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AlienBees vs. White-Lighting
Eric Jones, Photographer
Greenville | NC | USA | Posted: 9:35 PM on 04.25.08
->> I've been looking at portable flash units and been looking at both AlienBees B1600 and White-Lighting X1600. They both look to be the same minus a few minor difference...why the difference in price? Looks like I'm better off going with AlienBees. I was looking at just a one light system but might be easier to get (2) B800 vs (1) X1600. Just looking to do some portrait work, mainly with one to two people at the most. Or should I just go with the (1) B1600 and buy a second like down the road for fill light? Why should I pay more for the X1600 from White-Lighting? Any thoughts on this?

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Stephen Brashear, Photographer, Assistant
Seattle | WA | USA | Posted: 9:44 PM on 04.25.08
->> Alien Bees are housed in a plastic case and White-Lightings have a metal housing. I believe that is the main difference. I guess it depnds on how rough you are with your gear on what you should get. I have several Alien Bee 1600 flash units and they work well for me. Very lightweight and small.
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Eric Jones, Photographer
Greenville | NC | USA | Posted: 9:54 PM on 04.25.08
->> Should I go with (1) B1600 and (1) B800 or would (2) B800's work just as good. Not doing anything big with the lights as they will be mostly portrait shots and maybe some fill in shots. Should I go with B400 and B1600 and not get the B800? Or maybe the B800 and the B400? Too many options and don't know enough about the lights to make a good decision. Any thoughts?
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Landon Finch, Photographer
Colorado Springs | CO | USA | Posted: 10:10 PM on 04.25.08
->> I have 4 AB800. For portrait work, I'd suggest more than just one light. One light would be limiting at times, but I don't think the 800s would limit you in any way regarding power. I think needing the power of a 1600 would be extremely rare, especially for portrait work. The 800 is enough to overpower ambient even at high noon.

I'd suggest at least 2 800s. I'd also recommend a portable power source (i.e., their Vagabond system) as it gives you so much more flexibility in what/where you can shoot.

And don't buy umbrellas or softboxes from AB, they're cheaply made and don't last.
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Stephen Brashear, Photographer, Assistant
Seattle | WA | USA | Posted: 10:11 PM on 04.25.08
->> Two lights give you more flexibility than one. I would get at least two lights. If you're trying to overpower the sun, you will need more powerful flashes. Also consider what your subjects. A group of people or one person, etc. One of the cool things about ABs/WLs is that you can upgrade your flash for the difference in price and a small labor fee and shipping. While it's not as inexpensive as buying a more powerful light to begin with, it's certainly less expensive than have to buy a whole new more powerful light and sell or be stuck with a light you no longer use or want. I hope this helps. I'm sure someone else will chime in with more info.
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David Harpe, Photographer
Louisville | KY | USA | Posted: 10:55 PM on 04.25.08
->> If you are going to be gentle with the lights and not use them much in the field, Alien Bees are fine. They have plastic housings, which don't hold up very well with road use...particularly if you have heavy accessories like softboxes or umbrellas. The umbrella lockdown screw is a particular weak point...every one of my bees has a cracked umbrella lockdown screw thread. They also have cheap fans. After a few months they develop a squeal that starts when you first turn them on and eventually goes away after they've been running a few minutes. But the loud squeal from three different lights doesn't send a great message to clients you're trying to impress.

White Lightnings are built like a tank, have a multi speed cooling fan and a much more robust accessory clamp. They are built for professional use. A minor irritant is that they use a 1/4" sync port on the back. If you're going to use pocket wizards to fire them you either have to spend money on a 1/4" to 1/8" cable that will pretty much only work with these lights, or do like I do and use a 1/8" to 1/8" cord and a 1/4" to 1/8" adapter in the sync socket.

If you can afford it, I'd recommend going for White Lightnings. They will hold up better over time and just have a nice, solid feel.

I also want to mention the $100 4-channel wired remote they sell as well. It works works with both AB and WL fixtures. Using standard telephone cord, you can hook your lights up to the controller and adjust power levels from one location. It's continuous range - none of this 1/4, 1/2, full stuff. You can also rig the controller up to a pocket wizard and trigger wirelessly once you get your levels set. So it basically gives you that pack-and-head adjustment convenience without the cost of custom cables and heavy packs.
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Tom Ervin, Photographer, Assistant
Palm Beach | FL | USA | Posted: 11:55 PM on 04.25.08
->> I use the X series GREAT WHITES. I'm very hard on the Whites. I use them outdoors in almost any conditions except heavy rain. I have used them in strong winds where they came crashing down to the ground. Of course the tubes might break and cost me money but I always have an extra tube to finish the shoot. Sometimes I'm such in a rush to the next assignment I literally throw them in the case . They only failed me a couple times. Each time Mr. Paul c. Buff would gave me a loaner (free) until I get the repaired one back at minimal cost.
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Greg Ferguson, Photographer
Scottsdale | Az | USA | Posted: 12:11 AM on 04.26.08
->> A couple things to clarify -

The WL-X1600 has a 1/4-power/full-power switch which cuts the output to 1/4 power and reduces the flash duration to 1/6400 and recycle time to 1/2 second. I have six of these heads and use that setting for extremely short duration in a lot of the rodeo arenas I shoot. It's nice to be able to fire as fast as i want and not worry about the heads being ready to go.

For indoor use two X800 heads will be plenty of light whether they are AlienBees or White Lightnings. If you're not shooting outdoors and overpowering sunlight or in big arenas or needing to cover big groups with big softboxes then dual 800s should be plenty of power.

The aluminum body of the heads makes them very strong. I don't recommend abusing them on purpose, but they can take the normal wear and tear of the road nicely. I keep mine in a huge road case to protect them when I'm getting to the arenas. but once they're in place they're in dust, wind, sunlight and out all night often. (I have some big zip-lock freezer bags I pull over them for protection from bad weather and birds.)

The 1/4" sync jack on the heads never bothered me, but I am handy with a soldering iron and built a bunch of 1/4" 3-conductor (stereo) plugs to standard zip-cord wires, along with a bunch of mini-phone-plug to zip-cords, and wire up the combinations I need of PocketWizards and sync cords and heads.

Just to muddy the water a bit, don't overlook a nice set of Speedlights. They're a lot more powerful than I expected. They might not recycle as fast as X-1600 heads on 1/4 power, but they'll put out an awful lot of light in a room or small area and fit into a small bag. The guys over at Strobist work magic with those small flashes.
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Thomas Marshall, Photographer
Saugus | CA | USA | Posted: 7:34 AM on 04.26.08
->> If I am not mistaken, both the WL and the AB lighting systems are also made by the same manufacture.

Not that it matters, just wanted to throw in my thoughts.
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Eric Jones, Photographer
Greenville | NC | USA | Posted: 9:31 AM on 04.26.08
->> What do you think about the CyberSync Trigger Transmitter and Receiver they offer? Just starting off with the lights so I don't need anything fancy like the pocket wizards for now. My budget is around $1,000 and I really am looking for two lights. I will be purchasing the Vegabond II portable unit as well...just focusing now on what lights I want to purchase. Not going to be doing any traveling on planes or anything like that. This will be local work and nothing where I'm going to need to have the lights recycle quickly. Not shooting basketball teams or football teams...nothing like that. Mostly one or two people for now, more of bikes and the riders or portraits out on the beach...stuff like that. Thanks for all the feedback as well...still making my decision a hard one but it's good to see different views from different people.

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Alan Look, Photographer
Bloomington | IL | United States | Posted: 9:46 AM on 04.26.08
->> Eric, I just picked up 2 AB800's, 13ft stands, 2 umbrellas and 2 boileys for a tad over $800. I will be using them some for basketball, but mostly for some quick portraits. Early results are excellant.

My opin/advice on triggers would be to split for the PW's. If you don't, your just going to want them later. If your shooting indoors and doing portraits, you can get by with just a pair of them most of the time utilizing the built in slave to trip the 2nd lamp unit.

Do you have or have you thought about a meter? I started a thread shortly after receiving my bees on the benefits of and if a meter was needed. There was a tilt towards needing one, but no real consensus. I picked up a Sekonic L358. It's probably one of the handiest devices I've bought.
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Jim Bounds, Photographer
Raleigh | NC | usa | Posted: 10:26 AM on 04.26.08
->> Eric, check Ebay for WL. This is one 800 WL listed now
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Jim Colburn, Photo Editor, Photographer
McAllen | TX | USA | Posted: 11:35 AM on 04.26.08
->> If you're not going to trash your gear then the Alien Bees should be fine. I have two of the AB800 heads and I'll eventually get another for a three light set-up. You can take the money you save vs the White Lightnings and get yourself a Vagabond battery pack...
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Yamil Sued, Photographer, Photo Editor
Peoria | AZ | USA | Posted: 6:48 PM on 04.26.08
->> I just ordered Four B 1600's and the Wired Remote, they shipped it yesterday directly to my customers warehouse in Montezuma, IA. where I'll be shooting the week of the 5th. This saves me to carry the stuff on the plane, now when I get through with the shoot, I'll box the stuff up again and I'll have my client (A Retail Catalog House) Ship the Heads to my house for me, saving me the same hassle of traveling with the gear. I don't abuse my gear, I have Four Speedotron Black Line 2400 WS Packs and one 1200 Small Pack Plus Nine 102 heads, the newest piece is over 20 years old, so I take care of my gear, but accidents do happen. I'll try to keep my AB's from hitting the ground then :D

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Walter Calahan, Photographer
Westminster | MD | USA | Posted: 8:42 PM on 04.26.08
->> AlienBees vs. White-Lighting

Aren't they the next super light weight match-up in Vegas next month.

Any odds on the outcome yet? Got to line up my bets.
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Bastian Ehl, Photographer
Magdeburg | _ | Germany | Posted: 9:21 PM on 04.26.08
->> Beside the price, how accurate and consistent are both system regarding light color (temperature) and output?
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Tom Ervin, Photographer, Assistant
Palm Beach | FL | USA | Posted: 10:21 PM on 04.26.08
->> Good idea Calahan. Call it the "Drop Off". Take the leading mono lights and drop them from the tallest building in Vegas. The one with less pieces is the brand Eric should buy. Bets could be taken for the over and under for the total pieces on the ground.

Yes I bored and baby sitting.
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Jason Braverman, Photographer, Photo Editor
Atlanta | GA | USA | Posted: 11:42 PM on 04.26.08
->> I am also looking into the CyberSync trigger transmitter and receiver Alien Bee's is selling as an alternate to more expensive PocketWizzards. Thoughts?
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Yamil Sued, Photographer, Photo Editor
Peoria | AZ | USA | Posted: 1:19 AM on 04.27.08
->> I passed on it on my first order due to the fact that it's not ready yet. But as soon as I can get my hands on one, I'll give it a try. Note, the Receiver is AC Powered.

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Eric Canha, Photographer
Not Listed | MA | United States | Posted: 9:14 AM on 04.27.08
->> The first question that comes to mind is what the sync speed on the new remotes will be. I have both the RFT and older wireless "commander" systems. The RFT's synced at 1/250 on my D2's and the old commanders synced much lower. I also have the wired system and used it in our ice rink. The rink had serious issues with RF interference.

The nice thing about the wired system was the ability to control 4 heads from one location and fire the whole rig from one PW.
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Greg Francis, Photographer
Rochester | NY | USA | Posted: 10:07 AM on 04.28.08
->> I've had two WL X1600's since 2004. No problems.

I had a large corporate shoot recently and picked up a used AB800 for the subjects in a second location. The B800 isn't built as tough as the WL1600's, for all of the reasons above. WL's have the metal construction, multi speed fans that needn't turn-on till it gets warm. The AB fan starts whenever the unit is on, it's not silent, not loud either, but it is audible.

The 7 stop range of the WL1600/3200 is also a useful plus.

If you can afford it, I'd recommend two WL's. Buy it once, and it'll last your entire career.

Alien Bees are good, but have limitations.
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Thread Title: AlienBees vs. White-Lighting
Thread Started By: Eric Jones
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