result in any change.

I think I have read in the past that the tubes do degrade, but I don't know if this is the kind of results one gets when the tubes are degraded. Would bad tubes cause erratic exposures? Or do I have some other problem.

Prior to the year+ they sat unused, they worked like a charm and I never had issues with exposures.


« Reply #1 on: December 21, 2013, 14:38 »
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Be sure to reset the capacitor when you change light power.

« Reply #2 on: December 21, 2013, 14:42 »
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Forgive me if you find what follows insulting, but I want to cover all the bases.

First, are you shooting in Manual mode?
Second, how are you triggering your strobes?
Third, if you adjust the power on the strobes, do you hit the Dump button before you try taking a shot?
Fourth, you say you're making adjustments and then say you stop up or down or change exposure.  How are you doing that?  Changing ISO or aperture will affect your shot; changing shutter speed won't, since it's the speed of the strobe rather than the shutter that affects exposure.

If you know all this and still have a problem, maybe it's the strobes.  But I haven't had any issues with Alien Bees after long periods between uses.

« Reply #3 on: December 21, 2013, 14:49 »
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First, are you shooting in Manual mode?

Yes, manual mode.

Second, how are you triggering your strobes?

As mentioned in my original post, I am firing from the EOS utility via tethered mac. But I also disconnected the mac and just used the button on the camera to trigger the lights.

Third, if you adjust the power on the strobes, do you hit the Dump button before you try taking a shot?

Yes, I always dump after adjusting the power.

Fourth, you say you're making adjustments and then say you stop up or down or change exposure.  How are you doing that?  Changing ISO or aperture will affect your shot; changing shutter speed won't, since it's the speed of the strobe rather than the shutter that affects exposure.

I am changing the f stop. When nothing worked there, I changed shutter speeds and I changed light source. But I think I might have been missing one element. You reminded me with your statement. I think the shutter of the camera syncs with the lights at 400. I think I might have missed that setting. I told you it has been a long time.  ::)

Let me go try again.

« Reply #4 on: December 21, 2013, 14:53 »
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When you say 400 do you mean 1/400 of a second?  That's much too fast for your camera to sync and would lead to only part of the frame being open when the strobe fires.  Try a slower shutter, say 1/160.  And check on the max sync speed of your camera, which is typically 1/200 or 1/250.  Faster than that and you'll see a dark band where the rear curtain was already closing before the strobe went off.

« Reply #5 on: December 21, 2013, 14:55 »
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studio Settings:

Shutter speed: 1/125
ISO: 100
f stop: depends on depth of field you want (f8 to 11 is good range)

then adjust light power to taste.  8)
review on Mac for clipping highlights and keep histogram healthy.

rinse and repeat

« Reply #6 on: December 21, 2013, 15:08 »
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Thanks so much, guys. I forgot about the sync speed. Max sync for my camera is 1/250 so I tried that and 1/125. Both work OK. Just have to fine tune and check the histo.

Not sure where I got 1/400. Apparently, the only thing degrading is my memory.  :D Glad I don't have to buy new tubes.

« Reply #7 on: December 21, 2013, 15:19 »
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I have a bunch of ABs out in the garage. My problem was color casts from those cheap lights. seemed to get blue casts a lot. they are known for poor color quality.

snag these and live happily ever after

http://www.paulcbuff.com/e640.php


 

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