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Thread: Lighting

  1. #1
    Loose Canon's Avatar
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    Lighting

    I have been thinking lately that I would like to try to get into some lighting situations.

    As usual, its looking like Iím going to have to sell my soul (again) to do it!

    Lighting wise, I presently have available one 580exII flash, an Interfit 16x16Ē softbox, OCF eTTL sync cable, 41Ē 5in1 reflector.

    Iím looking at possibly acquiring two additional 580exIIís, a Phototek 46Ē hybrid umbrella, various and sundry stands and mounts, etc. to support these items to start. I would like to have a kit that affords portability, and easy storage. I have neither the room nor the inclination to go for big studio gear.

    I also want to go eTTL radio wireless and after a dizzying amount of research, reviews, comparisonís, I find myself somewhat disoriented.

    It appears the choices for this are going to be Radiopopper or Pocket Wizard. I want eTTL/manual and the ability to control my strobes from one position without having to hoof over and fiddle with each individually. Also HSS. And mostly, this is no inexpensive proposition so I hope to make the ďrightĒ choice first and not spend my life in regret with a depleted wallet to boot!

    I find that at this point I am unable to make a decision between these two. So Iím not going to get in any hurry.

    PocketWizards:
    Am I better off looking at TT5ís all around instead of a TT1/TT5 combo? The site says its better for range, and the RF interference that is a known problem with the PW/580exII. And speaking of? Is there any known issues with using the shield sock that is now supposedly supplied with these units to abate the interference issue. And one reason I ask is because I am finding reports of these PW units burning out the 580exIIís. I wonder if this could be a reason. There are no words to describe how I would feel if these things fried three 580ís! As an aside, I would also go for an AC3 Zone controller.

    Other issues I am reading about:
    1. Having to take 2-3 recalibration shots after sleep, meaning all to often. And having to shut everything off and repower it from time to time to reset it?
    2. Inaccurate (resulting in inaccurate exposures) firing and miss firing.
    3. Inadequate build (plastic foot that appears to be a consistent weak point and lots of consistent breakage.
    4. Purchasing additional accessories to make these things work (ferrite chokes, additional OC-E3 cables for each flash unit). Especially after a big initial outlay to buy into the system to begin with.

    I really want to like this system, but I have visions of toasted strobes that will not be repaired under warranty because of it. Or should I just go for the 430exIIís, which I would rather not do, and which reportedly work well with PW due to their reduced noise output?

    Radiopoppers:
    First and foremost, I am not exactly in love with the fact that I have to have a $500 piece of lighting equipment attached to my camera to get these to work. One workaround I wonder about and have found no info on (I am probably going to see if I can email RP directly about this) is if I could sync one of my off camera flashes (the closest one) with a cable and attach the Tx to it instead of having to have it on camera.

    And speaking of attaching, Iím not real thrilled with having to attach the Tx with Velcro to the top of my flash. I may even want some ďattach to flash headĒ gizmos to play with.

    So far, what I think Iím looking at is a reduced feature set with the RPís, and having to work off a commander flash. These are even more expensive than the PWís. However, not so much so if the PWís damage my flashes.

    I just saw this, too, but have not looked into it very hard yet:

    Phottix

    Seems like they just started shipping, but I have found a couple of favorable reviews. Any opinions on how these might play? These seem to be TTL/manual, but can control from the Tx and at a better price point. I wonder if I would I really miss eTTL so much? Plus they are upgradable via USB supposedly similar to the PWís.

    I usually donít jump right into a new release until it has been around a whileÖ

    I have done a lot of searching on this Forum. It looks like this is going to take more sorting than I originally thought so naturally I came here for some opinions!

    As you can see, Iím a bit bewildered here. If anyone could help shed a little light (pun intended!) I would be grateful. Comments on any of the above gear, especially the radio triggers, would be most appreciated.

  2. #2
    rpcrowe's Avatar
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    Re: Lighting

    Unless you absolutely NEED the portability of hotshoe type flashes such as the 580EX ii; I would suggest that you look into some real studio strobes. The 580EX ii seems like it is running about $450 (U.S. Dollars) on Amazon. That means $900 for a pair of them.

    You could get a pair of Alien Bees B800 (for main light and fill) and a pair on Alien Bees B400 (for BG and hair light) for about a hundred bucks more.

    Adorama's line of Flashpoint Monolights have received good reviews and are even less expensive. Those lights can also be equipped with battery packs if you desire portability.

    Calumet's Genisis line of lights and accessories are also a lot less expensive than a couple of 580EX ii hotshoe flashes.

    IMO, besides the significant price differential the true studio strobe has the following advantages over the jury-rigged hotshoe flashes:

    1. EQUIPPED WITH MODELING LIGHTS - This is, to me the greatest advantage and gives you WYSIWYG shooting capability...

    2. A/C POWERED - Recycle time remains constant rather than getting longer as the puny AA batteries get weaker...

    3. MOUNT ON STANDS AND ACCEPT ACCESSORIES SUCH AS SOFTBOXES AND UMBRELLAS - Without having to purchase extra accessories to allow mounting on stands and acceping light modifiers...

    4. FAR MORE POWERFUL...

    5. FLASH HEADS ARE FAR LARGER - IMO, trying to modify the tiny specular light of a hotshoe flash with softbox or unbrella is like boiling ice cubes to make tea. You can do it, but it sure isn't the most efficient method to get a cup of tea...

    Additionally, you can often find very good prices on used studio strobes (either monolight or powerpack units). The manufacturers usually support these units with replacement parts for a long while after they are superceded by new models. I have some old White Lightning monolights that I bought used twenty years ago. Paul C. Buff still provides replacement parts such as flash tubes for these old WL-5000 units...

    Although it certainly helps to have a flash meter when working with studio strobes, I am perfectly capable of shooting without a meter. I can balance my lights by viewing the results of the modeling lights...

  3. #3
    speedneeder's Avatar
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    Re: Lighting

    Richard makes some excellent points. Where do you plan on using the equipment?

  4. #4

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    Re: Lighting

    Hi Terry,

    I'm a PocketWizard & 580EX II "power-user", and I'm pretty sure I can answer all of your questions (sorry I missed your post initially).

    When it comes to 580EX IIs, basically, "the more the merrier" (I use 4 for my portable rig), but cost is of course a big factor. Certainly another couple will give you a LOT of versatility for indoor and outdoor portraiture.

    In terms of mounting hardware, you're also going to need a few shoot-through umbrellas and brackets to mount the TT5 / 580EX II / Umbrella together as a unit, and in turn that lot onto a light stand or boom arm (can give you more details about that if you want).

    In my opinion, the PocketWizards are the way to go - hands down. There's been a LOT of cr^p written by people who don't understand them. Well I DO understand them - I use them professionally - and I can answer any questions you might have about them (I've enjoyed a nice working relationship with their tech support dept, and provide feedback on beta releases). Keep in mind too that the PocketWizard firmware has come a LONG way since a lot of those reports were (mis)written.

    1. Having to take 2-3 recalibration shots after sleep, meaning all to often.
    To the best of my knowledge, it only does one calibration shot, and that's when you power-up the system. It does this to figure out the timing because it doesnt know what type of camera you're using, and the timing varies between camera models. If you TELL the firmware what type of camera you're using (by NOT choosing the AUTO camera detect option, and then selecting your camera model) then it doesn't need to do ANY calibration shots.

    And having to shut everything off and repower it from time to time to reset it?
    You'll probably find that you need to power off/on the TT1 occasionally (and only occasionally). I think I had to do it only once during my last 1200+ frame shoot, but yes, it is still a minor issue.

    Am I better off looking at TT5’s all around instead of a TT1/TT5 combo?
    The TT1 works fine out to about "50 paces down my drive" - way way way way further than you'll be if you're shooting portraiture. The TT5 was good for about 60 paces. Stick with the TT1 - it's a LOT smaller.

    The site says its better for range, and the RF interference that is a known problem with the PW/580exII.
    The easiest solution is to put some distance between the 580EX II and the TT5 by using an off-camera shoe cord, but again, in practice, it's not a big issue for normal shooting. If you're trying to trigger a flash between 2 aircraft in flight then you're going to need the old PW Plus IIs, but for most things the TT1 / TT5 is fine. Just remember - the longer the range, the greater the chance that togs would get interferance between units (if you're shooting with them on the beach, do you really WANT another tog's rig that's 500 yards away to trigger your lights?).

    And speaking of? Is there any known issues with using the shield sock that is now supposedly supplied with these units to abate the interference issue.
    I doubt you'll need them - I didn't.

    And one reason I ask is because I am finding reports of these PW units burning out the 580exII’s. I wonder if this could be a reason. There are no words to describe how I would feel if these things fried three 580’s! As an aside, I would also go for an AC3 Zone controller.
    Another prime example of internet hysteria! No - LPA design have investigated this rumour thoroughly, and found no basis for it -- you can real all about their findings here ...

    http://www.canonrumors.com/files/580EXII.pdf

    Inaccurate (resulting in inaccurate exposures) firing and miss firing.
    It does happen in one or two shots per 100 - but in my research - nothing says it's the PocketWizards causing this. Ultimately the exposure is commanded by the camera, and I've also heard of 580 series flashes doing full dumps uncommanded (tied up with the info in the PDF above) -- so nothing we can blame on the PWs at this stage. Either way, it's not a big problem.

    Inadequate build (plastic foot that appears to be a consistent weak point and lots of consistent breakage.
    I've broken 3 (in 2 seperate accidents), but that's not necessarily a bad thing, as they're acting like a safety fuse. The foot itself is only USD $11 to replace - and reasily available from LPA Design. In my case I had a gust of wind catch an umbrella high on a boom arm which brought the whole rig (with 2x 580EX IIs) down in a crashing heap; I'm pretty sure that the foot breaking probably saved the flashes from mechanical damage. I sure as heck would rather break an $11 plastic foot on a TT1 than rip the metal foot off the bottom of a 580EX II (which I've also seen). In another accident part of an umbrella seperated from a clamp - leaving my daughter holding the $12 umbrella, and sending $2000 forth of lighting to the ground (Murphy's law!) - again, no damage to the flash, and the broken foot easily replaced (I keep a couple of spares). Again, if you seperate the TT5 from the 580EX II with an OCSC then it's mechanically more robust.

    Purchasing additional accessories to make these things work (ferrite chokes, additional OC-E3 cables for each flash unit). Especially after a big initial outlay to buy into the system to begin with.
    You won't need them. Plus - 3rd party OCSC's are cheap if you really want to use them.

    With regards to the RadioPoppers - they're a dinky and cleaver little design, but they're not in the same league as the PWs.

    One more thing - BE SURE TO GET AN AC3 ZONE CONTROLLER to work with the TT1 - they're pure magic - TOTAL fingertip control over 3 zones of light (in ETTL or manual or mixed modes).
    Last edited by Colin Southern; 2nd October 2011 at 12:29 AM.

  5. #5
    speedneeder's Avatar
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    Re: Lighting

    Colin, can you use the AC3 zone controller with pw tt1/5's and 430 ex ii's? Or do you need at least one 580 master? I'm confused if the camera can be the master or not (60D in my case).
    Thanks

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    Re: Lighting

    Quote Originally Posted by speedneeder View Post
    Colin, can you use the AC3 zone controller with pw tt1/5's and 430 ex ii's? Or do you need at least one 580 master? I'm confused if the camera can be the master or not (60D in my case).
    Thanks
    Hi Brian,

    Yes you can - if you turn on "Force TTL Master Mode" in the firmware. That option tells the camera that a master controller is present, even when it's not (The TT1 assumes the role of master controller). That's one of the BIG differences with the PWs -v- RadioPoppers.

    Basically, the PWs juggle the protocol "on the fly" - so even when the AC3 has a zone under manual control, the flashes are still in ETTL mode (although there is a "trigger only" mode to enable compatability with older Plus II units).
    Last edited by Colin Southern; 2nd October 2011 at 08:57 AM.

  7. #7
    speedneeder's Avatar
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    Re: Lighting

    Thanks for the info Colin.
    Assuming I already had three 430 exii's then with the ac3 and three tt1/5's I could command three groups from my camera? No wait, I would need four tt1/5's?

    (I actually have three YN-560's and one 430 exii now.)

  8. #8
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    Re: Lighting

    Quote Originally Posted by Loose Canon View Post
    I have been thinking lately that I would like to try to get into some lighting situations.
    Terry,

    Just as with members who ask what camera or what lens should they buy, lighting also needs to be in the context of what scene will be illuminated.

    So, what will be you shooting ?

    Addressing the question generically, I suggest you take a look at Michael Zelbel's Smoking Strobes web site and his FreePhotographyTips youtube channel

    Michael Zelbel is a professional glamour and portraiture photographer who shares his knowledge on lighting set ups all based on minimal equipment and speedlights, here is an example:


    Michael also has several photography lighting ebooks available and I was on the team of test readers of his latest book "Shoot like a Pro today! 6 Steps to Awesome Boudoir Photography".

    That should at least be a start in A direction, but it all depends on what you'll be needing.

  9. #9
    speedneeder's Avatar
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    Re: Lighting

    Steaphany, thank you for the reference.

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    Re: Lighting

    Quote Originally Posted by speedneeder View Post
    Thanks for the info Colin.
    Assuming I already had three 430 exii's then with the ac3 and three tt1/5's I could command three groups from my camera? No wait, I would need four tt1/5's?

    (I actually have three YN-560's and one 430 exii now.)
    Hi Brian,

    You need 1x TT1 on-camera (with AC3), and a TT5 for each flash (if you're doing ETTL). Not sure how well they would all talk to your YN-560's though.

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    Re: Lighting

    Quote Originally Posted by Steaphany View Post
    I was on the team of test readers of his latest book "Shoot like a Pro today! 6 Steps to Awesome Boudoir Photography".
    When does the book come out Steaphany?

    PS: I reckon "how to xxx like a pro" has got to be THE single most over-used advertising "slogan" in photography today!

  12. #12
    Steaphany's Avatar
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    Re: Lighting

    Quote Originally Posted by Colin Southern View Post
    When does the book come out Steaphany?
    Colin,

    I just sent a message to Michael asking about the "6 Steps to Awesome Boudoir Photography" release date. I'll let you know what I find out.

  13. #13
    Steaphany's Avatar
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    Re: Lighting

    Colin,

    I just heard back from Michael Zelbel and he said that though he doesn't has a specific release date scheduled, he is anticipating that "6 Steps to Awesome Boudoir Photography" will be available in about 5 weeks.

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    Re: Lighting

    Quote Originally Posted by Steaphany View Post
    Colin,

    I just heard back from Michael Zelbel and he said that though he doesn't has a specific release date scheduled, he is anticipating that "6 Steps to Awesome Boudoir Photography" will be available in about 5 weeks.
    Thanks Steaphany,

    Perhaps if I miss it - and you hear about it - you'd be so kind as to let me know? Is he doing it via Kindle?

  15. #15
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    Re: Lighting

    Thank you all for your responses. They are all very helpful in getting me to thinking in what I hope is the right direction.

    Richard,
    I am looking at the Alien Bees and I can see why Buff produces one of, if not the most, popular lighting systems in the US today. Your reasons for suggesting this direction are very compelling. Not to mention more bang for the buck. I was originally looking for extreme portability. I donít have a lot of room for a studio setup in my house and any studio work there would have to be on a limited scale, which while a bit cramped would still be possible. The video Steaphany provided portrayed a type of shooting I could feasibly do. Iím still looking at this, Richard, because one thought I have had involved maybe mixing components (studio/Speedlite) and the Buff products may be portable enough.

    Brian,
    You asked $32,000 worth of the $64,000 question! Steaphany asked the other half, which Iíll get to!

    Colin,
    Thank you for the advice on the PocketWizards. I was hoping youíd chime in here regarding those. And I will most likely take advantage of your generous offer regarding questions about those and related lighting hardware. And probably sooner rather than later in this journey! The LPA report was kind of an eye-opener and explained a lot of things I had wondered (worried) about. It certainly boosts confidence in the LPA product, but conversely does not with Canon designs. Seems I recall reading quite some time ago about Beloved Daughterís experience! Murphy just ainít funny sometimes!

    Steaphany,
    I enjoyed the video, and plan to catch more of those when I get off this air card on onto a wire.

    The question you have posed to me is one that I asked myself in the beginning of course. I was actually wondering how long it would take for someone to ask me this on this thread! Iím not so sure I have a black & white answer yet or if I ever will.

    As an example, I would like to maybe start shooting portraiture. Iím starting to get a lot of pressure from family and friends for this. Resistance seems futile! But whatís more important, I get a feeling that this is a direction I need to go. I feel drawn by the light, so to speak (pun intended). In other words, I feel a need to explore and get a grip on light, mixing and balancing ambient and artificial, techniques, and everything that goes with it. This seems like a good way to do it and now seems like a good time. Especially if I have some ďmodelsĒ (victims) available. I plan on making said family and friends sorry they leaned on me! They want portraits? Fine! They are going to have to pay for it by putting up with me until I get it right!

    Also, I have some ideas for shooting architecture that is going to involve lighting. And some nature type shots with a mix of ambient/artificial. I donít have any one thing in mind specifically. So because of this, I had hoped to maybe put together a solid, versatile, and mobile ďstarterĒ rig and build as needs revealed themselves. But I can see that there are some items that will be necessary regardless of what I intend to shoot. The radio triggers are one thing. Seems like some type of radio system is going to be absolutely necessary what with lights being hidden in softboxes, behind shoot-throughs, or behind walls possibly, and working in bright sunshine. Line-of-sight optical isnít going to do it. Iím actually hoping for some range on these because I actually can see some applications where I might need a bit more than the 50 paces down the drive that Colin mentioned. Although if that equates to 100-150 feet that is pretty good. I donít know what Colinís paces are, but at least a couple of feet each I would think! Of course, light modifiers, hardware, etc. are also considerations, and Iíll keep those items in mind as I look at all possibilities.

    Since I will inevitably be working in bright sunshine at some point, I want to be able to have the techniques and equipment to make that work. I can see the probability of not having the luxury of involving shade all the time. Which was why I was looking at HSS. I may not necessarily need it so much as I thought if I have enough Ws and technique to use it. If I shoot someoneís portrait I figure I will, to a large degree, be limited to their schedule. And that most likely wonít be the times I would prefer.

    I want to be able to go on most any location to do this. I really donít want to have to haul half a ton of gear over a two mile mud hiking trail to get the shot if I donít have to. But those ďdrive toĒ spots could be conducive to larger studio type lighting as Richard mentioned. So I have considered possibly a mix (studio/Speedlite). And I would need to be able to mix and match everything as needed and have the ability to fire it with one system. In other words eventually to be able to tackle challenges with some degree of confidence!

    Thank you for reminding me, Steaphany, that I need to keep your important question in mind as I follow this path. I think this will prove to be an important step for me and I want to do it right. Equipment is only a part of the equation. Education will be key and Iím enjoying the process.

    Just as an aside, its nice to have a kind of ďhome forumĒ where I can come, ask the questions, and get the good answers. I appreciate that.

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    Re: Lighting

    Hi Terry,

    Just sing out if you need any help with any of this -- it's all pretty much "been there - done that - bought the t-shirt" stuff, so I'm sure I can add something to the mix.

    To be honest, the more you get into it - the more you'll find that you do cart a truckload of gear on location (I typically cart 4x 580EX IIs / TT5 / CP-E4 - lots of lenses - 1 or 2 light stands - a 4-Square (from lightware to get all of the 580EX IIs firing into a softbox) - and an assistant. For heavier shoots, add a generator and a couple of studio heads + a couple of softboxes and smoke generator).

    For outdoor / location portraiture, you might like to take a look http://www.pbase.com/cjsouthern/outdoor_portraits - the first 28 shots here were done in the one afternoon using 4x 580EX II in the 4-Square.

  17. #17
    Loose Canon's Avatar
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    Re: Lighting

    Thank you, Colin. I'll probably be singing like a bird! Though I doubt I'll be able to afford a T-shirt when all of this is said and done!

    One quickie please? Would it be safe to assume that, when on location, you fire your studio heads and Speedlites together with your PocketWizards? (I thought I read recently that you have another triggering system for your actual studio)

    Or if it comes to that, do you even mix the two lighting types?

  18. #18

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    Re: Lighting

    Quote Originally Posted by Loose Canon View Post
    Thank you, Colin. I'll probably be singing like a bird! Though I doubt I'll be able to afford a T-shirt when all of this is said and done!

    One quickie please? Would it be safe to assume that, when on location, you fire your studio heads and Speedlites together with your PocketWizards? (I thought I read recently that you have another triggering system for your actual studio)

    Or if it comes to that, do you even mix the two lighting types?
    Hi Terry,

    No worries

    Yes - PWs + Speedlights in the field, and Airports + Elinchroms in the studio. If I need to mix them, then the Elinchroms have a built in sensor - I just need to use the flashes in psudo-manual mode so the preflash doesn't set the Elinchroms off.

    The big different between the rigs in practice is that in the field I have ambient light to work with - in the studio, ambient light is ZERO (for all intents and purposes).

  19. #19
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    Re: Lighting

    Terry im just going through the mill as well re lighting, what did you buy in the end and how are you getting on with it?

    Ive decided to go down the 2 x speedlites sb900 and 2 elinchrome rx 600, stand modifiers...... PW's for speedlites but undecided on triggering / controlling rx 600's need to pick Colins brain a little more on that subject!

    mark

  20. #20
    Loose Canon's Avatar
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    Re: Lighting

    Hi Mark!

    Very sweet batch of kit on which you have decided! I don't see how you could possibly go wrong with that.

    As for me, I have yet to pull the trigger on anything so far. I'm still in the "due diligence" stage so to speak.

    I know what I want, but I'm not real sure yet what I will ultimately need. The problem for me is "want" and "need" rarely have anything to do with each other! I'm still trying to put together in my mind something I can build on as things progress while keeping costs somewhat under control (yeah, like that's gonna happen!).

    Fortunately, at this point, I have the luxury of being able to wait for "Divine Intervention" (or at least a reasonable facsimile!) to bite me in the rear!

    Thank you for asking, though, Mark.

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