Light Kits

Started Oct 8, 2007 | Discussions thread
WFulton Senior Member • Posts: 2,695
Re: Light Kits

kober wrote:

In that case I would seem to be better off buying a couple of SB600s
to go with my SB800. Ultra portable and no wires needed. Wonder if
I could rig up an umbrella for a SB800/600?

It is a BIG question because it has many answers and choices, and much opinion. There are many ifs and buts too. A popular question, but no easy answer, other than "it depends". And we all have different notions, esp about cost.

You are speaking of groups outdoors, and you need to know that what determines the power requirement for flash is the flash to subject distance. The inverse square law says 3x the distance requires 9x more power. So for portraits closeup, you dont need much power. For large groups at greater distances, you need a lot more power. This affects us rather a lot, no trivial matter.

Also, how much power do you need? To shoot at f/5.6 indoors, or to shoot at f/16 outside to match the sun? The power of sunshine is tough to compete with, esp at group distances.

Yes, you can easily add umbrellas to your Nikon SB-800, many do and it works well, but at moderately low power. Really softens the light in a delightful way. Everyone with a SB-800 ought to have an umbrella too. You need the flash, a stand and "umbrella mount" to hold it, the umbrella, and some means to trigger it (either CLS or a sync cord or an optical trigger, etc).

The idea is that it will look about like this:

That is a Smith Victor UK2 umbrella kit, with Stroboframe 300 shoes for the flash. These same umbrella mounts are available under many brand names, but this is the basic idea.

Two of them would do portraits in the living room. But the SB-800 in an umbrella will be stressed much more at its max limits for groups (greater distances), and probably out of the question outside in the sun. Maybe portraits outside close, sure, but not groups at a distance in the sun. Close equates to power, and distance equates to need for power.

I started with two SB-800 and a two umbrella kit, and planned to use CLS. And this can work well in the living room for portraits, but at ISO 200, about f/11 is the maximum feasible from close umbrellas from the SB-800s (at full power). I typically used them at f/8 (in the living room), which is plenty for this, but you lose about two stops every time you double the distance for groups. They also recycle slowly near full power.

But it didnt take very long to realize that a couple of AlienBees B800 was a much better way to go, at least for a static studio setting in the house. Many do swear that Nikons CLS is the greatest thing ever. Others think it is not very versatile, and doesnt allow much control, which is my view. It does add automation with TTL metering, but doesnt help with doing the lighting. With CLS you set up the lights anyway you want them, and it is ultra portable, and the CLS will meter whatever you give it to give you a good TTL exposure. With studio lights, you set up the lights and meter each one manually to set it to exactly what you want it to be - which is full control. And you will want a flash meter for this too. So that is a static fixed situation in the studio, where CLS is not so limited dynamically, but of course, you also are less sure what you will get. Opinions. Different ways of working.

But note that CLS uses an optical light trigger, and will be an issue working in the sunshine at any distance at all. You can add radio triggers which work in the sun, but not with CLS, it becomes a fully manual operation then. But outdoors in the sun will need stronger lights for groups too - frankly, this may be the hardest way to go about it. Not beginner stuff regarding gear.

Regardless, you should know that the SB-600 will work wirelessly with CLS, but it has no means to work manually with other studio lights if you go that way later. The SB-800 does, it has both a PC cord connector and has the SU-4 mode optical trigger, neither of which the SB-600 has. So if you ever plan to use them with studio lghts, the SB-600 is a bad plan. You could add shoe mounted trigger accessories however, which the SB-800 already includes. Or the radio triggers for both. However, if you only plan to use the SB-600 with CLS or on the camera shoe, they should be fine, and designed for that, with a little less power than SB-800. The SB-800 essentially does anything, and the SB-600 does not, has a short list.

It is a big subject, and there are many ways to go. One more SB-800 and a two umbrella kit seems a good starting plan. However, after you grow to abandon it for the studio lights, the extra SB-800 was sort of a large unneeded expense. The SB-800 (in SU-4 mode) does work fine with the AlienBees for extra lights, like for background or hair lights. And they are ultra portable, but frankly, AlienBees lights are cheaper than the SB-800, and much more versatile in any studio situation.

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