« Flashpoint! Or, Do You Really Need a Monolight? | Main | What Is a Studio? »

Tuesday, 09 January 2018


Okay, I really don't know this kind of lighting, but the link to the Godox in the previous post shows it with a bare bulb. Perhaps you can just remove the hood?

Having more power is not only about being able to use lower ISO. For those of us using these outdoor, more power means more control over ambient and less having to rely on High Speed Sync and other wizardry. Big lights with usable HSS like the Elinchrom ELB1200 have been a total gamechanger in what can be done in the outdoor.

For instance, this image : https://i.imgur.com/lETUUSx.jpg was shot in conditions so bright, between snow glare and clear 14,000ft air, that not wearing glacier sunglasses (the kind you are not allowed to drive a car with) will rapidly result in snow blindness. Yet at 1/8000 - f/4.8 - ISO 100 and the bare bulb ELB400 at half power, I am just about outpowering the sun and getting the lighting ratio I was looking for.

Quantum made an interchangeable head flash, back in the day, that had the extended flash tube. One could use these on a Norman 200b, as I recall. I used Norman’s in boxes without reflector, only option on the original heads, and they were pretty even. Probably not as good as the Speedo. Not as good as neutral density filters, but squinting works a pretty good.

Petapixel has a good article comparing Godox to Profoto, from a year ago. Kirk Tuck just bought a new flash system by Neewer, which he talks about end of December. Much cheaper than the Godox mentioned here, though lower power, 600 watts is too much for portraits, me thinks. Love the subject. Let’s talk about LEDs.

This is a lower cost option: https://visualsciencelab.blogspot.com/2017/12/price-drop-new-project-inspires.html

IANAE either when it comes to flash heads, but they can be a lot of fun for photos that can't really be lit any other way. An even cheaper way to get into this world is with Alien Bees gear, or any of the other models by Paul C. Buff, such as the more recently designed Einstein model. An entire system of wireless controls is available too. Not battery powered or LED yet, but they are light weight and lots of them on eBay used. (Does that say something about their quality, or that people buy them but then don't end up using them enough?)

Another great resource for strobe info is David Hobby's site http://strobist.blogspot.com

Possible brain fart here but wasn't there a company that made belt pack batteries for Vivitar strobes that branched out into bare bulb conversions of Vivitar 283 units. Is that what you are trying to remember?

Vivitar made the modular 4600 System flash, which had interchangeable feet to match the various TTL camera configurations and interchangeable flash heads, which included a bare bulb head for it. I picked up a couple of used ones with the bare bulb heads a while back for a small location lighting pack. They work quite nicely, kind of like a modular TTL version of the Vivitar 285. I don't know if they are the ones you were thinking of, but they are what I use.

Mike as long as we are on the subject of lighting, I have to add my two cents. I just purchased a new camera and one of the reasons I bought it was the pop up flash. I have the Fuji XT 2 and love it but anytime I shoot people indoors I run into problems with lighting. The XT20 Fuji has a pop up flash and I might add much cheaper than the XT2. I went ahead and bought the 20 to go along with my xt 2.
I noticed the big "pro" cameras do not come with pop up flashes. I can't tell you how many times I have used the one on my Nikon d750. In bright sun it provides some fill light to make sure the faces are properly exposed, and when taking pictures in a well lite rooms the pop up flashes illuminates the subjects perfectly.
I will say my Nikon with a light on top just works, but the Fuji is ok and that is my travel companion not the Nikon. The Nikon stays behind and I view it as my studio camera.
Lighting is so important to good photography that it is a subject all on its own. Good discussion. Thanks and happy New Year.

I agree that a bare bulb flash tube is a handy feature to have. Unfortunately, it's not all that common, and although there are several battery-powered flash units that have bare-bulb heads (you were probably thinking about the old Sunpak 120J TTL or Quantum Q-Flash by the way, Mike), they lack modeling lights--which is also a handy feature.
I find an acceptable alternative to be a head that features a frosted diffusion dome that scatters the light over a 180-degree angle. The Interfit Honey Badger, which otherwise bears a striking resemblance to a Paul C. Buff DigiBee, has such a dome, sells for $300, and unlike the DigiBee, is available internationally.

You're probably thinking of the Quantum Flash (Q Flash.)

I've been coveting this one:


Okay, I take your point (yesterday) that I can also "play" with lighting. But, I wanted my comment to be on-topic relative to the post, before I asked (nagged):

So, how's it going with the book today? How many words?

[Another 800 words today. It bugs me to write first draft and not be able to craft it. --Mike]

Photogenic's Powerlight series monolights use the same flashtube inside a glass dome out in front of the housing that the Baja light you've shown has, and they have been like that for decades.

A month after I graduated from college I bought a Norman pack and head and I’ve been using it for 39 years ( it’s as old as Jack Benny!) Reliable as a hammer and as beat up as one too. No other piece of equipment has lasted as long. The monolight strobes I have owned overheat and break ( or catch fire ) and have ugly light in my opinion.

I am of the school of getting way way way more light than you need and then flagging it down and reflecting it. I used to assist a photographer who liked to brag about using a $100 camera for a shoot and I was always sitting there thinking that there was about $10000 worth of lights, plus an assistant to set them up.

I also have a tendency to grab the main stand-head-5 foot umbrella with my left hand and wave it around while I’m shooting and moonlights are too heavy for that.

By the way, the flash duration is determined by the size of the pack divided by the number of heads, so if you want a short duration flash, put a lot of heads on a single pack.

Quantum? Tht's it, I give up.

Remember Sylvania's "blue dot for a sure shot" slogan? The deer-in-headlights look of photos taken with a flashbulb turned me off to them, and for me, strobes were just another way to get the same result, except I didn't have to burn my fingers on a spent bulb.

When I shot with a Nikon DSLR, I tried using one of their Speedlights for a while, until it broke, and Nikon claimed no responsibility. Used indoors, and pointed upwards to get a bounce from the ceiling, I found the results at least acceptable. Old houses with high ceilings were my bane.

Your on camera flash might have been an Armatar, a Vivitar modified by Armato for a bare bulb and a bigger capacitor, a Honeywell (probably not a thyristor) or a Sunpak 120-J, I've used a Soligor monolite for 30+ years and also have a couple of cases full of the old Bogen (Bowens) monolites.

Decades ago when I had a "bare minimum" (nyuk nyuk) speed light setup, I had one bare bulb head along with a more conventional head. As I recall (and yes, the cells containing that memory are subject to failure) I could also slip the bare bulb into a reflector.

I used Balcar equipment, which was very good and dependable, though it did emit a quite lovely ozone fragrance.

I agree with Crabby, the sticky-outy flash tube gives more uniform light inside a soft box.

And what about bare bulb heads without a soft box? The light is very directional and crisp, and does a wonderful job creating "pop" as long as you're careful with placement (for me, never on-camera.)

A little trick we used in my studio for years was to establish the overall direction of the light with a largish box, then place another bare bulb head outside the diffusion screen on the front of the box. By adjusting the relative power of each you can have very soft to very hard shadows without having to add fill from another direction, which can sometimes look fake. We called this "ratioing" (though I'm pretty sure that's not a real word.)

This look mimics the light from the sun on a day with high clouds creating some diffusion, but without the totally flat look of full overcast. IMO, this is some of the most beautiful light in nature, and for our work, natural looks were king.

I think that flash with the modular bare bulb head was a vivitar. #5200 or #4200. It came with a zoom flash head, regular flash head and the bare bulb head. The bottom attachment could even be exchanged for different camera brands. Loved that flash, quite powerful.

I think the term "strobe" might derive from the London, UK based business called "Strobe". They made mighty flash equipment which looked like something out of a Fritz Lang movie.

Cool, I have been using Profoto D4 heads with my 4x5. May look into this as well.

Fun fact: the Hasselblad D40, is basically a 120J that takes 6 batteries instead of 4 and has built-in TTL for (some) Hasselblad V system cameras.

I too prefer bare bulbs with modifiers. That’s one reason I like the previous generation of Profoto monolights over the latest version (cost is another reason).

I don't use any kind of lights anymore, but a couple of years ago I had a chance to play with some continuous-light LED panels in doing some portraits. I have to say that I don't think I'd go back to any kind of flash for portraits when you can set up your panels and then play with light modifiers. If you carry a remote camera trigger in your hand, you can even do the modifiers yourself. I think continuous light is where you really have a chance to "play," and make minute adjustments in the way the light falls on your subject. Your lighting posts have created a certain amount of GAS, but only for a couple of good lighting panels.

B&H has a pretty nice discussion of the benefits of LED lights (though sales-oriented, of course) here:


And a small voice in the wilderness called out "Continuous LED lighting . . . "

Especially for those of us who have never used off camera flash for their own work, eschew flash of any kind wherever possible, the likely light effects of flashes such as you speak of is a mystery.

When there's no choice, artificial light or not get the shot, one may, of course, spend a lot of time chimping and adjusting OR - turn on the LEDs.

It's dark today, and I wish to take some pictures of the stuff under the tree, so I'll take the little, light, daylight balanced LED. Probably hand hold it, look at the light on the camera LCD and push the remote release when it's right. Right first time.

There was also the Vivitar 5600 (IIRC) system which had a main body with interchangeable heads and hotshoe units. There was a bounce head, bounce-zoom head, and a bare bulb head I'm positive about and i think there was a ring light. Besides the standard manual foot, you could get modules for Canon, Nikon, Pentax (why I bought it), Minolta, and I think a couple more.

We seem to be pining for the days when a lighting assignment meant hundreds of pounds of gear and a small van, but not too small to take an assistant in the passenger seat.

Even Kirk Tuck has moved on from there.

Before getting too worked up about non-bare bulbs, it would be as well to look at the Godox without its reflector in place (this is the older model, but the new one is pretty much the same):


Working with mixed color temperatures and using filters and gels to match them is always a challenge. Why has no flash/strobe company dealt with the issue of balancing the 'cool' flash color temp with ambient color temps - 'warm' incandescent or 'green' fluorescents?

Mike. Speaking from experience you'll never get a book done if you go back and revise after every day's writing. The only way I can think of doing a book is to slam through the entire thing first and then go back and (if necessary) revise. I did not revise anything on the first book I wrote. The only changes were edits for grammar and spelling. It sold better than all the others. Revising too early is a way of sabotaging the progress toward completion in exchange for little flourishes of perfection.

Sean Tucker's video is watchable for many reasons - the setting, the pacing, the editing, the work. But what is most impressive - he seems to be able to speak fluidly without audible pauses, the errs and umms that plague so many home made vids and make them insufferable. That is a heck of a skill....

There was something that registered with me about the Sean Tucker video, and Chris Y hit the nail on the head. The natural fluidity of his delivery is remarkable. It's kind of like good editing. It's invisible when it's done well.

Also, on another note, I've been a T.O.P. reader for quite a few years now, and these last few days have been, to my mind, an example of the site firing on all cylinders. Just love the initial posts and then the rich exchange in the comments.

The biggest problem I've had with improvised or amateur studios is ceilings that are too low. Especially when using big softboxes. (I don't own the big softboxes and never had my own studio, but I get to play with friends now and then.) Yeah, a pipe grid or something up there to fasten stuff to is very convenient. As is a really good ladder that's tall enough.

We did discover that, in a too-small studio space, white walls and ceiling could be a problem -- it was nearly impossible to get a dark shadow anywhere. Fine if you were going for the airy high-key approach, not so find in some other circumstances. I've seen pro studios with white walls and full-length black curtains on tracks that could cover them -- best of both worlds.

Never have worked with a pack system. Did eventually, back around 2000, buy a set of monolights, which I still use now and then (three Paul C. Buff units, mighty powerful by today's digital standards, UltraZap 1600s or something like that). Working them with film was always a bit hair-raising (i.e. I didn't do it enough to get really good at it); today with instant preview and histograms it's a LOT easier! And if you take the reflectors off they're a fine bare-bulb head, and I've used them that way a fair amount. That's also what the white rectangular diffuser caps for on-camera flashes end up being, under-powered bare-bulb units (devices like the various Vello bounce things that slip over the end of an on-camera flash).

I'm surprised nobody has mentioned it but a natural question is why would someone pay several times more for a ProFoto (or other higher end brands) of the same power and rating? The best example is a project that requires a repeatable and consistent color temperature across a wide range of photos shot very quickly and sometimes at different times. The photographer needs lighting that maintains color consistency whether it's at full or partial power, or if the local voltage changes, or any of the other variables affecting the gear.

For instance a catalog project with models against grey backgrounds. The grey background and flesh tones from Monday's shoot need to match with Friday's shoot. The ones done with 800w/s of power need to match the ones done with 200w/s. And if you shoot quickly, as people photographers are apt to do, the first shot needs to match the 50th.

Not saying that some lower priced gear can't do that but it requires careful testing. Sometimes one head out of three will be green, or if I shoot to fast the color shifts. But I know that if I rent a Profoto kit overseas, I'm starting from a known baseline and have confidence it will perform out of the box. Thus the premium price.

Now if I were shooting one-off single images that can be color corrected on my work station -- or B&W -- then by all means use the cheaper bargain lights. When I'd shoot 8x10 and needed f/64 then I'd use anything and everything to give me enough umph.

(That said I now only use constant lighting and only rent strobe when technically necessary.)

The comments to this entry are closed.