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Thread: Best portable travel Strobes.??

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    Best portable travel Strobes.??

    If you have seen my other posts you guys will realize I am researching changing my business model.

    What I am looking for it a good set of travel strobes to use on location shoots and weddings.
    They need to be able to light up large groups but yet be easy to transport and set up. All this without breaking the bank.

    Any ideas? AB's???

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    Re: Best portable travel Strobes.??

    I assume you are looking for monolights. Profoto has just recently reduced the price of the popular CompactPlus 600R kit from $1999 to $1499. This kit includes two 600 watt momolights (real w/s not "effective w/s") with built-in PocketWizard receivers, two stands, two umbrellas, two zoom reflectors, and a travel bag that fits everything. Nice kit with plenty of power and great quality of light for not a lot of money. Also allows you access to all the great Profoto light modifiers.

    Profoto CompactPlus 600R Pro Value Pack | Dale Photo & Digital

    There is also a kit that includes all of this, plus a Tenba AirCase for shipping and air travel. The case is designed to carry two CompactPlus 600R lights and cords (no umbrellas or stands).

    Good luck.


    David
    David Farkas
    Leica Store Miami

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    Sr. Administrator Jack's Avatar
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    Re: Best portable travel Strobes.??

    You didn't mention if your locations all have reliable and convenient power locations or not -- an important consideration IMO.

    If the answer is yes, then almost any pack and head or monolight solutions should work fine as long as you can carry them.

    If the answer is no or I'm not sure, then you may want to look at a battery powered unit. Here I prefer Elinchrom Rangers and they are better sealed than Profotos, but I understand Hensel has some good units too. Sinar has the Verso which can go either way, but it will almost certainly break the bank

    Cheers,
    Jack
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    "Perfection is not attainable. But if we chase perfection, we can catch excellence."

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    Senior Member bradhusick's Avatar
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    Re: Best portable travel Strobes.??

    The Hensel Porty is a really well made unit, but pricey.

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    Re: Best portable travel Strobes.??

    Hey guys. Thanks for the input.

    Sorry I didn't explain better.

    I already have 4 regular light stands, umbrellas and Soft boxes that have nice cases and are portable. I also have 3 light stands with rollers on them that I will leave in the studio.

    What I was looking for is something that will set up easy and not take an hour to dial in. This would be used to shoot large wedding party formals, I do several awards banquets that are dark and require large group shots.
    I would also like to use these at locations that do not have power readily available. Thanks Jack I was sitting here thinking of shooting portraits on the beach and never once thought about power.

    So a battery system thats optional is ideal.

    I will also be using them on location shooting all kinds of fast moving sports for adds. So a 250th sync speed is no good.

    So all I really need is 2 Mono lights, a decent controller and a separate battery power source.

    I was looking at the Alien Bees 800's and the LG4X controller. But at 320 true Ws I am not sure they will work for large groups or fill at any distance. I might have to step up to the 1600's.
    I am also not sure about their wireless controllers. Anyone use them? I am quite interested in the new Cyber Commander unit set to release soon. It boasts control of up to 16 mono lights wireless from 400' away.
    That to me sounds useable.
    Anyone know anything about this unit?

    Thanks again all.

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    Sr. Administrator Jack's Avatar
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    Re: Best portable travel Strobes.??

    Take a look at the specs for an Elinchrom Ranger SPEED pack with the fast pop A head
    Jack
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    "Perfection is not attainable. But if we chase perfection, we can catch excellence."

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    Re: Best portable travel Strobes.??

    Quote Originally Posted by Homey View Post
    I will also be using them on location shooting all kinds of fast moving sports for adds. So a 250th sync speed is no good.
    I don't get it. Your 1/250th (or whatever) sync speed is determined by your camera, not by what kind of flash unit you get... right?

    If you're talking about flash duration, then yeah, I see what you mean, but your sync speed won't change.

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    Re: Best portable travel Strobes.??

    Quote Originally Posted by Ranger 9 View Post
    I don't get it. Your 1/250th (or whatever) sync speed is determined by your camera, not by what kind of flash unit you get... right?

    If you're talking about flash duration, then yeah, I see what you mean, but your sync speed won't change.
    Yeah your right sorry. I mean that with a 250th shutter speed I need some power out of the light to negate ambient and utilize the flash duration.
    Where as the 320 ws may not be enough power to do that at certain times.

  9. #9
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    Re: Best portable travel Strobes.??

    Okay, now I get it. You're right, if you're going to be shooting in bright ambient light and you want to overpower it completely so you can let the flash duration stop action, you're going to need a whole lot of flash power. And that's going to be at odds with keeping things light and portable.

    I took a workshop from Lois Greenfield, the queen of frozen action, and if I recall correctly she was using about 4800 w/s just in her main light, with two packs feeding a bi-tube head to get the shortest possible flash duration.

    I'm sure you don't have to go that far if you can accept a tiny bit of "ghosting," but I suspect you're still going to need to lug a lot more flash power than you would to deal with stationary objects where it doesn't hurt anything if some ambient light creeps in. I do a lot of fast-action photography, but always in an environment where I can keep the ambient pretty low so I don't need a ton of flash energy to overpower it. But then, maybe your sports locations will be controllable enough that you can keep the ambient down...? That would cut your power needs a lot.

    Will be interested to hear what you figure out...

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    Re: Best portable travel Strobes.??

    In regular indoor lighting I find that using an iso of 100, shutter of 1/160 and an aperture of 5.6-8 pretty much kills any and all ambient light. Otherwise outdoors just use a tripod, group photos don't need 'freezing action' type lighting.

    I use AB's, you sound like you need the 1600's but in general they are incredibly light, very small, practically indestuctable and you can buy power packs for them. They're also extremely cheap relative to most stuff out there. Certainly more than good enough for weddings. Keep in mind that the new Radio Popper system can also control the power settings in 3 groups from the camera if you're using AB's so you have more than just the AB Cyber Commander to choose from. Unfortunately neither product is actually in production yet.
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    Re: Best portable travel Strobes.??

    You do need to consider sync speed when selecting a strobe solution. For example the ProPhoto Compacts will not keep up with a fast sync speed, they don't trigger fast enough even using a sync cable. Several other packs also have this same issue. I ran into it when I switched to the Hassy H3dII39 and tried to use faster shutter speeds as allowed with the leaf shutter. If you are shooting no faster than 1/250th for your shutter/sync speed - no problems.

    I ran into a big problem of not always having electricity easily accessible on location, so went with battery powered strobes.

    For light weight, flexibility, repair, rental availability of spares or modifiers, etc.....
    Consider the ProFoto AcuteB 600R units. I have 3 of these and love them for travel.

    I also have the Verso A4 RTS with the battery dock that Jack mentions. A GREAT solution but it can break the bank.

    Best,

    Ray

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    Re: Best portable travel Strobes.??

    You are mixing a lot of needs and demands into one bundle which makes it tough.

    Best size/power/battery combo is the new tiny, light weight 2 outlet Hensel Porty Lithium 1200w/s unit. action freezing 1/5000th duration @ 600 w/s .... $$$$$$$

    Want to use your own existing mono's? Hensel "Visit" converter with two Edison household plug ports that'll support two 500 w/s strobes ... or run your laptop and Lava lamp : -) ... Tank like, super sealed and heavy due to the lead battery ... $$ relatively inexpensive.

    (The only battery unit I'd take out on a beach is my Porty Plus 1200. these are selling refurbed at a great price right now due to the intro of the new Lithium units.)

    Lithium Battery powered boxes are where it's all going, and the lead stuff will increasingly become obsolete.

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    Re: Best portable travel Strobes.??

    Anything i have in my webpage that needed light is done with a Profoto 600 R. Just 5 Kg and build like a tank. I use to shoot just with one light (Sun or strobe) and this baby just work and work. Off course they are better tools out there but for the price and weight i love it.

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    Re: Best portable travel Strobes.??

    Quote Originally Posted by fotografz View Post

    (The only battery unit I'd take out on a beach is my Porty Plus 1200. these are selling refurbed at a great price right now due to the intro of the new Lithium units.)
    Marc,

    FWIW, my Elinchrom Rangers are just as well sealed as the Porty's, and I take mine to the beach without concern. In addition, they weigh about the same and costs for new and refurbed units are similar, with maybe a slight edge to the Elinchrom. The Hensel puts out 1200WS while the Ranger 1100, so advantage Porty, but then the Ranger battery is almost 2x the size of the Porty's and good for about 2x as many pops at full power on a single charge. Rangers I think may have a few more pack and head options, with both symmetrical and assym packs, as well as offering regular and short-duration heads -- not sure about Hensel? I think both companies offer a ring head. Not sure what Hensel uses for wireless transmission either, but I really like the Elinchrom Skyport sync units -- significantly smaller and more reliable than Pocket Wizards -- though not internal to the Ranger and thus the receivers can get bumped off the pack if you are not careful. The Skyports can also remotely control output power from the transmitter in the camera hot shoe if you are using the RX version Ranger, a nifty feature I almost never bother using LOLOL!, but again not sure if this is even an option with Porty's? My biggest gripe with Elinchrom is I do not like the way reflectors attach to the heads -- it takes both hands minimum for any reflector or accessory. On this, I *really* miss my Profotos!

    All-in-all I don't think you can go wrong with either of these units for location packs, and anybody looking to buy new should probably investigate both.
    Jack
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    "Perfection is not attainable. But if we chase perfection, we can catch excellence."

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    Re: Best portable travel Strobes.??

    Quote Originally Posted by Jack Flesher View Post
    Marc,

    FWIW, my Elinchrom Rangers are just as well sealed as the Porty's, and I take mine to the beach without concern. In addition, they weigh about the same and costs for new and refurbed units are similar, with maybe a slight edge to the Elinchrom. The Hensel puts out 1200WS while the Ranger 1100, so advantage Porty, but then the Ranger battery is almost 2x the size of the Porty's and good for about 2x as many pops at full power on a single charge. Rangers I think may have a few more pack and head options, with both symmetrical and assym packs, as well as offering regular and short-duration heads -- not sure about Hensel? I think both companies offer a ring head. Not sure what Hensel uses for wireless transmission either, but I really like the Elinchrom Skyport sync units -- significantly smaller and more reliable than Pocket Wizards -- though not internal to the Ranger and thus the receivers can get bumped off the pack if you are not careful. The Skyports can also remotely control output power from the transmitter in the camera hot shoe if you are using the RX version Ranger, a nifty feature I almost never bother using LOLOL!, but again not sure if this is even an option with Porty's? My biggest gripe with Elinchrom is I do not like the way reflectors attach to the heads -- it takes both hands minimum for any reflector or accessory. On this, I *really* miss my Profotos!

    All-in-all I don't think you can go wrong with either of these units for location packs, and anybody looking to buy new should probably investigate both.
    That was my issue with Elinchrom Jack ... their light modifier attachment system ... and that it frequently broke on location However, Elinchrom has a lot more readily available modifier choices ... including the OctaBox which is my favorite of them all (I converted mine to Profoto mount)

    The Porty is the top rental unit for stand alone work ... which says something about the duribility. The wireless unit is built-in and it uses a very small hot shoe sender
    that controls output to each head which I use a lot ... especially when working alone like at a wedding, or when the lights are placed in akward locations on industrial shoots. There are different heads available including the "S" version for short duration.

    I liked the Profoto B, but it only powers one head, and I found that 600 w/s wasn't enough for large wedding groups when shooting at f/8 to get enough DOF from the front row to the back row. Two units would have solved this ... but then you might as well get a 1200 w/s box which is more compact than twoo 600 w/s units.

    IMO, in general nothing approaches the specs of the new Hensel Porty 1200 Lithium units ... it's just that they're so darned expensive 'cause they're new.

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    Re: Best portable travel Strobes.??

    Thanks again guys for all the input.

    I keep reading and checking out other lights but I seem to gravitate back to the Alien Bees. Maybe because of price. The Elinchrom's and ProFoto's are out of my price range. They are nice but unless I drum up a lot of business soon it would be dumb for me to shell out that kind of money today.

    Since I will not have any beach shoots in the near future the power pack is something I can add later.
    Right now I am more worried about lighting up large groups in poorly lit environments.

    After looking at the Aliens again I see that the 800 is a true 320 w/s light and has a t.5 flash duration of 1/3300.
    The 1600 is a true 640 w/s with a t.5 flash duration of 1/1800.
    It seems like either will do fine if I use them for sports shoots in under lit arenas or lower light outdoors.
    The problem again is the output power. I guess it depends on if 320 is enough.

    What do you guys think? Lets say if I shoot a group of 15 people in a poor lit church or reception hall. Will 2 - 320 w/s lights be enough?

    I say probably not. Then if I throw my 2 large soft boxes on them then almost definitely
    not.
    But all in all 2 - 640 w/s lights and the controller for a total of $820 is cheap and if they will do what I want then its probably what I should do.

    I also like the idea of the New Cyber Commander they are advertising. If it works like they say it will. wow.
    The last thing I like about the Bees is I can get them in several colors. To me not having to label them with a piece of tape and a # is nice.

    Thanks again guys for all the help.

    Anyone here using the Alien Bees have any sample images I could look at?

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    Re: Best portable travel Strobes.??

    I use two AB800's indoors for wedding family groups up to 80 people getting f5.6-8 @ iso 100 and using transparent brollies (i.e. you lose half the light). I also found the power to be on par with Bowens 500 units, take that how you will.

    Here is a typical large family group from a wedding, f7.1 iso 100 and two transparent brollies (big ones). Please forgive the distortion it wasn't that big a room!

    Last edited by Ben Rubinstein; 15th January 2009 at 02:35.
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    Re: Best portable travel Strobes.??

    The quality of light is significantly effected by the modifiers that you choose to use. The ABs and White Lightnings really are great lights.

    I hate to talk this way, almost as if inviting mishaps, but the thing that is nice about using Alien Bees on location is that they are light, good-bang-for-the-buck, work well with pocket wizards, and very inexpensive. You simply aren't going to cry if one of your ABs goes into the drink. They are almost like disposable lighting.... (knock on wood...)

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    Re: Best portable travel Strobes.??

    FYI, before investing in White Lightening/Alien Bees, read through this ... then make up your own mind.

    http://www.paulcbuff.net/

    IMO, as usual with lighting ...

    "Caveat Emptor" ... and ... "You get EXACTLY what you pay for."



    As an alternative, consider the Dynalite line of strobe equipment. This is one system I can personally vouch for ... built like little tanks, consistant light temp and output, reliable and durable. The Dynalite system of light modifiers is extensive and pretty hard to outgrow.

    Of specific interest may be the Dynalite Uni-400 system ... the units are both AC or Battery powered in one mono head. I used this one kit for years and years both in-studio and on-location where no power was available before moving to Profoto studio strobes and the Hensel Porty Plus 1200 w/s battery kit I now use.

    http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/produc...d_Package.html

    Cruise their website ... some pretty interesting stuff ... Especially the Portable AC XP 1100.

    http://www.dynalite.com/index2.shtml

    You're welcome ...

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    Re: Best portable travel Strobes.??

    Quote Originally Posted by Ben Rubinstein View Post
    I use two AB800's indoors for wedding family groups up to 80 people getting f5.6-8 @ iso 100 and using transparent brollies (i.e. you lose half the light). I also found the power to be on par with Bowens 500 units, take that how you will.

    Here is a typical large family group from a wedding, f7.1 iso 100 and two transparent brollies (big ones). Please forgive the distortion it wasn't that big a room!

    Ben
    Thanks and with the photo you posted it looks like the 800's supply enough light.
    What size brolly are you using?

    After a week of searching I think I am am going to go with the White Lightning X1600's.
    They have real good specs for the money and the build quality is great. The other factor I liked is that when you knock the power down to 1/4 it has the same light output as their 400 model but has a faster, 1/6000, flash duration.
    The umbrellas I looked at were the photo flex shoot through 45" they sell for $22 each which is cheap. I need to find a nice set of 60" too.

    So my total for 2- X1600's, the wired remote and 4 brollies should be around $1300. To me thats cheap. $2500 is not.
    I can run this set and not worry about it and leave my soft boxes and other stuff in the studio.
    Then in a few months I can add the wireless system and portable battery power.

    The other reason I am looking to go this way is to add the new wireless system they are about to announce. If it works even close to what they are saying then its going to be hot.
    Why? Because I have used pocket wizards in the past and hate them. For what they cost they are not that good.
    I am hopeful that something better will available soon.

    Thanks for all the advise all.

    Steven

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