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new strobes and lense
Old 09-11-2005, 02:19 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Hey all,
Just looking for some advice on new studio strobes and a new lense for my nikon equipment.
There are so many brands out there and I have been very happy with my profoto strobes but are in desperate need of replacement. Are there any brands that you all have found to be reasonably priced and capable? I am also looking at buying a new 300mm. Other than the nikon which I hear is fantastic, what do you think of the tamron or sigma?

Any help would be greatly appreciated

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Re: new strobes and lense
Old 09-11-2005, 03:13 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Down here in the State of Texas, the state insurance commission requires insurers to tell folks who are having their automobiles repaired by an insurance company that they have the right to insist on parts from the original equipment manufacturer.

The reason they have to MAKE the insurace companies tell the insureds that is that by susbstituting something that is 'just as good as the manufacturer made', they save a lot of money.

Now, whether you believe that the substitute parts are as good as the original or not, the fact remains that you're putting something on the car which is always compared to the original in terms of quality. "It'll work just as well as a Ford part" is the best you hear... never, "it'll work much better than the original".

I have, and use, a Sigma 17-35/2.8 but I wish I had gotten the Nikkor equivalent when I had the chance. The differences are small, but measurable.

Tamron and Sigma both have good 300mm lenses, according to the reviews and folks that use them, but if you're wanting the best in quality.... save up for the Nikkor.

As far as studio strobes... are you looking for a power pack system or a monolight system? My preference is for monolights, since they're independant and usually have a wider range of adjustment on each light. Additionally, if one goes down, it doesn't stop the shoot like it will if your power pack takes a hike (the voice of experience, here).

Some folks are having great luck with the Alien Bees, manufactured by a company in Tennessee called Paul Buff. Buff also makes a higher-grade (metal cases, heavier duty) monolight called the White Lightning. Both get very good reviews, and i can vouch for the White Lightnings as being rugged... both of mine are 15 years old and still working with only one popped fuse in those years. The WL are a bit more expensive than the AB's, though, so the AB's, which also seem to be as reliable, might be more in line with your budget.

Don't scrimp on the glass, though.

This is Deborah:
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Re: new strobes and lense
Old 09-11-2005, 03:25 PM   #3 (permalink)
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You're going to get a lot of people around here recommending Alien Bees monolights. To say they are "reasonably priced and capable" is an understatement. But to really give you a recommendation I need more information. Firstly, why do you feel you need to replace your Profoto gear? What do you want the new gear to do that your current gear doesn't? Second, are you leaning towards a generator and heads or monolights? Thirdly, what do you consider "reasonably priced"? How many light sources do you want and what is your general budget?

Regarding the lens, I've only ever used Nikon Glass. Are you interested in the f2.8 or the f4? The Nikkor 300mm f2.8 is indeed fantastic. I've been told by working pro sports shooters who've tested other brands that the Nikkor is sharper in the corners and exhibits less falloff wide open, but I have no direct experience for comparison. I've used the 300mm f4 on a limited basis and it seems very good. One nice feature of the f4 is that it focuses as close as 5 feet. It's nice for tight head shots with lots of compression.

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Re: new strobes and lense
Old 09-11-2005, 03:33 PM   #4 (permalink)
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I'll echo what my esteemed colleague from Texas said -- "don't scrimp on the glass." For what it's worth, I used to buy off-brand lenses like Vivitar, Sigma and Tamaron, but when I got my Nikon D100 I sprung for the Nikkor 24-120 and never looked back. A side note about the 300mm -- (if your studio is really large ignor this comment), but in my studio (aka my 15x30 livingroom) I wouldn't get much from a 300mm (just nose hair and nipples). I prefer a fast 20-70 f2.8 or 80-200 f2.8. As for lights ... I inherited a Norman P2000 power pack with four heads, but I bought an Alien Bee 400. I like my Normans; they're fast, consistant and powerful -- I love my Bee; it has variable output (something my Normans don't) is light weight and goes everywhere with me.

Everything in photography is a personal choice, so gather all the opinions you can, then ... make your own choice. Good luck.

Image of Marianna was shot in my livingroom studio and Photoshopped to look like a runway.

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Re: new strobes and lense
Old 09-11-2005, 04:08 PM   #5 (permalink)
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I agree with everything said so far, save your nickels for the good glass and I have a suggestion for a short, really good zoom: there's a Nikon lens you don't hear a lot about, the 35mm - 70mm f2.8. It's kind of heavy and it's an old fashioned push pull zoom but I use mine ALL the time, got it at B&H for six or seven hundred dollars, pretty reasonable for 2.8 glass and it kicks butt.

My long lens is a Sigma, 70-300mm f.2.8 which I bought because, in all honesty, I couldn't afford the Nikon VR model at the time. The sigma is great, I can see where I'd like to have VR at that focal length but I have zero plans for shelling out the dough, I'm happy with the lens I have now.

Another great but affordable Nikon lens for portrait work is the 50mm f1.8 They're like a hundred bucks, I love mine.

Alien bees are great low cost lights, I use mine almost everyday in the studio, had one problem (I live about three miles from the factory) took the problem light over and they replaced it on the spot. I used my old hot light stands when I bought these but I've heard from several people that if you go with the AB stands you should pony up for the heavy duty models.

Best of luck with the new stuff,

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Re: new strobes and lense
Old 09-12-2005, 12:05 AM   #6 (permalink)
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If the Nikkor 50mm f1.8 is anything like my Canon 50mm f1.8, you'll love it. For a "cheapie" lens, it gives surprisingly good results.

I agree with everyone else regarding Alien Bees. I've got four AB800's, and I love them. If I had to do it again, I think I'd have gone for the AB400's instead. I have yet to use them at anything over 1/16th power. The only other thing I recommend that you get is some sort of wireless slave system (radio or otherwise). I did a shoot today where my 20D ended up falling onto the floor because I tripped on the sync cable. Thank God it only fell less than a foot onto a carpeted floor. The camera's fine, but I'm not taking another chance. As soon a funds allow, I'm getting a Pocketwizard Plus.

My first attempt at a pure white background. This is my good friend Karma (yes, that's her real name [img]/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/smile.gif[/img] ).

Two AB800's w/ white umbrellas blowing out the background. Two AB800's w/brolly boxes for the main and fill. Did a quick edit job retouching her complexion (still needs a little more work on my part, just above her nose).
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Re: new strobes and lense
Old 09-12-2005, 11:35 AM   #7 (permalink)
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I would recommend Dyna-lite. I have two pack systems and one monolite. I find the pack systems much more versatile, but use the monolite for location shooting on it's battery. My packs have pocketwizards built in, so no more sync cord.

You might consider new profoto equipment. Not sure but maybe it would be compatable with your existing equipment.

Definately go for the Nikkor 300 f2. Pockets not deep enough? Then settle for the f2.8 VR. LOL! Or the f4 for those not independently wealthy. I still have a Soligor 300 f5.6 non AI I shot with my Nikkormat FTN back in college. To poor for anything better at the time. Can't seem to throw anything away. Now I buy Nikkor.
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