PDA

View Full Version : What is a mono-light, and how is it different from other strobes?



convergent
07-06-2006, 05:44 PM
To kick off this forum, I thought I'd post a little info on a few topics to help get the dialog going. If you are looking into studio strobes, it can get pretty confusing. There are two basic categories of strobes... the traditional powerpack + heads, and monolights.

With the traditional approach, you have a powerpack that produces the power for all the strobes, and it will have outlets to plug the strobes into.. often this is up to four for a powerpack. The big benefit of this approach is that the heads are much lighter and cheaper, because they are essentially just a light fixture. Another benefit is that you connect your camera to the powerpack, and all the strobes are going to be hard wired from there so that you don't need to deal with multiple sync cables or wireless slaves, etc. The downside, is primarily one of portability. You can't obviously separate the strobes from the powerpack any further than the length of the cables.

Here is a Novatron V400 powerpack. I use the V600s which look exactly the same.

http://northeastfoto.com/images/content/novatronv400.jpg

Here is the back of a head... you can see that there is really not much to it.

http://northeastfoto.com/images/content/novatronhead.jpg

What about monolights? The extremely popular Alien Bees are an example of monolights. Each unit is self contained with a power pack and head. This gives great flexibility... like if you wanted to hang them up in the ceiling of an arena... but brings with it some complicating factors. For one thing, they are a lot heavier and more expensive than traditional heads. This means your mounting needs to be more robust, and if they get broken you have a larger repair or replacement cost. The other complication is that you need to trigger each strobe. One solution is that most will operate in slave mode whereby they will trigger optically from another flash. This works great in a studio, but not in the field because ANY flash will set them off... even from someone's point and shoot. The other solution is to run sync cables to each one, or go with wireless slaves... which by themselves can cost more than some of the standard heads.

One more consideration is that with monolights, since each head is individually controlled, you have the ability to infinititely control the light output from each... but that can be a double edged sword. You do have to adjust each one invididually.

Here is an example of a monolight... You can see that they are a lot bigger, and have power pack type controls on the head.

http://northeastfoto.com/images/content/novatronmono.jpg

So which do you get? Are you going to be using them strictly in a studio environment? If so, then the traditional power pack & heads approach I believe is easier to deal with. But, I'm sure others may disagree. The very popular Alien Bees are a good value in monoheads and so you will see a lot of people start out with them as well.

http://novatron.com
http://alienbees.com

zacker
07-06-2006, 09:01 PM
id love to try some studio type shooting but,
A. I cant afford the lights
B. I dont know anything about lighting
C. I dont know much about studio shooting.. But I know I can get it after a few thousand shots!

Thanks for posting this Mike!
-zacker-

TomNanos
07-07-2006, 10:20 AM
Nice primer on the subject! Here's an example of what you can do with monolights outside of the studio:

http://www.nanosphoto.com/gallery/displayimage.php?pos=-927

Used two monolights on stands, and shot each of them three times during the 20 second exposure. One was directly in front of the nose of the locomotive, but positioned about 75' from the nose, and about 20' in the air. A second was used on the broadside of the train to open up the shadows a bit, but not lose them. There was quite a bit of ambient light coming from a set of floodlights to the right of the frame, and they were coming through the museum's chain link fence. The broadside light also helped to overpower the chain link fence shadow, while keeping the tree's shadows. Something that I've been playing with lately. Luckily a friend of mine (and fellow Windham Photoography Club member) has 8 or so monolights that he lets me use. Next I've got to get one or two for myself. Of course the justification to my wife will be to use on the kids, of course.... ;)

zacker
07-07-2006, 11:09 AM
Tom, That is one damn fine photo..great job!

Too bad you didnt have a "non" lit version so we could see what the difference was, Im willing to say it was huge, as you prolly couldnt even see the train much without the lighting!
-zacker-

ATVinBarbie
07-07-2006, 12:01 PM
id love to try some studio type shooting but,
A. I cant afford the lights
B. I dont know anything about lighting
C. I dont know much about studio shooting.. But I know I can get it after a few thousand shots!

Thanks for posting this Mike!
-zacker-
What he said. :blush

Great info tho Mike.... :tup