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Author Topic: Which Alienbees Flashunit?  (Read 7283 times)

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« on: April 02, 2010, 11:25 »
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I am considering getting a lighting setup as I live in a very dingy flat with minimum natural light. I've been experimenting with a daylight bulb in a desktop lamp but I don't achieve the results I want - natural light with no shadows. If I go for some flash units (I'm considering renting a US mailbox and getting Alienbees forwarded to the UK):
  • What is the difference between "the B400, the B800 and the B1600"? I guess its the amount of light its capable of creating.
  • Do I need two flash units - or could I use one combined with the daylight bulb in a desktop lamp?

What would you do?


Dook

« Reply #1 on: April 02, 2010, 12:37 »
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I would suggest you to start with cheaper and simpler lighting tools first. Buy few used Vivitar or Nikon flashes, connect them and start experimenting with one, two or three light sources at once. This way you will learn what you need and decide how many and what kind of more expensive lighting units you need.

« Reply #2 on: April 02, 2010, 12:55 »
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Hello,
If your studio is small,  you should do good enough using the smallest unit of the Alien Bee.
I used to have larger rental units and most times you have to reduce the light power.
The smallest bee is powerful enough.
The advantage too of AB is that you can set the lighting ratio very accurately,
and you can turn on or off the modeling lamp.

You cannot go wrong with A Bee. Comparatively pricing also found that A Bee is cheaper for more power and features because it eliminates the middle man. I hope this is helpful.

« Reply #3 on: April 02, 2010, 13:26 »
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The best advice is to get the best that you can afford.  You would outgrow a 400 very quickly, but if that is the best you can afford, it is a good start.    At some point you can add more light(s) and use the 400 as a background or hair light.  It's not a light you outgrow and throw away.  (An 800 is only about $50 more).

You really can start with one light and a white board or reflector but you will soon find this limiting.  But start with a good first light (i.e. not cheap eBay junk) and grow.   If you really enjoy creating with strobes you may grow into 3-6 lights.

Like Dook said, you could invest in speedlights.  I frequently use Nikon speedlights, but only in manual mode.  That means buying a set of pocketwizards as well.  I took a few thousand TTL shots and TTL was only reliable about 80% of the time and flashes will not fire when trying to fill on a bright day.  The good thing is speedlights weigh nothing and and go anywhere.  They cost about the same as AB's though (note that Dook said "find USED flashes", it's hard to find used AB's).  

It comes down to recycling time and power.  You would rarely ever use 1600's on full power, but most importantly - it's there when you do need it.  

« Reply #4 on: April 02, 2010, 13:46 »
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I bought two 800s and a 400 for backlighting. I never use 100% of power on them for product or food photography...they are powerful enough at about 50%. But when I decided to shoot full body shot models, I found I did not have enough power to evenly light the whole length. I wished then I would have gotten the 1600s.

So it just depends on what you plan on shooting. If you are going to shoot models, you should get the 1600s right off. If you want to start off simpler for less money and shoot product for awhile, then I would get the 800s. You can always add 1600s later on, and you will still get plenty of use out of the 800s.

Just my two cents, worth about 1 cent.

« Reply #5 on: April 02, 2010, 14:03 »
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I bought two 800s and a 400 for backlighting. I never use 100% of power on them for product or food photography...they are powerful enough at about 50%. But when I decided to shoot full body shot models, I found I did not have enough power to evenly light the whole length. I wished then I would have gotten the 1600s.

So it just depends on what you plan on shooting. If you are going to shoot models, you should get the 1600s right off. If you want to start off simpler for less money and shoot product for awhile, then I would get the 800s. You can always add 1600s later on, and you will still get plenty of use out of the 800s.

Just my two cents, worth about 1 cent.

wow, your studio must be gigantic.
With our coop studio, we used to shoot with the smallest 400 units, and even bouncing off the ceiling,
at ISO 100 we shoot at f 8.
If we wanted to blast the model with light , shooting wide open would totally white out the model to Zone VIII.

We still use the 400 at times, and many times, we still reduce it to 1/s, 1/4 power for modeling,
because this produces a more natural lighting .
Our coop studio is more like your average pad living room.

For still life, we never shoot more than 1/8 1/4 , so I am surprised you 're having lack of power with the 800s.

« Reply #6 on: April 02, 2010, 15:36 »
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I bought two 800s and a 400 for backlighting. I never use 100% of power on them for product or food photography...they are powerful enough at about 50%. But when I decided to shoot full body shot models, I found I did not have enough power to evenly light the whole length. I wished then I would have gotten the 1600s.

So it just depends on what you plan on shooting. If you are going to shoot models, you should get the 1600s right off. If you want to start off simpler for less money and shoot product for awhile, then I would get the 800s. You can always add 1600s later on, and you will still get plenty of use out of the 800s.

Just my two cents, worth about 1 cent.

Common reason for not being able to evenly light a full body shot is not the power of the light but how you modify it. If you are using a softbox smaller than the model then you are going to see a quick fall off. I use 6' octogon softboxes for a majority of my portraiture. Light is evenly dispersed from head to toe. A less powerful unit with a larger modifier will do a perfect job where a more powerful unit with a smaller modifier will struggle or not work at all. Just for a technical example, a 6' modifier in an average/low-lit studio environment for an evenly lit full body shot shot around 1/250 f/8 only requires a light source in the 50-60 watt range. I'll often use a low-watt 6' box at 45 degrees and then a lower-watt medium box a bit back and straight on. When I get into shooting groups then I need to use a higher output light. However, you still don't need as much as most people think. For example, I could take two 300-watt lights and a couple 46" umbrellas, place them about 13' back and light a class of 80 kids with no trouble at all. High-watt lights are nice to have but in most cases they are classified as a want and not a need .. plus you will find yourself powering them down to 1/16 - 1/32 .. not much point in that. Especially when you are replacing flash tubes that cost more than an entire new unit .. All that does is generate higher overhead and lower your profits.

lisafx

« Reply #7 on: April 02, 2010, 17:04 »
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Common reason for not being able to evenly light a full body shot is not the power of the light but how you modify it. If you are using a softbox smaller than the model then you are going to see a quick fall off. I use 6' octogon softboxes for a majority of my portraiture. Light is evenly dispersed from head to toe. A less powerful unit with a larger modifier will do a perfect job where a more powerful unit with a smaller modifier will struggle or not work at all.


Totally agree with you on this Randy.  I had the same problem as Cathy not getting even light over the whole body.  Finally sprang for a 6" Octobox and problem solved.  I use Interfit 300ws lights on the models (600ws on the background), BTW, which are not quite as strong as the AB 800s.  

If you don't have the room to use a 6' octobox, I have found a 46" bounce umbrella spreads the light over the whole person too.  

To the OP, I just bought two AB 800s to take on location and I am very happy with them.  They are lighter and more compact than the Interfit ones I use in the studio.  If you want cheaper, though, go with the Interfit.  They are every bit as good as the ABs and the kits are a much better value.

http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/569846-REG/Interfit_INT429_Stellar_X_300_Flash.html
« Last Edit: April 02, 2010, 17:08 by lisafx »

« Reply #8 on: April 02, 2010, 18:10 »
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I have 3 Nikon flashguns ( 1 SB 800, 2 SB 900), 2 medium softboxes for them with stands (Lastolite), some Lastolite relflectors and Nikon speedlight commander. I never had to use the flashguns at full power. Needless to say they are very portable - they are small, operate on AA batteries,  you can take them anywhere. I have been considering buying some ABs too for quite a while, but so far I was able to fulfill my needs with just those. You will need more if you want to shoot groups of people on pure white background, or groups of people where background has to be lit up separately. But apart from that flashguns are good - I use them always in manual mode, too, and the commander is so easy to use a child can do it. SB 800 mounted on camera with Gary Fong "lightsphere" flash diffuser does wonders if you shoot indoors - evenly illuminates average room, 1/4 power.
I'd definitely advise experimenting with flashguns first before getting into studio lighting - there are a LOT of shots you can do with just flashguns.
« Last Edit: April 02, 2010, 18:12 by Elenathewise »

« Reply #9 on: April 02, 2010, 18:56 »
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I am considering getting a lighting setup as I live in a very dingy flat with minimum natural light. I've been experimenting with a daylight bulb in a desktop lamp but I don't achieve the results I want - natural light with no shadows. If I go for some flash units (I'm considering renting a US mailbox and getting Alienbees forwarded to the UK):

What would you do?

It's not worth getting AB's sent over from the States. They'll be the wrong voltage for the UK and so you'll need to buy a fairly hefty transformer too. They'll cost more than you think by the time you've added shipping, 6% import duty AND 17.5% VAT on top of the whole thing. AB tried selling them here for a while but for some reason it didn't work out for them and they pulled out.

Ignore cheap rubbish off eBay and get yourself an Elincrom kit when you can afford it. 'Cheap' but inadequate lighting kits are the most expensive thing you'll ever buy.

« Reply #10 on: April 02, 2010, 20:25 »
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I like my Alienbees.  I tried a B800 with giant softbox and a single B400 for background but found that the background was not fully lit for full-length people shots (it was adequately lit but not fully white from head to toe, this may be OK depending on what you want).  So I added a second B400 and have been in heaven ever since.  Well, except I would like to expand my studio space by about 6 feet vertically and on each side, and by about 12 feet in length   :-\

If you add a full-length silver reflector just in front of your subject on the opposite side of the main light, I think you'll find the lighting very satisfactory.  Painting the walls white but pinning up black broadcloth strategically will help get the light where it should be.  Stock doesn't seem to normally require hair lights for that glamorous look so unless you're going into business as a portrait photog then I think you could skip the 4th light.  I think I would have to cut a hole in my ceiling to use one anyways.

I imagine a B1600 type flash would only be required for large sized studios when shooting more than two models.  For 1-2 models and product shots I think the B800 is adequate.  I shoot with it about 5-6 feet from subjects with softbox at f/8 ISO 100.

While I would like the ease of having a "commander" type solution for controlling the flashes, for now I'm happy with only a single basic Alienbee transmitter and one receiver with the other flashes triggered as slaves.  Every so often I have to switch the receiver to a different flash, but in the scheme of things that's very little work.

« Reply #11 on: April 02, 2010, 22:11 »
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It's not worth getting AB's sent over from the States. They'll be the wrong voltage for the UK and so you'll need to buy a fairly hefty transformer too. They'll cost more than you think by the time you've added shipping, 6% import duty AND 17.5% VAT on top of the whole thing. AB tried selling them here for a while but for some reason it didn't work out for them and they pulled out.

Ignore cheap rubbish off eBay and get yourself an Elincrom kit when you can afford it. 'Cheap' but inadequate lighting kits are the most expensive thing you'll ever buy.

good point gostwyck, if you're living in the UK with the diff voltage HZ that may need be reconsidered.
perharps you can also try email AB 's  Paul C. Buff   at info@paulcbuff.com
to inquire about UK units or whether they have a  UK distributor .

« Reply #12 on: April 03, 2010, 05:31 »
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Thanks for every one of your responses.  :o


 

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