Saturday, March 28, 2009

Low-Cost Studio Lighting Options

Recently, there has been a big movement of people into the studio flash arena. I just want to go over a few low-cost monolight options. Adorama's FlashPoint line has the model 320A light, a 150 watt-second unit with a light stand and umbrella for $129.95, which is a really good deal.

Calumet Photographic is where I bought my very first Speedotron setup in 1987,and they are still one of America's largest lighting suppliers. They have their Genesis 200 monolight for $169.99
The 200 watt-second kit with a light stand and umbrella sells for $199.99.The Genesis 200 has a 5 f/stop output range. According to Calumet's literature, this is an Elinchrom-compatible monolight,so speed rings for Elinchrom work with their Genesis monolights.

Another low-cost option is the Interfit brand's EXD200, with free shipping for $207 for a single monolight that has a four-stop power range adjustable in 1/10 stop increments. This flash can be set to ignore the pre-flash signals from many d-slr flash units, allowing it to be triggered by the in-built flash found on virtually all d-slrs.

Paul C. Buff company's Alien Bee 400 monolight is here and priced at $224.95. It has a 5 f/stop range and is available in five colors! Paul C. Buff's Alien Bee line of AC-powered monolights are popular,and with popularity goes a reasonably high price.

The advantage of monolights is that each unit is a complete,self-contained flash unit. If one unit fails, other flashes are not affected. Monolights can also be purchased very affordably,so initial entry costs are reasonable,and a system can be started with one,two,or three units,and added to as needed. I personally think that five or six lights is enough for almost any setup.

A visit to B&H Photo's Studio Lighting section's Monolights and AC Strobes section under the "monolights" heading at

will allow you to click on lights by price category: the $60-$299 price category turns up 33 results.

Of course, my favorite low-cost studio lighting alternative is Speedotron Brown Line equipment, bought from e-Bay or Craigslist. Brown Line equipment has been made for several decades now, and there is a lot of good,solid stuff for sale at very affordable prices. I recently bought a mint condition,late-production model D202 power pack and MW3R light unit,complete with flash tube and modeling lamp, for $145. The more-common D402 power packs sell for $79 to $125 on e-Bay, with MW3U umbrella-capable lights going for as little as $35-$50 each, and M90 umbrella-capable and background-illuminating lights selling for $39 to $70,depending on the auction. Occasionally, like a few weeks ago, a D402 and a set of three M11 lights sells for a ridiculously low $229. Check my 99th blog post, May 31, 2008 for a complete rundown on Speedotron flash equipment and my observations on it.

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