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Alien bees 400 vs 800 vs 1600
Old 07-20-2005, 06:55 PM   #1 (permalink)
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I did a search of the forum and found a lot of bee info, but I'm wondering how much light do I need? The only studio light I have ever used were dynalite 2040 heads on wi1000 packs. Do any of the bees compare to that?

Also, any feedback on the light stands? Are they worth a damn? I think I would rather have the type of stands that we always used on movie sets that have legs that do not have to be in a perfect triangle. They're a little bulkier to carry around, but when that light just wont fit in that corner...it comes in handy! But I'm really talking more about quality issues with the accessories.

I plan to buy 4 lights to get started, plus a couple of softboxes and grids.
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Re: Alien bees 400 vs 800 vs 1600
Old 07-20-2005, 10:31 PM   #2 (permalink)
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I've got 2 B800s and a B1600. The description on the 'bees web site is pretty accurate in that the B800 (320 w/s) is a pretty good all around workhorse. It's plenty powerful enough for single subjects and smaller groups. It kind of depends on what modifiers you like to use. If you're into using a dark blue gel and a 20 deg. grid, you might be wishing you had more power.

The B1600 (640 w/s) is nice if you like to have power in reserve. I rarely use mine on full power though, but it's nice to have if I need it. The B1600 is a bit heavier than the other two (4 big capacitors instead of 2), and it takes longer to cycle.

You can always buy the smaller, and upgrade to the larger lights later. My 1600 used to be a 400, then I got a wild butt hair and had it upgraded. Cost the difference between the two models plus $25 (they'll put a new housing on your light when they do this).

Anyway, to directly answer your question: The AB lights probably aren't as nice of a light as dynalite, but they're a solid performer and I haven't had any trouble out of mine at all. If you had a 1000 w/s light and a 640 w/s light in the exact same setup (same modifier, same distance to subject, etc.) you should expect the 1000 w/s light to be about 1/2 stop brighter than the smaller light, since it takes twice the power to gain 1 stop in aperture.

In practice, since you'd be comparing a pack system v. a monolight, there would probably be some variation since the design of one light might be more efficient than the other, but the 1/2 stop ought to be close.

The AB light stands are OK. I've got one of the $70 "heavy-duty" stands and I guess it's nicer than the $15 12-foot stand I got on ebay, but not much nicer. The AB accessories are nothing to write home about. I sold my 2 AB softboxes 'cuz I found them too much of a pain to take apart and put together. Buy the AB speedrings, but get softboxes elsewhere. The matte-pan reflector (beauty dish) is nice though, and a decent price on it. Do a custom white balance with it, as it had just a tad of a warm tone to it.

The Vagabond battery system is wonderful. Leave the modeling light off and you can get hundreds and hundreds of cycles out of a light or two. Real nice on location when power isn't convienent.

Hope all that helps.
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Re: Alien bees 400 vs 800 vs 1600
Old 07-20-2005, 10:53 PM   #3 (permalink)
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I'll second all that.....the AB's aren't Hensels, but it's all about using the right tool for the job. If you are shooting all day everyday, you might want a more 'pro' system....if you just want stuff that will do a decent job at a VERY fair price, it's tough to beat the Bees.

Regarding the power levels....I have 4-800's and they work pretty well. I might go with one or two 1600's just to allow for some more extreme modifiers (as Larry stated). The 800's strike a pretty fair balance between power and recycle time and I seldom need to max them out....but it's nice to have headroom [img]/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/wink.gif[/img]

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Re: Alien bees 400 vs 800 vs 1600
Old 07-20-2005, 11:17 PM   #4 (permalink)
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The Alien Bees are great lights and produce great results. There are a lot of people who can get Professional results from them even though not many Professional use them.

The AB stands suck, get air cushioned Bogen/manfrottos, they will last you a long time with a lot less hassel.

As for Lights, take a look at these 500W lights:

http://www.bhphotovideo.com/bnh/cont...ughType=search

I used them (plus one more) for this shot:



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Re: Alien bees 400 vs 800 vs 1600
Old 07-21-2005, 10:51 AM   #5 (permalink)
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I only have one 1600, so I can't say anything about the others.

My only "complaint" (so to speak) is that even at lowest power, I cannot use a wide open f/1.8 lens with the light very close to the model - it just blows out.

I'd have to use an ND filter or more extreme modifiers under those very specific circumstances.

At "full blast" the 1600 will illuminate a huge area from quite a ways away.

Hope that gives you a sense of the thing.
 
 
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