A great deal on an excellent location monolight...

Started Apr 19, 2013 | Discussions
daddyo
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A great deal on an excellent location monolight...
Apr 19, 2013

I thought I would pass this along to those who do some location portrait work, that doesn't require super high output lighting. This is an excellent tool for location head shots, or even family portraits where AC power access is an issue.

I just received a DC powered Flashpoint monolight from Adorama that I am very impressed with for the price -- which is a sale price right now.

Here's a link:

http://www.adorama.com/FPBPLB.html?utm_source=RSYS&utm_medium=TransactionalEmail&utm_campaign=1point0product

For the sale price of $199, this is a real bargain in my opinion -- that is assuming it proves to have a decent service life.

The kit comes with basically everything except a light stand, and packs neatly into the compact, padded carrying case. The strobe head has a built in optical slave, and variable power dial that goes from full to 1/16th power output. It even has a built in LED modeling light, and a padded handle that can be attached for assistant held lighting.

I've done some test shots and the power output is excellent for such a small, light weight unit.

I hope this helps someone.

God Bless,

Greg

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Marques Lamont
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Re: A great deal on an excellent location monolight...
In reply to daddyo, Apr 19, 2013

The kit looks interesting. It says 700 full power flashes on a single battery.

Does the light have a glass dome on it, or is that just the cover I'm seeing?

How much does it weigh?

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Luke Kaven
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Re: A great deal on an excellent location monolight...
In reply to daddyo, Apr 19, 2013

The earlier Flashpoint II monolights were very sturdy workhorses that I was able to take on location many times without failure.  This looks like a new compact design and a very interesting development at that.  If they measure up to the reliability of the earlier lights, this will be a real breakthrough in portable lighting.

I did not have as good an experience with Adorama's softboxes.  Though the construction was fine, the diffusion fabric had a very irritating color cast.  The lights themselves were great though.

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daddyo
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Re: A great deal on an excellent location monolight...
In reply to Marques Lamont, Apr 19, 2013

What you are seeing is simply the plastic protective cover. It uses a circular flash tube and a single, but very bright LED for the modeling light. The modeling light is not very strong, but is adequate to preview the lighting pattern.

I'm not exactly sure what it weighs, but is is very light and compact. In fact the whole kit in the carrying case doesn't weigh very much.

God Bless,

Greg

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Darrell500
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Re: A great deal on an excellent location monolight...
In reply to daddyo, Apr 20, 2013

Thank You for this review Greg, I have been pondering the purchase of some type of portable lighting for a while now, and these lights appear to be in the right price range.

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Daniel Lauring
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Re: A great deal on an excellent location monolight...
In reply to daddyo, Apr 20, 2013

What is the recycle time, on full power?  The batteries look like Sony camcorder batteries.  Are the Lithium Ion?  How many shots per charge?  Have you compared the output to a speed light?  Is it brighter?  Is the modeling light variable power that adjusts with the flash power control?  Does it come with an A/C adapter?

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Jacques Cornell
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Re: A great deal on an excellent location monolight...
In reply to Daniel Lauring, Apr 21, 2013

Daniel Lauring wrote:

What is the recycle time, on full power?  The batteries look like Sony camcorder batteries.  Are the Lithium Ion?  How many shots per charge?  Have you compared the output to a speed light?  Is it brighter?  Is the modeling light variable power that adjusts with the flash power control?  Does it come with an A/C adapter?

Also, how much does the head weigh, and how quickly does the modeling drain the battery when left on?

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ZoranC
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Re: A great deal on an excellent location monolight...
In reply to daddyo, Apr 22, 2013

Very interesting! It would be very helpful if we would know dimensions and weight of light and battery, please.

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Daniel Lauring
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Re: A great deal on an excellent location monolight...
In reply to daddyo, Apr 24, 2013

Curiosity got the best of me and I ordered it.  Here is a quick, out of box review.

The carrying case is nice.

It comes with one reflector dish that connects through a Bowen speedring mount.

The entire outside casing is plastic, including the speedring latch and the light stand attachment.  There was something rattling around loose inside mine...a bit disconcerting.  There is a spot to push in an umbrella.

The LED modeling light looks to be about a 50 lumen 1/2 watt LED that isn't adjustable and is too weak for most applications.  I'd probably just leave it off.

The light cover/protector also doubles as a diffuser...like a diffuser on a flash.

On full power, it is about equal to a higher powered speed light (like a Nikon SB800) but without the speed lights focus system the range will be considerably less.  Just like a speed light, you have to be aware of limits that you can go with modifiers because you don't have any spare power.

Its refresh rate is about 3 seconds on full power...just a bit faster than my SB800 with a set of 5 NiMh batteries inside it (4 seconds.)

It doesn't come with an AC adapter, but you could build or buy one pretty cheap and use it with the 15v input.

I still need to see how color changes with power.  It seems a bit cooler than my SB800.

I'm not sure if there is much advantage to this over your speed light because of the lack of power.

Advantages over speedlight.  1.  You can use standard Bowen's modifiers (which you could do with a speedlight if you buy a stand/adapter.)  2.  The refresh rate is a little faster.  3.  The modeling light might help you see in dark setups and get a visual on shadow lengths.  4.  The amount of shots, per battery charge is greater (according to specs...haven't tested this.)

Then there are the disadvantages.  1.  Manual mode only.  2.  Much bulkier than speedlight.  3.  Proprietary batteries and charger.  3.  Less "range" than speedlight.  4.  More fragile than speedlight.

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Luke Kaven
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Re: A great deal on an excellent location monolight...
In reply to Daniel Lauring, Apr 24, 2013

Hmm.  At a rated 180 W/s, I would be hoping that it has at least the output of the FP320M monolight, rated at 150 W/s.  If the rating is correct, that would put it beyond the SB800 by quite a bit. I get a /lot/ of light from the FP320, and have almost never had to use it at full power for a portrait session.

The FP320 is /built/, leaving me wondering exactly what the niche is for this new item.  I guess it includes the battery, which you need to buy separately for the FP320M.  So maybe it is essentially a budget item.

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Daniel Lauring
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Re: A great deal on an excellent location monolight...
In reply to Luke Kaven, Apr 24, 2013

Luke Kaven wrote:

Hmm.  At a rated 180 W/s, I would be hoping that it has at least the output of the FP320M monolight, rated at 150 W/s.  If the rating is correct, that would put it beyond the SB800 by quite a bit. I get a /lot/ of light from the FP320, and have almost never had to use it at full power for a portrait session.

I almost never use the SB800 on full power either.  Having said that, it requires a lot more power (and therefore slower recycle time) behind modifiers.  You really notice it when going from a 400W/s rated light monolight.

What F-stop do you shoot at with the FP320M?  What modifiers?  With studio monolights and softboxes, I'm usually shooting around F8.

The FP320 is /built/, leaving me wondering exactly what the niche is for this new item.  I guess it includes the battery, which you need to buy separately for the FP320M.  So maybe it is essentially a budget item.

For the added cost you are getting a case, batteries, chargers, and umbrella...plus a considerably smaller and lighter package.  If the recycle time for the FP320 is accurate, it recycles in half the time on it's battery pack though.

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Daniel Lauring
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Re: A great deal on an excellent location monolight...
In reply to Luke Kaven, Apr 25, 2013

Luke Kaven wrote:

If the rating is correct, that would put it beyond the SB800 by quite a bit.

Ran some further tests tonight, and it definitely puts out more light than the SB800...but not a lot more.  It scatters the light more, so it is a difficult comparison.  With the supplied reflector it provides a beam width somewhere close to the Nikon's 35mm setting...but not close enough to compare directly.

I'll post pictures when I can get them set up more consistently (ie. camera mounted on tripod...light on light stand.)

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Luke Kaven
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Re: A great deal on an excellent location monolight...
In reply to Daniel Lauring, Apr 25, 2013

Daniel Lauring wrote:

Luke Kaven wrote:

Hmm.  At a rated 180 W/s, I would be hoping that it has at least the output of the FP320M monolight, rated at 150 W/s.  If the rating is correct, that would put it beyond the SB800 by quite a bit. I get a /lot/ of light from the FP320, and have almost never had to use it at full power for a portrait session.

I almost never use the SB800 on full power either.  Having said that, it requires a lot more power (and therefore slower recycle time) behind modifiers.  You really notice it when going from a 400W/s rated light monolight.

What F-stop do you shoot at with the FP320M?  What modifiers?  With studio monolights and softboxes, I'm usually shooting around F8.

The FP320 is /built/, leaving me wondering exactly what the niche is for this new item.  I guess it includes the battery, which you need to buy separately for the FP320M.  So maybe it is essentially a budget item.

For the added cost you are getting a case, batteries, chargers, and umbrella...plus a considerably smaller and lighter package.  If the recycle time for the FP320 is accurate, it recycles in half the time on it's battery pack though.

Just to clarify, the FP320 is the AC-only monolight, and the FP320M is the AC-DC monolight sold without the battery pack.  I have the AC-only model, not the AC-DC model.  But the AC-DC model is clearly based on the AC-only model.

I use the softlighter, softboxes, and bounce umbrellas, and usually shoot at f/8 with the modifiers.  This is mainly for portrait sessions.  But I don't need full power for this.

I'm not going to speak about preference over speedlights, but I can say that the FP320 can shoot all day for years on and off location without breaking down or overheating.

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Jacques Cornell
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Re: A great deal on an excellent location monolight...
In reply to Daniel Lauring, Apr 25, 2013

Daniel Lauring wrote:

Luke Kaven wrote:

If the rating is correct, that would put it beyond the SB800 by quite a bit.

Ran some further tests tonight, and it definitely puts out more light than the SB800...but not a lot more.  It scatters the light more, so it is a difficult comparison.  With the supplied reflector it provides a beam width somewhere close to the Nikon's 35mm setting...but not close enough to compare directly.

I'll post pictures when I can get them set up more consistently (ie. camera mounted on tripod...light on light stand.)

How about putting both into softboxes or umbrellas to test output? That'll minimize the impact of the beam-spread difference. I'd be very interested to know just how big the difference is.

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Daniel Lauring
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Re: A great deal on an excellent location monolight...
In reply to Jacques Cornell, Apr 25, 2013

Majikthize wrote:

How about putting both into softboxes or umbrellas to test output? That'll minimize the impact of the beam-spread difference. I'd be very interested to know just how big the difference is.

That is exactly what I was planning...great minds.  

I'm going to stick them both behind the umbrella that came with the kit and fire them on a tripod with the lights as closely placed and aimed as possible.  Will take pics at F22 and ISO 100 at max power.  I also want to check half and quarter power to see how evenly the light reduces power.

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Daniel Lauring
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Compared to Nikon SB800 Speed light.
In reply to Daniel Lauring, Apr 26, 2013

Ran it against the SB800 speed light.  The SB800 is Nikon's highest power unit.  The FP180 had maybe 1/3rd of a stop more power...not enough to make much of a difference.  The FP180's colors were considerably cooler as well.  I only compared full power.

All shots were with the speedlight or monolight behind the same umbrella.

The brightness of the scenes was about the same when shooting F9 with the FB180 and F8 with the SB800...about 1/3rd stop.

The FP180 is rated (didn't test) for 700 full power shots per charge while the SB800 gets about 150 from a set of NiMh's from what I've read.

SB800 at full power, Camera set to 1/100, F22, ISO 100

FP180 at full power, Camera set to 1/100, F22 and ISO 100

SB800 at full power, Camera set to 1/250, F8, ISO 100

FP180 on full power, camera set to 1/250, F8, ISO 100

FP180 at full power, camera set to 1/250, F9 and ISO 100

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Jacques Cornell
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Re: Compared to Nikon SB800 Speed light.
In reply to Daniel Lauring, Apr 26, 2013

Daniel Lauring wrote:

Ran it against the SB800 speed light.  The SB800 is Nikon's highest power unit.  The FP180 had maybe 1/3rd of a stop more power...not enough to make much of a difference.  The FP180's colors were considerably cooler as well.  I only compared full power.

All shots were with the speedlight or monolight behind the same umbrella.

The brightness of the scenes was about the same when shooting F9 with the FB180 and F8 with the SB800...about 1/3rd stop.

The FP180 is rated (didn't test) for 700 full power shots per charge while the SB800 gets about 150 from a set of NiMh's from what I've read.

Thanks for the info. I was hoping for another 1/3 stop or so, a 2 second recycle, and an AC adaptor for an always-on modeling light for portrait work. Alas. Since I've already got drawers full of hotshoe & handle-mount Metzes and Lumedynes, this doesn't offer me anything new. For someone who's just starting to assemble a portable studio kit, though, the FP180 looks like an interesting option, and it's a lot cheaper than a top-line speedlight. Not a bad product at all, just not what I need. Guess my best option is still an Alien Bees monolight for key light with modeling.

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Re: Compared to Nikon SB800 Speed light.
In reply to Jacques Cornell, Apr 26, 2013

Majikthize wrote:

Daniel Lauring wrote:

Ran it against the SB800 speed light.  The SB800 is Nikon's highest power unit.  The FP180 had maybe 1/3rd of a stop more power...not enough to make much of a difference.  The FP180's colors were considerably cooler as well.  I only compared full power.

All shots were with the speedlight or monolight behind the same umbrella.

The brightness of the scenes was about the same when shooting F9 with the FB180 and F8 with the SB800...about 1/3rd stop.

The FP180 is rated (didn't test) for 700 full power shots per charge while the SB800 gets about 150 from a set of NiMh's from what I've read.

Thanks for the info. I was hoping for another 1/3 stop or so, a 2 second recycle, and an AC adaptor for an always-on modeling light for portrait work. Alas. Since I've already got drawers full of hotshoe & handle-mount Metzes and Lumedynes, this doesn't offer me anything new. For someone who's just starting to assemble a portable studio kit, though, the FP180 looks like an interesting option, and it's a lot cheaper than a top-line speedlight. Not a bad product at all, just not what I need. Guess my best option is still an Alien Bees monolight for key light with modeling.

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The Flashpoint FP620M is a very good AC-DC monolight, and has a very sturdy build at a great price, and a good proportional modeling light, and recycles fast.  I think it's the real bargain in gear that can be used day after day.

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Jacques Cornell
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Waiting for an AC/DC pack & head kit...
In reply to Luke Kaven, Apr 26, 2013

Luke Kaven wrote:

Majikthize wrote:

Daniel Lauring wrote:

Ran it against the SB800 speed light.  The SB800 is Nikon's highest power unit.  The FP180 had maybe 1/3rd of a stop more power...not enough to make much of a difference.  The FP180's colors were considerably cooler as well.  I only compared full power.

All shots were with the speedlight or monolight behind the same umbrella.

The brightness of the scenes was about the same when shooting F9 with the FB180 and F8 with the SB800...about 1/3rd stop.

The FP180 is rated (didn't test) for 700 full power shots per charge while the SB800 gets about 150 from a set of NiMh's from what I've read.

Thanks for the info. I was hoping for another 1/3 stop or so, a 2 second recycle, and an AC adaptor for an always-on modeling light for portrait work. Alas. Since I've already got drawers full of hotshoe & handle-mount Metzes and Lumedynes, this doesn't offer me anything new. For someone who's just starting to assemble a portable studio kit, though, the FP180 looks like an interesting option, and it's a lot cheaper than a top-line speedlight. Not a bad product at all, just not what I need. Guess my best option is still an Alien Bees monolight for key light with modeling.

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The Flashpoint FP620M is a very good AC-DC monolight, and has a very sturdy build at a great price, and a good proportional modeling light, and recycles fast.  I think it's the real bargain in gear that can be used day after day.

Thanks for pointing that out. It does look like a handy unit, and the price is great. My only issue is the weight, since I do a lot of location work without an assistant. A heavy monolight requires heavy stands and booms, which makes the whole lighting kit much heavier.

One thing I like so much about the Lumedyne kit is the heads weigh just a few ounces. This allows me to use superlight Manfrotto Nano stands and the relatively lightweight Cheetah Boom stand, even with softboxes and other large light mods. I doubt my Cheetah Boom would hold a 4.5lb monolight and a medium softbox when fully extended.

I'm still waiting for an AC/DC kit in a pack & head configuration with AC-powered 150W or better modeling lights and small, lightweight heads. A Lumedyne kit with an AC supply almost does it, but the modeling light's only 50W, which ain't enough.

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