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DPChallenge Forums >> Hardware and Software >> Going the Strobist Route!
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10/22/2007 12:32:14 PM · #1
Hi all,

I've been comparing lighting systems for a while - even PM'ed a few of you all. Due to some out-of-stockages and rethinking the portability vs. power question, I've decided to go the Strobist route! Here're a few of the things I ordered:

Bogen / Manfrotto - Nano Black Light Stand - 6' ($55)
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Sturdier than the $30 stands, compact and portable.

Vivitar 285HV Flash ($90) and AC adaptor ($17)
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No frills, powerful manual flash. Don't spend your money on LCD and TTL technology when you're off camera and on a budget. Note the power adaptor allows better (4 second) recycles times for use at home.

Westcott 43" Collapsible Umbrella ($25)
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The Strobist claims these are the only ubmrellas which fold up as small as the super compact Bogen/Manfrotto stands (3373 and 001B).

Misc: Hotshoe adaptor ($10), bracket to hold umbrella/flash ($14), gel pack ($19)
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I previously purchased a wireless flash trigger set off eBay for $20.

This is a fantastic kit (IMO) for $250.

I also picked up an extendable background light stand and optical slave trigger for my current flash (old Speedlite 188a) to give me a 2 light setup.

I thought about studio strobes for a while, and might have bought this kit had it been in stock. But in the end I decided that 1) I don't have room for a permanent home studio anyway, and 2) I'd love to be able to take my lights with me. The Vivitar AC adaptor made this choice even more obvious to me.

Now I just have to wait for UPS... =P

Cheers,
-Jeff
10/22/2007 12:59:06 PM · #2
Would this save you any money?
10/22/2007 01:25:17 PM · #3
Originally posted by dwterry:

Would this save you any money?

I saw that set, and it is a cheaper way to go for the stands and umbrellas. But I specifically wanted the Strobist-recommended Bogen/Manfrotto stands for their super-compactness and rugged build.

I don't know about the Impact stands in that kit, but I saw some cheap plasticy lightstands at Wolf Camera this weekend, and I decided then and there that I'd spend the extra cash for decent stands.

Hopefully a good choice...
10/22/2007 01:27:33 PM · #4
If you are near a calumet photo, I pick up rock solid 10 foot stands for 60 bucks there. They fold up nicely.
10/22/2007 01:33:13 PM · #5
Originally posted by smurfguy:


I don't know about the Impact stands in that kit, but I saw some cheap plasticy lightstands at Wolf Camera this weekend, and I decided then and there that I'd spend the extra cash for decent stands.


FWIW they are metal stands. Quite all right. Not as slick as the manfrotto for sure, though!
10/22/2007 01:36:30 PM · #6
Originally posted by mouten:

FWIW they are metal stands. Quite all right. Not as slick as the manfrotto for sure, though!

I saw that you just got those - thanks for the note!

The ones I saw may have had metal sections, but their clamp pieces were plastic - they just felt a bit flimsy.

I'll let you know how these feel and if they have any plastic when I get them. While they are brand name, they are some of the cheapest stands manfrotto makes. =)

Edit: As a side note, the Strobist's preffered supplier MPEX doesn't include brand name stands in their "strobist starving student" kits.

Message edited by author 2007-10-22 13:38:12.
10/22/2007 01:39:44 PM · #7
I went the cheaper stand route as it offered a higher maximum hiehgt to it. ANd i also have my own speedlights instead of the vivitar. But the set up is great. I think you will enjoy it alot. One thing that was sweet for me is that Midwest Photo Exchange is only 20 minutes away from me. I got to pick mine up that day.
10/22/2007 01:46:53 PM · #8
You're gonna love the setup. To be honest, I use my Sunpak 333 setup much more often than my studio strobes.
10/22/2007 01:56:10 PM · #9
Thanks guys, I'm excited to start using it!

Originally posted by timfythetoo:

I went the cheaper stand route as it offered a higher maximum hiehgt to it.

Indeed, lots of things to consider!

Originally posted by timfythetoo:

One thing that was sweet for me is that Midwest Photo Exchange is only 20 minutes away from me. I got to pick mine up that day.

<napoleon>Lucky!</napoleon> =D
10/22/2007 02:40:57 PM · #10
Midwest rocks!
Screw Cord Camera.
10/26/2007 01:33:29 AM · #11
Well, I received these items today. Wow - shooting with good light makes a huge difference in clarity, color, and overall photo quality.

Here's a shot I took today using the umbrella specular highlight technique described on Strobist. Didn't quite get the highlight directly behind her, but it turned out ok.

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And one with the flash bounced off the ceiling.

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As far as my initial feelings about the equipment:

The Manfrotto stand is excellent - feels quite solid.

The umbrellas seem fine enough.

The flash is fabulous.

The cheap generic PC-to-hotshoe adapters were pure crap. The flash didn't seat well, and the contacts didn't always touch which makes it incredibly unreliable. I took some pliers to one, and it's behaving better. I may send the other back.

My eBay radio triggers are working like a charm. Haven't had a single misfire in 150+ shots.
10/26/2007 01:41:15 AM · #12
Schaweet! Glad you like!
07/28/2008 09:52:19 AM · #13
So I've been using this equipment for about 9 months now, so I thought I'd drop off some impressions.

First off, the generic brand hotshoe adaptors are trash. I wish I'd read the reviews, but there weren't as many when I bought them. They broke within a week of use. Spend the $10 extra and buy the name brand version.

The Vivitars are great. They put out plenty of light and are quite portable. My only complaint is that you can't use them without batteries (even with the AC adaptor)... making the AC seem pretty useless. I don't even notice a boost in recycle time with the AC adaptor. Maybe mine are dead - but then, you just can't tell. =P

The light stands are fantastic, and the umbrellas and other accessories are fine.

I'm still enjoying this sweet, inexpensive setup.

Cheers!
-Jeff

Message edited by author 2008-07-28 12:30:26.
07/28/2008 11:33:53 AM · #14
Thanks for the report, especially about the power adapter.

I have a similar setup at home, and what I would recommend in addition to smurfguy's recommendations....

The LumoPro knockoffs of the manfrotto light stands work as well and are about $15 cheaper. This was a nice find for me.

The LumoPro super clamps are nice, too. Other, generic super clamps have been problematic.

I went with the eneloop rechargeable batteries from Costco. No complaints.

My westcott collapsible umbrella has sharp points on it that I had to get used to. Another, generic umbrella that I have doesn't collapse, but doesn't cause me to bleed, either.

The Wein anything to hotshoe adapters are a complete waste. All of the feet on my flashes are too big to fit them. Don't bother.
12/06/2008 10:31:37 PM · #15
I'm looking to go this route in the next month or so, and I was wondering what I needed to fire them, can you just get some cheap ones on ebay? Do you need a transmitter and receiver? Basically how are you firing yours, I'm wanting to go wireless but not fork out for the pocket wizards.
12/07/2008 03:37:36 PM · #16
Hi Ryan,

Thanks for the PM - I missed this update. =)

Firing my flashes has been a source of frustration for me. I started out with cheap, generic radio triggers off eBay. They came in a transmitter/receiver set for about $25, and I bought two. I think the radio part actually worked fine, but I had to solder on the cheap generic brand hotshoe adapters (mentioned below), and they broke, so my flashes were only moderately reliable.

More recently I bought the (also cheap but name brand) Cactus V2s radio triggers. I bought one transmitter and three receivers. The receivers have a hotshoe built-in, and from what I've heard they're decent. I've only used them once, but it seems that only one of the three receivers I have triggers reliably. I need more time with them to make a good judgment, though. Another downside is that they ship from China (if bought from the manufacturer).

One thing's for sure - I understand why professionals fork out the $$$ for PocketWizards. Reliability.

Good luck!
12/07/2008 03:55:43 PM · #17
I went down this route many yeas ago using Metz 402/502 flash units sunpak slaves and home made stands. orked ok but had work cotrolling shadows etc. In the end I went with Electra studio strobes and havent looked back, I am still using these 20+ years later and have ever only replaced a couple of viewing lights.
12/07/2008 04:16:33 PM · #18
I've thought about strobes myself - I'd like to play around with some someday. I think we can certainly agree that thoughtful lighting (of any kind) can really boost your photography.
10/19/2009 03:47:34 PM · #19
Originally posted by smurfguy:

The light stands are fantastic, and the umbrellas and other accessories are fine.

I keep hearing that is a nice stand but it looks so wimpy. Does it handle well outside with a speedlight and umbrella? Also, is the collapsible shaft on the Westcott umbrella durable and easy to use?
10/21/2009 05:13:58 PM · #20
FYI, the cactus receivers are crap. Sure, they're cheap but they'll piss you off with misfires, delays, random triggering and they WILL NOT work when close to flourescent lights (or interestingly, they'll never stop working).

I had the same as you- 1 trigger, 3 receivers and now I only have 1 working receiver. One snapped at the hot shoe, one just doesn't work and the other one is so unreliable I gave up on it.

If you have any spare money whatsoever, get a trigger/receiver combo you can trust. I just bought some cybersyncs and I should have done this a long long long time ago and saved myself the embarrassment of having to explain to clients and models that my stuff is cheap crap.

To Skyler: the light stand is pretty wimpy, it tends to fall over a lot in the slightest breeze, but for indoor stuff and portability it's superb. You can't put anything heavier than an umbrella on it without it leaning but for what it's designed for (quick portable lighting) I think it's great. As for the Westcotts- no, they're not durable. If they fall over, they bend. Simple as that. But they're $20... it's as easy to use as a regular umbrella and easy/quick to set up and takedown, just beware that if they fall over chances are you'll need a new umbrella. Still, I have 5 of them :) 3 to use and 2 as backups and i use them with my Vivitars and my Alien Bees. I think i've broken 3 of them on shoots though, all from them blowing over in the wind and the spokes/shaft becoming bent.
10/31/2009 11:26:55 AM · #21
No one could tell me about the collapsing mechanism (how it works or what it looks like). I searched the internet for a long time and could not find a photo of that part. Because I was worried about it I ended up ordering the 45" non-collapsible version. It just arrived yesterday. I am very pleased with the quality of the umbrella. It feels very sturdy.
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