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Thread: How bad are "no name" monolights really?

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    How bad are "no name" monolights really?

    Hello everyone,

    I am an architectural photographer, used to work on 4x5" for 15 years and switched to digital about 5 years ago. At the moment, I use a setup with a Linhof Techno view camera, SK Digitar lenses from 24 to 72mm and a Leaf Credo 40 digital back.

    I never used a lot of additional lighting for interiors, and at the moment only have two Hedler Tungsten halogen lights, 2000 Watts each, for the occasional fill-in. Mostly aimed at the ceiling or through an umbrella, never direct.

    These lights are not very bright for how I use them, but the biggest downside is that I often have to correct them from 3200K to 5600K with gels0, which makes them even less bright.

    So I was thinking about trying a monolight studio flash unit instead, I guess I will need a 1000Ws head, since I mostly shoot at f11 and ISO100. A modelling light above 250W will also be necessary. Fast refresh times or fine-tuned controls are pretty low on my list, since I almost never work in the studio or with people.

    The brand name monolights in this power range seem to be pretty expensive, above $ 1500,- mostly.

    On ebay, you can find lots of "no name" 1000Ws monolights in the $ 400-500 range (examples here, and here). Do you have any experience on how good or bad these really are? There seem to be no reviews, which is probably pretty telling. But I'm under the impression that my needs for a flash are pretty modest, apart from the Ws I need.

    Your input on this subject is very welcome,

    thanks,

    Gebhard

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    Re: How bad are "no name" monolights really?

    Hi Gebhard, I thought I'd share my experiences with you as someone who shoots interiors with strobe.

    I've never tried the monolights you link to and probably never would as I prefer to pay a little more and get a branded make that's easily repairable. The best cheap (ish) mono I've ever used are Bowens Gemini Pro's. The 1000Ws head is a great trade off between power, size and weight. The heads take 500w modelling bulbs, Pyrex domes so good for traveling, multi voltage and the Bowens mount is by far the most popular for cheaply available knock off modifiers. Bowens also make a battery to run the lights off. There is also a 1500Ws version however size and weight jump significantly for only ― stop more oomph.

    BUT....... Having used monos on location I personally find them too big and heavy. Studio they are fine but I always struggle hiding them in shots.

    My recommendation would be buying used and trying to get a battery generator like the Profoto 7B of something similar.

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    Re: How bad are "no name" monolights really?

    Thanks gazwas, this is very helpful! In your experience, do you think that 1000Ws is enough to considerably lower the contrast between indoors and the view out the window for "regular" residential interiors?

    best,

    Gebhard

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    Re: How bad are "no name" monolights really?

    Gebhard, one thing to consider is consistency of color temperture at various levels of output.

    You may not always need 1000 W/s of light to balance with window light, and cheaper strobes can often vary in color temp as levels are adjusted. The more popular brand names tend to be very consistent in both out-put and color temperature from shot to shot.

    For fill in a room, strobes also offer some nice modifiers to evenly distribute light and lower the contrast. "Lantern" style light modifiers are one, and diffused "Globes" are another.

    - Marc

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    Re: How bad are "no name" monolights really?

    Get two Buff Einstein's. 640w/s each and exemplary consistency of both colour and temperature. $1000 for the two.
    I am not a painter, nor an artist. Therefore I can see straight, and that may be my undoing. - Alfred Stieglitz

    Website: http://www.timelessjewishart.com

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    Re: How bad are "no name" monolights really?

    Gebhard, to get a rough idea, 1000Ws would give around the same light as 2sec exposure time with a 500W modeling light, obviously in daylight color temperature. As you mentioned in your original post you loose a lot of light by gelling tungstens up to 5000K. Did you ever think of continuous light? Why donīt you just rent a small daylight fixture like the Arri M8 and give it a try?

    @Ben, are the Einsteins available / serviceable in Europe?

    Cheers, Ulf

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    Re: How bad are "no name" monolights really?

    Quote Originally Posted by gebseng View Post
    Thanks gazwas, this is very helpful! In your experience, do you think that 100Ws is enough to considerably lower the contrast between indoors and the view out the window for "regular" residential interiors?
    I'm not a fan of totally balanced exterior/interior exposures during the day as IMO they look unnatural and always over cook the exposure a little so your strobe doesn't need to be as powerful. A 600Ws AcuteB2 is normally enough for my work.

    Einstein's are not available in Europe (easily) so as good as they are, I'd stick to the usual suspects and hence my Bowens recommendation. Cheap modifiers for Bowens lights are everywhere on eBay.

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    Re: How bad are "no name" monolights really?

    Hi Ulf, no they aren't, not any more. Sorry. That said you're no name flashes, if they die, good luck getting them fixed.
    I am not a painter, nor an artist. Therefore I can see straight, and that may be my undoing. - Alfred Stieglitz

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    Re: How bad are "no name" monolights really?

    Quote Originally Posted by UlfKrentz View Post
    Gebhard, to get a rough idea, 1000Ws would give around the same light as 2sec exposure time with a 500W modeling light, obviously in daylight color temperature. As you mentioned in your original post you loose a lot of light by gelling tungstens up to 5000K. Did you ever think of continuous light? Why donīt you just rent a small daylight fixture like the Arri M8 and give it a try?

    @Ben, are the Einsteins available / serviceable in Europe?

    Cheers, Ulf
    Thanks Ulf! Hm, Arri M8s have 800W, so this would not really be any better than my current 2000w lamps plus daylight gels. Also, they are extremely expensive compared to flash units, around € 6000,- I think.

    best,
    Gebhard

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    Re: How bad are "no name" monolights really?

    Quote Originally Posted by gazwas View Post
    I'm not a fan of totally balanced exterior/interior exposures during the day as IMO they look unnatural and always over cook the exposure a little so your strobe doesn't need to be as powerful. A 600Ws AcuteB2 is normally enough for my work.

    Einstein's are not available in Europe (easily) so as good as they are, I'd stick to the usual suspects and hence my Bowens recommendation. Cheap modifiers for Bowens lights are everywhere on eBay.
    Thanks gazwas. Yes I'm aware of not totally balancing indors/outdoors light levels. With the tungsten continuous lighting I use now, it's just a little too extrem, windows are often overexposed to the extreme. I would need 2 or 3 f-stops more light than I have now. I guess I just have to make some test with rented monolights.

    best,

    geb

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    Re: How bad are "no name" monolights really?

    Geb, those Daylight are HMIs, you cannot compare their rated power. The M8 will give you those 1-2 steps more light that your 2000W gelled to daylight. Unfortunately they are very expensive to buy but you can rent small HMIs nearly everywhere for little money and they may be just an addition way to work. Downside is they are not very dimmable (1 stop max) and even than already start to change color towards blue. Better scrim them to loose light if needed. Iīm with Ben, I always say Iīm not rich enough to buy cheap, once they start giving you problems you will be screwed. Renting some monos to check if they work for you is probably the best, but as already mentioned you should consider a head / pack combination as well. And look for a good brand used.

    Cheers, Ulf

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    Re: How bad are "no name" monolights really?

    Quote Originally Posted by gebseng View Post
    I guess I just have to make some test with rented monolights.
    I've just sold the last of my AcuteB packs which I actually really loved. I'd recommend rending one of these as I think you'll love it and find the power to be quite adequate for your needs. The AcuteB head is a little gem and although it only offers a 65w modelling lamp I never had an issue with it. On the used marked (from first hand experienced) they go for really good money as the new B1 monolight seem to be flavour of the month.

    Battery is the way to go IMO if you can stretch to it.

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    Re: How bad are "no name" monolights really?

    Quote Originally Posted by UlfKrentz View Post
    Gebhard, to get a rough idea, 1000Ws would give around the same light as 2sec exposure time with a 500W modeling light, obviously in daylight color temperature. As you mentioned in your original post you loose a lot of light by gelling tungstens up to 5000K. Did you ever think of continuous light? Why donīt you just rent a small daylight fixture like the Arri M8 and give it a try?

    @Ben, are the Einsteins available / serviceable in Europe?

    Cheers, Ulf
    OK now I get it, 800w HMI is more like 3500w halogen, very impressive.

    Geb

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    Re: How bad are "no name" monolights really?

    Geb,

    sorry for the delay, my post are due to be manually release by a mod, probably because I have been off for a while.

    Tungsten light is full spectrum and therefore has a wonderful light quality, but it does put out a lot of "warm" light that will be filtered away with the blue gels. So there is not much light left afterwords and they also put out some serious heat. HMIs are more efficient in light output and donīt need to be filtered to daylight, so the difference is quite significant. Also the multi mirror reflector design has an effect on the light output. I suggested the HMIs because it would be very close to your workflow in the past.

    Cheers,

    Ulf

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    Re: How bad are "no name" monolights really?

    Within the last year I've seen two pairs of used Profoto Compact 600 monolights go for about CAN$850 per pair. Brand name, sturdy, standard modifier.
    Robert

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