The studio is almost set for the open day and a post showing how I have laid it out/video tour will be coming soon. For this post I want to talk about lights and the choice I made.
Over the last few months I have been looking at light systems… note I said systems. Just like when you buy a camera you are at the start of buying in to a system… sure you can mix and match with adapters but I for one don’t want to deal with that stuff.
As you can see from the intro image above I looked at a number of brands and the long term costs of buying in to that system, now to be real about his Broncolor/Profoto were not seriously looked at due to cost but I wanted to break down options with a few in the high end of the scale.
I have been shooting with speedlites for years and they are great little lights that you can do a lot with… until you come up against full sun with a modifier that kills 2 stops of light then you need about 5 of these things which can get expensive not to mention a pain in the butt rigging multiple lights. But what about studio work… ?
Sure speedlites can work in the studio with the right modifiers but you are going to be power limited and won’t be shooting a real beauty dish with them, I have tried it using a stofen dome on the speedlite and it just won’t work because you need the bare flash bulb found in a studio strobe. Plus you need brackets and adapters to run each speedlite with a studio based modidifer… more crap to deal with and more money to spend ultimately to bodge a small location light in to studio duties. Let’s break that down some more.
If you want to shoot full length on white seamless using speedlites then you will need to be at ISO 400-800 to help them along, and you will still be close to full power chewing through batteries and waiting on recycle times. The image below was shot with studio strobes at ISO 125, F8 with power to spare. ISO 125 was used as the background and subject needed another 1/3rd of a stop to be good so an ISO move was the quickest move from camera whilst still staying with F8..
Now I won’t be selling my speedlites or packing them in a cupboard to gather dust any time soon, but with starting this studio it was time to buy into real studio lights.
Let’s look at the options…
I was looking for a 500ws head with a good modelling light to start with, and plan to add a lower powered head later on which would be in the 200ws-250ws range.
Note that only one of these solutions listed below gave me the option of on location with large power as well as in studio but the price of that stuff has a pucker factor.
1. Profoto D1 Air – this is not the B1 TTL location light.
- 500ws Great.
- Great Build and Performance – It’s Profoto after all.
- Proprietary modifier mount whilst good you will have to buy in to the Profoto modifier range with will add £££ to the costs.
- £935 per light. S**T
- £150+ per flash tube. Really!
2. Broncolor Siros 400ws – Just for a laugh (these things are amazing but ££££££).
- Amazing lights on paper.. never shot with them.
- £835 for 400ws. You don't want to know the price of the next step up power wise.
- £150 per replacement flash tube. Oh come on.
Obviously it would be a huge investment buying in to the above systems let alone the cost of building a modifier tool kit. So Profoto and Broncolor are out.
Let’s get real….
I still want 500ws or more to start with in the first head. You go to studio lights not just to ditch the batteries but for power. If you are considering those ebay 100ws heads don’t waste your money.
This 500ws head will be the key light in most set-ups and I want the option of shooting F8-F11 through modifiers at distance, for that you need power. It must be S-Mount fitment also.
The S-Mount is hands down best fitment not to mention it has an absolute ton of modifiers from many brands available without needing some £60 adapter for each light head.
It would be nice to have a fast flash duration but that costs money so I am letting that slide for now.
3. Elinchrom – BRX500ws head.
- £380 – more like it price wise.
- Not S-Mount.
- Bright modelling lamp.
- Stupid proprietary umbrella shaft size. Seriously this is the Sony/Minolta original hot shoe of the lighting world.
4. Paul C Buff Einstein’s – 640ws and very fast lights. But…
- Only available in the USA and Canada – if this was not the case I would be all over these.
I have a friend based in Atlanta who has offered to send me some units over, it was tempting but if a unit goes bad It would cost me in money and time sending them back. So these lights are out.
5. Phottix Indra 500ws TTL – OMFG my dream light on paper.
I have not gotten hands on apart from a quick look at The Photography Show 2015 but OMG these things are amazing.
- 500ws plus TTL and HSS (High Speed Sync)
- £1270 for one head with battery and AC (mains) pack. Ouch.
- £300 for the Odin and 2 receivers. Will work with Canon speedlites also.
- £200 for 2 additional Odin receivers for my Canon speedlites.
- Built in Phottix Strato II and Odin receiver.
- S- Mount
- Can do mains and battery power. (with AC Pack sold separately)
- Small and compact so it would fit in the Westcott Apollo series of softboxes that I own.
- They have everything in one package.
- I want 3 of the 500ws heads and 1 360ws head.
- Down side is the modelling light is not that bright as it’s an LED unit.
I am 80% sure these are my perfect lights but it would cost £1270 to buy in to it for the light alone plus another £500 for the trigger sets (yeah yeah not a must) so £1270 - £1770 for a one light kit that will do mains and battery power.
Seems a lot because it is, but let’s not forget that light will do studio work and go on location via battery power as well for not much more than a Profoto B1 500ws Air TTL which by the way I have zero modifiers for so add £500 on the cost of a Profoto light to get a start in the modifiers.
Oh man it would be nice to start to build a kit out of these Indras but in real money it would be a £4040 light kit with 3 heads, batteries for each and AC adapter for each light plus those triggers I mentioned above.
That light kit above could do it all for me but Dam it’s pricey and so off the list for the moment.
I really need to stop looking at them.
* Update - April 2016. I still need to stop looking at them.
6. Bowens Gemini R 500ws head.
- £399 per head.
Who was it that said if you don’t have anything good to say then say nothing? I’ll just leave this here then.
7. Elemental (Studio-Flash) Nano heads.
- Good Price per unit £125
- But not enough power at 300ws
I have looked at these lights a few times and the kits can be bought for a good price but.. They are always listed out of stock.. I mean always.
Now may be it's because they are really really popular but you never hear about them or see them. The lack of stock on a lot of items has me concerned so they are off the list.
8. Calumet Genesis 500ws Head.
- Good price point £229 per head.
- Modelling lights are weak.
- I shoot with 2 cameras with crap AF so need bright modelling lights.
They tick a number of boxes, also they are a known brand, sure they were in trouble some time back but they bounced back. But I think better lights exist for not much more money.
This brings me to my choice the Lencarta Elite Pro 2 600ws head. Having only used it twice and so far and all is good. I need to spend some more time with it before reporting back. (I am currently writing a review - April 2016)
I will say though it pulled off what the dam Bowens could not and that was shooting images on full power in rapid succession without overheating. Not to mention even the 200ws Smart Flash has been more consistent than Bowens I have used in the past.
The Elite Pro 2 I have gone for is a 600ws mono block so it meets my power requirements plus about a third of a stop. I plan to put it up against the Bowens 500WS head in a metering test so watch this space. You can also get a 300ws version and a Superfast version of the Elite Pro 2 from Lencarta. The Super fast have faster flash durations but I can't justify the jump in price right now and I don't shoot a whole lot of movement that requires freezing.
The build quality is rock solid and Lencarta provide a 3 year warranty on the head which is great. I picked mine up at the photography show after getting hands on and talking to Michael Sewell about the Lencarta gear in some detail.
Below are some reasons I went with the Lencarta gear.
- UK Company.
- Good Warranty.
- Price £259.99 +£10 for a reflector (This should come with the light really)
- S-Mount fit which is far better than Bowens, it has a nice positive click when locking in place and is very secure.
- 250w Modelling lamp. Very bright and can be also used for video.
- Flash tubes only cost £50 to replace.
- Flash tube can be fully switched off.
- Fast recycle time even on full power, in fact so fast it has had me check the power setting a few times so far.
- Easy to use controls.
- Come with a spare fuse.
- Cooling fan works well and is not too noisy.
- The flash tube dome that protects the tube is a nice touch, really nice.
- The new generation reflector is 1/3rd more efficient than the old one.
I will need to pick up a Softbox soon as my Westcott Apollo 50” only just fits the Gen 1 Lencarta Smart Flash in. To be fair this was going to be true with most mono block solutions as those Westcott Apollo soft boxes are designed for speedlites really. The Phottix Indra would fit though... OMFG stop it Rick!
I currently have 6 S-Mount modifiers but some are on loan.
1. Beauty Dish – Lencarta 28” Silver with diffuser. – On long term loan
2. Strip Box with grid – Not sure on the size. – On long term loan.
3. 7” Reflector with grids. (10,20,30,40 degree grids) – My own.
4. Lencarta White 16" Beauty Dish with 30' Grid.
5. Calumet 32" Softbox.
6. Background Reflectors - Which by the way also make for interesting key lights.
I have other modifiers that I can use like umbrellas and my poor mans octa (Westcott 7ft Silver Para+Diffuser)
It’s far to early to speak about performance or reliability yet but I will come back with a more detailed look at this light at a later date.
Along with the 600ws Elite Pro 2 I have been given 4 200ws Gen 1 Lancarta Smart Flash lights on long term loan by a good friend who has closed his studio down. This is awesome because it gives me plenty of studio lights to work with without having to drop the cash straight away. Thank you again Stuart.
These are a Gen 1 unit and I can see where the Gen 2 has improved things, but I am not complaining at all.
Stuart was also kind enough to give me some other stuff with these lights which included a boom… I love booms.
I will slowly build up my own kit and hand this gear back over time and given the pricing of Lencarta gear and if I am happy with them I will be able to build a 4 head kit for not a whole ton of money in the grand scheme of lighting gear. That kit would include..
1. Lencarta 600ws Elite Pro 2 *1 £259.99 already got this.
2. Lencarta 300ws Elite Pro 2 *2 £169.99
3. Lencarta 200ws Smart Flash 2 *1 £109.99
4. High intensity Reflector *1 £49.99
5. Heavy Duty Boom Arm Kit *1 £169.99
That’s less than one Phottix Indra. It all boils down to cost without buying the cheap crap that won’t last. Also I could add a battery powered Lencarta Atom 360 for not much more than the cost of one Indra unit. Makes you think about want vs practical financial limits.
I have made my choice and will be living with it for some time. So far I feel it is the right choice. The long term loan lights are a god send and will allow me to look in to a more powerful location light sooner than I would have been able to but that’s a whole other blog post.
Thanks for reading.