CowboyStudio 220 Watt Photo Studio Monolight Strobe Kit

This low-cost strobe kit is a good fit for those on a tight
budget. It provides sufficient power and control over output
for users to create high-quality shots straight out of the box.

If you want an affordable option that will give you everything you need to start assembling your first home studio, then take a look at this inexpensive kit. It includes a comprehensive array of equipment, including two 110 Ws Strobe Flash MonoLights, two 7ft metal stands, a 16 x 24 in. softbox with Spring Ring and a 33" black/silver umbrella.

The lights themselves will fit onto any standard 5/8" light stand, so if you do already have a few accessories with this fitting (or smaller) then chances are they’ll be compatible. The flash heads are daylight-balanced (5600 K), so you can be sure of getting accurate colors in your studio shots – provided you set your white balance correctly! With a relatively low guide number of 30m (98.5ft) at ISO 100 you will need to work with larger apertures and/or boost your ISO a little if your subject is a fair distance away, but if you tend to work at close quarters to the object(s) you’re photographing (e.g. for product or macro work) then this kit should be adequate for your needs.

Each 110Ws head has an average recycling time of 5-7 seconds; certainly at the slower end of the spectrum. If power and speed are crucial to your photographic work then you’d be better off with a more expensive option. Overall, however, this kit is a smart choice for beginners looking for a low-cost easy to operate home studio setup with versatile accessories, quality metal stands and flash heads offering full output control.

Calumet Genesis 200 2-Light Kit

The two large umbrellas included in the kit can be used to bounce light (as configured above). Remove the black covers, however, and you can shoot through the umbrellas. The flash head's digital controls, configured in a simple layout, make it easy to ensure consistency in light output across multiple exposures.

Moving up the price scale buys you extra power (each Genesis 200 head has a 200Ws output) as well as a greater level of control. In addition to the flash heads, the kit includes a pair of reflectors, 10ft metal light stands and two versatile white umbrellas with removable black covers. Flash tubes, modeling lamps, sync and power cables as well as spare fuses are also included.

Additional features worth mentioning include the compatibility of the bayonet fitting on the Genesis 200 with Elinchrom gear, which means that you have a huge range of high quality light modifiers available to choose from if you want to get creative. The heads also incorporate an optical slave unit that can be triggered using your own flashgun. You can even set the Genesis 200s to ignore up to three pre-flashes before being triggered.

The controls on the fan-cooled heads are digital; providing consistency and the ability to fine-tune the output with precision. Each head incorporates a modeling lamp that can be set either to full power or to match the output of the flash proportionally. The recycling time for the heads is rated at 1-3 seconds, which isn’t bad for a kit at this price-point, but again, won’t be up-to-scratch for fast-paced photographic shoots. Overall, this kit offers an impressive range of features for its relatively small price tag. It's a worthy contender for newcomers interested in table-top, still life or portraiture in a small studio environment.