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400w vs. 800w lights
Old 02-14-2005, 01:25 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Maybe if I don't know the answer to this question I shouldn't be buying studio lights, but...

I'm looking at buying a couple of Alien Bees. They have a two light package that defaults to having 2 400w strobes in it. You can upgrade to 800 or 1600.

Why would you need more power? Is it so you can move the lights further away? If you get less power will you have to use longer exposures?

I mostly want to shoot indoor glamour/portrait.
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Re: 400w vs. 800w lights
Old 02-14-2005, 01:57 PM   #2 (permalink)
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If you get the kit I would get at least 1 800 and the 400. You'll probably only use it low power with umbrellas but if you have a big softbox or want to light larger things it will be nice to have. The 400 makes a nice fill, backlight, or hairlight.

Gregg
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Re: 400w vs. 800w lights
Old 02-14-2005, 02:04 PM   #3 (permalink)
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I have 2 800s and 2 400s. I use the 800s with either big softboxes or "beauty dish" reflectors. They work great in a studio which has a lot of ambient light.

The 400s I use for hair, accents and backgrounds.

I'm not very happy with Alien Bee's stands. Spoiled by some Lowel stands I have around, I guess.

You exposure length will be relatively unimportant, since exposure willl be set to the strobe's intensity, which only lasts for a tiny fraction of your shutter time. All motion (from your camera or your model) will be frozen in that instant of the strobe's flash.
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Re: 400w vs. 800w lights
Old 02-14-2005, 02:30 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Greetings! In my experience the best to do more power, not less. You can always use a Neutral Density filters & scrims if you're not able to use wider apertures. Using the graduated power outut on the flash reduces the flash's output. You'll still have to meter correctly regardless of the flash output. You're f stop will vary with the flash output. If you move the lights back, you'll have greater contrast(harsher) and specular highlights. Best to rent lights from various mfgs. and play with them to see what suits your shooting style the best prior to a major purchase. You'll need to consider the accessories-softboxes, umbrellas, grids Chimera , heavy duty light stands( Matthews )
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Re: 400w vs. 800w lights
Old 02-14-2005, 02:44 PM   #5 (permalink)
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When using strobes/flashes, longer duration exposure does "NOTHING". The duration of the flash is in the area of 1/1000 to 1/2500 of a second. The drawback to having too much power is the possibility of not being able to shoot with as large an aperture as you may want (for DOF considerations), if you can't cut the power down (most Strobes have a full/half/quarter power setting).
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Re: 400w vs. 800w lights
Old 02-14-2005, 07:37 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Do yourself a favor and get the B800's, they are only $55 (each) more and worth it. Even if you do not use the Full Power, you will have it for when you need it.

I have 4 800's (2 are WL's) and one 400 for my hair light

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Re: 400w vs. 800w lights
Old 02-15-2005, 09:35 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Just so you know, Alien Bees does not make a 400 or 800 watt second light.

The lights are as follows:

B400 - 160 watt seconds
B800 - 320 watt seconds
B1600 - 640 watt seconds

Don't be fooled by the "effective watt seconds" crap. Only the real numbers matter. Well, actually lumenseconds are what really matters by you have to dig for those numbers.
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Re: 400w vs. 800w lights
Old 02-15-2005, 10:21 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Well, when I test one of my Novatron heads at 400ws against the B400, I seem to get the same fstop reading from my flash meter for each. So what is your explanation?
Cheers,
rfs
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Re: 400w vs. 800w lights
Old 02-15-2005, 10:25 PM   #9 (permalink)
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[ QUOTE ]
Well, when I test one of my Novatron heads at 400ws against the B400, I seem to get the same fstop reading from my flash meter for each. So what is your explanation?
Cheers,
rfs

[/ QUOTE ]

Better reflectors, more efficient conversion of electricity to light, newer tubes, could be a number of things.

That's the origin of the "effective wattseconds" crap. This 320 w/s light puts out as much light as your 400 w/s so I'll call this a 400ws effective unit. It's just marketing crap. Alien Bees even admits it's crap. Check their web site.
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Re: 400w vs. 800w lights
Old 02-15-2005, 10:36 PM   #10 (permalink)
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I'm still a bit confused. I was comparing the B400 which shows to be 160ws and firing one of my novatron heads at 400ws, and I get the same fStop. If the reflector makes that much difference, then it looks like the Bees really do give you something that looks just like 400ws of power, at least compared to some flash heads. And all this with .5 second recycle time for the B400 at full power. So for the price, it looks like the Alien Bee lights are a good buy and they give you a lot of power.
Cheers
rfs
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