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Pack & Heads VS Monolights
Old 07-14-2007, 12:09 PM   #1 (permalink)
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I am at the point where I would like to start getting my own lighting. My instructor at the school I got to suggests getting the pack and heads. I hear most people use monolights. What are your thoughts on this?

I also would like to have something portable to take out on location. I will be going places that there isn't going to be an electrical outlet.

My budget is about 2 or 3 grand.

Cheers
Tim
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Re: Pack & Heads VS Monolights
Old 07-14-2007, 12:58 PM   #2 (permalink)
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For example, most basic mono light sets come as 3 lights to set. If for any reason one light goes out while you're shooting, you still have 2 left to finish the job.
If your pack goes out, you can go home.
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Re: Pack & Heads VS Monolights
Old 07-14-2007, 04:39 PM   #3 (permalink)
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There are advantages to each. Generally you'll find the pack and heads units are more powerful. You can have a bunch of quite small heads, and one larger power pack with huge WS power. Typically the the mono lights max out at about 1000WS to 1250ws and they are quite large (at the high WS range). So 4 of them will be quite a load. I find the mono lights easier to work with because it's easier to establish a lighting ratio. I have both types and sometimes use them together. I have Alien Bee monos and a Novatron Powerpack with 4 heads.
Another advantage you often get with the power pack/heads units is that they recycle much faster. With mono lights you are at the mercy of the slowest to recycle unit.

Anything can be taken on location if you have a battery power supply to take with you. The Alien Bees have a new battery power supply that is really a great buy. Hensel also has some good options but they are in the higher price range and are made in Germany.

If I was really looking at the most flexibility with the smallest size and best ease of traveling then I think I would go with Alien Bee mono lights. Your governing factor will be whether you need to often have lights putting out 1000 plus WS per flash such as when overpowering the sun. If you live in the US, then it often makes sense to go with a totally US manufactured flash system with super ease of repair, warranty and replacement parts. For example, Alien Bee units are made in the US and even when out of warranty a token $40 fee is what is charged for repair (and that includes return shipping). Also if you need to replace a flash tube it is about $30 as compared to $200 to $300 for flash tubes of many of the other flash systems.

Another factor is ease of use. I find the ABs to be very easy to use. The power slider is the fastest way to go to choose the power for a unit. Hensel has a nice little remote that lets you dial in the power, but I find it very small and hard to use (and you need good vision which for me means I have to put on my reading glasses every time I want to change something).

If you are not buying this instant, you might go to one of JT Smith's workshops and one of RG's workshops and then you can actually use and compare the AB's (JT Smith is sponsored by Alien Bee) on one hand and the Hensel's (RG is sponsored by Hensel) on the other.

Cheers,
rfs
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Re: Pack & Heads VS Monolights
Old 07-14-2007, 05:53 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Check out Paul Buff Lighting - White Lighning or Alien Bees. I have had my Mono lights for almost 18 years. Heavy use and abuse. Easy to set up, great service, great price. The Pack and heads is not a very user friendly system for quick changes, cords everywhere. I would not even consider them
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Re: Pack & Heads VS Monolights
Old 07-14-2007, 08:26 PM   #5 (permalink)
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When it comes to lighting, anyone reading this forum--notice I said "forum" not simply this thread--might think there is nothing out there worth buying but Hensel or Bees.

If you have the budget and you want to make production easier for yourself, Hensel certainly isn't the only manufacturer of costlier and higher quality lighting instruments to consider.

If you're on a budget, Alien Bees aren't your only choice either.

Either way, I suggest anyone who is about to spend some money--a lot of money or somewhat less--take the time to do their homework, figure out what it is you'll mostly be doing with those lights (i.e, figure out what your actual needs are) and look at many options, not the least of which would be taking advantage of "sale" prices or other incentives when available.

I use Novatron monolights. They're medium priced, American made, and while they're not overly powerful nor are they very stylish or hi-tech looking, I don't use them to overpower the sun much and I'm not a slave to technology-fashion.
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Re: Pack & Heads VS Monolights
Old 07-14-2007, 08:44 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jimmyd View Post
I use Novatron monolights. They're medium priced, American made, and while they're not overly powerful nor are they very stylish or hi-tech looking, I don't use them to overpower the sun much and I'm not a slave to technology-fashion.
The other thing about Novatrons is that seem to last forever. I've been using the same power pack and heads for 30 years and everything still works just as well as when I bought them. And that is even with at least all of the heads having crashed into the floor more than once when light stands were knocked over. The only thing that ever broke was a modeling light, and since you can use household bulbs, that was no biggie to replace.
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Re: Pack & Heads VS Monolights
Old 07-14-2007, 09:09 PM   #7 (permalink)
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On the principle that it's worth mentioning some other brands - I have used Interfit (UK) continuous lighting, and I hear that their strobes are inexpensive; I now have Elinchrom (Swiss), and I like them a lot - their RX lights support flexible inexpensive radio triggers.

Elinchrom have been making photographic lighting for a long time, and they make both packs and monos - they also make a complete set of modifiers (including softboxes, reflectors, beauty dishes, grids, etc) and their modifiers fit all the lights they've made since the 1970s.

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Re: Pack & Heads VS Monolights
Old 07-14-2007, 10:14 PM   #8 (permalink)
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For what it's worth I operasted a full service commercial studio with Novatrons and White Lightnins (Alien Bees slightly older brother). Both worked quite well for me and I pretty much used them on the basis of whichever was closest to my hand or whichever happened to be mounted. Both gave me more light than I ever needed.

Problems with each: Well, er ... none, not ever, ,uhhh, unles you try to bopunce them on cement floors. Lost shots due to slow recycling time; none ever. Comments from clients, commercial or retail portrait, because I did not have the most expensive lights around; none, not ever. Well a couple commented along the lines of "Wow, you sure have a lot of lights!"

Which is better in my view? Do you like Fords or Chevies? Both do the job and do it quite well. I won't comment about outdoor use with battery packs as I never had the need or desire to do that.

Disadvantages? Well, monolights can require a lot of wall sockets as each has its own power cord. Novatron powerpacks are convenient to use and require only one electric socket. there is no concern about whether or not a slave unit can see the mother light, they fire off of the powerpack. If for some reason the powerpack dies, you are out of usiness until it is replaced. That happend to me once in about 20 years with a pack bought used. The Novatron modeling lights last a very looooong time, but when they do burn out the replacement has to be soldered in place. "Since I'm no kind of electrician having that done cost me about 200 bucks. The second time I simply replaced the head with a new one for just a little more cash.
Neither Novatron nor White Lightnin' units bounce well on cement floors, trust me on that one!

If I were just starting out now, personally I would probably go for the Alien Bees.
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Re: Pack & Heads VS Monolights
Old 07-14-2007, 10:42 PM   #9 (permalink)
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[quote=Doug_Lester;253787]The Novatron modeling lights last a very looooong time, but when they do burn out the replacement has to be soldered in place. QUOTE]

I have 4 Novatron heads that I bought with the powerpack about 30 years ago. They just have a regular socket for the modeling lights, so you unscrew the old one and replace with even a household type light bulb. Did they change the heads at some point to require soldered modeling lights --- that would seem like a step backward.
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Re: Pack & Heads VS Monolights
Old 07-15-2007, 07:57 AM   #10 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 5nap5hot View Post
My instructor at the school I got to suggests getting the pack and heads. I hear most people use monolights. What are your thoughts on this?

Some of you missed the real question and jumped right on brand bashing/pushing just like the other 6572 posts before this.
I asked the same question before I purchased my lights and got the same answer from this group. Did my research elsewhere and decided on mono lights.
I own 3 500w and 6 750W Bowens . If you move around a lot it's convenient to have extra lights, so I don't have to pack the ones, that are already setup and hanging on the rails from the ceiling in the studio.
The friend of mine have two packs that never leaves his studio and have a set of 3 monolights that he travels with.
If I were you starting all over again, I would spend a little extra money and rent a set for a weekend and test drive them. Each one have it's advantages and disadvantages and by working with them you'll find out which one fits your needs the most. You can probably rent a set for a $100 or so from Friday afternoon till Monday morning.
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