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Considering Lighting System Change
  
 
Two23
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p.1 #1 · p.1 #1 · Considering Lighting System Change


For the past eleven years I've been using two systems for lighting. The first is x8 Nikon SB-25 on lightweight Raven RS8 8 foot stands. Very light & compact, and puts out a lot of light. My second "heavy duty" system is x8 White Lightning x3200 (1240ws) with PCB Vagabond battery packs (mix of lithium and older sealed acid) on 13 ft. Manfrotto stands The first system is quick to deploy and I can carry it pretty far off road. The second system has crushing power for very large or very distant subjects, or when I want to shoot 4x5 with ISO 400 film and f8. Both of these systems have proven very reliable even during Dakota blizzards and at temps approaching -30F below zero. Both systems are triggered by "dumb" triggers--CyberSyncs. These are ultra reliable even well below zero and I can get about 200 yards of range from them. I need the range.


Briefly, what I mostly use the lights for are photo'ing trains/bridges/grain elevators at night, usually in winter. This is generally medium to very large scale shots. Camera is either Nikon D800E, Nikon D5300, or Chamonix 4x5 with lenses in Copal shutter.

Sometimes, to light railroad bridges, I have to haul the lights on my kayak. The kayak quickly becomes very tippy with more than two of the WL X3200 flash/batteries/stands. I also find I have to make several trips hauling them on a sled through the snow. So, I am thinking of replacing the eight WL X3200 with eight of the newer lighter monolights. I really like the crushing power of the 1240ws, but since I normally shoot at ISO 800 I think I can get away with one stop less power and shooting ISO 1600. The newer flash such as Rove Light or Godox with 600ws and interchangeable reflectors with either built in or small battery packs just might work for me. My requirements:
1. Operates at --20F without a problem
2. Reliably fires
3. Won't fall apart after a year of outdoor location use
4. Won't be destroyed by a little snow

Don't need:
1. Fast recycle
2. HSS
3. iTTL metering (I use hand held flash meter)
4. More than 50 shots from a battery (at sub zero temperatures.)
5. Don't really need AC power/cords

I'm trying to stay under $400 each for flash & battery. It looks like the strobes use Bowens mount, so I should be able to keep using my collection of Paul Buff reflectors and softboxes. So, what's out there that will work for me?


Kent in SD






Granite Falls, MN







Canton, SD




Oct 09, 2017 at 12:57 AM
takomaru
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p.1 #2 · p.1 #2 · Considering Lighting System Change


Very difficult decision, cost, durability efficiency do not match, not in my experience.
I live in Asia, Godox here is extremely cheap and easily replaceable; but durability is not included. Very easy when needing assistants as every new kid in the blocks has them. I shoot lots outdoors from tropics, humidity, rain, monsoon rain to ice snow, sleet and would never use any system like a Godox for that.

I recently updated my studio & location pro flash and went 100% with Bron Move, for me hard to beat, yes expensive, but not much more when you add expenses of failing and broken equipment and costs investments in long distant journeys; not including models...the new Hensel Porty 1200 watts is also very attractive and very low introduction offers to compete with the new Elinchrome ELB 1200...I would rather build my system slowly without having all I need at once, but in the longer term reliable in any situation and fullfilment when complete. This might not be what you want to hear, but this is my experience. Best of luck, Takomaru



Oct 09, 2017 at 02:34 AM
Two23
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p.1 #3 · p.1 #3 · Considering Lighting System Change


takomaru wrote:
This might not be what you want to hear, but this is my experience. Best of luck, Takomaru



I do want to hear actual experiences. What I don't want is to drive three hours from my home, spend an hour setting up new lights and making everything perfect, wait several hours in the cold of the night for a train to come, and then have the lights fail to fire when that one instant comes. These shots are complicated with many steps, and the equipment has to be reliable. Several times I've spent 12 hours in the cold to get one shot, and came home empty handed because something quit working. It's not a great feeling.


Kent in SD



Oct 09, 2017 at 03:21 AM
takomaru
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p.1 #4 · p.1 #4 · Considering Lighting System Change


For the kind of work I do, I don't require several head; but in shooting fashion or models and flying 5000 kms for a 2 or 3 day session, I need reliability, quality of light. A single Para with a head on the Move and a longer throw with Siros with a Mola Beam is mostly what I use; same as for studio, I don't use very complex lighting now, as the large and smaller paras do the job that used to require several heads with modifiers before, so I add one power pack with a ringlight mounted on a 222 Para, I can use my Move with 2 heads more if needed, small lightweight, can stick to the end of a long boom with no weight probles as monolights..

I do also shoot film MF, 4 x 5 & 8 x 10; and process and print in house. Here we do not count with White Lighting or Paul Buff that are useful for a good price in USA, so we use what is convenient and available. There are no refunds, warranties sometimes up to marketing dpt., so I don't waste money in unknown. In April during a Car Show I was asked to test some Sigma equipment, Shiiro also the rep from Profoto informed me they no longer had the representation of Profoto, which is more expensive than Bron; if needed, who do I complain to? Bron here gives me reliability and terrific quality.

My only advice to you would be to figure exactly your needs, heads, modifiers, power; then think on your total budget and build your system from the ground up. Here lighting is cash, no credit as cameras, computers, monitors; some things easier in USA. Talk with the reps in your area and see what is most convenient for you. We all have different needs; should you need anything specific from Brom that I use and know I can be of assistance I will gladly. Regards, takomaru



Oct 09, 2017 at 09:35 AM
neoshazam
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p.1 #5 · p.1 #5 · Considering Lighting System Change


Fortunately/unfortunately you do such a specialized thing I'm not sure who can advise you.

I have two Xplor and one Rovelight. I have 3 Einsteins and 2 WLX3200s as well. Indoors I use the Buff stuff, outdoors is Xplor but i'm in high temperature locations with potential light rain. If you buy multiple Xplors and and the extension head you can get ~1200 W from a head and keep most of the weight off the top of the stand but for kayaking it'd be more weight (maybe a more acceptable form factor though).



Oct 09, 2017 at 07:38 PM
travelair
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p.1 #6 · p.1 #6 · Considering Lighting System Change


Older Quantum Q flashes might meet your expectations. If I remember correctly, full power is about 200W/s.

The older packs are based off of a SLA, low voltage battery. Don't know if they stepped up to newer battery technologies for the current packs. Their current pack range is a budget buster though.

As far as I know, any generation of Turbo power pack will power any version of Q-flash. Quantum also sells a couple low voltage power packs, that will NOT power the Q-flash range.

I have two, plus one battery pack, that I used to use when I shot weddings, back in the film days. Would likely have to re-battery the pack, which is about $50, from 3rd party vendors. Mine are from the pre-TTL era, and I almost always used them in full manual mode. They have full adjustment from full power down to 1/64. They also have an "eye" for running in Auto mode, but I only used that at receptions.

FWIW, the following link is NOT my gear, and I have no relationship to the poster, but his items are exactly those that I have personal experience with. There is a female, brass, 1/4-20 socket on the bottom of each head for mounting. I always had mine on a flash rotater bracket.

Quantum T2 flash and battery



Oct 09, 2017 at 09:01 PM
Two23
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p.1 #7 · p.1 #7 · Considering Lighting System Change


The good old Alien Bee B1600 are rugged and lightweight (I used to have two,) and I know they work. I was trying to get around having to carry the heavy battery packs though. That's the main attraction of the newer style flash--small battery just plugs into the back. I don't use anything but reflectors on these night shoots. The wind on the Northern Plains would quickly destroy anything large and not metal. I once had the big 12 inch reflectors on my X3200, on top of a PCB 13 ft. lightstand. The wind was blowing 25 to 30 mph, so I weighted the stands down with some railroad ties I found lying about. A big gust came through that must have been 50 to 60 mph and caught one of my flash. The base wasn't going anywhere, so it bent the lightstand right over double! I've been a lot more careful since then.


Kent in SD



Oct 09, 2017 at 10:20 PM
travelair
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p.1 #8 · p.1 #8 · Considering Lighting System Change


Although the Quantum Turbo packs are based on SLA technology, they are neither large nor terribly heavy. Probably about half of a PCB Vagabond mini. I've never done it, but you can supposedly power two Q flashes off of one pack, with a special splitter cable. The also had a 2x2 pack, with double outlets.

However, with a handful of Vagabonds, would it make sense to buy some lighter, traditional packs. I just bought another 1000W/s Dynalite pack (m1000xr, the m1000dr is quite similar) off of Roberts, via Ebay, for $240. The pack has four outputs, so you can conceivably power up to 4 heads, albeit at a max of 250W/s per head, or 2 at 500W/s. I would have to check, but the more modern variant of that pack specced at under 6lbs on B+H. Of course, the next limitation is the length of cable to each head, although you can daisy extension cables. Would probably suggest the basic 2040 heads, which can be obtained for under $100 each, also from Roberts.

I have run one of my Dynalite 500W/s packs off of my well used Vagabond mini, for about 100 full power flash pops without issue. Of course, without modeling lights.



Oct 10, 2017 at 01:00 AM
takomaru
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p.1 #9 · p.1 #9 · Considering Lighting System Change


Relliable metal reflectors that can stand tough weather and strong winds are not easy and require a tough mount, I use the Molas. But did find the Godox shallow Bowens mounts unreliable in bad weather fashion shoots, In the conditions of the scenes you show, you will need good reflectors as well as cables, some power packs allow very short cables only; some power packs will double output of a single head by adding 2 packs, same as some packs add power modules, what I found out that route was a steep price increase. I did shoot pasarelas with Quantum 400ws on film over a decade ago, even those days they where expensive but best solutions for a job, not so sure I'd go that route nowadays. You do seem to have lots of options in US, find a cost efficiend, durable, portable withstanding rough weather changes, it'll be challenging, easier to 250-400 ws but fewer alternatives when need 1200 watts in a head...regards, takomaru


Oct 10, 2017 at 02:14 AM
 

Search in Used Dept. 



Two23
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p.1 #10 · p.1 #10 · Considering Lighting System Change


travelair wrote:
Of course, the next limitation is the length of cable to each head, although you can daisy extension cables. Would probably suggest the basic 2040 heads, which can be obtained for under $100 each, also from Roberts.



With the monolights, I generally set them back about 50 to 150 ft. To get a good spread of light I try to space monolights about 50--100 ft. apart. The Vagabonds I have do have two outlets, but rather than start stringing 100 ft. extension cords all over, I just create what I call "Units"--each flash is self contained and consists of light, reflector, stand, battery pack, trigger (sometimes will use the built in optical triggers for simplicity) It's just a lot faster, and there is less to go wrong. If a battery does quit working I do have a couple of 25 ft. extension cords and can plug into an adjacent battery as a last resort. The problem is not only the time it takes to unroll and later roll up long cords (which can break in subzero cold,) but also those extension cords seem to eat up some battery power themselves. Maybe I'd be better off going back to Alien Bee B1600 and replacing all the heavy SLA packs with the 1st gen Vagabond lithiums. The problem with those are they go bad after two years and are about $80 each (times 8!) to replace. Maybe there's no cheap & easy way to do this......... The thing about Rove Lights etc. is the self contained lithium battery should perform well in the cold, is less bulk and lighter, and at somewhere around $340 each if one gets destroyed (falls into river, hit by train, whatever), it's not like losing a Profoto! My biggest concern about the new cheaper self contained strobes are (1) durability (2) reliability. In 11 years I've only killed one Paul Buff light--it was run over by a freight train. (Talk about "impact damage!")


Kent in SD




Oct 10, 2017 at 02:17 AM
takomaru
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p.1 #11 · p.1 #11 · Considering Lighting System Change


You said it, biggest concern about new cheaper self contained strobes durability and reliability, no free lunch. If you have been successfully working with Paul Buff lights, I'd stick to them unless I needed power and functionality, like wifi reliable on screen support to control all lights, as ridiculous as it may sound, Bron's new transmitter is made by Godox...takomaru


Oct 10, 2017 at 03:46 AM
Jay Ford
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p.1 #12 · p.1 #12 · Considering Lighting System Change


I have owned WL3200s for many years, and Godox AD600s for about a year and a half.

I don't know about -20, but the AD600s are a lot more reliable than the White Lightnings - one of my units has been in for repair four times due to caps burning out (no physical damage). They are also ludicrously easier to port and set up.

The biggest issue you'll have to address is the power difference. Is 600ws enough, or are you used to having more when needed?



Oct 10, 2017 at 03:41 PM
Jay Ford
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p.1 #13 · p.1 #13 · Considering Lighting System Change


Coincidentally, I use chemical hand warmer packs to keep dew off of lenses and telescope eyepiece at night. They last a good 8 hours. I presume it would be easy to adapt them to protect batteries from cold.


Oct 10, 2017 at 03:44 PM
Two23
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p.1 #14 · p.1 #14 · Considering Lighting System Change


Jay Ford wrote:
The biggest issue you'll have to address is the power difference. Is 600ws enough, or are you used to having more when needed?



The 1200ws is nice, especially for distant subjects (large bridges,) or when I'm shooting ISO 400 f8 with a 4x5 camera. However, 1200 to 600ws is just one stop of light. My D800e can easily do ISO 1600 instead of 800, and I could simply rate Ilford HP5 at ISO 800, a 1-stop push. A 600ws flash will work, and be much lighter/compact.

I routinely carry chemical hand warmers and will place them in the bag with with battery on very cold nights. I usually just stick a stocking hat over my tripod mounted camera to keep frost off the lens, and keep the camera battery in an inner pocket while waiting.


Kent in SD




Oct 10, 2017 at 05:44 PM
kaplah
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p.1 #15 · p.1 #15 · Considering Lighting System Change


Two23 wrote:
[...] It looks like the strobes use Bowens mount, so I should be able to keep using my collection of Paul Buff reflectors and softboxes. [...]

PCB uses the Balcar mount, not bowens, and they aren't compatible. With the softboxes you might be able to refit the speedring insert. With the reflectors, they just aren't going to work.



Oct 11, 2017 at 03:01 PM
rscheffler
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p.1 #16 · p.1 #16 · Considering Lighting System Change


Curious if you've found the original SLA Vagabonds handle the extreme cold better than the lithium Vagabonds?

This would be my primarily concern with the Godox or Rovelights... whether their lithium batteries will handle the extreme cold, and whether the LCD displays will remain readable. But you can remotely control power settings, so maybe being able to read the LCD isn't that critical.

Unfortunately for the price point you're interested in, your only choice is one of these Chinese brands. IMO, they've been pretty innovative in respect to features, but not necessarily all that great in respect to build quality.

As for the Vagabond Mini and the PCB lithium battery lifespan... I've had a set of four batteries now for 4-5 years and they're still working OK, though capacity is certainly down. I recently found a LiFePO4 battery supplier that offers them with Anderson connectors, which in theory should just plug into the Vagabond inverter (though their packs are 12V rather than PCB's 14.8V). As you've probably read on the PCB site, the Vagabond Extreme is LiFePO4 battery technology and is supposedly good for up to 10 years. Anyway, this battery company makes them in a range of capacities, so in theory you could get a pack that has way more juice than the PCB battery. The problem is they're just a generic block that would need to be strapped to the VML...



Oct 12, 2017 at 06:40 AM
Michael White
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p.1 #17 · p.1 #17 · Considering Lighting System Change


Have you considered the Elinchrom Quadras powerful little light weight heads and batteries can run two off one battery if you have long enough cables and the pack provides the light you need from both lights if not you’ll need a battery for each head


Oct 30, 2017 at 09:18 AM







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