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Photographer
Giacomo Cirrincioni
Posts: 20,904
New York, New York, US


I need a very portable (I'm thinking strobist style) lighting kit that I can fit in a backpack.

I have a lot of experience with almost every studio strobe or hotlight imaginable - I don't own a single speedlight and never have.  It's just not something that I've ever needed for the way I shoot.  So I have no idea what I'm doing in this regard or really where to begin.

What may make this a bit more complicated (or a bit more simple) is that my camera platform of choice is a Mamiya RZ67 Pro IID.  No TTL metering with this.  I do have a DSLR (Nikon) but it is not my go to.  I shoot both film and digital with the RZ.  For digital I try to never go above ISO 200.  With film (especially B&W) I go to 3,200.  My preference, however, is lower ISO setting, and especially prefer to shoot between 50 and 400.

So I need small, powerful battery operated strobes.  I was originally included to go Metz or Quantum and then build/buy/jerry rig modifiers for them, but Jay appears to have tested a number of options and I'd love to know your thoughts.

Anyway, my research on this begins today and this is my first step on that journey.  In case it matters, these will be taken to Europe.

Thanks!
Sep 13 13 09:45 am  Link  Quote 
Photographer
1472
Posts: 1,018
Pembroke Pines, Florida, US


Well the quantams are dope but pricey.
Sep 13 13 09:52 am  Link  Quote 
Photographer
KEKnight
Posts: 1,859
Cumming, Georgia, US


Will this be for studio or outside?
Sep 13 13 10:09 am  Link  Quote 
Photographer
Christian Lockewood
Posts: 22
Houston, Texas, US


I own 4 Yong Nuo 560 II speedlights and have been pleased. The power output works for my needs and the 4 I own have been reliable. To me the biggest advantage as a non-professional is cost. The risk of damage increases when portability slips into the equation, but at $80 or less it isn’t the end of the world if they take a little abuse. I find that it is infinitely harder to find high quality portable modifiers. Still haven't seen anything that beats a translucent folding umbrella when it comes to size/portability.
Sep 13 13 10:11 am  Link  Quote 
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Photographer
Giacomo Cirrincioni
Posts: 20,904
New York, New York, US


KEKnight wrote:
Will this be for studio or outside?

Indoor locations (not studio) and outside.

Sep 13 13 10:16 am  Link  Quote 
Photographer
Leonard Gee Photography
Posts: 16,030
Sacramento, California, US


Speedlights on manual are fine for direct flash and supplemental. Or if you don't need fast recycling at full power (sub 1-2 sec). They are also very compact for multiple units.

With modifiers and fast recycle at full power you need more than a speedlight. Metz or Norman 200c/400b, larger Elinchrom Ranger (400ws)/Profoto 600B and up to 1200 ws. Depends on what you need and how you shoot. Bigger ones can support 2 heads. Large, heavy backpack.
Sep 13 13 10:18 am  Link  Quote 
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Photographer
Giacomo Cirrincioni
Posts: 20,904
New York, New York, US


Leonard Gee Photography wrote:
Speedlights on manual are fine for direct flash and supplemental. Or if you don't need fast recycling at full power (sub 1-2 sec). They are also very compact for multiple units.

With modifiers and fast recycle at full power you need more than a speedlight. Metz or Norman 200c/400b, larger Elinchrom Ranger (400ws)/Profoto 600B and up to 1200 ws. Depends on what you need and how you shoot. Bigger ones can support 2 heads. Large, heavy backpack.

I have Hensel and Profoto battery generators (pack and head systems), but trying to do something more portable.

What Metz units would you recommend?

Sep 13 13 10:23 am  Link  Quote 
Photographer
Leonard Gee Photography
Posts: 16,030
Sacramento, California, US


Sounds like you already have the high power battery generators, so are going lighter, but not to speedlights.

That leaves you with the heavy flash gun range. The Metz 76MZ-5 Digital or the Quantum Q probably. Used on manual or straight auto with option for advance use.
Sep 13 13 10:35 am  Link  Quote 
Photographer
Toto Photo
Posts: 2,361
Belmont, California, US


As I recall I read most of the posts in strobist.com in an afternoon and found them invaluable when I was at a similar crossroad. If you already know most of what he teaches, I'd at least try to find his post about the light stand which folds legs-upward resulting in the shortest, inside-the-pack footprint imaginable.
Sep 13 13 10:46 am  Link  Quote 
Photographer
Toto Photo
Posts: 2,361
Belmont, California, US


This too I found useful at the crossroad.

Speedlight Power Output
Sep 13 13 10:50 am  Link  Quote 
Photographer
Eye of the World
Posts: 739
Corvallis, Oregon, US


Are you going to be basically in one location in Europe (example, same town but different spots around town)? If so it might be easier to see about renting.
Sep 13 13 10:55 am  Link  Quote 
Photographer
MC Photo
Posts: 4,144
New York, New York, US


Giacomo Cirrincioni wrote:
I need a very portable (I'm thinking strobist style) lighting kit that I can fit in a backpack.

I have a lot of experience with almost every studio strobe or hotlight imaginable - I don't own a single speedlight and never have.  It's just not something that I've ever needed for the way I shoot.  So I have no idea what I'm doing in this regard or really where to begin.

What may make this a bit more complicated (or a bit more simple) is that my camera platform of choice is a Mamiya RZ67 Pro IID.  No TTL metering with this.  I do have a DSLR (Nikon) but it is not my go to.  I shoot both film and digital with the RZ.  For digital I try to never go above ISO 200.  With film (especially B&W) I go to 3,200.  My preference, however, is lower ISO setting, and especially prefer to shoot between 50 and 400.

So I need small, powerful battery operated strobes.  I was originally included to go Metz or Quantum and then build/buy/jerry rig modifiers for them, but Jay appears to have tested a number of options and I'd love to know your thoughts.

Anyway, my research on this begins today and this is my first step on that journey.  In case it matters, these will be taken to Europe.

Thanks!

Profoto has an battery powered mono light that might be worth considering. I've got an AB Vagabond battery that I can part with cheaply. The best move might be to carry the inverter and buy a battery over there.

In terms of speed lights vs Quantum, Quantum wins by a mile.

I use a Turbo 3 battery,  tu if I had to do it again, I'd buy one of the smaller ones the blade or the SC I think it's called.

They also make a cable that allowes you to remove the bulb and put it in a remote head. This allows you to put the light high up on a stand, and keep the body of the flash at normal height. There are a ton of benefits - less top heavy stand or hand held boom pole, the option of placing it in small spaces. When I shoot with it on a bracket, I wear the flash and battery and mount the remote head on an Israeli arm on a Custom brackets Mini RC. I can have the flash directly over head or anywhere inbetween for either horizontal or vertical.

The other unique thing about the quantum is the bare bulb option. It gives a hard light that's really unique. It can be cool in small places if you want to bounce it everywhere or turn a wall into a giant beauty dish. I like simulating natural light be kighting a room and lettjng the light pass through the doorway as if it were the sun. It's also an interesting match as a fill for sunlight.

In terms of the light itself, it seems like a "higher quality" of light. It's color temperature is way more accurate than an AB, and it's output is more consistent than a speed light.

It's got an "auto" mode, where it uses it's own built-in meter which way more accurate than TTL.

If you're shooting at 3200 there's a good chance that the speedlight will be too powerful at its lowest setting. The diffuser that covers the little reflector is removable and has two layers that snap into a plastic ring that holds it on the diffuser. The two layers are meant to hold gels for color matching and I've found them great for ND gels when shooting with a high ISO. There may be enough ambient light for the camera, but you still need to be able to control the direction and add fill. A very low output can be important.


I've never used the entire Turbo battery and I shoot a lot. It's much better than relying on AAs and having to carry a ton of spares. The turbo battery is something to consider even if you go a regular speedlight direction.


The T5-R is meant for bracket or stand use - there's no hotshoe connector. Like a strobe, it doesn't do HSS. The Trio has slightly less power, has the radio receiver built-in,  does HSS and can be mounted on a Nikon or Canon hotshoe - there are brand specific models.

Sep 13 13 10:55 am  Link  Quote 
guide forum
Photographer
Giacomo Cirrincioni
Posts: 20,904
New York, New York, US


MC Photo wrote:

Profoto has an battery powered mono light that might be worth considering. I've got an AB Vagabond battery that I can part with cheaply. The best move might be to carry the inverter and buy a battery over there.

In terms of speed lights vs Quantum, Quantum wins by a mile.

I use a Turbo 3 battery,  tu if I had to do it again, I'd buy one of the smaller ones the blade or the SC I think it's called.

They also make a cable that allowes you to remove the bulb and put it in a remote head. This allows you to put the light high up on a stand, and keep the body of the flash at normal height. There are a ton of benefits - less top heavy stand or hand held boom pole, the option of placing it in small spaces. When I shoot with it on a bracket, I wear the flash and battery and mount the remote head on an Israeli arm on a Custom brackets Mini RC. I can have the flash directly over head or anywhere inbetween for either horizontal or vertical.

The other unique thing about the quantum is the bare bulb option. It gives a hard light that's really unique. It can be cool in small places if you want to bounce it everywhere or turn a wall into a giant beauty dish. I like simulating natural light be kighting a room and lettjng the light pass through the doorway as if it were the sun. It's also an interesting match as a fill for sunlight.

In terms of the light itself, it seems like a "higher quality" of light. It's color temperature is way more accurate than an AB, and it's output is more consistent than a speed light.

It's got an "auto" mode, where it uses it's own built-in meter which way more accurate than TTL.

If you're shooting at 3200 there's a good chance that the speedlight will be too powerful at its lowest setting. The diffuser that covers the little reflector is removable and has two layers that snap into a plastic ring that holds it on the diffuser. The two layers are meant to hold gels for color matching and I've found them great for ND gels when shooting with a high ISO. There may be enough ambient light for the camera, but you still need to be able to control the direction and add fill. A very low output can be important.


I've never used the entire Turbo battery and I shoot a lot. It's much better than relying on AAs and having to carry a ton of spares. The turbo battery is something to consider even if you go a regular speedlight direction.


The T5-R is meant for bracket or stand use - there's no hotshoe connector. Like a strobe, it doesn't do HSS. The Trio has slightly less power, has the radio receiver built-in,  does HSS and can be mounted on a Nikon or Canon hotshoe - there are brand specific models.

Thank you for this.  I'm looking at the various options/configurations now and, while it's a bit confusing, it seems that some permutation of this is the way to go.

Sep 13 13 11:22 am  Link  Quote 
Photographer
TheScarletLetterSeries
Posts: 3,438
Carmel, California, US


Speedlites are fine for a DSLR, but sometimes you want a portable kit that is more capable, yet not so cumbersome as a studio pack system or monolight with lithium battery pack (Einstein and Vagabond mini).

My in-between portable lighting kit consists of a two Quantum Qflash T2 (old but same quality of light as the latest Qflash) and Turbo and Turbo SC batteries, mated with pocket wizards.  I use an old Pelican case from an old Phase MFDB kit and it carries everything.  I dislike TTL so have had no need to upgrade to the current Q. I almost always meter manually, or use the auto function on the Qflash.  There are many modifiers for the Q, including the ability to use grids and barebulb.  Using a Cheetah stand c8 or c12, see, https://www.cheetahstand.com/category-s/1862.htm you have a really fast, easy to move system. 

My guess is you're like me and know how to use a light meter.  You could spend a lot of $$ on the latest Q, but I bet you could find a good used Q flash system that will meet your needs for less.  And especially for a big camera like the RZ when using film, the Qflash is more appropriate than a puny speedlite.

ken
Sep 13 13 11:50 am  Link  Quote 
guide forum
Photographer
-JAY-
Posts: 6,187
Las Vegas, Nevada, US


On my phone at work right now, ill go into detail tonight, but it will be 2 main recommendations.

Multiple speedlites
Sunpak 622 super.

Both are enough for good apertures at ISO100
Sep 13 13 12:49 pm  Link  Quote 
Photographer
Robert Lynch
Posts: 2,482
Bowie, Maryland, US


Toto Photo wrote:
As I recall I read most of the posts in strobist.com in an afternoon and found them invaluable when I was at a similar crossroad. If you already know most of what he teaches, I'd at least try to find his post about the light stand which folds legs-upward resulting in the shortest, inside-the-pack footprint imaginable.

Manfrotto 5001B or LumoPro LP605.

Sep 13 13 05:03 pm  Link  Quote 
Photographer
MKPhoto
Posts: 5,664
Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada


-JAY- wrote:
On my phone at work right now, ill go into detail tonight, but it will be 2 main recommendations.

Multiple speedlites
Sunpak 622 super.

Both are enough for good apertures at ISO100

Good apertures for us on a DSLRs might not be the same as good apertures on MF. OP will often need a couple stops more light than we do.

Sep 13 13 05:05 pm  Link  Quote 
Photographer
MMDesign
Posts: 18,647
Louisville, Kentucky, US


Never under-estimate the power of reflectors.
Sep 13 13 05:41 pm  Link  Quote 
guide forum
Photographer
-JAY-
Posts: 6,187
Las Vegas, Nevada, US


MKPhoto wrote:
Good apertures for us on a DSLRs might not be the same as good apertures on MF. OP will often need a couple stops more light than we do.

I am well aware of the DOF differences in the formats, and the necessary power needed. However, here's an example of one of my YN560II's putting out f/11 at ten feet (ten feet to the stand, plus travel to the umbrella and back)

http://www.jayleavitt.com/links/560II-86silver.jpg

http://www.jayleavitt.com/links/560II-86silver-clock.jpg

With my 4 way bracket, that's f/22, with 2.5 second recycle - f/36 at six feet.

My Sunpak 622 matches the (4) 560IIs fairly evenly, so f/22 - with a 1.5 second recycle with my TR-PAK II battery pack. I've got a bracket to fix two sunpaks in a modifier, so f/32 at ten feet (60@6') (got 2 sunpak 622s and 2 battery packs for $150 this weekend)

Sure that's a parabolic umbrella, but that same 4 way speedlite bracket does f/16 at 6' in a shoot through (fairly normal distance) so does the 622 - and both 622s are sitting pretty at f/22.

Four speedlites in a shoot through at 6-8ish feet, f/14 with some on half power

http://www.jayleavitt.com/links/sonja_mm_1.jpg

I'm often shooting at f/2.8-5.6 - and have everything on super low power for ridiculous recycle times. When I shoot MF, I'm usually at f/8 - f/11, so even most of these rigs are at 1/4ish power - that's instant recycle and hundreds of shots per charge.

Plus everything fits into my backpack.

Sep 13 13 07:00 pm  Link  Quote 
guide forum
Photographer
-JAY-
Posts: 6,187
Las Vegas, Nevada, US


Robert Lynch wrote:

Manfrotto 5001B or LumoPro LP605.

+1 on those.

Sep 13 13 07:01 pm  Link  Quote 
Photographer
AG Media 13
Posts: 220
Canberra, Australian Capital Territory, Australia


Very cost effective. Cheap reliable triggers - some with high flash synch - mean you can use any flash with fine adjustment paired with a diffuser/brolly for a pleasing result. You can use multiple strobes for complex/large shoots. Strobe can also be used quite subtly if you want to retain some shadow or can be dominant - on my port I've done  both. Easier to control if you have a flash meter. I'm about to try my latest acquisition a Polaroid ring flash bought for 50 bucks.
Sep 13 13 07:27 pm  Link  Quote 
Photographer
MKPhoto
Posts: 5,664
Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada


-JAY- as much as these setups work - they push the speedlights to the limits and even then it is not enough to light a larger scene. The parabolic setup example is OK for torso, but light does not look even for a full body shot, and definitely not for a group. The 4xgang setup in the desert gives f/14 but same thing, limited area. So for OP it would work, but in a limited set of circumstances. He may want to have access to more juice...
Sep 13 13 07:42 pm  Link  Quote 
guide forum
Photographer
-JAY-
Posts: 6,187
Las Vegas, Nevada, US


OP is asking for a powerful, backpackable lighting kit.

The quad flash bracket and sunpaks both beat out anything else that fits those criteria that I have tested.
Sep 13 13 07:54 pm  Link  Quote 
Photographer
Zack Zoll
Posts: 2,266
Glens Falls, New York, US


I used speedlites with a Hassy for a couple years.  Around half of the 'other portraits' section of my portfolio was shot in this manner, typically at f/11, but often at f/16.

But would I recommend it?  No.  As a rule, when I rated my film at 64 ISO, every "light" was two speedlites on the same bracket, or duct taped together.  When I was using film at 200 ISO, I could generally afford to use the lights individually, aside from the key light.  I typically used between 4-8 speedlites for each sitting, depending on film stock and distance between flash and model.

So you could definitely produce enough light with on-camera units to get excellent exposures on 120 film.  But it requires using full power on almost every shot, and even with high-speed battery packs and a manual advance knob, I was ready to take the next image long before my lights were.

Granted I was using SB-24s, because they're cheap.  A few years ago, they were even cheaper than they are now.  I decided I'd had enough, because they were too slow, and daisy-chaining them together meant that they were too awkward and cumbersome as well.  If I had been using 8 SB-800s I wouldn't have had speed issues ... but then again, I'd have some $2800 sunk into a system that was still too cumbersome.

As a non-digital shooter, the only situations in which I would ever recommend a speedlite system is if it absolutely has to be AA powered, or if you plan on taping them to things.  I also photographed roller derby at this time, and it was really useful to be able to put flashes all around the track, so I could get a well-lit shot wherever I was.

But for regular photography, it's more hassle than it's worth.  The Q flashes and a portable battery pack will weigh more than 8 speedlites and a brick of AAs ... but you can offset that by carrying fewer stands and brackets, and not having to jerk around with daisy-chaining all your crap together, wasting time, and generally looking like a GWC in front of your clients.
Sep 13 13 08:22 pm  Link  Quote 
Photographer
MC Photo
Posts: 4,144
New York, New York, US


-JAY- wrote:
OP is asking for a powerful, backpackable lighting kit.

The quad flash bracket and sunpaks both beat out anything else that fits those criteria that I have tested.

You should check out the Q Flash. A single T5D-R can overpower the sun without HSS and will recycle in less than 1 second.

Sep 14 13 07:57 am  Link  Quote 
Photographer
Patrickth
Posts: 10,321
Bellingham, Washington, US


I don't think you can go wrong with Norman 200 B or Sunpak 622 setup for the price
Sep 14 13 08:38 am  Link  Quote 
Photographer
Robert Lynch
Posts: 2,482
Bowie, Maryland, US


MC Photo wrote:
You should check out the Q Flash. A single T5D-R can overpower the sun without HSS and will recycle in less than 1 second.

sigh

I really wish people would stop throwing this term around without proper qualification.  You can overpower the sun with any light.  It is just a question of how much an area you need to light.  Head shot? 3/4 length? Full length?  A car?  Group of 20 people?

The T5D-R is only 150 W/s, so it would have been impossible to do this with it:

http://photos.modelmayhem.com/photos/080727/19/488d09114e13b_m.jpg

Sep 14 13 08:57 am  Link  Quote 
guide forum
Photographer
-JAY-
Posts: 6,187
Las Vegas, Nevada, US


-JAY- wrote:
OP is asking for a powerful, backpackable lighting kit.

The quad flash bracket and sunpaks both beat out anything else that fits those criteria that I have tested.
MC Photo wrote:
You should check out the Q Flash. A single T5D-R can overpower the sun without HSS and will recycle in less than 1 second.

So will four YN560IIs shot through an 86" umbrella at six feet for full body coverage. I have used a couple different qflashes, and haven't been impressed much in the price per performance. Sure they're fantastic, but I value utility and versatility over anything else, especially when travelling. What happens when I'm five miles up a mountain trail and need a main light, a fill light, a rim, a hair light, and a couple lights for the scenery? One Qflash won't help there, and enough to help wouldn't be easily backpackable.

Sep 14 13 11:22 am  Link  Quote 
guide forum
Photographer
Giacomo Cirrincioni
Posts: 20,904
New York, New York, US


Thanks for all the great information, guys.  Lot's to think about and research.

Jay, your compendium of flash power is fantastic!  Ultimately, I think the way to go might be one Qflash as key light, augmented by some smaller flashes.  This will take some time to think about.
Sep 16 13 08:42 am  Link  Quote 
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