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Cowboy Studio?

bryan brinkman , Oct 27, 2009; 11:27 p.m.

Hi all, I'm new to this site (just registered today) and I would love some input. I'm on an extremely short budget (like most!) and just simply need pointed in the right direction.
I have been looking at Alien Bees and they seem to be quite popular among the beginners and some pro's. Still, the price of buying a new set up from them is a bit out of budget for me.
I have been looking into this set up just to get started, http://cowboystudio.com/product/c07/p0702-19.php . If I were to purchase this, I would upgrade to their 300W strobe and the price would come to $168.45, which includes...

  • One (1) 7ft Light Stand
  • One (1) High Quality MonoLight
  • One (1) 16"x 24" Softbox with Spring Ring
    (20" X 28" for 160W/180W strobe, 24" X 36" for 300W strobe)
  • One (1) 13 Foot Sync Cord
  • One (1) 10 Foot Power Cords
  • What would this set up be compared to other brand wise? It seems like a steal to me. I appreciate any feed back!

    -BRYAN.

    Responses


        1   |   2     Next    Last

    Tim Ludwig , Oct 28, 2009; 01:05 a.m.

    Personally, I would say don't walk....run away from this as fast as you can. It looks good on the surface, but even with the 300WS unit, you would only get as much as f6 with the light at 10 feet from the subject, far less with the rather smallish soft box added. That depth of field is marginal for a single head or couple, but impossible for a group with heads at different depths to the camera.

    This might work well on table top shooting where you have the lights almost on top of the product, but something like the Alien Bees or better yet the higher end White Lightnings would give you far more power to work with. Just remember, you can always power down from an 800 or 1600 WS unit, but you can't power up from a puny one.

    Also, that small a soft box would still be pretty harsh for a head shot, much less a group where the light has to be farther away. Remember, the farther away it is, the smaller it is relative to the subject and that means harsher shadows and less light spread or wrap around. Something in the 3x4 foot range is much better and the 4x6 foot units are softer (more delicate light and shadow ratios) yet.

    bryan brinkman , Oct 28, 2009; 01:13 a.m.

    Tim, thanks for the information! What would be an adequate unit for me without completely emptying my bank account?
    I was so close to purchasing this tonight but something tells me I should just keep saving saving saving!

    Greg Maszyna , Oct 28, 2009; 06:35 a.m.

    hey Bryan,
    there is plenty of brands that offer cheap kits for begginers... my question is how much would you like to spend?
    you can check AB (already mentioned), Elinchrom, Interfit... i don't know about AB, in europe where i live you can get them only through the net; elinchrom is the cheapest (well interfit would be cheaper but not even near in terms of quality to elinchrom) set up you can get over here; probably there are a few others... it comes down also to what space you have - if it's tiny room you don't need that much power; probably you could get away with 2 x 250Ws and umbrellas... what you could also do is get some hot shoe flashes (like Vivitar 285) + stands + umbrellas and work with that untill you have more money saved - that's how i worked for a while; well it wasn't because of the money - i had 2 Canon 430 EX and 1 580EXII, so only them were more expensive than any "starting" studio kit, but i needed it to be as portable and light as possible; if you short on budget as you say, start with one strobe and reflector and add another one later when you have some more cash - that's another solution;
    definitelly i wouldn't get any "cheapo" studio lights - you will only waste your money...

    Tim Ludwig , Oct 28, 2009; 09:57 a.m.

    Bryan,

    Greg gives you some good insights and you can get away with cheap (price, not value) flashes like Vivitars for awhile as long as you don't need modeling lights (critical to me). If you do this, be aware that you will need either a long flash cord or a wireless trigger system, a mounting system that includes a way to attach an umbrella for a light stand,an AC power cord for continuous use, and can't use serious soft boxes plus power will still be limited. There will be no visualization without a modeling light, so you will want to jury rig some kind of lamp that will shine into the umbrella or just shoot with a "best guess" approach.

    There are often good used White Lightning Ultras that show up on ebay for cheap, especially the 600WS models. I own two of those and two of the 1800's that I have used for decades. The newest is about 15 years old and the oldest about 25 or so. I've had a total of four or five repairs in all that time and repairs to these are dirt cheap and very fast turn around.

    Anyway, I can't speak for other systems, but these have done everything I asked. Their little brothers, the Alien Bees come from the same folks, so I suspect their reliability is just as good. Buying these new would give you the purchase warranty. They will take any soft box you want to add with the right speed ring adapter. The boxes from White Lighting include that ring.

    I don't mean for this to sound like an ad for them, I'm just very familiar and happy with that company.

    Again, you need all the power you can afford just for eventual possibilities. Starting with one, learning how to use it with one or two reflectors to fill in shadows, and then adding more when the budget allows is a great way to begin.

    Tom Rittenhouse , Oct 28, 2009; 12:00 p.m.

    Since the 300ws unit costs $164.77 by itself, the package is a deal at $168.45. I am going to go contrary to the others. While I agree that this is not commercial studio quality stuff, I have read reviews that said the buyers were happy with stuff bought from Cowboy Studio. However, understand that I have never seen, much less used anything from them (I suspect that the others answering have not either).

    My first requirement is that any studio strobe must have interchangeable reflectors which that 300ws unit does. Sure it is a cheap Chinese strobe, but everything made in China is cheap these days, including those Alien Bees that the others are so hot for (Paul Buff does stand behind what he sells however). I chose to buy a used Norman pack system, but I was looking at stuff like that. I think it probably would do fine for hobby use. I would check out their return policy, and it is reasonable I would order one. Then if I liked it I would order as second set (I feel two lights are the minimum to get professional looking results), otherwise I would return it.

    Realistically, a couple of hundred bucks is pocket change these days. Do you want it to impress your friends, or to take pictures with?

    Ralph Berrett , Oct 28, 2009; 04:33 p.m.

    I don't think I would trust any system calling itself a cowboy system. ;)

    Without a doubt all you need is one quality light to do professional quality work. I would not get this cowboy unless my back was against the wall and I had a shoot that would cover the expense of this light. I tend to buy gear with a long term view. This might do a job a few times but I have my doubt. So if this fail how is their customer service? The next really big issue is the lack of control for on adjusting the power settings. It looks like you can only cut the power by half so you are really limited as to lighting setups.
    I think you would be better to buy something like this for $325.88
    B400 White Studio Flash $224.95 ea.
    AlienBees Carrying Bag $12.95 ea.
    LS3050 10-foot General Purpose Stand $39.95 ea.
    U48TWB 48-inch Shoot-Thru Umbrella $29.95 ea.
    I would also recommend a good light meter. The good thing about AlienBees is the customer service. They bend over backwards with customer service and care.

    Ralph Berrett , Oct 28, 2009; 04:33 p.m.

    I don't think I would trust any system calling itself a cowboy system. ;)

    Without a doubt all you need is one quality light to do professional quality work. I would not get this cowboy unless my back was against the wall and I had a shoot that would cover the expense of this light. I tend to buy gear with a long term view. This might do a job a few times but I have my doubt. So if this fail how is their customer service? The next really big issue is the lack of control for on adjusting the power settings. It looks like you can only cut the power by half so you are really limited as to lighting setups.
    I think you would be better to buy something like this for $325.88
    B400 White Studio Flash $224.95 ea.
    AlienBees Carrying Bag $12.95 ea.
    LS3050 10-foot General Purpose Stand $39.95 ea.
    U48TWB 48-inch Shoot-Thru Umbrella $29.95 ea.
    I would also recommend a good light meter. The good thing about AlienBees is the customer service. They bend over backwards with customer service and care.

    bryan brinkman , Oct 28, 2009; 05:13 p.m.

    Tim, Tom and Greg: Thanks for all your quick and helpful thoughts! I appreciate you all.
    Ralph: For shooting single subjects and possibly multiple subjects (in the future) do you think a single B400 will be a good start? I have thought of going this route and adding a B800 later. My only concern is will the B400 be enough by itself? and its really not a whole lot more to jump to the B800 but I would love to stay as cheap (price wise of course ;] ) as possible.
    I also looked into the vivitar df-383?

    Ralph Berrett , Oct 28, 2009; 05:33 p.m.

    This may sound weird but, the larger and closer the light source the the softer the light source will become. So if you can afford the B800 I would get it with a good reflecting umbrella. You could shoot a 2-4 people, and in some reflectors you will have a decent starting point. To me a 400 watt light is a decent starting point. The big issue with the 400 watt is if you are on location and want to use as the main source of light on a bright sunny day. Then really would need the 800 watt. But for simple indoor lighting setups the 400 will do a good job.

    As your experience increases you will learn what lights to add. I suggest building your system over time. I buy decent quality over time. You will be much happier because you can taylor the system to your personal needs.

    If you were to poll any of the shooters here you will see everyone does thing differently, and uses different pieces of gear. If can avoid it don't be in a rush to but it all at once, but step by step.


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