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Old August 14th, 2009, 10:34 AM   #1
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Promaster vs. Alien Bees

Is this even a competition? Well I'll explain my situation.

If you've seen my previous threads, you'll know that I am a Videographer by nature, but also do Photography - professionally? Also you will know that I wait till the last minute to post a thread on a question, as I am looking to purchase this kit as early as today, next week at the absolute latest. Anyhow, this will be my first strobe kit, probably a monoblock setup. I do not do Photography full time, so it is not neccessary for me to purchase a top of the line product that will last me 15 years. But it IS absolutely neccessary for me to get a good kit! I would say 85% of my gigs are of Videography, while the other 15% are Photography.

Long story short, I dump my $$$ into Video Production, and my $ into Photography, if that makes sense. Ideally I will be in a position where the equipment pays for itself, but I am not there yet.

I have narrowed down my choices to the kits linked below. Is it only a brand-name difference? Or is there a "quality" difference? Both are pretty much the same setup, just that the Alien Bees has umbrellas rather than softboxes. Keep in mind I DO NEED SOFTBOXES. So I will have to substitute at least one umbrella for a softbox if I go the Alien Bee route. Also keep in mind that I receive a 10% discount on Alien Bee products (however I do NOT recieve an accessory discount). I don't want to spend more than $500 on a kit, but I will if I have to. What are your thoughts? Many thanks in advance.

*Special note on Promaster kit. I am able to purchase this kit with 2 softboxes instead of umbrellas for $585.


AlienBees: The DigiBee, the perfect studio lighting setup for digital photography (B400 heads)
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Old August 14th, 2009, 10:33 PM   #2
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Ok maybe I put too much info in the first post. Here's the short version:

I want to purchase one of the kits linked in the OP. I would like to spend close to $500, unless it is necessary to spend more. Is one of the above kits, using softboxes, "better" - or more worth it than the other? I am ONLY concerned about quality of the image at this point.



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Old August 16th, 2009, 09:32 AM   #3
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I think most of the lower end strobes are the same regarding output per stated specs, but one thing to look out for is make sure they use a voltage regulated circuits supplying consistent output. In other words, some of the cheap strobes will give you inconsistent output... especially if you wait a few minutes between pops as opposed to popping away once every few seconds. I here a lot of good chatter about the Alien Bee's.

I personally have owned many strobe pack/head kits and monolight strobes over the last 25 years and all I will buy now is the speedotron force 10's or 5's.... fantastic, reliable, fast, durable, consistent and good looking. I know they're more money than you want to spend, just my opinion.

That said.... I'm using continuous lighting for 90% of my work now. 6 and 4 bank flo lights, HMI fresnels, LED squares..... the only time I use strobes now is for table top work that requires f22 hyper-focal work like jewelry or small product. So.... you might think about investing in some daylight cont lights instead.
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Old August 16th, 2009, 10:04 AM   #4
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I work with a lot of photographers who love the alien bee kits. They are what our studio recommends for any new photographer starting out in the portrait assistant program. I've heard for the price and the light weight and ease of use you can't beat them.
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Old August 16th, 2009, 10:13 PM   #5
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Neither of those kits offered will likely have enough power to shoot through soft boxes. The ProMaster units on that page do not carry enough info to be able to tell much of anything about them, typically this is characteristic of inferior designed/built units.

The Alien Bees on the other hand are a lower priced, economy line by the same guy who put White Lightning units on the market. WL, to me, never had the intrinsic sturdy "build" I got used to with Photogenic systems but the guys who used WL seemed to feel they were a very good value for the money.

The Alien Bees "kit" you are looking at is base on a pair of the AB400's, the lowest powered units, and a pair of 10 foot stands. You will find the 10 foot stands not sturdy enough to support a unit and softbox, so I would suggest going the extra cost of the 13 foot stands, especially if they are "air cushion" type (you can ask about that when you get them on the phone). Instead of the AB400's you want AB800's which will deliver double the light output of the 400's.

I have the AB800's and use them with a pair of 52" silver umbrellas left over from my portrait studio days, I probably could have made do with the lower output units but if I ever start using a softbox or "beauty dish" reflector again I'll be very grateful for the power.

When I got out of the studio business and went to work for the air force as a civilian staff photographer at a nearby training base, I had hung onto a set of Bowens 9000 monolights. I foolishly sold those off figuring I'd never need anything like that and when circumstances proved me wrong and I had to order a couple of units to do some "in the home" portraits, Alien Bees was what I selected.

If you have to order "piecemeal" over some time go with a pair of AB800's, a pair of 13' air cushion stands, and the softboxes from Alien Bees look as inexpensive as you are going to find.

But don't fall for brand names most of us have never heard of. Check out the various still photo forums and look for users comments on whatever brands you may be interested in. has a forum where this question used to be asked a lot. Canon Digital Photography Forums - Powered by vBulletin has a section on small flash and studio lighting.
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Old August 18th, 2009, 08:25 AM   #6
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Great thanks for the feedback guys. Yes the Photogenics also caught my eye, but the price tag threw me off. But my main concern is to have a good kit, doesn't have to be the best. It seems you are all pointing towards the Alien Bees. I may be able to swing the kit with one softbox and one umbrella. Shoots have been a little slow lately, if I can hold off on the kit and book a couple more outdoor shoots, I should be ok.

Christopher, I would like to have a nice continuous set, especially since I mainly do video work. But I need to keep my video lights portable as 90% of video work is on location. I'm trying to generate more business to the studio, so the strobes will spend most of their time there.

Bruce, thanks for the recommendation. The individual unit isn't much of a cost difference, but it adds up in the end, especially with the softboxes. However, you have made me at least consider the 800s. I guess the Promasters are out of the picture for now, and I have to get hustling on my shoots to get a larger budget!

Thanks Jaron. I guess no one really knows anything about the Promaster kit? Perhaps that is enough reason for me to go with the Alien Bees. Or I can be the one to shock and amaze by creating breathtaking images with a $500 lighting kit ; )

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Old August 18th, 2009, 05:42 PM   #7
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Hey John,

Im in ths same boat...BUT i am looking to go the other way, I need a Video lighting kit. My strobes consist of White lightening and Alien Bees....GREAT LIGHTS, Paul Buff company has excellent service. Try em if u dont like em they will give you your money back.

Dont forget all the modifiers liks snoots, bar doors, grids, etc....

Now if i could just figure this Video lighting stuff out! Like whats a Fesnal, where are my snoots? Grids? what holds the gels, etc! ARRGH
Vegas 8.0c (Build 260)-(Upgraded to Sony Vegas 10 pro)Canon GL2, Canon HV30, HF200, HF20-Sony UWP Wirelesss Mic Kit, Intel Core 2 CPU-6600@2.40GHz-3.00GB Ram
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