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Thread: Recommendations for cheap (probably chinese) studio flashes

  1. #1
    retrogrouchy
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    Recommendations for cheap (probably chinese) studio flashes

    (copy of an APUG question - I figured there are probably people here shooting big cheap lights)


    Some of us don't live in the USA, also known as the land of crazy-cheap equipment. We can't buy AlienBees etc, the voltage is wrong (though I could get a transformer... another 5kg to lug) and the shipping cost is nasty. While I'd be happy with some good secondhand Bowens, elinchrom or whatever, the second-hand market here is still pretty inflated. That basically means my affordable options come down to the variety of $200-300-class Chinese monolights on eBay.

    I plan to use these lights with decently big modifiers (1-2m softboxes) , shooting medium format and 4x5"; think f/32 kind of levels from the key light. From what I understand, that means I'm going to need on the order of 800Ws - please let me know if I'm wrong there in either direction. I'm not going to be using them professionally; sessions of an hour or so once every few weeks. Very light use though I'd want them to still be working in a decade.

    Has anyone personally used any of the chinese brands? Any good or bad experiences? Have you had a chance to compare optical power levels with reputable brands? I know enough to avoid the really cheap ones with only 3 stops of power range.

    I was looking in particular at the Menik LD-series lights, though they seem to be unusually small and light for their power rating, which doesn't bode well - flash capacitor technology is what it is and a certain volume is required to contain the specified energy. I suspect they're lying about power ratings and/or not using flash-rated capacitors but don't know that for sure. These advertise as using Perkin-Elmer plug-in tubes, which is a plus. Their CM-series look awesome (wireless remote control of power levels!) but they don't seem to be available yet.

    The other option are the older-style huge ones, e.g. eBay 150645212726. They're big & heavy enough to contain the capacitors to fulfill the rating but of course I don't know if they're good ones; a friend has a pair that look similar to these and some of the capacitors shorted out after about 2 years (I removed the duds for him and now the flash works again but max power is down by about 1/3 stop).




    ... or if someone in Australia has a quality secondhand two-light 1kJ studio kit they'd like to sell for $500ish?

  2. #2
    Wally Wally's Avatar
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    Re: Recommendations for cheap (probably chinese) studio flashes

    I've used the Lian-Li* 400ws and 600ws flashes that take Bowen accessories, and they've worked very well for me. They are rather brutal on the mains, demanding all the current that can be sourced to dump charge into the caps, making them recharge fast but popping breakers if all three are plugged into the same strip.

    I've got one Adorama Flashpoint 2420, a chinese import 1200ws unit with it's own (incompatible with others) accessory mount. Accessories are available from third parties, so not a big deal, but incompatible with my other strobes.

    It also works great and I've had no major issues but one: when I first powered up the 250W modeling light I smelled smoke for about a minute, then the 'fragrance' dissipated. I checked and there was a bit of plastic wire insulation cruft wedged between the bulb and it's socket. When I pulled the charred remains of this bit of wire insulation out, and opened the window for fresh air, all was ok.

    I've used, but never owned, Normans and Dynalights, and while theese aren't their equal, they work and work well.

    * sold by OECCamera on eBay

  3. #3

    Re: Recommendations for cheap (probably chinese) studio flashes

    Not sure if you know but Paul C Buff has a Australian website that sells his Alienbees.

    http://www.paulcbuff.com.au/

  4. #4
    Jim Jones's Avatar
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    Re: Recommendations for cheap (probably chinese) studio flashes

    If Alienbees are available through Paul Buff in Australia, that would be a great choice. I've accumulated a lot of equipment, and the most expensive single item was a White Lightning Ultra 1800. It has performed flawlessly for many years while some other gear comes and goes. Studio lights, like tripods, are lifetime investments. Scrimping on either can be an expensive self-indulgence.

  5. #5
    retrogrouchy
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    Re: Recommendations for cheap (probably chinese) studio flashes

    Thanks for the replies (I got nothing from APUG!). Nice to know PCB has moved into the 220V market but the prices seem a little whacked when you consider that these are still chinese-made budget flashes with some branding. For example, the B1600 (640Ws) costs more than a genuine Bowens 500Ws monolight (lightly used) and about twice as much as a direct-import chinese equivalent 600Ws flash, which means there's no way I'm going to buy the AlienBee.

    Wally: do you remember what sort of light levels (f/stop) you would get at full power from those Lian-Li lights in a softbox?

  6. #6
    Wally Wally's Avatar
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    Re: Recommendations for cheap (probably chinese) studio flashes

    I was able to shoot 4x5 FP-4 at asa 80 at f:16+2/3 with the softbox _very_ close to the sitter.

  7. #7
    retrogrouchy
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    Re: Recommendations for cheap (probably chinese) studio flashes

    So about f/22... very close being what, a foot? a metre?

    Ah well. Looks like the ratings are pretty optimistic, like the "effective Ws" bullshit that Buff uses.

    thanks.

  8. #8
    Wally Wally's Avatar
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    Re: Recommendations for cheap (probably chinese) studio flashes

    Quote Originally Posted by polyglot View Post
    So about f/22... very close being what, a foot? a metre?

    Ah well. Looks like the ratings are pretty optimistic, like the "effective Ws" bullshit that Buff uses.

    thanks.
    About 18" away. ie: just ourt of camera view.

  9. #9

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    Re: Recommendations for cheap (probably chinese) studio flashes

    shooting medium format and 4x5"; think f/32 kind of levels from the key light.
    Für f32 it is good to have a 1200 Ws Elinchrom as main light then you get with almost every Softbox around f32 at 100 ISO!

    Cheers Armin

  10. #10

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    Re: Recommendations for cheap (probably chinese) studio flashes

    2 times Sorry

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