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Ari
18-Nov-2015, 07:08
Hi all,

I'm looking for suggestions on a portable battery-powered flash unit.
Hoping to find something small, light and powerful that will work with film, and give me the occasional light boost for portraits.
One light is enough for now.

I've looked at Paul Buff, Dynalite, Elinchrom, etc but I'm not quite sure if 400 w/s would be enough to get me f16 at 10 feet with a softbox in place.
Conversely some of those brands are heavier than I'd prefer.

It would have to be a brand that has readily available accessories (speedring, softbox possibility, etc).
I found this, only 320 w/s (but maybe it's enough) and comes with an array of modifiers: http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/1122648-REG/bolt_vb_22_bare_bulb_flash_and.html

Price is a concern, I think it would be used occasionally, so I don't need to go all-out on the latest Profoto set-up.
Just looking for something reliable, small and powerful enough.

Thanks in advance.

DKirk
18-Nov-2015, 13:35
Looks a bit like one of the GODOX AD-360 flashes - seem fairly good for a reasonable sum.

Ari
18-Nov-2015, 14:27
Thanks Mr Kirk, I hadn't known about the Godox brand, and a comparable Godox kit on eBay is significantly less expensive than the B&H kit I linked to.

Sadly, neither has any kind of modelling light.

If anyone would like to chime in with other suggestions, I'm all ears; thanks.

Bob Salomon
18-Nov-2015, 14:46
Ari,

First of all, WS or Jules is NOT a measure of output. It is only the storage capacity of the flash and no flash outputs 100% of its capacity. An efficient one will output about 80% at full power.
Lots of factors control how much power can come out of the flash: diameter and length of the wires between the caps and the tube, diameter of the flash tube, number and types of connectors between the caps and the tube and MOST IMPORTANT the angle of coverage of the reflector and the finish and coating of the reflector.
For instance, a 400WS flash with a bare bulb will give you 360 coverage but will have several stops less light at say 10' then the same flash with a 40 reflector.

There is no formula that converts a WS into an f stop without your knowing several things that a manufacture does not give you in its specs, like loading on the tube.

The best way to compare outputs of flash units is to know actual output of the flash over the desired area of coverage in a f stop or in BCPS or ECPS (beam candle power or effective candle power) either of these can be easily converted to an actual, useable F stop.

Then you can easily compare different flash unit's output to one another. Using WS ratings if is simply impossible to compare.

As for modeling lights, do you want ones that are proportional to the flash output that will let you see the modeling in multiple flash setups or do you just want some think that points in the same direction as the flash? There is a big difference.

Ari
18-Nov-2015, 15:10
Ari,

First of all, WS or Jules is NOT a measure of output. It is only the storage capacity of the flash and no flash outputs 100% of its capacity. An efficient one will output about 80% at full power.
Lots of factors control how much power can come out of the flash: diameter and length of the wires between the caps and the tube, diameter of the flash tube, number and types of connectors between the caps and the tube and MOST IMPORTANT the angle of coverage of the reflector and the finish and coating of the reflector.
For instance, a 400WS flash with a bare bulb will give you 360 coverage but will have several stops less light at say 10' then the same flash with a 40 reflector.

There is no formula that converts a WS into an f stop without your knowing several things that a manufacture does not give you in its specs, like loading on the tube.

Hi Bob,
Thank you for the clarification; I suppose that the guts of the flash would be the difference between a low-priced flash vs an expensive one.
Would it be fair to say that a given w/s rating is for a bare bulb at a given distance? I realize that light modifiers, such as a softbox or scrim, would reduce flash output.

I'm not too worried about manufacturer's specs, I'm more interested in someone's hands-on experience with a particular unit, and whether they can confirm that the flash will be adequate for lower-ISO (100-400 ISO) work.
Thanks!

Bob Salomon
18-Nov-2015, 15:14
Hi Bob,
Thank you for the clarification; I suppose that the guts of the flash would be the difference between a low-priced flash vs an expensive one.
Would it be fair to say that a given w/s rating is for a bare bulb at a given distance? I realize that light modifiers, such as a softbox or scrim, would reduce flash output.

I'm not too worried about manufacturer's specs, I'm more interested in someone's hands-on experience with a particular unit, and whether they can confirm that the flash will be adequate for lower-ISO (100-400 ISO) work.
Thanks!

You could compare bare bulb outputs at a given distance. But remember, when you are using a soft box, compare the same size and types of boxes, not just random ones. Some boxes have a disk in front of the tube that provides more indirect light while others don't. Those may have greater output at the same distance but the center could be hotter then the edges.

Just make sure that you compare equals as much as possible.

RHITMrB
18-Nov-2015, 15:20
Hi all,

I'm looking for suggestions on a portable battery-powered flash unit.
Hoping to find something small, light and powerful that will work with film, and give me the occasional light boost for portraits.
One light is enough for now.

I've looked at Paul Buff, Dynalite, Elinchrom, etc but I'm not quite sure if 400 w/s would be enough to get me f16 at 10 feet with a softbox in place.
Conversely some of those brands are heavier than I'd prefer.

It would have to be a brand that has readily available accessories (speedring, softbox possibility, etc).
I found this, only 320 w/s (but maybe it's enough) and comes with an array of modifiers: http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/1122648-REG/bolt_vb_22_bare_bulb_flash_and.html

Price is a concern, I think it would be used occasionally, so I don't need to go all-out on the latest Profoto set-up.
Just looking for something reliable, small and powerful enough.

Thanks in advance.

I suspect a 400 Ws light won't be enough if you want to use modifiers. I occasionally use a White Lightning X1600 (660Ws) with a small (3' square) softbox. At ISO 400, flash to subject distance of 6-8 feet, and full power, I usually get about f/8.

Ari
18-Nov-2015, 15:22
That's what I was afraid of, Isaac; thank you very much.

ghostcount
18-Nov-2015, 15:33
Let the numbers be your guide... guide numbers (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guide_number) that is.

GN=distance*f-number

The AD360 has a GN of 80 (m, ISO100) or 262 (ft, ISO100). So, if your subject is 10 feet away your aperture will be f/26.2 at ISO 100. Powerful enough? Only you can decide. ;)

Of course, I'm not accounting for zooming features, modifiers, and manufacturer's optimism.

Alan Gales
18-Nov-2015, 16:17
Ari, forget the flash and get yourself one of those head braces talked about in the other thread on here! ;)

Jim Noel
18-Nov-2015, 16:22
Why f16 for a portrait? Why not 5.6 or 8?

Ari
18-Nov-2015, 17:25
My memory is a little hazy, but when I used Dynalites, I had a good Wafer softbox, and I vaguely remember using the power pack at only 1/4 power, or 250w/s.
So perhaps a 400 w/s light would be enough, but as I said, my memory is probably not accurate.


Let the numbers be your guide... guide numbers (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guide_number) that is.

GN=distance*f-number

The AD360 has a GN of 80 (m, ISO100) or 262 (ft, ISO100). So, if your subject is 10 feet away your aperture will be f/26.2 at ISO 100. Powerful enough? Only you can decide. ;)

Of course, I'm not accounting for zooming features, modifiers, and manufacturer's optimism.

Thanks, Randy; if the numbers were indeed that close with a softbox, it would be great. Only way to find out is buy something and test it.



Ari, forget the flash and get yourself one of those head braces talked about in the other thread on here! ;)

Have you seen the prices of head braces these days? Almost as much as a new Victrola!



Why f16 for a portrait? Why not 5.6 or 8?

Jim, I do shoot my portraits at f8 mostly, and sometimes at f11; I was hoping for a little wiggle room should a set-up necessitate moving the light a little farther away.

LabRat
18-Nov-2015, 17:59
You should be able to rent some small unit in your area some weekend... Try some out and see if a small unit does it for you...

Don't expect a modeling light on a small battery strobe pack... (They use too much power...)

Soft boxes tend to eat up a lot of strobe power... Smaller strobes usually like to flash direct, or with minimal light modification... But they are great at filling "holes" in available light situations...

Shooting with that wide-open lens look can work with LF...

(Alfred Eisenstaedt once said "I like shooting in available light... That is, using any light available"...)

Steve K

Ari
18-Nov-2015, 18:30
I've spent so much time scouring the internet, I forgot that there are actual photo stores where I can buy or rent equipment, and if I don't like it, I can return it.
Thanks, Steve.

I don't plan on using strobes often, just on location when there's no other light available, so one good light with a few modifiers (these days, I like octaboxes and beauty dishes) is enough.

Peter De Smidt
18-Nov-2015, 18:45
They are re-branded Godox flashes. They're sold under a number of labels. Here's a review: http://flashhavoc.com/godox-witstro-ad180-ad360-review/
I have three of the smaller Cheetahstand V850 flashes. I really like the user interface and wireless remotes, which are the same for the Godox Wistro AD360. Using them is dead easy. The lithium battery packs give fast recycling and a large number of flashes. Some of the earlier batteries have had reliability issues, but I haven't heard about many lately. You might email Edward at Cheetahstand. Ask him what the output is in your preferred sized modifier at your desired working distance. I'm sure he'll measure it for you.

Ari
18-Nov-2015, 19:48
Thanks, Peter!
The Cheetahstand website also shows the CL-600, which looks like a decent battery-powered strobe.
I'll send them an email tomorrow to ask about some specs.

Peter De Smidt
18-Nov-2015, 22:49
There's a little info at: http://flashhavoc.com/godox-rs400p-rs600p-xenergizer-released/

David A. Goldfarb
19-Nov-2015, 00:18
As a point of reference, I have Norman 200 W-s portables (LH-2 and LH-3b heads and a 200C battery pack, as well as a 202 plug-in pack that usually lives on my copy stand), and at max output with a small softbox (which eats around 1.5-2 stops), it should give you about f:8 at 10 feet at ISO 100, so if a Norman 400 W-s unit is a stop brighter (I don't have one, so I can't confirm on the basis of experience, but my Norman studio heads seem linear in this regard--twice as much input yielding double the output), it should put you in the ballpark of f:11. A more modern unit might be more efficient, of course. ISO 400 film would get you there with a unit like that.

Ari
19-Nov-2015, 07:11
Cheers, David; I am considering the 600w/s head from Cheetahstand, which should be enough for my basic needs.

SergeiR
19-Nov-2015, 07:23
Why f16 for a portrait? Why not 5.6 or 8?

To get people in focus, i presume. Not everyone likes to have their ears to be smoothed in in bookeh ;)

SergeiR
19-Nov-2015, 07:29
Ari, there are few more things happening with flash. Not everything would have modeling light. Not everything will have TRACKING modeling light (aka modeling light that follows power settings of flash unit).

Utterly cheap way is to get regular portable china made flash for like 50-70$ and stick LED on it with rubber band, for another 5$. Will do just what you need for fraction of price. Wont be tracking though.

If you want to go more fancy route with more umpth - you will have to go with real battery stuff. Plenty of those in eBay, again - cheapest way is to get yourself studio unit from someone and then spend another 200$ or so to get vagabond mini II from PCB. That will power up to 1200ws (not rated for, but it does those, i had Elinchrom 1200rx hooked up to mine and it recycles) heads and will be awesome if you will want to impress people by shooting either huge group with LF or want to overpower sun , shooting on location.

Ari
19-Nov-2015, 07:39
Thank you, Sergei; I don't see much commercial use for flash right now, but I should check the Vagabond unit as well.
My old set-up was three Dynamite heads and 1000w pack, and maybe once or twice in 12 years it wasn't enough for at least f11.
I had thought of a cheap, separate LED, since tracking modelling light isn't important; a simple preview of where the light is falling is enough.

DrTang
19-Nov-2015, 08:42
depends on the softbox..but I'm thinking 600ws would do it

that's with 100asa film


I was shooting just last week with a softbox at f16.. and my pack was at 1200 dialed back less than half..so maybe 400ws

Ari
19-Nov-2015, 09:00
Thanks, Dr; I like these beauty dish/octabox combos that are out now. They look promising, and add an extra tool to the kit without sucking up a ton of light.

DrTang
19-Nov-2015, 09:04
I got like a 5' white umbrella from ebay for like 20 bucks


not as handy as a softbox..but the light is pretty darn good..not a shoot thu..but an umbrella with white inner fabric

Ari
19-Nov-2015, 09:33
I have a shoot-through umbrella, I kept some stuff from the studio; the umbrella has decent-looking light, but the spill is hard to control.

SergeiR
19-Nov-2015, 09:44
There are brolly-softboxes now - i.e reflective umbrella type thingies , with grids ;) Cheap, dirty, effective way to do some cool stuff ;)

Ari
19-Nov-2015, 09:57
There are brolly-softboxes now - i.e reflective umbrella type thingies , with grids ;) Cheap, dirty, effective way to do some cool stuff ;)

Like!

Ari
19-Nov-2015, 11:15
I just wanted to thank everyone for their input.

I've decided to get either an Alien Bees B1600 with a Vagabond Mini (currently looking for a used head before I buy new).

If money's too tight, or a used 1600 doesn't materialize, I'll opt for a Godox battery-powered unit.

Thanks again

Tobias Key
19-Nov-2015, 11:34
I shoot Bowens 500w flashes and I don't think I have ever had to use them on full power for shooting large format @ f16. Of course of the type and efficiency of your light modifier is a significant factor. Some softboxes seem to kick out a lot more light than others for the same power setting. I also have a chinese yonguo 560 manual flash and a clamp that will mount one into s-type soft boxes (bowens fit). Those guns cost 45 and will get you around f16 at full power through a soft box @400 iso, I just did a test just about squeaked that with my 5' parabolic softbox. Not ideal but almost throw away cheap, and very portable. You could probably rig up four guns into a shoot through brolly if you were so inclined.

Ari
19-Nov-2015, 11:59
Thanks, Tobias; I still have the shoot-through, so later on, I may pick up some on-camera flashes as slave units.

Ari
2-Dec-2015, 15:27
Just wanted to update y'all, maybe this will be of help to someone in the future.
For the same price as one of the Chinese-made Godox kits (same as Cheetahstand stuff), I bought an Alien Bees b1600 and a Vagabond kit.
I also had to buy a trigger/receiver unit and light modifier, in my case an octabox/beauty dish.

The advantages with AB are:
-stronger modeling light
-smaller battery
-more power (640 w/s vs 500 w/s for the Godox)
-lighter weight
-parts, accessories, support & service in North America

https://farm1.staticflickr.com/735/23477529115_a71e4193f3_c.jpg (https://flic.kr/p/BLCtsK)

Everything in the bag weighs about 4kg (8.8 lb), which is ultra-light by my reckoning.

I'm waiting on the octabox, but so far this is exactly what I was looking for: small, lightweight and powerful. The AB seems to be of good build quality.
If it gets broken on location, it's not a Profoto or something, so replacing it, even with a new unit, won't hurt so much.

I'll update again when I've had a chance to use the entire kit as intended, that is, with modifier and using LF.

Thanks to all who helped me out with this, much appreciated.

Randy Moe
2-Dec-2015, 16:07
About the same power as one P25 flashbulb, according to my studio tests.

I like Paul C Buff gear and it's sad he recently died.

I hope the innovation carries on.

Two23
12-Dec-2015, 08:44
Just wanted to update y'all, maybe this will be of help to someone in the future.
For the same price as one of the Chinese-made Godox kits (same as Cheetahstand stuff), I bought an Alien Bees b1600 and a Vagabond kit.
I also had to buy a trigger/receiver unit and light modifier, in my case an octabox/beauty dish.

The advantages with AB are:
-stronger modeling light
-smaller battery
-more power (640 w/s vs 500 w/s for the Godox)
-lighter weight
-parts, accessories, support & service in North America

.


Another advantage is you can actually get the thing repaired or get parts when needed! I used AB1600 for years in outdoor winter photography and the Bees are solid! Still using Vagabond batteries with White Lightning X3200 monolights. I'm a big fan of the Buff products.


Kent in SD

Ari
12-Dec-2015, 14:09
Another advantage is you can actually get the thing repaired or get parts when needed! I used AB1600 for years in outdoor winter photography and the Bees are solid! Still using Vagabond batteries with White Lightning X3200 monolights. I'm a big fan of the Buff products.


Kent in SD

Good to know, thanks Kent.
I've supplemented the AB1600 with two Chinese on-camera flashes that have built-in slaves.
For $69 the GN is 190 at ISO 100 (I assume that means 10 feet, but not sure).

Ari
12-Dec-2015, 15:28
Hi Michael,
That seems like a good little kit; there are a lot of options out there now.
I ended up going with AB because it was portable, affordable (not as affordable as the Interfit) and it was closest in spec and function to the studio lights I had learned with years ago.
I like the Vagabond unit quite a bit, and having two household plugs on it means I can use just about any household device with it. It takes only 3 hours to power up and lasts about 400-500 flashes, as long as you don't overuse the modelling lamp.
All in all, it's exciting to have some (portable) lighting once again, and I'm looking forward to using it once I have a film camera again in the new year.

mdarnton
12-Dec-2015, 15:35
Sorry. I realized too late that the deal was done and deleted my post......apparently while you were responding!

MAubrey
12-Dec-2015, 16:28
I think the AB kit was a great choice!

Ari
12-Dec-2015, 18:19
Thanks, I agree!

HMG
13-Dec-2015, 19:54
It's too late to influence your decision, but it doesn't matter since what I will say supports what you did. I've read of some inexpensive "studio" flash that basically had no after sales support or repair. Not the case - in most situations - with the Paul Buff equipment. I say in most situations since I have X-series unit that appears to have bad capacitors. Paul Buff (the company) tells me they can't repair because the replacement component is no longer available. They offered me an attractive (and fair) discount on another line - but unfortunately not the Alien Bee. I still consider myself a Paul Buff supporter.

Ari
14-Dec-2015, 07:39
I've read similar positive sentiments about AB's customer service, so yes, I'm glad I bought them.

SergeiR
14-Dec-2015, 08:03
and if i have choice i wouldn't touch AB flashes with 10 feet pole. Only so much power and color inconsistencies i like to deal with, digital or film - no matter. So there.. ;)

(but true about lower end flashes, unless you got dealer close by - i wouldn't risk it much, other than that - who cares).

Ari
14-Dec-2015, 08:16
I think for critical work, like art reproduction, something of very high quality would be a must.
For an editorial portrait photographer, for example, I think these would be great.

I just bought a second AB1600, returned the Chinese flash because it didn't work, and got a Metz instead for background light.