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Thread: What's a good buy in used studio lights?

  1. #1

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    What's a good buy in used studio lights?

    I'd like to have some fairly powerful, classy, versatile studio lights, preferably used. I'd like to get something that has a wide variety of modifiers available, is going to be reliable and not too expensive to fix. Broncolor and Profoto are names I know, but I'm not sure what models to look for.

    Any suggestions? Frank?

    Thanks
    Paul

  2. #2

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    Re: What's a good buy in used studio lights?

    I don't think you learn artificial lighting as well from strobes as constant lights because you can't see it, even with modeling lamps, so if you are learning do yourself a favor and start with a couple of good Tungsten Halogen lights and do it one step at a time.

    But sometimes you just need the power to stop your lens down and strobes are called for.... I just found another cache of old Dynalites, two packs and four heads for $250 shipped. At that price you can toss the broken ones and just use a different head when the flash tube dies. I have three packs and seven heads plus a bunch of broken ones for spare parts. It's overkill. I just keep them in milk crates and toss them around.

    Light is light, especially for slow large format where you shoot negative film one at a time. If you were using a DSLR at several frames per second against a grey studio background you'd want the speed and consistency of a ProFoto. But for shooting 4x5, all you really need is a decent light, not some $10,000 Eurotrash wonder. Most 1980s-1990s studio gear is heavy but well-made, and consistent within a 1/10 of a stop.

    Use a Safe-Sync or wireless remote to fire your strobes if you are syncing to your fancy DSLR that might not like their potentially damaging sync voltage.

    As for light modifiers, the Dynas use inexpensive and plentiful Lowel attachments for barn doors, snoots, scrims, etc. plus common speedrings for softboxes, beauty dishes, umbrellas, and whatever else you want to cobble together yourself. True that the ProFoto allows you to move the flash tube in relation to the modifier but, given that the old, vintage AC strobes offer 1,737,218 possible light options as they are, I probably don't need to dabble with the 3x more options modern stuff might provide. At least not at the price differential.

    When you get good enough to do this for work and are flying around the world shooting supermodels, you can probably afford to rent and not worry about it. Yes I would love a set of four battery-powered ProFoto heads and packs but I would be insane to get those.

    In the real world, especially for hobby shooting and portfolio work, just get the far less expensive used working-studio strobes like Speedotrons, Normans, Bowens, Dynalites, etc. and do some good pictures. You don't need fancy light modifiers, just learn to use foamcore boards, foil, umbrellas, reflectors.

    Start with one light as close to the subject as possible, use a DSLR to experiment and Fuji Instant to proof. Get a flash meter and learn how to use it. Keep it real simple.

    There is a video of Annie Leibovitz shooting Keith Richards in a hotel room. She has access to every light control ever made and yet she is bouncing heads off walls and having an assistant move a light head with a cheap umbrella. That's the reality.

    PS the last time I did a commercial shoot with strobes it was (2009) pretty ghetto with the milk crates and I definitely needed an assistant to lug it all. If you are doing nicer higher level stuff appearances do matter and probably want to have "nice" looking gear for certain types of clients to take you seriously. However I have found those are usually the types of clients to avoid ;-p

  3. #3

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    Re: What's a good buy in used studio lights?

    But how would Frank photograph Keith Richards? Grin.
    When I grow up, I want to be a photographer.

    http://www.walterpcalahan.com/Photography/index.html

  4. #4

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    Re: What's a good buy in used studio lights?

    I'm not a nude photographer but that would be one raisin I'd like to see.

  5. #5

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    Re: What's a good buy in used studio lights?

    Actually I forgot about this but I was reading about these new Paul C Buff mini-lithium batteries that are pretty compact and not too expensive ($250?) that can power an AC strobe out in the boonies for a couple hundred pops. That sounds really appealing to me and that would be very useful for location work. Not to add more complication to things but one head on a battery would be awesome for most of the LF portrait type stuff I see a lot of people doing, including myself.

    I read that they will work with other brands, including older strobes, so it does away with generators, invertors, etc. and isn't a car battery in a tackle box.... pretty nice.

  6. #6
    Robert Oliver Robert Oliver's Avatar
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    Re: What's a good buy in used studio lights?

    love my dynalite kit... those things have worked hard for about 10 years and have hardly given me any grief at all.

    Love 'em

  7. #7

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    Re: What's a good buy in used studio lights?

    Frank where are you getting these Dynalite deals? There's a set on ebay right now for $900.

  8. #8
    Large format foamer! SamReeves's Avatar
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    Re: What's a good buy in used studio lights?

    Photofloods are the cheapest of them all. I got a three light kit on eBay for less than $40. Yes you'll be on a slow shutter speed, tripod, etc., but as long as your train you model to hold it like a concrete statue, no problem!

  9. #9

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    Re: What's a good buy in used studio lights?

    Quote Originally Posted by sully75 View Post
    Frank where are you getting these Dynalite deals? There's a set on ebay right now for $900.
    I bought the last $250 set on ebay in a regular auction. You just have to be patient. They were also beaters - older D-series, nearly 30 years old!

    I also got a set on Craigslist.

    Of course the newer Dynalites are a lot nicer, more control over power, etc. But I mostly just use this stuff on max.

    Dynalite will still work on older gear, not that it is worth it. Just buy more.

  10. #10

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    Re: What's a good buy in used studio lights?

    Quote Originally Posted by Frank Petronio View Post

    Dynalite will still work on older gear, not that it is worth it. Just buy more.
    What does that mean? What older gear?

    Thanks Frank.

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