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Strobes vs Heads
Old 09-23-2005, 06:24 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Whilst persuing the lighting section of B&H, I wandered into the Strobe / Power Supply section. I'm curious what the functional differences are between monolights and the central power supply with heads. I noticed that Hensel has both flavors, and the monolights a) seem to be lower power, and b) more expensive in the long run (in the Hensel vs Hensel comparison at least).

Also, if a power pack is rated for 1000 w/s, is that the total supply across all plugs, per plug, or per group controlled group of plugs?

Thanks,
Glenn K.
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Re: Strobes vs Heads
Old 09-23-2005, 08:40 AM   #2 (permalink)
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Each "Flavor" is used for different things. mono lights are usally used in the portrait industry. Power packs are usually used in the commercial industry. I have used both in the portrait and glamour industry. I prefer to use the monolights. They have more controll over the power outputs. Oh and BTW the total watts in a power pack is the maximum the power pack can output no matter how many heads it has on the pack.
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Re: Strobes vs Heads
Old 09-23-2005, 11:17 AM   #3 (permalink)
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I have a Pro foto pack system as well as 5 Photogenic Powerlights.

I much prefer my monolights. Each one is self contained, infinitely variable without regard for the other, not tied by distance to the pack, etc.

The Pack systems seem more robust.

Simple example, Set up a monolight 30 fee from a model to the left, and 10 feet to the right...a distance of 40 feet. No big wup. Can't do that with a single pack system, not enough cord lenght.

Put a pack head over a model for a hair light, and then another for the main, you are limited by the cords again, and the ratio.

My Pro Foto pack has 3 outlets. You can plug a "main" into outlet one and 2 heads into the "B" side.

Your only choices of "ratio" are full power, half power, 1/4 power to the main. You can split the B side off and have it fire at full, 1/2 1/4 etc but the 2 lights on the B side are basically tied together. Once you get the basic ratio, then you can turn a knob to vary the output of all by about 2 stops. My monolights by comparison, can adjust in 10th of a stop increments.

I often shoot a rim light, and if you were limited to full, half or quarter power, it severly limits your abilities.

Yeah, you can move the light closer/further to the model, but that changes the effect, wrap around, etc, apart from intensity.

Why then are pack systems so popular? Well, they are built like a brick, and if you are willing to put up with certain limitations, they offer high quality light, longevity, and aren't that hard to deal with once you get the hang of it.

I might be of a different opionion if I could get three or four packs but I can't afford it.

At least with a pack sytem, if you get your ratio right in the first place, a single turn of the knob essentially turns them all up and down in unison, instead of running around and adjusting each one individually.

If a pack goes down, the whole system goes down.

If one of my monolights goes down (never happened yet) I still have 4 others.

I bought my pack sytem generator to run a ring light and got the 2 heads as a package deal.

I rarely use them.

If I was travelling around and shooting a basic 2 light portrait session, then I might use them more often. Or again, if I had 2 packs and multiple light heads, they would be fine.

It's really a matter of choice.

I'm sure the more experience can give you 10 other reasons for using packs.



Mark
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I\'ve found the perfect solution!
Old 09-23-2005, 11:21 AM   #4 (permalink)
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Balcar. I initially got into this through an insane deal on ebay, $0.07 per wattsecond, for an A5000 and two heads. It's a pack and head system. Then I found out they make/made monolights. The monolights actually have a plug on them for adding one of their heads! Actually using a splitter you could add two heads. That is the sh1t! I've never seen that before, but it's an awesome idea. It really fuses the two systems together and opens some interesting possibilities. Any other mfrs have a similar feature? Now the bad news. The packs have a high sync voltage (253v) and there's little sales or support for the system in the US. Calumet used to distribute for Balcar but is in the process of transitioning to their own brand. Also the monolights are heavey mofos weighing in around 12lbs for a 1500ws light.
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Re: Strobes vs Heads
Old 09-23-2005, 05:18 PM   #5 (permalink)
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[ QUOTE ]
Also, if a power pack is rated for 1000 w/s, is that the total supply across all plugs, per plug, or per group controlled group of plugs?

[/ QUOTE ]

Depends on the pack. For example on my Novatrons the total ws is split over all sockets with heads plugged in. On some Novatron heads you can select normal or -1 stop.

On my Balcar system it's split into banks. Bank one is 1 socket and half the pack's power. Bank two has two sockets and the other half of the power. Bank two has 2 modes, separate where each socket gets 1/4 power, or combined where one socket gets all the power if the other isn't in use. Sounds confusing, but I mostly leave it in separate mode. Combined mode primarily exists because there are heads with two flash tubes in them so you can dump the entire pack's power (5000ws) through one head!

Generally the better the pack is, the more power output options it will have.
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Re: Strobes vs Heads
Old 09-23-2005, 05:43 PM   #6 (permalink)
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In addition to what everyone else has said let me add the following: you can find very powerful power packs, up to 9600 w/s. If you're lighting something big and need a lot of DOF, like when shooting an automobile, you're going to need multiple packs. For portraiture and the like you most likely don't need this much power unless you're shooting large groups. Monolights tend to top out around 1000 or 1200 w/s.

Monolights are also heavier than a head. This may be an issue, from a stability standpoint, if you've got something in a big softbox on the end of a boom stand.

Some packs give you individual control over each outlet. Others may divide the power equally between connected heads, or offer some sort of asymmetrical power distribution. The more expensive the pack, the more variability you're probably going to get. The Profoto D4 and the Broncolor units are veritable swiss army knives, but they're pricey.

Some powerpacks, like Dynalite and Profoto, also have PocketWizard receivers built in to them. You just need a transmitter and then all your heads can be triggered wirelessly. With monolights you would have to purchase a receiver for each light. Not a deal breaker by any stretch, but once you go wireless you'll never go back, trust me. The Hensel Integra Plus monolights have a Hensel wireless receiver built in, and if you buy a kit you get a transmitter. I don't believe they're compatible with PocketWizards, but I could be wrong.

For redundancy, it's hard to beat monolights from a price standpoint. Multiple, powerful generators do put a dent in the budget. For a professional advertising photographer it's the cost of doing business, but for a non-wealthy hobbiest it's a concern.

I have both packs and monolights, and use both regularly. They each have their advantages and disadvantages, so which I use depends on the nature of the assignment.

-Chip
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Re: Strobes vs Heads
Old 09-23-2005, 05:46 PM   #7 (permalink)
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sorry I can't compare too much, the only Packs I have shot were at a Rolando workshop and yes they were Hensels, I loved the light from their beauty dish enough to dump my five White Lightning/Alien Bees and go with SIX 500w Hensel mono Lights (all bought from B&H)..

here is a recent shot:



I had the same questions about packs vs monos and went with monos for most of the reasons listed herein..
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Re: Strobes vs Heads
Old 09-26-2005, 10:44 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Thanks for all the replies, great info there! I was debating buying a used pack system, since portraits are gonna be my bread and butter for some time... but ol' Mr Murphy stepped in. Between having to replace my camera a month ago, and one of my E-bait mono's blowing last night... wound up ordering a 400 Bee since the cash just isn't there. I could have gone with an 800, but I have to balance with that other anemic light, and my shooting area is small so I don't need a system that can send signals to the ISS.

And wow, six Hensels, Steven? That woulda been a hard choice... new Harley... more lights... new Harley... [img]/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/grin.gif[/img]

You sell those old lights yet?
Cheers!
Glenn K.
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