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Old May 16th, 2003, 07:01 PM   #1
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Opinions wanted. Aquiring a good light kit?

First let me thank you for the info guys. As with almost everything else in our little hobby, lighting seems almost infinite in scope and price. I always try to make purchases that are limited rather then compromised.

From what I've read I think almost everybody agrees that the Lowel sets are a compromise in order to keep costs down. My style of doing things is to get the best I can one peice at a time.

For fresnels it looks like Moles and Arris are close to the same price. What's better? As far as real world use and results. I'm looking at the Arri 300 and the Mole Betweenie 300... and I'm leaning towards the Arri.

From what I understand, I can stick the Arri in a Photoflex softbox if I choose that as an option later. Correct?

My plan was to get a big Rifa (1000w) and use it with either a 750 or 1000 lamp. This will usually be key unless circumstances warrant something else. The alternative is an Arri fresnel 650 and put it in a large Photoflex and use THAT as key.

To compliment/round out the kit I thought I'd eventually add the Arri fresnel 300 and possibly the Rifa 250w... the alternative would be to go with TWO Arri's and dump the Rifa 250w... the plus there would be that the Arri's could be put in a Photoflex for about the same result, albeit with more setup time.

Of course I could use TWO Rifa 250w and forget the Arri's altogether, but I figure having more versatile lights would be more important then simply having 3 softboxes... which leads me to the following...

If I wanted a complete set right now I think the JTL would get the nod... I'm just a little worried that the "budget" aspect of that I may regret later. Of course I've read the extensive thread which covers the JTL kit and the JTL debate. I guess the main question I have after reading all that is this: Would any of you experienced/pro guys buy one of those kits (the Everlight) yourself?

If so then that's good enough for me and I'll dump this one piece at a time approach, but if not, I can wait to complete my set and just stick with better brands for lighting. Thoughts?
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Old May 16th, 2003, 07:57 PM   #2
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Check out the Arri softbank kits at B&H, you don't really write what you are going to use it for, film, weddings, etc. But one I'm going to buy myself in the very near future is the Arri Softbank Kit 1 http://www.bhphotovideo.com/bh1.sph/...ID=F569F2C3210 they write that price is over $3000 but they actually only charge $2239. For me this is the absolute best value for professional stuff, I've worked with ARRI before and the quality is top noch, Mole Richardson is possibly even more rugged but more expensive and they don't have a good kit.

Arri have more kits, like the softbank 2 ,4 , D1, D2 etc but this kit will get me through in most of the cases. Some people might say that it's to strong for video, but remember, you can always bring the light down, but never bring it up. Of course if you are only going to use it for interviews then it might be overkill. I have also worked with the Lowell lightkits but they don't offer nearly as much control as the ARRI or Mole.
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Old May 16th, 2003, 07:59 PM   #3
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I am shopping around myself. The kits seem a wee bit on the expensive side, at the moment. Lots of people buy piece-mail and assemble a kit.

You might want to check this out:


Its mostly film, but they have some opinions too.


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Old May 16th, 2003, 08:02 PM   #4
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The JTL's would fit your description of a compromise. They certainly aren't in the same league as the Arri or Moles. If it's quality you're after stick with your original plan and get a piece or two at a time, as your budget permits.
Jeff Donald
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Old May 17th, 2003, 12:04 AM   #5
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I don't want to pull this thread off course, but I'd also like you guys to answer what you feel is best. A Rifa or an Arri fresnel or Arrilite inside of a Photoflex? I definitely want at least one softbox and I expect to have a smaller one for fill... my big softbox will either be a 750w/1000w Rifa or a 650w Arri fresnel inside a Photoflex (or 1000w Arrilite inside Photoflex)... The obvious reasons for the Rifa are easy setup (and for me that's a big selling point) and the reasons for the Arri is that you actually get two good lights by having a fresnel AND a softbox...

This is the same point which has me torn on the issue of a smaller Rifa as well. If I do an Arri in a Photoflex I'll technically have two lights... but in the smaller softbox setups it's actually a lot cheaper to just get a 250w Rifa... it's in the larger softboxes that the issue is more blurry. To me a $200 difference in a LARGE softbox light/stand combo isn't worth compromising, but in a SMALL softbox light/stand combo it may make more sense... am I being clear in my question?

My original idea was to get the largest Rifa for it's ease of setup, but not if one of you guys says it's smarter to go with an Arrilite or Arri fresnel and put it in a Photoflex... for the "big" light the price is just too close to not get what's best of these choices. Please help me on this point. I'm all ears.

If you have the gumption then please offer your insight on the little softbox idea also. Rifa or Arri fresnel inside a Photoflex?

The third light will almost certainly be an Arri w/o softbox... I can always add that later, but probably won't. I expect the third light to be used as background, or rim, or kicker... who knows?

For the time being my lights will only be used for shorts and demo projects. I have a corporate video that's just waiting for me, but I don't want to tell them I'm ready until I get the complete kit. This "real" job is one that I convinced somebody they need, even though they didn't really want it, so I want to blow them away with the final result. Forget about that point for now though...

Please just help me decide on this first part of the kit. Since I'm not wealthy by any stretch I can only come up with $500-$700 at a time... and hopefully the second and third light will be cheaper... but with stands etc. I doubt it will be by much...

For me I think it's wiser to put money in things like this then the latest camera... lights don't usually go obsolete and I'll wager that MOST of the time you can show 100 people two videos... one properly lit and shot with a cheap cam... one poorly lit and shot with a good cam... I'll wager that 99 of those people will think the properly lit shots were done with the good cam and vice versa...
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Old May 17th, 2003, 12:16 AM   #6
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Let me add one more area I'd like some opinions on. The LTM Peppers seem to be pretty cheap. For a mini fresnel (is this correct?) they don't seem to be that much higher then the Lowel open-face lights... I'd consider them a possible third option, but unfortunately they are too close (for my budget) to the Arri's...

If I was totally sold on Lowel it wouldn't take too much to make me get the Peppers instead... They really seem to be the inbetweenies of Lowel and Arri.

FYI the Arri 300w fresnel is $290... the Mole is $300... and the Pepper is $210... all 300 watters... that's a tight race in my book. For anybody who wants to say what's the best here PLEASE chime in... with this cash spread I wouldn't want to get the Arri if somebody says the Mole is much better. It's ten lousy bucks.

If somebody says the Pepper is almost as good as the other two then THAT would be welcome insight as well...
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Old May 17th, 2003, 05:34 AM   #7
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Let me just make one suggestion- if possible, find someone that sells video and production lights. Go there and put your hands on the stuff. You can see and feel what the lights are like in person, and will know which to get. I would gladly drive an hour or two to be able to buy the right equipment, and avoid "sight unseen" problems again.
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Old May 17th, 2003, 07:48 AM   #8
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Keith, it would be very helpful to myself and others who will eventually read this if you would state what those "sight unseen problems" were... Thanks!

To be honest with you that's why I'm looking for feedback here and that's also why I'm planning to go with higher end lights right from the start.

So far a few of my sight-unseen aquisitions have been a Gitzo pod with g1380 head, a Lectro wireless (six months after getting the first one I liked it so much I now have two), a Beachtek, Portabrace, Trams, an me66, the list goes on! Each item was purchased after extensive internet research like I'm doing here and I can say that so far I absolutely LOVE each tool for what it does!

My biggest problem is living in St. Louis... we have almost NOTHING here. There is Schiller's Video and Creve Coeur Camera and that's about as "pro" as it gets around here and the former has little and the latter has LESS. St. Louis is like a really small town with a million people living in it... bummer. None of the tools mentioned above were viewable locally! Not even the freakin' me66!

So anyway, the point is that I'm really relying on you guys on this stuff. Please be forthright with any info on recommendations AS WELL AS ANY COMPLAINTS on stuff you bought and regret!

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Old May 17th, 2003, 08:15 AM   #9
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"Keith, it would be very helpful to myself and others who will eventually read this if you would state what those "sight unseen problems" were... Thanks!"


As far as my problems go... I will not go into details here, as I have done so in too many other threads, and caused flame wars with my views. If you want specifics, you can search the Lowel threads. With that said...

#1. Plastic knobs that quit locking down.
#2. Flimsy stands.
#3. Having to special order bulbs through a local bulb supplier, and still spending $20-$30 a bulb.

There have been other mistakes I have made, buying site unseen. To make sure it will work for YOU, find one, and check it out. Mail order is nice, but seeing it in person is the only way to go. Make sure it has strong enough features, what it comes with, and what you will still need to get.

Keep in mind, plastic knobs suck.
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Old May 17th, 2003, 08:37 AM   #10
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For an owner/operator like yourself, I would recommend the Arri's over the Moles. The Moles are a venerable design and solid as all get-out, where the Arris comparatively more damage-prone. Not to say they are not rugged, it's just a relative thing. Rental houses like Moles because of this. Me, I prefer the beam spread of the Arri's, plus the smaller Moles have some annoying features (no way to lock the barn door onto the unit so it doesn't fall off if you have to invert the light for instance).
Charles Papert
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Old May 17th, 2003, 10:03 AM   #11
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Matt, I feel your pain. But realistically, if you only have $700.00 to spend, you are looking at one or two lights. I'm just going to throw out some random thoughts, and you can take what makes sense and ignore the rest.

How much light do you need from one lamp? With today's cameras, 1000watt (1K) are not a necessity. For instance, the Arri kit that was mentioned earlier is a great kit, if you have the money, and the power. The total wattage is 2400 watts, which means you need at least two circuits at your location to power up three lamps. This means running "stingers" to a different circuit, maybe in another room. Heat. 2400 w is a lot of heat, especially in a confined room. You will not enjoy this, nor will your talent. Not a deal breaker, but a consideration. Unless you need a big gun for lighting a large space, I would skip any selection with a 1K lamp. Your purchase plans should include what you need right now, and I don't think that would include a 1K light.

Mole lights are the industry standard. These are the lights you will see used in most Hollywood-style productions. Why? Cause they take a lot of abuse and still perform. They will last forever. They are also the heaviest lights, per watt output. Next, maybe, are the Arris. Excellent product, well built, expensive. The LTM Peppers are close to the Arris, but lighter in weight, not as rugged, which is good, if you will take care of your own gear. Any of these manufacturers makes good, professional product.

Remember, you can "lamp down" most lights. For instance, a LTM Pepper, 300 watt lamp is $210.00. But a 420 watt Pepper is only thirty dollars more, and uses exactly the same accessories as the 300 watt light, and, you can always use a lower wattage bulb in the 420 watt light. You should also include the barndoors in the purchase, which are another $63.00. Yipes. Scrims are important, but not a must have right from the go. Figure a single, double, half single, half double, at ten bucks apiece. Then you need a pouch to put them in, so you don't lose them.

There are basically very little differences between softboxes in regards to the light they create. This is why you can put virtually any lamp into a softbox, the caveat being you need the proper mounting accessory, or speed ring, to attach the soft box to the lamp. So, yes, the cheapest soft box would use a Lowell Tota inside, and be just as efficient as if you put a fresnel inside. But in your case, you would be putting a very expensive lamp in the soft box if it were to be a fresnel. So, basically the differences in soft boxes are in ease of set-up and construction material used for the box. This is, I guess, Jeff Donald's problem with the JTL kit, as he states yet again. I have pointed out numerous times that the JTL softboxes are not as heavily constructed as the Chimera, Photoflex, group. But I am assuming that, as with the LTM lights, you will be taking care with your gear, and you can spend a few extra minutes on set up, in exchange for saving a good deal of money. (Others have chimed in that the JTL kit is good bang for the buck, so I won't belabor the case.) As far as a 1000 watt softbox, I don't know what you have in mind for this, but it does not seem like a good idea. What you want with a softbox is to get it as close to your subject as possible, which will give you the softest light. This will allow you to use lower wattage bulbs, which will help keep you from spilling light on the background.

Bottom line, for $700.00 you are looking at one fresnel, and one softbox set up, and you are pretty well tapped out. This can be just fine, if you are shooting interviews. Bring along a bounce card, like white foamcore, and you can do a lot of good work. I would go with the Pepper for the fresnel, and get a Photoflex box with a Tota and a decent stand. You will also have to buy the speed ring for the Tota to Photoflex. Of course my real recommendation for your budget is the JTL Everlight Kit with the Pepper. Four lights versus two? No brainer.

Remember, the gear is only hardware. The art comes from how you use it. I have a hunch you do not have a lot of experience with lighting, and certainly a modest beginning will give you a chance to learn the gear and what you can do with it.


If it was easy, they'd get a relative to do it.
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Old May 17th, 2003, 11:10 AM   #12
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Thanks for the replies everybody. If it weren't for the rain in St. Louis right now I wouldn't be spending all day on the computer but rain it is, so here I am.

Wayne, yeah I definitely am new to professional lighting. I've used white foam core for years and also a gold/silver auto sunshade... and of course the usual work lights bounced off a ceiling etc. I hate to admit all that because it's pretty cheesy, but at least you realize that I have an idea of what crappy lighting can do vs. NO lighting. So that's a start I guess.

The $700 I have to spend is for this month only. I can dump another $700 next month and so on. That is basically my descretionary income monthly, give or take. I also have other tools I want to aquire, but that's another thread/subject.

I figure I need at least one decent softbox. The reason I was looking at the 1k Rifa was for the 32x32 box itself and then I planned to lamp it down but still have the ability to use it at 1k for softlight outdoors in evening/failing light. The reality of that may not warrant the extra cash though. I just thought anything smaller then a 25x25 softbox is getting a little small to be as effective and that "more" is better. But I know that's not always the case.

The Peppers seem to be a pretty good value if they are as decent as you say. I will be one of only two to three people using my stuff and the other two people are trustworthy. So the Peppers just climbed up the latter. But realistically, when you add the cost of barndoors and scrims, the difference between Peppers and Arris is less then $100 per light... so are the Peppers THAT good?

The initial point of a fresnel in a softbox was to have the option to use that light as a fresnel OR a softbox for key/fill. That's why I would consider that as a second smaller softbox rather then my primary one... which is why the 250w Rifa looks to be a good value for that except once again, it's softbox ONLY rather then fresnel/softbox... price difference is about $300 for Rifa 250w or $500 for fresnel/speedring/photoflex with a 300w fresnel.

I'm still getting one or two fresnels soon anyway... but for the primary softbox/softlight please read my related fluorescent thread. I'd love some input from you on this subject as well...

I think my questions are mostly answered on this thread, but if anybody wants to expand on the point of smaller softboxes and their effectiveness I'd appreciate that too. The Rifa 250 is only 16x16 and I'm wondering if that works or is more of a gimmick to meet a low price point?

As of now I think my approach to a decent kit is best expressed this way.

1) Main softbox is undecided. Either large Rifa or Photoflex/fresnel OR please read my fluorescent thread.

2) Secondary/Fill will most likely be a 250w Rifa unless you guys say that 16x16 is comedy size or that this Lowel is sub-par vs. other softboxes... but it looks to fit the bill for soft fill at low cost.

3) Third has to be a fresnel for rim, background, or kicker. For the closeness of price I think either the Arri or Mole is best unless you guys will tell me the Peppers are comparable to the Arri/Mole... again, I don't think $100 price difference for a complete light w/ accessories warrants compromise. If it's not really much of a compromise then I'll save the dough happily.

I have several points in this post again. If any of you find this interesting I appreciate it. Normally I don't check back for replies so fast, but threads seem to grow fast in the first couple days and then die out... so I want to keep the info coming.

Please offer your thoughts on my above approach to the first three lights of this kit!
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Old May 17th, 2003, 11:37 AM   #13
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I honestly can't answer your questions about softboxes, I have never used any. I have been using umbrellas to broaden and soften my light. They work fine, and are pretty cheap.
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Old May 17th, 2003, 11:38 AM   #14
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Wayne's post eloquently summed-up the mission, particularly his last remark that the gear is just hardware. Just as ownership of a 1,000 piece toolkit does not make one a better mechanic, nor does ownership of a truckload of lighting make you a better visual story-teller. In fact, perhaps the opposite as you may find yourself distracted by deployment decisions.

For a couple of years I owned only a Lowel kit with two Omnis and one Total (all open-faced lights). For my relatively modest needs they filled the bill well. Earlier this year I bought an Arri Softbank D2 kit with 1-650w and 2-300w fresnels. The difference between the Arri fresnels and the Lowel open-faced lights is dramatic. The Arri's do not obsolete my Lowels; they augment them. If I need lightweight portability the Lowels will often get the nod. I also generally use a Tota in a Photoflex softbox for soft (tungsten) lighting, even though the Arri D2 set came with a small Chimera softbox). But if I need extreme control of the highest quality of photons I can throw, and weight is not an issue, the Arris get the job.

I could ramble on. But in the end, we have to operate within our financial and physical limits. Determination, ingenuity and talent can make nearly anything work. Your research is laudable. The opinions expressed in this thread pretty well capsulize the issues for this decision. Any light, even just one worklight, is generally better than no light. Having less gear can often bring out the best in learning the craft.

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Old May 17th, 2003, 01:47 PM   #15
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I need to correct one point in your post Wayne, please take no offense at this, but at least in the fresnels the Arri's are the heaviest and the LTM's are the lightest, with the Moles in between.

Arri 300w fresnel... 6lbs 8oz. $275
Mole 300w fresnel... 4lbs 8oz. $300
LTM 300w fresnel... 3lbs 3oz. $210

Arri 650w fresnel... 7.2lbs $310
Mole 650w fresnel... 6.75lbs $340
LTM 650w fresnel... 6.3lbs $350

Unfortunately you guys must have tasted the blood in the water and you snapped up all the Moles that B&H had in these two sizes... fortunately for me I can get one of the other pieces I need and wait for new stock... Oh yeah, and do the barndoors REALLY just fall off the Moles if you invert them? That seems like an easy thing to fix that a top company wouldn't overlook...

Thanks again for the info... please read my post a couple "up" from here and help me some more! Thanks.
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