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Photographer
PicBack
Posts: 621
New York, New York, US


How long should a flash tube last ?

I have been using a Calumet Travelite Digital 500 for the last six months and the tube has gone already. $140 for a new one. I am guessing that it had had about 1,000 flashes.
Is this normal or just bad luck ?
Mar 18 10 09:09 am  Link  Quote 
Photographer
Dave Mullins
Posts: 1,772
Nashua, New Hampshire, US


I would say bad luck. I have some Photogenic Monolights that I have only replaced one modeling light in the 15 years since I bought them.

A replacement AB flash tube had the internal electrodes broken off. It has never been used.

Malodave
Mar 18 10 09:30 am  Link  Quote 
Photographer
S W I N S K E Y
Posts: 24,315
Saint Petersburg, Florida, US


i have four ABs and i bought a replacement bulb 6 years ago and have never used it...
Mar 18 10 09:41 am  Link  Quote 
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Photographer
GPS Studio Services
Posts: 35,122
San Francisco, California, US


A flashtube will fail when it goes out and until it does, it won't.  Flashtubes usually fail for a reason.  If they get hit hard, often and are forced to overheat, that will cause failure.  Impact will sometimes dislodge or misalign electrodes.  Sometimes there will be a manufacturing failure and that will cause a failure.  They actually don't wear out that easily.  In most cases, if they go, something causes them to go or it is just bad luck.
Mar 18 10 09:45 am  Link  Quote 
Photographer
DC Farrell
Posts: 128
Simi Valley, California, US


Totally bad luck. Flash tubes can last 10,000+ pops or more without a problem. I know I've got more than that on each one of my calumet lights, some of which are better than 15yrs old at this point. The usual culprits for early failure are a manufacturing defect, physical tube damage, skin oils etching the tube, or in your case, just plain old bad luck.
Mar 18 10 09:51 am  Link  Quote 
Photographer
Roy Lett
Posts: 852
Tallahassee, Florida, US


I believe the technical lifespan of a flash-tube is tens of thousands of flashes if not higher; that said, as previously mentioned real-time situations and occurances may end their run early...
Mar 18 10 09:53 am  Link  Quote 
Photographer
Neil Snape
Posts: 9,453
Paris, Île-de-France, France


Bad luck I think. The tubes I have are all still going with up to 50000 or more. Sometimes they burn the contacts and discolor but they keep on going albeit less efficient than if they were clear. These are 3200w/s tubes BTW.

So I think you just had a bad one unfortunately.
Mar 18 10 09:59 am  Link  Quote 
Photographer
PicBack
Posts: 621
New York, New York, US


The odd thing is that I have 3 other Calumet/Bowens flashes that have all been used the same amount and in the same conditions. I am always super careful with my gear so I guess it must just be bad luck. Grrr...
Mar 18 10 10:00 am  Link  Quote 
Photographer
Leonard Gee Photography
Posts: 16,101
Sacramento, California, US


It should be still under warranty? Flash tubes may be considered expendable, but I can't see that one wouldn't be covered by the OEM policy.

My Norman tubes are over 40 years old with constant use/abuse and never replace one - even though I have a spare. They get 100-500 flashes per session all the time. Of course, these are 2400 WS tubes and most of the time the units are on low power (250/500/750 ws).
Mar 18 10 10:06 am  Link  Quote 
Photographer
Mike Kelcher
Posts: 12,724
Minneapolis, Minnesota, US


ei Total Productions wrote:
A flashtube will fail when it goes out and until it does, it won't.  Flashtubes usually fail for a reason.  If they get hit hard, often and are forced to overheat, that will cause failure.  Impact will sometimes dislodge or misalign electrodes.  Sometimes there will be a manufacturing failure and that will cause a failure.  They actually don't wear out that easily.  In most cases, if they go, something causes them to go or it is just bad luck.

This.  Yup.   I've never had one just "decide to quit". When mine have "gone", it's usually because somehow a light-stand fell over. (I lose more models that way :::sigh::smile

Another common reason why they quit, is fingerprints. A fingerprint on the flash tube causes it to heat up and fry...actually causing a "bubble" in the glass, that bursts. This is especially true of brands where the flashtube is easily accessible like Alien Bees or White Lightning which don't have protective covers like Photogenics or Normans do. See images below.

Some flash tubes have Pyrex protective glass covers which make getting fingerprints on the tube difficult. The covers also prevent damage to models (I hate picking glass fragments out of models' skin), if the flashtube should burst....which does happen.
http://webs.lanset.com/rcochran/flash/medres/flashtube.jpg

It's much easier to get a fingerprint on units with exposed flashtubes (see image below). If that happens, and the bulb explodes, glass goes flying, and the bulb will need to be replaced (maybe the model's face too). For photographers who use such equipment, I recommend wiping the flash tube down with alcohol (not Jack Daniels), occasionally. Or, at least use a softbox to contain flying glass.
http://davidweikel.com/E20_Page/alienbees/bulbs_800.jpg

Mar 18 10 10:13 am  Link  Quote 
Photographer
PAULDO
Posts: 124
Garden Grove, California, US


Flashtubes should last for a long time. I'm using Calumet Elite and flashtube cost $320 a pop so I hope it better last for a long time.
Mar 19 10 06:00 am  Link  Quote 
Photographer
Scott Aitken
Posts: 3,587
Seattle, Washington, US


There are 4 Bowens 500w monolights in my studio that are about 6 years old, and none of them has ever burned out a flash tube. I've replaced several modeling light bulbs, but never a main flash tube. I bought a spare bulb (about $250) years ago in case one burned out, and it's still sitting on a shelf collecting dust.

At this rate I figure I'll die before those bulbs do.
Mar 19 10 11:46 am  Link  Quote 
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