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SportsShooter.com: Member Message Board

Portable Strobe Lighting - Best To Buy?
Scott Serio, Photo Editor, Photographer
Colora | MD | USA | Posted: 11:19 PM on 09.11.13
->> I have been looking for a portable lighting outfit that comes with a rechargeable battery pack. For one of the jobs I have right now I have the Norman 400B. It is a rather versatile one-head unit and I like that I can take it anywhere. What other options are there out there? And, I am talking real-world experience. The 400B is a workhorse, but it is an old workhorse. I have a nice set of Nikon SB's that work well, but that pop you get from a 400 w/s head is nice when you need it.
Input is definitely welcome...
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Steven Bisig, Photographer
Seattle | WA | USA | Posted: 11:26 PM on 09.11.13
->> I just ordered a couple of sets of Elinchrom Ranger Quadra "action heads."

I have no real experience with them, but decided on them after reading a lot of positive reviews online. They will be used for remote location commercial and portrait shoots.
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Jason Myers, Photographer
West Palm Beach | FL | USA | Posted: 11:33 PM on 09.11.13
->> I can't recommend the Quadra packs and heads highly enough. I have two packs, three heads and the ringflash. I use these for most all of my work as they are small and pack a punch. They work well with modifiers of all sizes and brands and I like the skyport transmitter. Not a better portable system out there in my opinion.
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Preston Mack, Photographer
Orlando | FL | | Posted: 11:37 PM on 09.11.13
->> I have Profoto 7bs. They are 1200 WS. Battery gives you 250 FULL power pops before it runs out. Very fast recycle time. Fast flash duration.
Great light quality and you can get Profoto gear in every major city.

I also used to have the Dynalite inverter with the Dynalite 1000 WS A/C pack. Flash duration isn;t as good. Not as compact since you have an extra thing to carry.

I used to have an Elichrom Ranger (older model, circa 2003). Excellent light, but recycle was slow. I 've read that the newer models are better on speed.

You could try the White lightning Vagabond battery. Cheaper option. I've never used it though.
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David Seelig, Photographer
Hailey | ID | USA | Posted: 12:56 AM on 09.12.13
->> I too have the quadras love them and I also have the new lithium batteries and it makes the system even lighter. I also have two elinchrom 600 rx with a mini lithium for each a little more power but slower recycle.
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Johnny Vy, Photographer, Photo Editor
Los Angeles | CA | | Posted: 1:53 AM on 09.12.13
->> I back up everything these guys say about the Elinchrom Ranger Quadra. I have a single pack with 2 batteries and two "S heads." Next to my rolling bag, this is the second best photographic purchase I have made. It's light, portable, weather sealed, and puts out great light.
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Stephen Lam, Photographer, Assistant
San Francisco | CA | USA | Posted: 2:09 AM on 09.12.13
->> Love my Profoto 7B as well. It's a bit heavy with the original lead battery but its super durable. I believe you can use the new LiFe Lithium to cut down the weight and more pops.

Their newest B4 is supposed to be amazing. I've seen it at the rental houses here and all the techs I've spoke with love it even though it uses a new battery different then the 7B/B2/B3.

If you don't need 1200ws the AcuteB is a great option too. Very light and portable. The weight of the AcuteB back is unreal with the new lithium battery.

And Preston is right about you can get Profoto gear in just about every major city. Oh and I love their speedring too!
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Jim Colburn, Photographer
Omaha | NE | USA | Posted: 10:25 AM on 09.12.13
->> Not, strictly speaking, the "best" but IMO best bang for the buck is the 640 w/s Einstein head from Paul Buff (http://www.paulcbuff.com/e640.php).

For portable power you can run two heads off of their Vagabond Mini battery pack (
http://www.paulcbuff.com/vm120.php).
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Paul DiSalvo, Photographer
Highlands Ranch | CO | United States of America | Posted: 10:30 AM on 09.12.13
->> Technically not a head/pack set but the Einstein / Vagabond combo is pretty cool. For action stuff, their short flash speeds just kill it. I've frozen hockey pucks mid-air where you can read the writing on them. In their Color mode, there is none of the temp shift the Bees were famous for. They do top out at 650ws so if you need that high end, they're not for you. I used the Vagabond once for a High School Basketball tourney and got around 600 pops at around 200 WS and the Vagabond still had juice to go. You can use it to power laptops/phones other things too.
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Eric Isaacs, Photographer, Assistant
Santa Barbara | CA | USA | Posted: 12:27 PM on 09.12.13
->> I have an add-on question regarding Vagabonds

Is there any reason these won't work with other brands of strobes? I've got a couple Hensel Integra 500's I use for school portraits and for $240 would love to make them portable.
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David Seelig, Photographer
Hailey | ID | USA | Posted: 12:33 PM on 09.12.13
->> Eric I use them with my elinchromn rx 600 with no problem. about a 3.2 recycle a second . With no model light .
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Robert Herrera, Photographer, Assistant
Lakeland | FL | United States | Posted: 12:52 PM on 09.12.13
->> I've been wanting a set of Einstein's with Vagabond mini for some time now.
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PJ Heller, Photographer
Montreal | QC | Canada | Posted: 1:02 PM on 09.12.13
->> Eric > According to the Buff website, "Based on our tests and this customer feedback, we have determined that the Vagabond Miniā„¢ Lithium system should work with nearly all standard photographic flash units (both analog and digital)."

I've been thinking about getting one to power a Dynalite Uni400jr.
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Eric Isaacs, Photographer, Assistant
Santa Barbara | CA | USA | Posted: 1:02 PM on 09.12.13
->> Thank you, David.
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Eric Isaacs, Photographer, Assistant
Santa Barbara | CA | USA | Posted: 1:03 PM on 09.12.13
->> Or rather: Thank you David! (And PJ)

Comma Chameleon
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Thomas Campbell, Photographer
Houston | TX | USA | Posted: 1:43 PM on 09.12.13
->> You can have my Elinchrom Quadras when you pry them from my cold dead hands.
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Eric Isaacs, Photographer, Assistant
Santa Barbara | CA | USA | Posted: 2:39 PM on 09.12.13
->> This might be easier than killing Mr. Campbell and prying his fingers open:

http://www.sportsshooter.com/classitem.html?id=40039
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Debra L Rothenberg, Photographer
New York | NY | USA | Posted: 3:07 PM on 09.12.13
->> my Vagabond mini works perfectly with my Dynalite Unis, and the 1000 watt pack, as well as my AB 1600/800 and 400
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Jim Colburn, Photographer
Omaha | NE | USA | Posted: 3:08 PM on 09.12.13
->> Eric. I've used the Vagabond to power strobes, laptops, fans & lights (after a hurricane) and a wide screen TV (ditto) with no problems.
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Tim Snow, Photographer
Montreal | Qc | Canada | Posted: 3:18 PM on 09.12.13
->> If you are on a budget the Vagabond is a great solution. I use mine all of the time and have had no issues with it.
Another option is the Photoflex Triton portable battery system. It is extremely portable, but it will only give you 300 W/S. (Full disclosure, I am a Photoflex Pro Showcase shooter, but I would never recommend a product unless it is one that I use and rely on)
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Michael McNamara, Photographer, Photo Editor
Phoenix | AZ | USA | Posted: 3:23 PM on 09.12.13
->> In our studio, we had five Dyna Lite packs and eight heads, and we just upgraded to the Einsteins and bought two Vagabond batteries. They are wonderful. Yeah, they're not Profotos, but they're affordable and the Vagabonds have come a very long way (I've owned the original, the second gen and now the current model).

Since you have a set of Nikon SB's, a new SB910 is $550, but an Einstein is only $500. Pretty sweet bargain, if you ask me.

We also bought the PocketWizard MC2 units with the strobes, as well as the MiniTT1 and the AC3 so we can adjust the light's output without having to raise and lower the stands. It's kind of a poor man's version of the Profoto Air system, but it works quite well. I've been really happy with how everything works. I just wish you could get a metal mount for putting the lights on stands. It seems like the weakest link in the chain.
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Delane B. Rouse, Photographer, Photo Editor
Washington | DC | US | Posted: 6:53 PM on 09.12.13
->> I have (3) Quadra Ranger packs+5 heads+enough modifiers to fund my retirement. My financial investment has been returned 100x from using them. They rock but they aren't cheap.

I bought my last pack+heads when Helix (Chicago) was going out of business earlier this year at a steal of a price. But even at regular price they are the kit for me. I can't imagine ever using anything else.

Delane
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Scott Serio, Photo Editor, Photographer
Colora | MD | USA | Posted: 12:53 AM on 09.13.13
->> Wow...

So, to the guy who is leaving Sportsshooter....if this thread isn't worth your $25, I don't know what is.

Thanks for the input. I am thinking I like the versatility of the Einstein + Vagabond Mini.

Seriously...thank you all for the input.
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James Broome, Photographer
Tampa | FL | US | Posted: 9:22 AM on 09.13.13
->> I own two Vagabond Mini's and 7 Alien Bees heads. Great products from a company that excels in customer service. You won't be disappointed.
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John Berry, Photographer
Madison | VA | USA | Posted: 10:34 AM on 09.13.13
->> Einsteins and Vagabond Mini's here too. LOVE them. And I use Buff's Cyber Commander to adjust light output from the camera. The CC has a built in light meter that helps to get you close to the right exposure, then I tweak it with a few test shots.
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Andrew Nelles, Photographer
Chicago | IL | usa | Posted: 10:40 AM on 09.13.13
->> I bought 3 einstein heads and vagabond power packs a few months back and could not be happier. Amazing product for the price.
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Chuong Doan, Photographer
Kansas City | MO | USA | Posted: 10:58 AM on 09.13.13
->> Eric Isaacs- I use the Integra 500s with the Vagabond mini and it works great.

Einstein + Vagabond mini weighs in at only 9 pounds and will fit into a small backpack plus the battery doubles as a light duty sandbag for your stand. I tote this combo into the woods all the time and it has never failed me.
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Tom Ewart, Photographer
Bentonville | AR | USA | Posted: 11:05 AM on 09.20.13
->> I have both the ProFoto 7B and a few Vagabond Paul Buff batteries.. Although I love the light the ProFoto System gets you, the Vagabond works really well and also has USB power outlet as well as a couple of 110V outlets and much lighter and smaller than the ProFoto system(used this for charging phone while camping and running some christmas type lights for inside the tent).
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Al Goldis, Photographer
East Lansing | MI | USA | Posted: 8:56 PM on 10.21.13
->> Posting for a friend (but I wouldn't mind getting some suggestions myself):

"As a follow up it would be helpful to know what cases people are using to transport their kits. I have 4 Einstein monolights and accessories I need a case for. Pelican has a great reputation but seem to be pretty heavy when empty. I'm leaning toward a soft case with wheels but welcome any suggestions."
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Jason Myers, Photographer
West Palm Beach | FL | USA | Posted: 11:59 PM on 10.21.13
->> +1 for Elinchrom Quadras..
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Paul DiSalvo, Photographer
Highlands Ranch | CO | United States of America | Posted: 2:24 PM on 10.22.13
->> @ Al - I carry 4 Einsteins plus reflectors, super clamps, Vagabond, Magic Arms, cords, Pocket Wizards, etc in a TT Logistics Manager. Works great. Anything much bigger and it's pretty heavy.
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Brad Barr, Photographer
Port St. Lucie | FL | USA | Posted: 3:46 PM on 11.05.13
->> Al, I have an older Lowepro pro roller (3) I think...that fits all my lighting easily. (4 minis + 4 einstein/AB flashes cables and reflectors). Works great, and was a bonus cause I was gonna toss it after the wheels died...but i did a diy inline skate wheel replacement and its alive and well.
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Jim Karczewski, Photographer, Assistant
Hammond | IN | USA | Posted: 6:11 PM on 11.05.13
->> Profoto released the new B1 Air today, 500w/s with internal battery for 220 full power shots (battery can be swapped out.) TTL with Canon, and I'm sure Nikon, however no price or release until 2014.

Also, 20fps capability.. Looks nice but I want to see the price!
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Scott Morgan, Photographer
Des Moines | IA | United States | Posted: 8:30 PM on 11.05.13
->> The Profoto B1's are $2000 per head. So yeah, ouch.

http://petapixel.com/2013/11/05/profoto-introduces-revolutionary-b1-first-s.../
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Jim Karczewski, Photographer, Assistant
Hammond | IN | USA | Posted: 9:32 PM on 11.05.13
->> OUCH. Seriously OUCH.

Profoto, I love your products, but my wallet curses you.

So much for that idea... I could get one a year for the next 6 years and then start using them to shoot sports. LOL
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Jim Colburn, Photographer
Omaha | NE | USA | Posted: 2:43 PM on 11.06.13
->> My guess is that Paul Buff will come out with an Einstein module that will do TTL in about 12 months.
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Paul Hayes, Photographer, Photo Editor
Littleton | NH | USA | Posted: 8:36 PM on 05.18.14
->> I shoot for a newspaper and increasingly have been shooting portraits of individuals and groups, indoors and outdoors, and I need something stronger than speedlights.

So I'm wondering if the Einstein/vagabond (or mini) combo mentioned above would suit most of my needs? I also wondered if there were hidden costs (such as must-have modifiers or accessories, stronger light stands, etc.) that needed to consider?

If I were to invest in, say, two Einsteins and one vagabond (or mini?), would that suit most of my location/studio portrait needs? Would I be facing any major limitations with that set up (e.g. difficulty overpowering ambient light, etc.)?

Thanks in advance for any and all help with this. -- Paul
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Andrew Nelles, Photographer
Chicago | IL | usa | Posted: 9:30 PM on 05.18.14
->> I have a set of Einsteins that I breakout when I need something more powerful than speedlights. They're absolutely amazing. The Vagabonds work great to. I never both plugging them in. You might need to get some speedrings to match your existing modifiers.
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Stephen Brashear, Photographer, Assistant
Seattle | WA | USA | Posted: 9:34 PM on 05.18.14
->> Paul - I'm a big fan of the Buff lights. I have some Alien Bees and Einsteins. I really like the Einsteins. However, I'm not a big fan of the Buff lightstands or modifiers. Just not the same quality as their lights. I have two one larger and one smaller. The large one is always difficult to deploy. The smaller one had a screw or nut go missing and when I called of PCB, they didn't have any spares to sell me. It was one of the few times their customer service couldn't help me out.

I would suggest picking up some different brand stands. Don't skimp on stands. The last thing you want is one of your lights to come crashing down during a shoot. I'm sure there are others that other could recommend, but check out Avenger, Photoflex (I've got some that I've been using for almost 15 years) and Manfrotto.

You will definitely need some modifiers. Umbrellas are a good start and inexpensive, though outdoors in the wind they can be tricky. Take a look at getting a beauty dish and some grids for portraits.

Also consider getting the PocketWizard MC-2, especially if you are already using PocketWizards. If you have the PW TL units, you can control the flash power from your camera. If you don't have PWs, look at the Buff Cyber Commander and receivers. I've heard good things about them and I would definitely go that direction if I didn't already have PWs. The Buff kit is considerably less expensive the PWs. One of the really nice things about using the modules that plug into the Einsteins is that they are powered by the flash units, so you don't have to worry about batteries. However, the PW will give allow you to sync at higher shutter speeds, which is hand if you want to shoot wide open outside during the day.

I quite frequently shoot with with two Einsteins and a Vagabond Mini and have no issues. The Einsteins should have no problem overpowering the ambient light in most any situation you find yourself.

I hope this helps some
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Paul Hayes, Photographer, Photo Editor
Littleton | NH | USA | Posted: 10:08 PM on 05.18.14
->> Thanks for the info guys. But as I look through the PCB web site I have one more question. Which types of reflector, grid and beauty dish are the best to start with (there are several types to choose from)?

I'm not sure if I'm willing to spring for a softbox and may continue shooting through umbrellas.

Thanks again everyone, really appreciate it. -- Paul
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Andrew Nelles, Photographer
Chicago | IL | usa | Posted: 11:12 PM on 05.18.14
->> The 7 inch are good general purpose reflectors, if direct light is what you need.

The PLM umbrellas are great with and without the diffuser. The Buff Octaboxes are also great.
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Paul DiSalvo, Photographer
Highlands Ranch | CO | United States of America | Posted: 11:34 AM on 05.19.14
->> Nothing wrong with mixing Speedlights with Studio strobes. I really like the Photek Softlighters for modifiers for head shots. You can throw in a couple speed lights if you don't want to drag out a lot of gear or one big light like an Einstein. Add a pop up reflector and you're good to go. And the light quality is pretty nice when you're in a hurry and don't want to spend time feathering just right like a soft box. A speed light with with grid makes a good addition as a kicker and/or hair light - easy to setup and takes up little space in your bag. If you're only going to get one modifier, the Buff 48" octo gives you a little more control than the Softlighter but takes up more space and would need some hacking to use with Speedlights. Kind of depends on what you want from a subject's look.
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Thomas E. Witte, Photographer, Photo Editor
Cincinnati | OH | USA | Posted: 7:09 PM on 05.19.14
->> Paul, if you're interested I'm getting ready to list my Dynalites in the next week or so. I want to run through and test it all but its four M1000 packs and three 4080sp heads. The heads are meant for arenas but they're so compact and that I ended up using them primarily for portraits.
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Paul Hayes, Photographer, Photo Editor
Littleton | NH | USA | Posted: 12:38 AM on 05.22.14
->> BTW does anyone have any insight or opinions on speedlight high speed sync vs. strobe hypersync?

Is this effect *a lot* easier to do with strobes?
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Paul DiSalvo, Photographer
Highlands Ranch | CO | United States of America | Posted: 12:12 PM on 05.25.14
->> Both work great and both have their issues. I use Pocket Wizard Flex's with both Buff Einsteins and Nikon SB900's with D3/D3s bodies. The PW Wiki has a lot of pre-tested settings for best practices with lots of light/body combos so it's a good place to start for getting your PW Utility settings. There are lots of variations due to the flash duration and sensor size so results are all over the place. The SB900's use a pulsed flash to beat the normal sync speed and this works good for short distances like a portrait session. It's pretty much ready to go out of the box and you can add multiple flash units to make up for the loss of power. It works well almost all the way up to 1/8000 sec where it seems to underexpose. It eats a lot of power and can cause the overheat issue to pop up. Overall, it's pretty great when you need some fill and want a wider aperture. Studio strobes require a little more patience and have a narrower use IMHO. PW's basically "trick" the camera into firing when the light output is just past it's peak so you really have to crank up power - best results are usually at or near Full power. There are some tricky exposure effects from this similar to a Grad ND which if you're shooting outside and want to tone down the sky, you can turn a weakness into a plus. I've managed to get good results with the Einsteins up to around 1/800th sec and under certain conditions, as high as 1/2000th sec. Strobes with longer flash durations than the Einstein might go to even faster SS's. Again, I'd strongly recommend the PW Wiki as a first read to ballpark your settings based on lights and camera in use.
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Erik Markov, Photographer, Assistant
Indianapolis | IN | | Posted: 12:21 AM on 06.15.14
->> With Buff units, I'm curious about the "fingers" that are used to attach softboxes etc. I see from looking at the manual that there are two levers to grab to open them and then release to lock the item to head. Are they durable, do they do a good job attaching things? And then trying to find adapter rings to attach a diffferent brand of softbox to the head. I've searched and haven't really found anything.
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David Seelig, Photographer
Hailey | ID | USA | Posted: 1:16 AM on 06.15.14
->> Hi Erik
I hated that attachment the same as Balcar. I have gone to elinchrom and much better though I hear that profoto is even better. But the dollars are not there for me to go there. Pat Murphy Racey also knocks that grip arrangement ,
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Thread Title: Portable Strobe Lighting - Best To Buy?
Thread Started By: Scott Serio
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What Are You Getting Yourself Into......... A Clue ::..