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DPChallenge Forums >> Hardware and Software >> Are Alien Bee 1600's overkill?
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11/04/2005 07:42:42 AM · #1
I am about to purchase my lighting set-up. I am purchasing 3 AB1600's. Someone mentioned in another thread that I may have problems with TOOO much power. I thought I'd pose this question in another thread. The lights are for portrait work. I had to pass up a job for Wachovia Bank because I didn't have the equipment to shoot a large group and I don't want that to happen again! (I have Lowell hotlights now.) I am buying a large softbox, and I usually use white umbrellas. I also need to blow out a white muslin background.

We are moving to Guam very soon and I want to get what I need now versus having to upgrade from overseas.

Any advice appreciated!

Message edited by author 2005-11-04 07:44:14.
11/04/2005 08:17:32 AM · #2
I almost made that comment in your other post concerning pocket wizards. The 1600 are way over kill for portrait work, and actually can be a libality with its slower recycyling time risking losing the decisive moment. I have two 800s & one 400. In hindsight I wish it would have been the other way around.
11/04/2005 08:19:38 AM · #3
JR,

I have 2 400's and, honestly, I don't think I've ever used them at full power. Maybe once or twice.

Granted I haven't done much portrat work (just the wife and my kid, oh and the dogs, when they'll sit still), but my experience is that the 400's are quite powerful themselves. I would think that 1600's might be appropriate for large groups, large rooms (churches for weddings, etc.), and outdoor work, so if that's what you think you might be doing, then maybe so.

AB does offer a 100% satisfaction guarantee, so another possible option would be to buy 800's and test them out in the real life situations you are going to use them in. See how they work for you.

I will say, that if you ever plan on doing any product work, the 1600's probably will be WAY too much for those. I use a pair of 400's and a light tent to get close-up shots of objects and I usually have them turned down below 1/4 power for thos kind of shots.



was taken with this setup...


I doubt those lights were set above 1/4 power for that shot. I doubt you'd be able to lower the power on 1600's enough to do close in work like that.

Good luck with your decision!
11/04/2005 08:22:18 AM · #4
Thank you. I think I maybe will just go for the 800s. I do intend to do some product work for my stock photography portfolio.

Jenn :)
11/04/2005 08:26:32 AM · #5
It depends on how you're going to use them and the space you have but three 1600's sounds awfully powerful to me. I use three AB800's and one 400 but then I'm working in a 15'x25' space and normally only have 3 teenage or adult subjects. For little guys like you posted I would think that any one AB1600 would be overpowering unless you have some strong diffuser for modification (softbox with baffle and maybe a neutral density gel over the flash tube) or if you have the room to move the flash unit pretty far back. You have some great tones in that shot and I think you might end up losing some of that. On the other hand, if you're concerned with larger group shots I can see how the AB1600's dispersed over a large area might be fine.

My opinion (and there are others much more versed in strobing groups) is that I'd rather have numerous light sources with less individual power (say 6-7 AB800's) so that I could position them to cover shadows cast from one person to the next in the large group setting. I'd try hanging a few over the crowd with softboxes on them (dialed down for fill/hair lights), use 2-3 in front of the group and either backlight them from the corners with 2 (one in each corner) or flip the 2 in the back to bring up the background.

Kev
11/04/2005 08:31:01 AM · #6
Thanks Kev. I will just save the money and get the 800's :) I primarily shoot children, but will take anything.
11/04/2005 08:40:42 AM · #7
I have 2 800's and 1 400, but 3 1600 might be a tad overkill. However, if you plan on shooting very large groups, you will need at least one 1600 IMO.

At least AB has the upgrade program if you ever wanted to upgrade an 800 to a 1600
11/04/2005 09:18:04 AM · #8
Here's a thought, and I think the versatility would be good: White Lightnings.

Theyre hardier, and offer a 1/4 capacitor switch. Not just control over f-stops, but it cuts the capacitors off so that a 1600 would act like a 400 (in all regards, power, recycle, and duration), and a 3200 would act like an 800.

The extra expense offers a 5 year warranty, and White Lightning is a Paul C Buff company, same as Alien Bee.

I certainly am thinking about going this route, Being able to cut my power down to 400 (well, 165 really) would help in situations where I don't need a lot of power (small hs gyms), but setting it back to 1600 would really help for outdoor portraits (in case I want to overpower the sun for a large group).

120 dollars more per unit for a 1600WL vs a 1600AB is a bit of money, but I think for the versatility, it would be hard to beat.

Max
11/04/2005 01:50:28 PM · #9
You won't be disappinted in the WL's Max. I have four WL's, and you are spot-on with your reasons to going with the X1600. (Not to mention the 250W modeling lamp... a significant benefit in and of itself, at least to me... maybe not for a sportshooter like yourself. =])

And I personally do not think the 1600's are overkill for portraiture. When you start using large lighting modifiers and are shooting at /16 at ISO 100, you will be happy to have that power.

And my WL's seem to recylce plenty fast, even for fairly rapid shooting (not 8.5 FPS fast, but one shot every second or so, for example).

Message edited by author 2005-11-04 13:53:44.
11/04/2005 02:22:13 PM · #10
The NBA team shooter for the Phoenix Suns uses them, and seems happy enough. And I like more power anyhow, I use an old Norman setup, 4400w/s available to 4 heads. I could light up a small planet.

Honestly though, I really really want me some Elinchroms. the recycle times and power output in such a short flash duration is an amazing bit of technology.

But for the purposes of this thread, the White Lightnings seem to be what I'd go with. And for my own purposes, I'd go with the x3200 units, cause I am the type who hopes to light up a soccer field.

Max
11/04/2005 02:39:41 PM · #11
Man, you and me both. If I had the cash I'd definitely snag me a set of four Style 600RX's!!
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