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PostPosted: Tue Nov 24, 2009 12:54 am 
So, looking into expanding my flash setup (currently have 1 Sony HVL-42AM) for the following aims:

- Working comfortably with multiple flashes
- Using multiple flashes to light large (10-15 persons) groups
- Dealing with high contrast scenes when doing wedding formals

My options are the Sony HVL-58AM or going the extreme opposite end and getting an Alienbee kit:

HVL-58AM
-----------------------

+ Shoe mounted, and easy to transport and setup.
+ Full TTL (which I use when shooting on camera)
+ Wireless (limited use since I don't have much confidence in large spaces)
+ Good bounce features
+ As powerful as most typical high end shoe mount flashes (important for high ceilings)
- Questionable build quality. I've had many issues with the HVL-42AM which misfires due to wobbly contact when mounted on camera. I've read on various forums that this problem is much the same with the 58 as well.
- Limited power compared to a similarly priced monoblock (with portable power). i.e. the 58 is really expensive!
- Very limited range of dedicated light modifiers (many generic ones though). Also, large modifiers may eat too much power to be effective for most scenes

Alienbee
-----------------
+ Powerful! Could knock down bright sunlight.
+ Could work well with my 42 in a main light/fill light kind of setup (same for the 58 but with more power)
+ Best value in terms of watts per second
+ Lots of high value modifiers
+ Dedicated wireless triggers which can be used to adjust power levels via radio signals.
- Not easy to transport and will require some effort to setup.
- Would be restricted to shooting mostly the formals as would be too cumbersome to shoot the main aspects of the wedding. Wouldn't be so bad as I wouldn't use 2 flashes in any case at the wedding or reception.
- No HSS

So, thats my list of pros (+) and cons (-). I'm leaning more towards the alienbee since formals are a big part of the wedding, and the extra power can help a lot when dealing with high contrast when shooting large groups. Also, in certain situations, I can probably also light a reception area (but i'll probably needs more than 1 alienbee so I can set this up before hand). I'm also afraid to plop down $500.00 for a flash that could wobble and misfire. But, I am open to suggestions and I'm far from convinced that the alienbee is the best way to go since I'm not sure monolights make sense at a wedding.


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PostPosted: Thu Nov 26, 2009 7:27 pm 
I would buy at least 3 normal hot shoe flashes if you're a pro (particularly a wedding shooter). One main flash (58), a backup (another 58) and then keep the 42. Command with the 58, or grab some RadioPoppers, Cactus v4s, or Cybersyncs and you'll be on your way.

That stuff (along with the Sun itself) should be your second best friend behind your lenses as regards your photography, and I believe three Sony flashes should be the bare minimum you should own.

So with that said, go with the f58, and think about buying two, or at least another 42, and then grab the ABs if you think you don't have enough power.

Hope that helps. :)


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PostPosted: Thu Nov 26, 2009 7:44 pm 
I think you have your pro/con list tack on. I own two alien bees and I highly recommend them. I love them for the vast amount of accessories/modifiers available at such a low cost.


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PostPosted: Mon Nov 30, 2009 1:41 am 
Sorry for the MUCH delayed response! Thanks guys.

Been mulling over this decision and even though the sensible decision might be to go with the 58, I think the Alienbee is probably the way to go for me.

I basically stripped down the question to find what I "needed", i.e. what I am intending to do and I think the Alienbee might be the way to go.

The Alienbee will be more useful (and much cheaper) on location when dealing with larger groups during formals. This is the primary reason why I want these lights as small strobes just don't lend themselves to that kind of work. I plan to get the 58 (or hopefully it's successor) as the bounce is much more flexible than the 42, but as it stands, my priority is being better prepared for formals, especially in really high contrast scenes (group in open shade which can be 3-5 stops darker than the background).

My theory isn't completely water tight :D , I know!


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PostPosted: Mon Nov 30, 2009 5:22 am 
Firstly, for on location, you'll need the battery pack which is an extra $300 bucks. (you probably know that already though).

However, remember, your f58 can do HSS with your camera, the AB can't. Either way you can overpower the sun with ease, it's a matter of whether you want to use your shutter or aperture for control. It actually makes much more sense exposure wise to use HSS.

If you only have one main flash, you NEED another if you're a professional. Period.

Have you come into situations where your flashes were under performing? I have a couple ABs, but it's because of my need for beauty dishes, and octoboxes and other lighting control methods that simply don't work easily with a flash. It's not an issue of light output.


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PostPosted: Wed Dec 02, 2009 11:03 pm 
Yes, my communication has been broken recently. Started a new job in a new company and its been hectic!

Anyways,

I wouldn't need a battery pack right away as the weddings I have lined up in the short term, will have power available (verified).

Personally, I'm not a fan of HSS. It works, don't get me wrong, but you loose so much power by using it that it does have limited usability as far as I can tell. A better technique might be able to get the best from it, but I haven't been able to nail it down and I haven't seen any convincing examples on how best to use HSS, especially when dealing with groups.

Also, just like you, I want to use light modifiers. I view them as such an essential part of photography when you have the option (not always, but sometimes you do) and I want to start to learn to use them.

But, my primary reason, is lighting large groups! I might get a next shoe mount flash (as a backup), probably from metz or quantum, but I doubt I'll buy the current crop of Sony flashes as they just don't seem to work very well (based on my experience with the 42 and stuff I've read online).

Sure, if flash is not critical to your work, then you can get them, but I feel so disappointed when I miss a shot (which might have been really good) just because I had my camera in portrait and the flash lost contact with the shoe (this happens a lot on my A300 body).

Think I might pull the trigger on the Alienbee this weekend. I was thinking the Einstein was interesting, but it seems to be perpetually in development! I'll be getting the 1 light B1600 kit + 60" white umbrella and cybersync triggers. The final damage is roughly $650.00 which isn't bad.

What modifiers do you recommend getting in the medium term?


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Dec 03, 2009 1:13 am 
I only have an umbrella and a medium octa-box. I really want some barn doors though. I used my triggers for the first time today and they worked great... never skipped a beat.


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PostPosted: Thu Dec 03, 2009 4:18 pm 
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Joined: Sun Feb 15, 2009 12:59 pm
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Location: The Netherlands
Tomis wrote:
I only have an umbrella and a medium octa-box. I really want some barn doors though. I used my triggers for the first time today and they worked great... never skipped a beat.


How about honeycombs?

I only have 2 softboxes, and a convertible umbrella on the way. A long throw reflector would be nice if you want to play with shadows/fake late daylight effect. Also consider some color filters ;)

_________________
I take pictures so quickly, my highschool was "Continuous High".


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PostPosted: Thu Dec 10, 2009 12:15 am 
No use apologizing about the delays in response times anymore :( , I suck!

Thanks for the suggestions.

The beauty dish also looks like a good buy and I can totally see myself using it (when I get another bee sometime next yr maybe) to do some creative stuff (well, I think its creative anyways :lol: ).

Filters are also important! Where can I get Tungsten and Florescent gels? They don't seem to sell them on the website.

As for honeycomb grids and barn doors, I see them as longer term acquisitions (pretty cheap though, so might just be an impulse buy when I need it)

Questions about sync speed: This might be a silly questions (you guys should be used to me asking these by now, right?), but the Alienbee has a t1 flash duration of 1/1100sec at full power. My A850, has a sync speed of 1/250sec (without steadyshot). I know that faster than that, the entire frame of the sensor is not fully exposed, so no point in taking a flash exposed picture faster than the sync speed.

However, why is the flash duration important if it usually exceeds what the camera can record? Is it because a fast moving subject which is exposed by the flash may lose sharpness if the flash duration is too long? I can imagine that being the case, i.e. light bouncing off the subject and exposing the sensor even after the subject has moved (a bullet maybe) but I'm not sure since I kinda figured this out and haven't really read it anywhere.


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PostPosted: Fri Dec 11, 2009 4:40 pm 
primitive wrote:

But, my primary reason, is lighting large groups! I might get a next shoe mount flash (as a backup), probably from metz or quantum, but I doubt I'll buy the current crop of Sony flashes as they just don't seem to work very well (based on my experience with the 42 and stuff I've read online).



If you're going to use Alpha as your professional set up, you're going to need f58s, there is really no getting around it, why wouldn't you want the most versatile, compatible, and powerful hot shoe flash for you system? I don't get it. Shooting off camera is simply not an option during 99% of ceremonies, sometimes even receptions.

You're going to have occasional bad experiences with EVERYTHING, however the fact is, the f58 is the best flash for your system, period, and particularly in event and wedding shooting, you will NEED, not 1 but 2 of them, and maybe 3 if you feel it's necessary. It's a simple business investment.

Also as regard HSS, I don't know what you mean by loss of power, just learn to shoot bare and learn how to control light (which is much more important than simply diffusing it). Check out Ed Pingol's work for illustrations on what I'm talking about.

As regards light modifiers as a "requirement", it's about controlling light, not covering it. Learn manual flash like the back of your hand.

Like I said, the ABs are great, but I don't know why you'd get them before you had even a decent hot shoe flash to work with in wedding photography. But then again, obviously there are no rules.


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PostPosted: Fri Dec 11, 2009 4:44 pm 
primitive wrote:

However, why is the flash duration important if it usually exceeds what the camera can record? Is it because a fast moving subject which is exposed by the flash may lose sharpness if the flash duration is too long? I can imagine that being the case, i.e. light bouncing off the subject and exposing the sensor even after the subject has moved (a bullet maybe) but I'm not sure since I kinda figured this out and haven't really read it anywhere.


Flash lighting is directly linked with aperture and subject and is the first thing recorded by the sensor, everything else is shutter, hence why I mentioned earlier that HSS is a more effective way of controlling background light (aka overpowering the sun), which is why many pros are throwing their pocket wizards in the garbage right now and switching to radio poppers. It is also why I recommended you learn the IR flash system of your Sony camera.


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PostPosted: Sun Dec 13, 2009 5:01 pm 
The fault with the F42 and F58 seems to be systemic, not just 1 bad unit, but distributed widely throughout the entire product line.

Firstly, I shoot mainly Hindu (not exclusively, but that's how it is panning out at the moment) weddings, which are very different from Christian weddings (and mostly outdoors). They span 3 days, and most of the time the bride and groom are sitting under an "altar" performing sacred rituals without much movement. In a situation like that, I don't need to have the flash on camera since once I nail down the exposure under the altar, I won't have to change anything else (other than making sure not to catch the light in my shot, although, I have a couple of those which look pretty good).

Sure, I could do this with a 42/58 easy, but I prefer to have 1 flash on camera (just in case I need to do some quick fill, or do a quick shot of an audience member), and in the end, I chose not to reward Sony for their poor QC/QA process. I was really really disheartened when my 300.00 flash can't fire properly, and I'm sure you would have been the same way as well if it happened to you. Also, you wouldn't be so anxious to spend 500.00 on a unit that will most likely have the same issue, would you?

F.W.I.W Light modifiers, like everything else, are tools. If the shot I want needs an umbrella, then I'm gonna use an umbrella. If the shot I want requires raw, direct flash, then I'm going to use that. It is very unnecessary to assume someone is buying gear to cover up their photographic failings. Sometimes, oddly enough, they might actually have to buy something because they need it. If I deem something a requirement for how I work (or how I want to work), then who can judge me as being wrong for that?


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