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Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Monolights & Strobes

Gear options for powerful and fast illumination to capture the action or create amazing effects

Labels: GearLighting
This Article Features Photo Zoom

Elinchrom's D-Lite RX series is a compact, affordable strobe system that can compete with the versatility of speedlights. Capable of roughly twice the power of a typical on-camera flash at roughly the same price point, the D-Lite RX One 100W/s head begins the series, followed by the D-Lite 200W/s RX 2 flash head and the D-Lite 400W/s RX 4. All three lights feature a five-stop power range and an Intelligent Slave Cell optical trigger, which is designed to ignore pre-flash. Visual Flash Confirmation dims the modeling light until full recycle is achieved, and Skyport Software compatibility gives control over functions from Mac or Windows operating systems when used with the optional Transceiver RX module. An iOS Elinchrom Skyport WiFi app can also be used with the optional Skyport WiFi module for iPhone and iPad control. Estimated Street Price: $225 (D-Lite RX One); $339 (D-Lite RX 2); $399 (D-Lite RX 4).

Westcott's 5600K Strobelite monolight offers 300W/s effective output, which recycles in 2.5 seconds at full power. The inexpensive fixture includes a 100W modeling light, reflector and mini-to-PC sync cord. The Strobelite Monolight is a great choice as a secondary or fill light because it includes a built-in optical slave trigger. The more powerful Strobelite Plus offers 400W/s. Estimated Street Price: $149 (Strobelite); $229 (Strobelite Plus).

The 150W/s Interfit Stellar XD monolight includes a digital control panel with push-button controls for quickly making adjustments. Full-power bursts recycle in two seconds, and it includes a 150W modeling light and an "S" bayonet mount for using common light-modification tools. Interfit's Stellar series of monolights begins with this model, and there are more powerful units available. Estimated Street Price: $159.

Adorama offers the affordable daylight-balanced Flashpoint 180 Monolight and Battery kit (FPBPLB) with small umbrella and a bag for carrying the system. Two NP-F960 batteries power the light for up to 700 flashes at full-power 180W/s bursts. The mount is Bowens-compatible for adding widely available light-modification tools or softboxes and other front accessories through the compatible Flashpoint Bowens Speed Ring Adapter. There's a five-stop range of adjustment. List Price: $249.

Because you're projecting light from a single light source with a monolight, the output is high-contrast illumination that can be unflattering with portraiture and too concentrated for many other types of photography. Umbrellas, reflectors, softboxes, diffusion panels and silks, bounces and other light-modification tools will give you a way to manipulate light to control this harshly directional light. There are distinct classes of light-modification tools, but often products will incorporate several characteristics into one design. If you're interested in using light-modification tools (which you should be), when you're looking at your monolight options, ensure that they have a mount for adding umbrellas and other tools.

Diffusion reduces and scatters light for less contrast and hence softer, "wraparound" light by passing it through translucent material. Softboxes are a classic and popular diffusion tool for creating soft wraparound light. Many of them add silver or gold interiors to add a touch of specularity or warmth to output. A few other examples include silks, diffusion panels and domes.

Reflectors are versatile because they can be used to both strengthen and diffuse light by bouncing light directly toward the subject or simply by bouncing the rays of light in a way that makes them scatter for more diffuse coverage, like an umbrella. Most reflectors use gold, silver and white surface materials as well as combinations of these to bounce and affect the color temperature of the light. Beauty dishes, handheld reflective panels, bounce boards and umbrellas are examples of reflective tools.

There are also a number of tools that will allow you to channel and shape light output. Snoots, grids, barndoors and flags physically control the direction of the light by channeling it and concentrating it for large amounts of contrast if using a snoot or grid. The light can also be shaped or blocked if using barndoors, flags or "cookie" chiaroscuro tools, which allow you to create interesting shadows or effects by passing the light through patterned scrims or cutouts.


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