The AlienBees line of studio flashes are a great way to get into studio photography for relatively little investment. In addition, they are easy to use, making them ideal for those new to studio lighting and versatile enough for a pro to use.
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One of the great features of the AlienBees lights is that each light has its own, built-in power pack and is individually controlled, allowing for versatility in placement and power. In addition, the lights can be fired remotely through the use of a built-in device known as a flash slave. The slave fires the flash when it sees another flash fire. This means that you only need to have one flash physically connected to your camera.
Looking at the back panel, you can see the many pushbutton and slider-type controls, all clearly labelled. One of my favorite features of these lights is that you can have the modeling lamp switch off and on between shots, indicating when the unit is fully charged again and ready for the next shot. In addition, the slider turns the power from 10% all the way to 100%, allowing a photographer to keep the lights in place and simply adjust the settings. The old way of adjusting the amount of light in the studio was to move the lights closer and farther away, so this is an obvious improvement.
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Another great feature is the design. Paul C. Buff, the president of AlienBees and White Lightning, is the designer of these lights and really knows his stuff. It is clear to me that Buff is more than a photographer who wanted to build a new type of light. Buff is an engineer of mighty proportions and was able to take the conventional lighting system and improve on it, making it lighter, smaller, more efficient and more robust. The AlienBees lights have a small form factor, low power consumption and light as powerful as you would ever need in a studio.
I first cut my teeth in studio lighting with an old Speedotron power pack-based system. It worked fine but was not adjustable and was basically hot, heavy and clunky. Moving to an AlienBees setup was like a breath of fresh air, both in terms of what I could do with the lighting system and how easy it was to use.
The bottom line, though, is price. My entire setup, including three lights, two umbrellas, a softbox, three stands, a stand case, extra bulb and a few other goodies was about $1500. That's a big bite to swallow, but not nearly as expensive as many competitors. AlienBees has kits designed that start as low as $360 for a light, stand and umbrella.