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Photographer
BrandonLuong
Posts: 1,016
Los Angeles, California, US


Hello, I have heard mixed reviews of speedotron, some saying they would definitely recommend it and that there is no better bang for your buck than these. You can find them used for fairly cheap and I hear they are built like a tank.

Some have said they are bad because they are not modern like profoto which is more precise and provides more power options. It also has electronic fan cooling. It is smaller in weight and size, and has a good reputation as well for reliability.

Does anyone have experience using the speedotron old equipment? Like the 2403B? Are there anything I should be aware of when im buying equipment this old ie: the color temperature becomes more yellow with age, or the flash duration is longer.

I am looking for my first lighting set up, so what is important to me is reliability and consistency. I know some people are using alien bees, but I do not like monolights so please only suggest, or help if you have experience with pack/head lights.

thanks big_smile
Oct 06 12 08:11 am  Link  Quote 
Photographer
NC Art Photos
Posts: 566
Raleigh, North Carolina, US


BrandonLuong wrote:
Hello, I have heard mixed reviews of speedotron, some saying they would definitely recommend it and that there is no better bang for your buck than these. You can find them used for fairly cheap and I hear they are built like a tank.

Some have said they are bad because they are not modern like profoto which is more precise and provides more power options. It also has electronic fan cooling. It is smaller in weight and size, and has a good reputation as well for reliability.

Does anyone have experience using the speedotron old equipment? Like the 2403B? Are there anything I should be aware of when im buying equipment this old ie: the color temperature becomes more yellow with age, or the flash duration is longer.

I am looking for my first lighting set up, so what is important to me is reliability and consistency. I know some people are using alien bees, but I do not like monolights so please only suggest, or help if you have experience with pack/head lights.

thanks big_smile

OK - how much power are you needing?  with digital, you don't need 2400 watt-seconds unless you are trying to light up a big building. 

My old 2401 pack has 6 outlets, although I have only used 4 at the extreme, and 2 on most occasions.

They are bulletproof.  I've owned one back and a set of heads since 1984, and only had them worked on once.  Just make sure you take care of them - and don't pull the cords out of the pack unless you discharge the pack and turn the power off.

Oct 06 12 08:20 am  Link  Quote 
Photographer
Mortonovich II
Posts: 714
San Diego, California, US


Speedos are good systems. Great value on the used market.
Used them plenty and liked them.

You had a thread a while back . . . I thought you had picked up, or were going to get, a Profoto set up? Something like that?
Oct 06 12 08:25 am  Link  Quote 
Photographer
BrandonLuong
Posts: 1,016
Los Angeles, California, US


yeah, I just cant couldnt make the jump to profoto it cost way too much for me to buy, I just figure if I ever needed them I can just rent them.

I am really trying to make my dollar stretch, I want to pick up a new computer and monitor and maybe a new waccom tablet. Photography is so expensive sad
Oct 06 12 08:36 am  Link  Quote 
Photographer
the lonely photographer
Posts: 1,881
Beverly Hills, California, US


I have some hand me down Speedotron power packs and head units, The brownline. They are easy to repair, virtually indestructible, very old school.
I use those now for background fill or hairlights though. I shoot in studio and  prefer keeping my aperture with F8-11 with most of my lenses,  and the speedotron setup I have does not  have enough power flexibility.That that being being said my main lights are a set of profoto D1's,   which do have a wide range of power settings to fine tune my lighting. They were good enough when they came out   and still good enough today.
Oct 06 12 08:39 am  Link  Quote 
Photographer
AJ_In_Atlanta
Posts: 12,775
Atlanta, Georgia, US


I never heard anything bad about speedotron, they have been a professional system used for decades.  Do keep in mind that older packs have a higher voltage then some newer cameras (or triggers) can handle.  You would need a safe sync to make sure you are not sending took much voltage to your trigger or camera.
Oct 06 12 08:42 am  Link  Quote 
Photographer
Done and Gone
Posts: 7,650
Chiredzi, Masvingo, Zimbabwe


If they have been sitting unused for a long time it might be best to use a variac to slowly bring them up to correct voltage the first time. Capacitors prefer to be used and used often, plug them in once a month and fire off a couple of shots and they will last forever. Let them sit and they degrade over time.

Other than that, I have used them at a few studios and they always did the trick. As others have said, a great value.
Oct 06 12 08:43 am  Link  Quote 
Photographer
BrandonLuong
Posts: 1,016
Los Angeles, California, US


the lonely photographer wrote:
I have some hand me down Speedotron power packs and head units, The brownline. They are easy to repair, virtually indestructible, very old school.
I use those now for background fill or hairlights though. I shoot in studio and  prefer keeping my aperture with F8-11 with most of my lenses,  and the speedotron setup I have does not  have enough power flexibility.That that being being said my main lights are a set of profoto D1's,   which do have a wide range of power settings to fine tune my lighting. They were good enough when they came out   and still good enough today.

I agree with that f8-11 is pretty sharp, I just dont want monolights because if I have a light in a high location it would be a pain to change the power setting. Packs are easier for that, but you lose controllability. No magic solution (unless you buy those super expensive packs that you can dial down exactly what you want to each head, or buy a pack for each head)

Oct 06 12 08:46 am  Link  Quote 
Photographer
BrandonLuong
Posts: 1,016
Los Angeles, California, US


AJScalzitti wrote:
I never heard anything bad about speedotron, they have been a professional system used for decades.  Do keep in mind that older packs have a higher voltage then some newer cameras (or triggers) can handle.  You would need a safe sync to make sure you are not sending took much voltage to your trigger or camera.

can you explain this further? what is a safe sync? would it be a problem if I used pw?

Oct 06 12 08:47 am  Link  Quote 
Photographer
NC Art Photos
Posts: 566
Raleigh, North Carolina, US


AJScalzitti wrote:
I never heard anything bad about speedotron, they have been a professional system used for decades.  Do keep in mind that older packs have a higher voltage then some newer cameras (or triggers) can handle.  You would need a safe sync to make sure you are not sending took much voltage to your trigger or camera.

My old Speedo 2401A pack has a lower trigger voltage than my old Vivitar 273 flash.  I can use my 2401 with any digital camera through a hot-shoe to PC adapter.

Oct 06 12 08:47 am  Link  Quote 
Photographer
Mortonovich
Posts: 5,436
San Diego, California, US


BrandonLuong wrote:
yeah, I just cant couldnt make the jump to profoto it cost way too much for me to buy, I just figure if I ever needed them I can just rent them.

I am really trying to make my dollar stretch, I want to pick up a new computer and monitor and maybe a new waccom tablet. Photography is so expensive sad

Yeah, I think that's what everyone was trying to tell you in that thread.  smile

Something else, and you're not going to like this, but the best way to figure this gear thing out is to assist and intern for a while. You get to actually use all the gear and get a feel for it. And you also get to see how more experienced photographers light their shots which is invaluable. AND, if it's a proper assist gig, you actually get paid.

Oct 06 12 08:47 am  Link  Quote 
Photographer
BrandonLuong
Posts: 1,016
Los Angeles, California, US


ChiMo wrote:
Yeah, I think that's what everyone was trying to tell you in that thread.  smile

Something else, and you're not going to like this, but the best way to figure this gear thing out is to assist and intern for a while. You get to actually use all the gear and get a feel for it. And you also get to see how more experienced photographers light their shots which is invaluable. AND, if it's a proper assist gig, you actually get paid.

haha, its quite the exact opposite, I've been assisting someone for the past 5-6 months and he only shoots with profoto and briese. Thats why I wanted profoto so badly, I have experience using them and setting them up. I can see what they do and its very simple to use. But that being said, I dont have 100k to replicate the studio. I would be happy to spend 2-7k if I can get my images to look 80% as good as his, hence speedotron. Light is light right?

Oct 06 12 08:55 am  Link  Quote 
Photographer
Mortonovich
Posts: 5,436
San Diego, California, US


BrandonLuong wrote:

haha, its quite the exact opposite, I've been assisting someone for the past 5-6 months and he only shoots with profoto and briese. Thats why I wanted profoto so badly, I have experience using them and setting them up. I can see what they do and its very simple to use. But that being said, I dont have 100k to replicate the studio. I would be happy to spend 2-7k if I can get my images to look 80% as good as his, hence speedotron. Light is light right?

Nice!!!!! Well done!

Oct 06 12 08:56 am  Link  Quote 
Photographer
John Horwitz
Posts: 2,672
Raleigh, North Carolina, US


I bought a Blackline 1200 ser# 000000000073 in the early 70's, - sold it 8 years ago, it's still working
Oct 06 12 09:02 am  Link  Quote 
Photographer
Albertex Photography
Posts: 15,251
Mansfield, Texas, US


AJScalzitti wrote:
I never heard anything bad about speedotron, they have been a professional system used for decades.  Do keep in mind that older packs have a higher voltage then some newer cameras (or triggers) can handle.  You would need a safe sync to make sure you are not sending took much voltage to your trigger or camera.

QFT: http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/2 … oe_to.html

Oct 06 12 09:10 am  Link  Quote 
Photographer
AJ_In_Atlanta
Posts: 12,775
Atlanta, Georgia, US


BrandonLuong wrote:

can you explain this further? what is a safe sync? would it be a problem if I used pw?

It depends on the pack, some have low voltage ports but others are 24+.  A safe sync is a small device what limits the voltage on the port.  I have one on a older pack, I think it was $30.  It just stays in the port and I forget it's there. 

As for the PW, well they do have a voltage limit.  Have I seen them take more, sure, but it could create a problem.  If you are directly connecting a camera; well I have read about a lot of dead cameras.  Some older packs and even hot shoe flashes can go way above 24v.  Before digital the sync was little more the a mechanical switch in the camera that closed with the shutter, now the entire camera is full of electronics that run on about 5v.

Oct 06 12 09:12 am  Link  Quote 
Photographer
BrandonLuong
Posts: 1,016
Los Angeles, California, US


oh wow… thanks so much, you might have saved me a bunch of money.
Oct 06 12 09:26 am  Link  Quote 
Photographer
John Fisher
Posts: 1,884
Miami Beach, Florida, US


http://www.johnfisher.com/images/1speedotron0487fs.jpg

I have used Speedotron Blackline since I started in the business 28 years ago. They were the studio strobes of choice for most professionals, and were standard equipment at the rental outlets.

Time changes things. I still have a 2401A pack and three 102 heads, 28 years old, and they still work. I have to take them out of the closet every couple of months and fire them off to reform the capacitors (thanks for reminding me!). Here's the drift, if you are going to use them in a studio where they get used all the time and don't have to be moved more than a couple of feet, they are still fine lights. Far too powerful for most applications, so you have to use the lowest settings (we used to shoot Kodachrome 25 for all magazine images, and you need the power to get to f8/f11. Today we shoot at ISO 100 or 200 in the studio, and 300 WS is more than enough.)

Another issue with the older Speedo's is that they are not short protected, so if you pull a strobe cord from the pack while it's still "hot", it will blow the plug out of your hand and damage beyond repair the socket and the pack. ALWAYS turn the pack off before changing anything. Modern packs like Profoto have a long negative "finger" on the plugs which normally prevent the discharge from blowing the plug out of your hand. Do it once, and you always turn every pack off before pulling plugs!

As others have mentioned, do not use a sync cord with Speedotrons. It will damage your digital camera. I use the Alien Bees radio slave system (surprise, surprise!), and have never had a problem. Truth is I haven't used my Speedo's in years, they are just too heavy (my pack weighs 39 pounds!), and I have a dozen other strobes that are much easier to use (and I have speed rings for all my light modifiers, only have them for soft boxes for my Speedotron 102 heads).

The upside, Speedo's last forever (really, 28 years?), and they are really cheap used. But they are only (in my opinion) useful in a studio where they get nailed to the floor and used frequently.

John
--
John Fisher
900 West Avenue, Suite 633
Miami Beach, Florida 33139
305 534-9322
http://www.johnfisher.com
Oct 06 12 09:52 am  Link  Quote 
Photographer
Warren Leimbach
Posts: 2,637
Tampa, Florida, US


In addition to the good information you have already received, you should consider that the 2403b models are getting quite old (30 years?) and it is getting difficult to find replacement parts.  I recently repaired my 2403b and it took months.

The newer "CX" models have plenty of parts available.


The 2400ws are becoming too powerful for most applications.  Working ISO is much higher these days and you just don't need that much power any more.

A smaller 800ws pack paired with the new Pocket Wizard high speed sync works great!  It gives the low depth of field look that is currently in style and lets you work at about 1/1000 second.
Oct 06 12 10:24 am  Link  Quote 
Photographer
AJ_In_Atlanta
Posts: 12,775
Atlanta, Georgia, US


I don't know John I tink everyone should get to see an asst. or intern unplug a hot pack once smile

Seriously funny if it wasn't such a danger, do please remember to discharge a pack before changing any heads.  Regardless of the pack it's just safer to always do it.
Oct 06 12 10:36 am  Link  Quote 
Photographer
Select Models
Posts: 35,874
Upland, California, US


Currently using 4 Speedotron Brownline power supplies and 11 heads (beautydish, stripboxes, softboxes, hairlights, grids, jels) at the 3 room (and very rentable) Select Models studios in Upland... studio samples on the MM page.  Been using Speedo equipment for over 20 years... very versatile and dependable... they come highly recommended here... borat
Oct 06 12 10:51 am  Link  Quote 
Photographer
Maxximages
Posts: 2,013
Los Angeles, California, US


If your only reason for not getting mono lights is the lack of adjust-ability when on a stand in the air look at the Elinchrom Skyport system. It allows you to adjust each light individually from the transmitter on your hotshoe or from a laptop. There are other brands that have the same ability.
Oct 06 12 10:53 am  Link  Quote 
Photographer
John Fisher
Posts: 1,884
Miami Beach, Florida, US


AJScalzitti wrote:
I don't know John I tink everyone should get to see an asst. or intern unplug a hot pack once smile

Seriously funny if it wasn't such a danger, do please remember to discharge a pack before changing any heads.  Regardless of the pack it's just safer to always do it.

I never did it, but I had assistants on two different occasions blow a pack up while I was not in the studio. It must have been a religious experience, because they both spoke of it in Biblical terms!

John
--
John Fisher
900 West Avenue, Suite 633
Miami Beach, Florida 33139
305 534-9322
http://www.johnfisher.com

Oct 06 12 11:04 am  Link  Quote 
guide forum
Photographer
GPS Studio Services
Posts: 35,826
San Francisco, California, US


AJScalzitti wrote:
I don't know John I tink everyone should get to see an asst. or intern unplug a hot pack once smile

Seriously funny if it wasn't such a danger, do please remember to discharge a pack before changing any heads.  Regardless of the pack it's just safer to always do it.

Actually, that is brand dependent.  You should never discharge any of the older Norman packs before switching or changing heads.  The exception is the new "D" series.  For everything older than that, the danger is discharging, as opposed to  not discharging.

Many packs use switches and plugs to determine which and how many caps are used.  When you press test, you are only discharging the caps that are online.  Therefore, if you plug something into another outlet or press one of the power switches, you are bridging charged and discharged caps with a short.  I have seen packs explode when you do that.

Norman uses equalizing resistors so the moment you turn off the power, all of the caps are shorted.  They discharge in about two seconds safely.  So with Norman, the proper procedure is to turn the pack off but to NOT press test.

It is important to read the directions for any pack you have.  The procedures are not all the same.  But your point is well taken.  You can explode a pack if you do things improperly.  Exploding usually means fracturing a diode which is a vicious sound.

Oct 06 12 11:26 am  Link  Quote 
Photographer
Select Models
Posts: 35,874
Upland, California, US


ei Total Productions wrote:
Actually, that is brand dependent.  You should never discharge any of the older Norman packs before switching or changing heads.

True that... AND... I would recommend making sure the power pack is OFF before changing heads.  I've never had a pack blow... but I have popped a few fuses... and then your pack is a done deal until you get a new fuse... wink

Oct 06 12 11:39 am  Link  Quote 
Photographer
Kevin Connery
Posts: 16,834
El Segundo, California, US


I have a mix of Speedotron packs/monolights, and, while I love the sturdiness, the packs are not the most convenient when it comes to fine-tuning. (ND gels work great on bare heads/reflectors, but they're a pain on larger modifiers.)

I bought my first Speedotrons about 15-20 years ago from a rental studio which was retiring their older systems. The only problem I've had was due to having a cable disconnected while still turned on; blew the head and one or more capacitors. (It still worked, but only at around 1/8th the usual output.)

They will last forever if you use them often. Speedotron also makes much smaller, lighter, and lower powered packs than the dozens of 24xx series, but those tend to cost notably more in used condition than the 24xx ones do; for most people, a 24xx is too heavy and too powerful. I use my 805 much more than the 2400's.

Admittedly, if you're using a spotlight or such,  especially at a distance, 2400 is just fine. And if you're shooting large groups--I've used upwards of 6000 w/s as fill when dealing with 40+ people--the extra power can be handy. But for most uses with current digital cameras, 800-1200 in a pack is likely to be all you're likely to need.
Oct 06 12 12:47 pm  Link  Quote 
Photographer
rfordphotos
Posts: 4,813
Antioch, California, US


I have used Speedo packs since the 80's, both Brownline and Blackline. They deserve their reputation for sturdiness, they really are tough. The packs are really heavy, too smile.

They tend to have longer flash durations than more modern gear.

The newer models (CX LV) have a safe synch (trigger) voltage, but older units will potentially fry cameras or radio triggers plugged directly into the units without a "safe synch" kind of device.

I now have the 2405CX packs, can use six heads per pack if I choose, or just one head. With one head I can run the power from 50 to 2400 w/s, more heads give me more options.

I wouldnt DREAM of using them anywhere but studio- they are too heavy for portable use, there are many better choices for that.... But I love them in the studio.

If you shop carefully they are a good bang for your buck.
Oct 06 12 02:24 pm  Link  Quote 
Photographer
Richard Klein Photo
Posts: 174
Buffalo Grove, Illinois, US


After having read many of the posts re: Speedotron systems I need to give my $.02.
I have used both Brown and Black Line packs and heads since 1971.  I still take my 400 WS packs with me on location, and sometimes my 800 WS pack as well.  They are tanks and give me all the power I need for headshots, products, etc.  The Brown line heads I prefer are the M11s and I can put grids on them as well.  I can use them in a Softbox with no trouble. I also use M90s, and the smaller MW3s and MW3Us as well.  I know that many posters like the ease of using monolights, but I started out with Speedotron and love them.  For really heavy duty lifting, I have 2 4800WS Black Line packs and several heads for them.  I use these for large group shoots such as entire police departments grouped in high school gyms.  I fire the lights into the ceilings for a soft bounce and at ISO 200-400 I can get F16, the sweet spot on my Nikon 18-200 mm lens.  For both Black and Brown Lines, I use radio triggers to prevent frying my camera's electronics or I use Wein Safe Syncs on the camera hot shoe.  I can also use optical slaves on more than one pack if my radio triggers fail.  For my money, you can't go wrong using them and can get them for a great deal on E-bay or Craig's List.  I totally agree with those folks that caution you to discharge the packs before switching power settings or unplugging heads.  There had to be  reasons so many pro photographers used them for so long: reliable and consistent light output, reasonable cost, and ease of use all work for me.
Oct 06 12 05:14 pm  Link  Quote 
Photographer
Innovative Imagery
Posts: 2,815
Los Angeles, California, US


First you old guys gotta get the new info.  Norman and Speedo packs (heads actually) can be modifed so they are arc proof.  Holly Enterprises in Van Nuys provides that service.

Second, to the OP, White Lightnings or Alien Bee's or Einsteins have a variety of ways of being adjusted remotely for as little as $100.  So you have the wide range of adjustment, light weight, multiple lights that don't go down all at once when the pack dies and man contemporary light modifiers and low cost and great customer service if you go that route.l
Oct 06 12 05:28 pm  Link  Quote 
Photographer
Photos by Lorrin
Posts: 6,983
Eugene, Oregon, US


Check your manual - most Nikon cameras are safe with synch voltages to 250.

No idea what Canon models are safe to.  I know some are also rated at 250.

but before shooting a call to either Nikon or Canon will give you the synch values.

Botzilla.com has test done on most strobe systems and has instruction on how to test.

there are very few studio flash units that are over 12 volts, some are 24 and I know of only one at 80 (old Norman 200b) but I am sure there are others.

New units are 6 volts.

Once you put a radio in the system - your synch voltage is that of the radio.

Warning do not plug synch cord into 110 - it has been done with the old style double blade household cords - that is why most new strobes use mono or stereo jacks.
Oct 06 12 10:11 pm  Link  Quote 
Photographer
BrandonLuong
Posts: 1,016
Los Angeles, California, US


Thank you everyone for their input, I really really want to buy speedotrons now knowing they are built to last. Question, how much should a 2403b pack be running now a days? is 450 for the pack and a 102a head overpriced?

I really want to stick with pack and head because I feel they can be put in weird places or up very high and I can always dial down power or change settings very quickly and easily. Not to mention a head is much lighter than a monolight.

Someone mentioned that the older speedotrons have a slower flash duration than modern packs/head. How much slower? That is one of the biggest reasons I wanted to buy a pack/head over monolights is for the faster flash duration. I really want my images to be crisp and clean.
Oct 07 12 12:11 am  Link  Quote 
Photographer
Mike Collins
Posts: 1,852
Orlando, Florida, US


Uh, I think you really need to look at specs and control abilities on lights.

You say you like the light weight?  A Speedotron 102 is 8 lbs.  A 202 is 10!  An Eienstein unit is a mere 4.5 lbs.

A 2400 pack comes in at around 28 pounds. 

Speedo pack and three lights?  52 lbs.  3 Einsteins?  13.5 lbs.   Lightweight???

New, a 102 will run you about $350.  An Einstein is $500 but has it's own built in power supply.  Sure, the 102 can take up to 2400 wts but you will rarely need even half that.  Or quarter even. 

I would think even used, a three light Speedo outfit will run you about the same as three new Einsteins.  But with new lights you get a warranty.  Same power, a 1200 Speedo pack will run you close to $1400.  But you still need the heads at $350 a pop.  Three Einsteins would be $1500.  And they can be controlled remotely AND fired with a CyberCommander.

I'd look at the your total budget and then compare what mono lights cost AND what they can really do.  Do more research.

I do keep my 4800 pack and 4 102s around just in case I need them for a large commercial job.  But I much prefer the portability and ease of my ABs.  I shoot a lot of people oriented stuff.  Even 300 watts is more than enough for my needs.  If  I needed more I would upgrade to Einsteins.  May anyways.
Oct 07 12 05:44 am  Link  Quote 
guide forum
Photographer
GPS Studio Services
Posts: 35,826
San Francisco, California, US


Innovative Imagery wrote:
First you old guys gotta get the new info.  Norman and Speedo packs (heads actually) can be modifed so they are arc proof.  Holly Enterprises in Van Nuys provides that service.

I am curious, what you are you referring to?  I have never had a problem with a Norman or Speedo head arcing.  It has happened a couple of times, but not enough to consider it an issue.

Which post are you referring to above?

Oct 07 12 07:56 am  Link  Quote 
Photographer
the lonely photographer
Posts: 1,881
Beverly Hills, California, US


Maxximages wrote:
If your only reason for not getting mono lights is the lack of adjust-ability when on a stand in the air look at the Elinchrom Skyport system. It allows you to adjust each light individually from the transmitter on your hotshoe or from a laptop. There are other brands that have the same ability.

Also  the Profoto D1 air version allows you to adjust the power settings remotely, and with optional air  USB transciever you can control the lighting from your laptop.

That's the main reason I use the Profotos over the speedotron. I move my lighting from place to place and need to adjust the power constantly. Speedotron is good for me if I don't fiddle with lighting  , like in a portrait studio,   or shooting passsport pictures    or booking arrested celebrities.

Oct 07 12 08:20 am  Link  Quote 
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