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Author Topic: Profotos vs AlienBees?  (Read 34524 times)

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« on: February 12, 2009, 19:11 »
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The price difference is quite substantial. So, does anyone know what Profoto strobes are doing better than, say, AlienBees B1600? Is the difference just power and recycling time (and AB1600 looks quite powerful and fast enough to me), or there is something else? What kind of shoot would require Profoto  strobes and why ABs won't work in that case?
Thanks in advance for your comments!
Elena.


graficallyminded

« Reply #1 on: February 12, 2009, 19:43 »
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The only strobes I've ever used were alien bees, and I was quite impressed with them.  
« Last Edit: July 22, 2011, 11:00 by PhotoPhan »

« Reply #2 on: February 12, 2009, 23:15 »
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I don't use Alien Bees, but I have the other Paul C Buff product: White Lightnings.
They are virtually bulletproof, and the customer service is top notch.

The down side to them is that the color temperature will vary a bit depending on the light output setting.

So, it you are shooting all day @ f16 and all of a sudden decide to change your main light to f5.6 you need to perform another white balance or gray card frame before you go on with the shoot.

I don't have any experience with the Profoto units and I am sure that they are top notch... but I dare anyone to tell the difference in the final product (the photograph) between shots taken properly with either brand.

PS - The great and powerful Lise Gagne of iStock fame lists 3 AB 1600s in her arsenal of equipment.

@GM - your wife is a terrific model! You are one lucky guy  ;D
« Last Edit: February 12, 2009, 23:21 by nosaya »

« Reply #3 on: February 13, 2009, 08:34 »
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Quote
@GM - your wife is a terrific model! You are one lucky guy  Grin

Now we know why he's always jumping for joy! ;)

« Reply #4 on: February 13, 2009, 09:18 »
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I have the "Busy Bee" kit which are 4 B800 with the 60" giant soft box, 48-inch Translucent White Shoot-Thru Umbrella and the 32-inch Silver/White Reversible Bounce Umbrella. As well several other accesories. I had this kit for over 15 months now. I  have been doing photography for three years and those are my first lights so I cannot compare, however with the small studio I have this is working great for me and haven't felt the need to go to another brand yet. I will probably get more stuff from them inventually. Denis

« Reply #5 on: February 13, 2009, 09:50 »
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I use Alienbees and they are great. However, the big difference you should know about is that Alienbees are not UL/CE/CSA approved. In other words, they are not electrically certified for US, Canada and International use. They are great lights, but make sure you unplug them because if they start a fire and burn down the studio or house, your insurance won't cover it. I believe I read somewhere they are working on getting the certifications.

« Reply #6 on: February 13, 2009, 11:50 »
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I think the difference in "just recycling time" is more important than you may think. 
Maybe not if you are working with objects or adult models, but if you like working with animals and/or children, it can be important that your strobes can follow the speed of your camera.  I work with Elinchrom studio lights and if my inpredictable models (babies, easter chicks, toddlers, even mice) are doing cute things, I am always very happy that the lights reload fast enough to catch the moment.

« Reply #7 on: February 13, 2009, 12:39 »
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Love my Bees.  Can't say a single bad thing about them, which is a contrast to other lights I've owned.  Sorry, I can't compare the two brands you are looking at though.  

I've never noticed a recycling lag, but I don't think I've ever used the 1600's at full power.  With the type of work I do (portraits, small groups, a bit of micro), I can't see myself needing to ever upgrade.  I've paid the same $ for other lights and they aren't even a fraction as good as the Bees.  They've been fast enough for children, and who moves more than toddlers?

Elana, I think you are in Toronto.  If you do order from Bees ask them about their pre-cleared shipping option.  I've imported quite a bit of stuff from the U.S. so I have paid quite a bit for brokers, and in some cases I self-broker which is a pain in the butt (but saves quite a lot of money).  

With AB I chose to ship pre-cleared.  At first glance it will seem to you like it costs a LOT more to ship - but if you do it the other way UPS assigns a random broker, they go to customs and look up country codes and rates (possibly getting them wrong) they pay the duties and taxes, then you get an invoice in the mail for quite a sum about a week after you've received your item.  (FEDEX makes you pay at the door).  If your boxes are separated on the trucks, they will assign a different broker and you will pay double the brokerage fees.   The precleared shipping method appeared (at the time) to be quite a good rate.  All the paperwork is done in Nashville so they just get stamped by customs and UPS has already been paid in advance.

RT


« Reply #8 on: February 13, 2009, 13:22 »
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A bit OT but everybody raves about these AlienBees, I wonder why they don't sell them in Europe.

« Reply #9 on: February 13, 2009, 13:38 »
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A bit OT but everybody raves about these AlienBees, I wonder why they don't sell them in Europe.

I'd agree! I read somewhere that they used to sell them in Europe but you needed to use them with a transformer as they were still 110V. Maybe they didn't bother getting the necessary CE certification or fell foul of other regulations (like the correct plug for the country, etc).

Personally I'm very happy with my Elincroms. It's not just about recycling time but also about consistency of light output.

« Reply #10 on: February 13, 2009, 13:38 »
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For Europeans, who can't get AlienBees, I find Elinchrom excellent. No quibbles at all.

graficallyminded

« Reply #11 on: February 13, 2009, 15:46 »
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I did notice that sometimes they wouldn't fire - about 5 of the frames out of the 300 I shot didn't fire.  I don't know why...

I still can't get any reviews on the cheap $299 kit from Adorama.

« Reply #12 on: February 13, 2009, 16:06 »
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Thanks everyone for your replies. Yeah, recycling time for AB1600 is 2 sec, but it's much more powerful than, say, Elinchrome 400ws (that recycles in 1.6 sec). By the wat AB400 recycles in 0.5 sec :-) I did try the Bees out, they didn't fail for me once, and I was shooting all day (that was in December and I am still processing images:)).
Pixart, thanks for the tip about pre-clearing. Looks like it can save some headache (yes I am in Toronto).
Profotos are very high end and very expensive, so I wanted to see what exactly the price difference can buy you. Recycling time - yes, power - yes, but they also talk about "beautiful profoto light" which I am not quite sure what it is:)
I know Yuri Arcurs dude uses them, but then it looks like he loves spending money on his business:) I probably would too if I was 25, but you know having a mortgage and a kid in private school.... life stuff like that kinda gets in a way of going crazy with expenses... At the same time I don't want to spend a chunk of money on something I won't be happy with for a while... But looks like ABs are not bad at all, maybe it's time to order:)

RT


« Reply #13 on: February 13, 2009, 16:23 »
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Elena I'm in the same boat, if I were younger with no financial black holes (kids) I'd do the same as Yuri and get the best I could, as it is I use Elinchrom and Bowens which are both fantastic and I have no complaints, however I'd love some lights like AlienBees that I could buy for less and use to burn out backgrounds or other uses where consistant colour temp isn't as crucial, we do have cheap lights over here but they're cheap and crap, AlienBees sound like a good quality deal.

@gostwyck - that sounds like a good explanation

« Reply #14 on: February 13, 2009, 16:59 »
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Elena, here is a colour temperature comparison with Profoto, Elinchrom and White Lightning.  I always assumed that WL was essentially the same as AB - BUT I DO NOT KNOW FOR FACT.

http://www.prophotohome.com/forum/lighting-equipment-technique/35618-profoto-vs-white-lightning-vs-elinchrom-results.html




« Reply #15 on: February 14, 2009, 01:20 »
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Elena, here is a colour temperature comparison with Profoto, Elinchrom and White Lightning.  I always assumed that WL was essentially the same as AB - BUT I DO NOT KNOW FOR FACT.

http://www.prophotohome.com/forum/lighting-equipment-technique/35618-profoto-vs-white-lightning-vs-elinchrom-results.html



AB and White Lightning do have the same electronics internally (more or less), the AB have plastic housings and weaker modeling lamps.
Also ABs are only available up to the '1600' version. WL have a '3200' version.

Paul C Buff reportedly has some new high end fully digital units coming out called 'Einstein'.
These are supposed to sell for slightly more than the WL line and due to the digital circuit control PCB claims that the color temp will be consistent over the entire power range.

I am holding my breath.... as I am quite interested in these. If they perform as promised my WL will go up on eBay  ;D

grp_photo

« Reply #16 on: February 15, 2009, 13:43 »
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You didn't stated which profoto-series you talk about. There is the Acute and the Pro-series. The flash-duration of the Pro-Series is the fastest on the market you can't freeze fast movements with Alienbees or Acutes. The Lightformers from Profoto are certainly superior to Alienbees. For sure you can make great shots with Alienbees i personally prefer Profoto. Profoto is the number one in all lighting-rent shops around the world so you maybe can rent it for a day to get an impression.

grp_photo

« Reply #17 on: February 15, 2009, 13:46 »
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There is also the D4-series which can take Acute- and Pro-heads. But this series is only for studiowork (no model with battery available) and i don't have personal experience with them.

« Reply #18 on: February 15, 2009, 22:47 »
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grp_photo, you are right, I should be comparing similar lights from Profoto and AlienBees. Need a more detailed look at the specs....
« Last Edit: February 15, 2009, 23:04 by Elenathewise »

« Reply #19 on: February 15, 2009, 23:45 »
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Profoto ComPact 600:   
* Maximum energy: 600 Ws
* Recycling: 0.25-0.8 s
* Flash duration (t 0.5): 1/850 s @ maximum power
* Full 5 f-stop range
* Frosted glass cover
* 100 W /250 W modeling lamp
Price - about $1000 - $1100

AlienBees B1600:
* Maximum energy: 640 Ws
* Recycling: 2 s
* Flash duration (t 0.5): 1/1800 sec at full power , 1/900 at 1/32 power
* Full 5 f-stop range
* 150 W modeling lamp
Price - $359.95

What I see is that Profoto light has faster recycling time (about 2 times faster) and.... mmmm... what else? is that worth extra 700 dollars? Of course I am pretty ignorant on this matter, maybe I am missing something or getting it all wrong - please feel free to correct me. But I would really like to know what these extra $700 per flash units will buy me.

« Reply #20 on: February 16, 2009, 00:28 »
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What I see is that Profoto light has faster recycling time (about 2 times faster) and.... mmmm... what else? is that worth extra 700 dollars? Of course I am pretty ignorant on this matter, maybe I am missing something or getting it all wrong - please feel free to correct me. But I would really like to know what these extra $700 per flash units will buy me.



Bragging Rights  ;D

A Toyota Camry will get you from Los Angeles to San Diego in 1.5 hours in comfort and safety.
So will a Mercedes-Benz E 320.

Let me use another analogy.
I look at my Seiko watch and it tells me that it is twelve noon. I ask my friend sitting next to me who is wearing a Rolex, what the time is.
He tells me it is twelve noon. Two watches, way different price, same time. Imagine that.

OK one last example we can all understand.
We set up a studio shoot. My friend brings his $8000 Canon 1DsMKIII, I shoot with a $2700 Canon 5DMKII. We use the same lens.
Who gets the better image?

grp_photo

« Reply #21 on: February 16, 2009, 05:29 »
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Profoto ComPact 600:   
* Maximum energy: 600 Ws
* Recycling: 0.25-0.8 s
* Flash duration (t 0.5): 1/850 s @ maximum power
* Full 5 f-stop range
* Frosted glass cover
* 100 W /250 W modeling lamp
Price - about $1000 - $1100

AlienBees B1600:
* Maximum energy: 640 Ws
* Recycling: 2 s
* Flash duration (t 0.5): 1/1800 sec at full power , 1/900 at 1/32 power
* Full 5 f-stop range
* 150 W modeling lamp
Price - $359.95

What I see is that Profoto light has faster recycling time (about 2 times faster) and.... mmmm... what else? is that worth extra 700 dollars? Of course I am pretty ignorant on this matter, maybe I am missing something or getting it all wrong - please feel free to correct me. But I would really like to know what these extra $700 per flash units will buy me.

I do have the compact-series too. But the reason i have them is because i have the rest of the system. You can focus the lightformers at profoto this is still an advantage even with the compacts, but if you don't have any interested to go deeper in the system i can't see too many advantages for you. The compact-series is pretty average and nothing special. What makes Profoto special for me is the System as a whole and the Pro-Series like the B2r or 7s also lightformers like the 7-foot umbrella etc.

grp_photo

« Reply #22 on: February 16, 2009, 05:36 »
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By the way the compact-series is going to replaced with the brand new D1-series which looks great on paper but one have to wait to see how much it costs.

« Reply #23 on: February 16, 2009, 07:03 »
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Profoto ComPact 600:   
* Maximum energy: 600 Ws
* Recycling: 0.25-0.8 s
* Flash duration (t 0.5): 1/850 s @ maximum power
* Full 5 f-stop range
* Frosted glass cover
* 100 W /250 W modeling lamp
Price - about $1000 - $1100

AlienBees B1600:
* Maximum energy: 640 Ws
* Recycling: 2 s
* Flash duration (t 0.5): 1/1800 sec at full power , 1/900 at 1/32 power
* Full 5 f-stop range
* 150 W modeling lamp
Price - $359.95

What I see is that Profoto light has faster recycling time (about 2 times faster) and.... mmmm... what else? is that worth extra 700 dollars? Of course I am pretty ignorant on this matter, maybe I am missing something or getting it all wrong - please feel free to correct me. But I would really like to know what these extra $700 per flash units will buy me.



AB1600 takes 2 seconds to recycle at FULL power. I bet you will be shooting at a fraction of that power most of the time. 1/2 power would take 1 second, 1/4 power 0.5 seconds, 1/8 power 0.25 seconds and so on down to 1/32 power. I have B1600 and in most cases recycle time is negligible.

Bees are also smaller and lighter. I have a little video on how I fit B1600 in my photo backpack along with camera, lenses and a power pack. It's in Russian though, but the picture is pretty self-explanatory :)
<a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iouGjMMknT4&amp;feature=channel_page" target="_blank" class="aeva_link bbc_link new_win">http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iouGjMMknT4&amp;feature=channel_page</a>




« Reply #24 on: February 16, 2009, 13:27 »
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I looked at the White Lightning series, which is also Paul C. Buff (same as AlienBees), I really like their X1600 flash unit. I like the ability to adjust to lower powers if needed. It's a bit more expensive than B1600, about $100 difference, but I think this is going to be the one... :) This thread has been very helpful, thanks everyone for your inputs.
I also think that Profoto is a bit overpriced, I mean it looks like it's an excellent lighting system, but it seems to me that at least part of that price you are paying for a brand name. I liked the Mercedes analogy - it's an excellent car, but the price difference does not directly correspond to the quality difference. That's my impression, at least for now:)   

« Reply #25 on: March 30, 2009, 13:12 »
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color temp. is going to be far more consistant especially over time with the Profoto that is one of their biggest selling points but for Micro I don't know if it really matters for the end user. Less color correction in post with the Profoto when mixing with daylight than some of the other cheaper brands.. Accessories and durability are another reason. You can't make a comparison to their durability and longevity, it's like the difference of closing the door on a VW as apposed to the door of a high end Mercedes. You get what you pay for. Get the 7b 1200 watt second Profoto if you are planning on staying in photography for sometime. It will be the last pack you'll have to by. 2 sec. recycle time is a big pain as well. Tough to capture that expression when you are waiting for your lights to recycle if you are shooting people.

« Reply #26 on: March 30, 2009, 15:03 »
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color temp. is going to be far more consistant especially over time with the Profoto that is one of their biggest selling points but for Micro I don't know if it really matters for the end user. Less color correction in post with the Profoto when mixing with daylight than some of the other cheaper brands.. Accessories and durability are another reason. You can't make a comparison to their durability and longevity, it's like the difference of closing the door on a VW as apposed to the door of a high end Mercedes. You get what you pay for. Get the 7b 1200 watt second Profoto if you are planning on staying in photography for sometime. It will be the last pack you'll have to by. 2 sec. recycle time is a big pain as well. Tough to capture that expression when you are waiting for your lights to recycle if you are shooting people.

Agree.  Alien Bees/White Lightning are considered to be prosumer lighting.  If you want true professional lighting, go with Profoto.  It's the brand Annie Liebowitz and other top photographers use.
« Last Edit: March 30, 2009, 15:05 by Karimala »

« Reply #27 on: March 30, 2009, 15:44 »
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Agree.  Alien Bees/White Lightning are considered to be prosumer lighting.  If you want true professional lighting, go with Profoto.  It's the brand Annie Liebowitz and other top photographers use.


Right, Annie Liebowitz also uses Hasselblad, Mamiya and Nikon.
I guess that means Canons are prosumer.

Oh, and there is this one kinda-sorta professional photographer named Dave Hill (maybe you have head of him) that
is known to use Paul C Buff strobes right along side his Profoto ring flash.

The White Lightning strobe is cleary visible in this video:
http://www.davehillphoto.com/behind_the_scenes/atreyu.mov
http://www.davehillphoto.com/
« Last Edit: March 30, 2009, 22:29 by nosaya »

« Reply #28 on: May 02, 2009, 11:21 »
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Great thread, I have been asking myself a lot of these same questions.

I started out using off camera flashes for my studio stuff, they are great cheap and portable but also unreliable and very frustrating most of the time.

I have been looking at the AB800's, hoping to get two of those for my studio.

« Reply #29 on: May 02, 2009, 11:38 »
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« Reply #30 on: May 02, 2009, 11:46 »
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PaulieWalnuts

  • On the Wrong Side of the Business
« Reply #31 on: May 02, 2009, 12:53 »
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I did notice that sometimes they wouldn't fire - about 5 of the frames out of the 300 I shot didn't fire.  I don't know why...

I still can't get any reviews on the cheap $299 kit from Adorama.


I'm having this problem with my AB800 right now. But I'd say it's about 20% of my shots it's not firing which is starting to get annoying.

Maybe I got a lemon but I don't have that loving feeling about ABs that most other people do. The power cord connector doesn't stay secured in the back. The power switch sometimes doesn't work.  And compared to some other lights I looked at they seem kinda homemade. But everybody raves about them so I figured I'd try them.

I contacted support to see what they have to say and am awaiting a response.

I'm also checking into the Genesis strobes that Calumet carries. http://www.calumetphoto.com/item/CF0514/

« Reply #32 on: May 02, 2009, 13:02 »
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I did notice that sometimes they wouldn't fire - about 5 of the frames out of the 300 I shot didn't fire.  I don't know why...

I still can't get any reviews on the cheap $299 kit from Adorama.


I'm having this problem with my AB800 right now. But I'd say it's about 20% of my shots it's not firing which is starting to get annoying.

Maybe I got a lemon but I don't have that loving feeling about ABs that most other people do. The power cord connector doesn't stay secured in the back. The power switch sometimes doesn't work.  And compared to some other lights I looked at they seem kinda homemade. But everybody raves about them so I figured I'd try them.

I contacted support to see what they have to say and am awaiting a response.

I'm also checking into the Genesis strobes that Calumet carries. http://www.calumetphoto.com/item/CF0514/


I was looking at those Genesis 400's too (I have heard good things about them), but they are about the same price as the AB800's and half as much power. The replacement bulbs are like twice as much too.

Is there any good way of determining how much power you need? I dont want to spend the extra $ on watts I dont need.

PaulieWalnuts

  • On the Wrong Side of the Business
« Reply #33 on: May 02, 2009, 13:53 »
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I did notice that sometimes they wouldn't fire - about 5 of the frames out of the 300 I shot didn't fire.  I don't know why...

I still can't get any reviews on the cheap $299 kit from Adorama.


I'm having this problem with my AB800 right now. But I'd say it's about 20% of my shots it's not firing which is starting to get annoying.

Maybe I got a lemon but I don't have that loving feeling about ABs that most other people do. The power cord connector doesn't stay secured in the back. The power switch sometimes doesn't work.  And compared to some other lights I looked at they seem kinda homemade. But everybody raves about them so I figured I'd try them.

I contacted support to see what they have to say and am awaiting a response.

I'm also checking into the Genesis strobes that Calumet carries. http://www.calumetphoto.com/item/CF0514/


I was looking at those Genesis 400's too (I have heard good things about them), but they are about the same price as the AB800's and half as much power. The replacement bulbs are like twice as much too.

Is there any good way of determining how much power you need? I dont want to spend the extra $ on watts I dont need.


The power thing is kind of deceptive with ABs. They're rated with effective power and true power. Looking at true power at AB800 is 320 w/s and the Calumet 400 is 400 w/s so technically the Calumet is more powerful. In actual light output I'm not sure how this works. The Genesis strobes I saw in the store are pretty nice and well built. On the downside the speedring for the softbox is way more than the AB.

« Reply #34 on: May 02, 2009, 14:02 »
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That is a little confusing with the AB "effective and true watts". I asked them about it and they sent me an email about a mile long that was way over my head. Seems like most people are confused by it too.

Im still not totally what lights too get, I need two and would like to keep it under $600. Those Calumet's look nice, im just not sure if they are powerful enough.


 

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