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Archive 2012 · Quality of light, speedlight vs strobe
  
 
iseeq4life
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p.1 #1 · Quality of light, speedlight vs strobe


If the softbox quality is the same, will there be any significant difference in quality of light from a strobe to a speedlight and why?


What if you are comparing Elinchrome D-Lite kit with 24" boxes to Lasolite 24" foldup boxes with SB-800s?


What I'm trying to figure out is how advantageous is it to have mono-strobe lights if all I want is personal use at home for kids portrait. Are mono-strobe kits like the D-Lite worth their price?



Nov 06, 2012 at 12:32 AM
JBPhotog
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p.1 #2 · Quality of light, speedlight vs strobe


A flash tube is a flash tube so essentially there is no difference between a speedlight and a strobe. Now that is a very general statement and there are a tonne of qualifers such as:

- flash duration
- WB, you may find the colour temp between different brands to fluctuate
- no model light on a speedlight
- limitation on power output of a speedlight to fill an extra large modifier
etc, etc.

You get the idea but if cost is an issue stay with your speedlights or buy a used studio strobe system to get you started. Some people really benefit from the model light visualization.



Nov 06, 2012 at 12:51 AM
BrianO
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p.1 #3 · Quality of light, speedlight vs strobe


iseeq4life wrote:
If the softbox quality is the same, will there be any significant difference in quality of light from a strobe to a speedlight and why?


The biggest difference is in the way light is emitted: most flash guns have non-removable reflectors behind the tubes and Fresnel lenses in front of them. (There are exceptions, such as the Quantum line). Most monolights have true bare bulb capability. (There are exceptions, such as the Profoto D1.)

A bare bulb will fill a soft box more evenly than a focused beam from a flash gun will, so unless the box is designed to take advantage of a beam, a studio strobe will give more-even light across the face of the box. An example of a soft box that makes good use of a flash gun is the Westcott Apollo, with its retro-firing design that aims the flash into the back of the box and reflects it forward.

iseeq4life wrote:
...What I'm trying to figure out is how advantageous is it to have mono-strobe lights if all I want is personal use at home for kids portrait. Are mono-strobe kits like the D-Lite worth their price?


Worth is very subjective. With a monolight strobe you have the advantages of A/C power, modeling light, higher output, etc. With a flash gun you have the advantage of portability and freedom from A/C outlets.

I know some amateur photographers who have strobes and are happy with the purchase, and I know some pros who use only flash guns who are happy with that choice.

In my case (and I'm mostly shooting for personal pleasure these days, with paid work being pretty rare) I haven't found a compelling reason to buy strobes. I have three Canon Speedlites that work perfectly with my Canon cameras, and I have full remote control capability of the off-camera flashes from the menu of my 7D, including controlling and firing a Speedlite inside a soft box using the pop-up flash on my camera in typical home-sized and small-office rooms.

Here's some of my gear that I've used for portrait sessions (I need to update the last photo, because it shows a Vivitar 285HV that a rarely use now that I have more than one Speedlite):


















Edited on Nov 07, 2012 at 05:43 AM · View previous versions



Nov 06, 2012 at 08:52 AM
RustyBug
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p.1 #4 · Quality of light, speedlight vs strobe


Like BrianO mentions ... it is a degree of "horses for courses" that is involved in that decision.

As to $$$ ... you can get any number of entry level monolights for less than / equal to the cost of a good strobe. The monolight will give the advantage of more power 3X-10X models depending, as even the best strobe is power constrained by its size. The monolight typically has better dedicated light modifier attaching mechanism as well as more light modifying options to employ.

The monolight will be larger and heavier (tradeoff for more power) and will need a power source much more than AA batteries (i.e. AC or specialized battery). It will have a shorter recycle time and a longer flash duration (proportional to the power increase). The monolight will not have the TTL relationship with the camera, but that's not a bad thing as you'll get it "dialed in" manually as to how you want to use it creatively anyway.

There are more issues / tradeoffs to be spoken to (i.e. bare bulb, modeling light, etc.) but I think that I would recommend you get a monolight and give it a go. I think you'll find that for "light eating" applications like a beauty dish and softbox, the extra power is nice to have around. It doesn't mean you have to abandon your strobes or go "full studio" lighting right away, but it will readily become clear the difference once you start using them.

Again, "horses for courses" ... but, imo, having at least one horse that can pull a heavy load is a good thing to have around. I can easily see using the monolight as your key light, and your strobes for accent / background / fill ... and being quite content with what it gives you above & beyond your strobes.

Without being "brand specific" there are some popular entry level lines that make a good starting point / learning curve for not much money, especially if you find one in the used market. And, if you should decide to resell yours later, the price of admission @ entry level is worth the learning curve.

For the use you've stated ... I'd pass on multiple monolight kit and simply pick up a single monolight and one dedicated modifier of choice (i.e. softbox, beauty dish, etc) as most will universally accept umbrella shafts as well. Then, see where that takes you ... I think it'll serve you well for your limited needs as an augment with your strobes.






Nov 06, 2012 at 02:01 PM
Deezie
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p.1 #5 · Quality of light, speedlight vs strobe


I agree with the above statements. Quality of light is subjective - if you dig the light from either type of light, then it's perfect for you.


Nov 06, 2012 at 03:51 PM
iseeq4life
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p.1 #6 · Quality of light, speedlight vs strobe


How do you judge how many watts is enough.


The Elinchrome kit has 200W or 400W lights and AB starts at 400w.



Nov 06, 2012 at 10:57 PM
mshi
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p.1 #7 · Quality of light, speedlight vs strobe


there is a huge difference between Quantity of Light and Quality of Light.


Nov 06, 2012 at 11:34 PM
Gregg Heckler
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p.1 #8 · Quality of light, speedlight vs strobe


"How do you judge how many watts is enough."

A few of the determining factors would be how large your light modifiers are and at what distance to the subject they are, how small of an aperture you want to shoot at, if you need to overpower the sun, and how fast you want your flash duration to be. 200 to 400 watts is usually plenty for f/8 to f/11 with most modifiers in doors. For example there is no way you are going to fill up a 53" Octabox with a Speedlight, or over power the sun at f/8 or 11. Unless you have 3 or 4 Speedlights and at that price you can buy an Elinchrom Quadra.

The general rule is more power is better as you can't add if you don't have enough. But if you like to shoot at wide apertures you'll need a strobe that has less wattage or can be turned down low enough. That's why it's also nice to have a strobe with a 6 stop or more range.

PS, AB doesn't start at 400, that just a marketing thing. Their AB 400 is actually 160WS. Their AB800 is actually 320WS.

If you are just starting out and want to try studio strobes it's pretty hard to beat a couple of Elinchrom BX/Ri 250's and some nice modifiers. Or buy 1 BX/Ri 500, a 39" Deep Octa, a nice reflector, and a good stand and go from there.



Nov 07, 2012 at 02:17 AM
BrianO
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p.1 #9 · Quality of light, speedlight vs strobe


Deezie wrote:
...Quality of light is subjective - if you dig the light from either type of light, then it's perfect for you.


"Quality of light" seems to mean different things these days than it did when I went to photo school. For us, it had a specific meaning and was pretty objective: it meant the hardness or softness of the light as it fell on a subject.

"Color, Quality, Intensity" were used as objective descriptions.



Nov 07, 2012 at 05:18 AM
RustyBug
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p.1 #10 · Quality of light, speedlight vs strobe


For perspective ... different sources I've seen put the SB-800 in the 60WS-75WS range. Compare this with the monolights and you can see how a monolight can provide around 3X-10X (or more) depending on what size you go with.

For your decision regarding monolight vs. SB-800 ... you can guage how much more power you'll want relative to how much more light you would like to have than what your SB-800's are giving you already.



Nov 07, 2012 at 05:35 AM
 

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BrianO
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p.1 #11 · Quality of light, speedlight vs strobe


iseeq4life wrote:
...The Elinchrome kit has 200W or 400W lights and AB starts at 400w.


As Gregg mentioned, the Alien Bees AB400 isn't 400 watt-seconds; the name came from when Paul Buff was advertising his lights by hyping their "effective watt seconds," a measure he later criticized others for using. He lists the correct watt-seconds ratings in the technical specifications section of his Web site.

Also, be aware that there is a difference between watts and watt-seconds. The difference is critical when comparing flash/strobe with continuous lights, for example.



Nov 07, 2012 at 05:51 AM
JohnJ
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p.1 #12 · Quality of light, speedlight vs strobe


Guide numbers (GN) are actually quite useful for comparing completely different lights, ie speedlights vs strobes (note that 'speedlights' ARE 'strobes', but we know what we all mean). I think most if not all manufacturers specify a GN even if they do it at varying zoom/reflector settings and distances, but it's still possible to compare fairly well. I started to put a table together a little while ago, here.

It's interesting (to me) that some flashes like the Metz 60 can pump out a fair bit of light due to the way the reflector concentrates the light and maximises efficiency. Of course this advantage is lost when you use the same light in a softbox or other modifier so the GN will only tell you so much, but it helps.

It might be better to consider the practical perspective that monolights have modelling lights which are invaluable when setting up your lights. Speedlights have no such thing so setup is slower. I use 'speedlights' almost exclusively for my work but that's because I work outdoors and prefer direct light. If I worked indoors, shooting people, a monolght would be the better option by a long shot, mainly because of the modelling light.



Nov 07, 2012 at 08:00 AM
Deezie
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p.1 #13 · Quality of light, speedlight vs strobe


"Quality of light" seems to mean different things these days than it did when I went to photo school. For us, it had a specific meaning and was pretty objective: it meant the hardness or softness of the light as it fell on a subject.

"Color, Quality, Intensity" were used as objective descriptions.


Regardless of what the term means, the only real importance is: does the light work for what you're looking to accomplish?



Nov 07, 2012 at 04:47 PM
kenyee
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p.1 #14 · Quality of light, speedlight vs strobe


BrianO wrote
As Gregg mentioned, the Alien Bees AB400 isn't 400 watt-seconds; the name came from when Paul Buff was advertising his lights by hyping their "effective watt seconds," a measure he later criticized others for using. He lists the correct watt-seconds ratings in the technical specifications section of his Web site


IIRC, he named them that way to say that it produced about that as much light as a pack/head system w/ 400WS because there's a lot of power loss from travelling through cables to light up the flash tube.

The only thing that matters for power IMHO is what your light meter says and what the light gradation looks like on your subject.

I always hated the "quality of light" phrase too...just be explicit and say "softer/harder" or "more even/blotchy". It's like saying some audiophile gear "has more presence"



Nov 07, 2012 at 07:58 PM
buggz2k
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p.1 #15 · Quality of light, speedlight vs strobe


Hi Brian),
Nice setup.
I would like to know the details, if you don't mind.
Details, as in, what are the models of the equipment shown?
I am particularly interested in the beauty dish, the softbox, I can see it says Lastolite, and the brackets used for each that are using a speedlight.
Oh stands too.
Heh, sorry, so many questions.
But, I'd like to get some other things than my current umbrella setups.
Thanks!

BrianO wrote:
Here's some of my gear that I've used for portrait sessions (I need to update the last photo, because it shows a Vivitar 285HV that a rarely use now that I have more than one Speedlite):





Nov 07, 2012 at 08:26 PM
BrianO
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p.1 #16 · Quality of light, speedlight vs strobe


buggz2k wrote:
Hi Brian), Nice setup. I would like to know the details, if you don't mind. ...the softbox, I can see it says Lastolite...


Don't let the nice folks at F. J. Westcott & Company know you said that! The soft box is actually a Westcott 28-inch Apollo; in my opinion the best Speedlite-capable soft box on the market due to its retro-reflective design -- very even lighting across the face of the panel. It can also take monolights and strobe heads, so it's very flexible.

Normally the flash mounts on the same umbrella adapter as is holding the shaft of the box, but I wanted my flash further from the back of the box for more dispersion, so I bought the L-bracket that's sold with the Mini Apollo and used a second umbrella adapter to hold the flash on it. (I've shortened it since that photo, so now my Speedlite fires over the top of the shaft rather than under it.

The small dish on the boom is an RPS Studio BeautiDish (note the spelling...with an i instead of a y). It's only 11 inches across, so not really effective as a beauty dish in the classical sense, but I use it as a hair light or accent light. It comes with a diffusion sock, and I bought the optional grid as well.

The big dish in the top photo is also an RPS Studio BeautiDish, the 20-inch model, and came with a sock and a grid as standard.

For both dishes, the Speedlite bracket comes with the dish, and it's adjustable for different-height and different-depth flash guns. (See photo below.)

The boom stand (I have two) is a Manfrotto 420B Combi stand, and at around $150 they are another "best buy" in my opinion. They can work as either vertical-column light stands or as boom stands with the simple flip of a lever, and they come with a small sand bag for counter-weighting the boom.

The big light stand holding the Apollo is a Promaster SystemPro LS-4 air-cushioned light stand.

The tripod is a Manfrotto 3001BPRO, similar to the current 055XPROB.

Hope this helps, and if I missed anything feel free to send me a PM.









Nov 07, 2012 at 10:05 PM
buggz2k
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p.1 #17 · Quality of light, speedlight vs strobe


Oh, my quick glance, and my equally quick reply was wrong, I see this now.
Sorry...

Thank you for detailed information!
Much appreciated!

BrianO wrote:
Don't let the nice folks at F. J. Westcott & Company know you said that! The soft box is actually a Westcott 28-inch Apollo

Hope this helps, and if I missed anything feel free to send me a PM.





Nov 08, 2012 at 12:26 AM
Waki
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p.1 #18 · Quality of light, speedlight vs strobe


I don't shoot photos for a living, I do it for personal satisfaction but having said that I do work (paid gigs) for others when I can. I've had a camera around for as long as I can remember and flash photography was always a huge interest for me.

Once I got my first REAL digital camera (vs. film) I started using flash more. I shot with speedlights for over 8 years, using TTL and manual units and umbrellas, softboxes, and other gadgets that came available. I tried lots of things. I think all of them It was fun, frustrating and telling. I'm certain some one will pop up and say they have shot with flash longer and their thoughts, opinions and results are different. Thats okay, this is just what I found....

Fast forward to last year when I decided to buy my first studio strobe system. I could tell a big difference immediately in what I would call the quality of lighting which is made up of a few things, at least I think, like quantity of light available, but also those things like color temperature that affect color and contrast and mostly consistency of that light from shot to shot. I still shoot with speedlights for lots of reasons but I know the difference between them and my strobes.

By accident, I happened to help teach a lighting class this fall as part of a community college's non credit offerings. Class was held at a local studio. All the students had used speedlights before but none of them had used studio strobes and every one of them could tell a difference in the "light". It wasn't necessarily better or anything but it was different. As class progressed they developed a better feel for making use of that difference which is another topic. All I want to imply is studio lighting opened up their thinking allowing for options they couldn't do with speedlights.

I tend to think that studio light, natural light and hot shoe flash light is all very different but all very useful depending on what you want to achieve. Speedlights excel at portability, stopping action and can be cheaper than studio lighting sometimes. Studio lighting (in general) is more consistent in color, energy output and it recycles much faster. Its much more powerful too. My speedlights with battery packs are faster than without them but still can't recycle as fast as my strobes. And the energy output is not as consistent. These things may not matter to many which is understandable but it can matter a great deal to others. You decide what you need, or can afford but I honestly do think there is a difference.



Nov 08, 2012 at 12:28 PM
Mark_L
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p.1 #19 · Quality of light, speedlight vs strobe


Speedlights don't fill large modifiers or beauty dishes very evenly because they have built in reflectors rather than a bare bulb flash tube, with bare flash, crisp shadows cannot be achieved with a speedlight either for this reason. This said, they are extremely consistent due to their technology.

All depends on how you define light quality really. There are lots of other reasons like duty cycle, recycle time, mount, availability of modifiers, mains power etc. that make people go for strobes.



Nov 08, 2012 at 01:43 PM
Two23
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p.1 #20 · Quality of light, speedlight vs strobe


If you need portability and fast set up, the speedlights work well. Otherwise, go for the power. If you live in US or Canada, the Alien Bees are the best value. I have their White Lightning X3200 (big!) Actually, I have eight of them.


Kent in SD



Nov 11, 2012 at 04:15 AM
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