August 23, 2014, 03:57:38 PM

Poll

Which light system?

Canon 600EX RT
16 (50%)
Paul C. Buff AlienBees
16 (50%)

Total Members Voted: 32

Voting closed: May 22, 2013, 04:12:42 PM

Author Topic: 600EX RT vs AlienBees  (Read 7885 times)

Wildfire

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600EX RT vs AlienBees
« on: February 21, 2013, 02:53:33 PM »
So I'm trying to decide what kind of lighting gear to buy in the near future. Currently, I shoot with a 430EX on-camera and some cheap manual flashes triggered wirelessly by radio, but I want to move into wireless TTL OR monolight strobes. I realize that each of these systems has advantages and disadvantages -- I feel that I would benefit from the advantages of both, but purchasing both systems is out of the question due to the cost. I would be shooting on-location portraits and weddings with this gear.

600EX RT advantages:
1) Built-in wireless transceiver
2) Portability
3) High-speed sync
4) ETTL

The main reason I would choose the Canon RT system over 3rd-party speedlites is point #1: no longer do I have to worry about charging dozens of batteries just to use two speedlites, or trying to figure out whether the problem is with my flash or the radio triggers when troubleshooting during a shoot -- everything is in one self-contained unit.

As for point #2: I can fit 2 or 3 of these speedlites in my bag with my camera... I don't have to worry about packing strobes in a separate bag.

Point #3: I'd like to do more shooting in bright sunlight. I'm using a 6D right now which has a terrible sync speed of 1/180 (I've shot at 1/200 with no problem without HSS but I would still prefer a higher sync) so HSS could prove to be a real advantage for me.

Point #4: I'd be able to hotshoe mount the speedlites and use them for bounce flash, which is something I already do pretty frequently with my 430EX. In addition, I might find that I like having wireless ETTL ratio control and use that instead of manual.


AlienBee advantages:
1) Power
2) Recycle time
3) Price
4) Modifiers

Point #1: You can never have enough flash power.

Point #2: Although I haven't had too much of an issue with speedlite recycle times, instant flash recycle times definitely won't hurt.

Point #3: For the price of just two 600EX RTs I could buy four ABs and a Vagabond. WTF is with that price, Canon?

Point #4: Really liking the Paul Buff modifiers. They're inexpensive and seem to work great with the ABs.


So what do you guys think? It looks like I spent a lot of time trying to justify going with the Canon system whereas the ABs are a no-brainer at the price point. Honestly, if I do go with the Canon system I am going to wait for them to release some RT slaves first so I would only have to buy one 600EX... 480EX RT anyone?

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Re: 600EX RT vs AlienBees
« Reply #1 on: February 21, 2013, 05:55:57 PM »
If you get Einsteins, You could pull off lighting effects that Broncolor and Profoto will turn up their noses at.

neuroanatomist

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Re: 600EX RT vs AlienBees
« Reply #2 on: February 21, 2013, 06:27:02 PM »
You mention shooting in bright sun. If you want to add fill light, the Speedlites are fine.  If you want to shoot portraits and overpower the sun to fully control the light, monolights are the way to go.  Outdoor portraits usually benefit from wide aperture lenses, but when you add flash into that mix, HSS doesn't have enough power except for fill, so to use fast apertures you have to use ND filters to knock the shutter speed down to Xsync, and again, not enough power from a Speedlite.  Of course, you can gang 3-4 Speedlites inside each modifier - that would give enough power.  But it's not really a cost-effective solution.
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Chris Burch

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Re: 600EX RT vs AlienBees
« Reply #3 on: February 21, 2013, 06:41:58 PM »
Going to throw you a curve ball and tell you to go with both with a slight modification.  I've have a set strobes for years and they certainly have their place depending on the type of shooting you're doing.  I usually only use them at home in a studio setup but have taken them on location for portrait shoots and use them for station setups like step-and-repeat.  In these cases the benefits you mentioned are all very applicable, but you overlooked the presence of modeling lights, which are really nice to have in certain situations.  I currently have 3 Paul Buff Einsteins with a variety of modifiers.  You're definitely on the right track with the Buff gear as far as bang for buck and quality.  They are also a lot more portable than you might think.  I have a single hard suit-case (maybe 25" tall) that hold 3 Einsteins, 3 Vagabond minis, 3 extra batteries, 2 types reflectors sets and various accessories.  All I need to go with it is a bag with stands and umbrellas or other modifiers, which you would need with the speedlights anyway.

All of that said, I still decided to expand my speedlight capability last year to have 4 remotes plus an on-camera speedlight for event shooting and on-location portraits.  The portability is huge for me, but the speedlights also offer a wider range of uses.  You can substitute the speedlights for most strobe lighting applications if you can deal with the loss of power and lack of modeling lights.  However, you'll find a lot more uses for the speedlights because of their size and the fact that you're more likely to have them with you.  If you're shooting interiors, the speedlights can be hidden throughout indoor spaces to add light.  If you're shooting portraits, you can use speedlights alone or in combination with strobes or even ambient lighting.  You can do a lot of creative outdoor with with a fully portable and lightweight solution.  My favorite application, however, is using speedlights to provide supplemental room lighting for large event spaces.  I can deploy up to 4 speedlights around a room to beef up or replace ambient lighting.  These produce very pleasing layers of lighting that set the images apart from a single on-camera flash.   Don't underestimate the power of speedlights either.  Here is a shot of a huge 3-story hall lit up with 4 speedlights:


I wouldn't want to part with either solution, so the next question is how to make all of it affordable.  The AlienBee route is already about as affordable as it gets, so I suggest you get 2 ABs and a set of stands and modifiers (at least get umbrellas, which are quite affordable).  Fortunately, you don't need to stick with the expensive Canon solution to build out a robust and reliable speedlight solution.  I already had 3 580EXIIs with the 600EX-RT came out.  I bought a 600 hoping to get improved eTTL performance (was marginally better) and then was left with the decision to buy up to 4 more for remote lights at a huge premium or come up with a way to make my existing 580s work.  After a lot of research I invested in a set of Phottix Stratos II triggers ($90 for a trans/recv pair or $55 for recv only).  With those triggers it doesn't matter what speedlights I am using, so I can go for a cheap option like a YungNuo YN-560II (same power as a 580 or 600 but only costs $73/ea).  My current setup is a single 600 on my camera for front lighting, with a set of 3 580s and 1 YN-560 for remote lighting.  The YN speedlight performs flawlessly and you can't tell it apart from the 580s.  You do give up some functionality like remote eTTL (which I have yet to find a situation where I would actually use it) and you are adding extra gear with batteries for the triggers.  The Stratos do "pass-through eTTL", so the on-camera flash still get all of the eTTL functionality, just none of the remotes can communicate like that.  On the upside, the Stratos triggers have a 500ft range which is way better than the 600's 100ft range.  For the photos in the link about, I would have been beyond the range of the 600s.  The 600 wireless solution is actually more complicated by the way.  You'll have to page through settings and make sure everything is communicating and it sometimes needs to be reset.  With basic triggers like the Stratos, you just plug in, pick a channel and you're done -- more gear, but fewer options to worry about.  You should keep in mind that with the AlienBee solution, you're going to need triggers anyway -- the Stratos work great for strobes, too.  It sounds like you already have a set of speedlights, in which case, I would only question your motivation to use a wireless eTTL solution, especially considering the cost. 

My advice would be to get an AlienBee solution and maintain a speedlight solution with low-cost options and remotes triggers.  That by far gives you the most options and pro-level capability.
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Re: 600EX RT vs AlienBees
« Reply #4 on: February 21, 2013, 07:39:07 PM »
The only significant real-world advantage to me of a hotshoe-mounted flash is that...well...you can mount it to your hotshoe.

As soon as you take that flash off the hotshoe, it loses its single most important advantage and takes on almost all the disadvantages of studio lights. And you're still saddled with all the very significant disadvantages of a hotshoe flash -- its very wimpy power, its astronomical cost, the hell of using it with any modifier other than a small and cheesy umbrella, and so on.

For me, a hotshoe flash is only for situations where it's going to stay mounted to the camera, and even then it's really just for bounce flash. If I was going to use it straight on, I might as well whip out the iPhone -- the end result will be just as ugly.

If I'm going to go to the bother of setting up stands and softboxes and what-not, I'm damned well not going to put up with the nonsense of an overpriced, underpowered toy at the heart of all that effort. An Einstein and a Vagabond, compared with the light stand and the softbox / parabolic reflector / whatever, isn't adding significantly more to the bulk and weight at that point. And the Cyber Commander is such an awesome remote control system that I really couldn't care about messing with on-camera menus.

So, that's my advice. Get the hotshoe flash if you'll actually use it primarily in the camera's hotshoe, and get real strobes for the stuff that won't be mounted to a hotshoe.

Right tool for the job and all that. A sledgehammer and a claw hammer are both hammers and, I suppose, at some vague level, theoretically interchangeable. But you'd be nuts to try to bust up a concrete pad with a claw hammer and even more insane to try to frame a house with a sledge.

Cheers,

b&

Cheers,

b&

Wildfire

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Re: 600EX RT vs AlienBees
« Reply #5 on: February 21, 2013, 07:47:07 PM »
Thanks for the replies, guys, that really helps!

I am already using the Phottix Strato IIs, with my 430EX II in the pass-through for on-camera fill/bounce and a bunch of YN560s as the main lights) and have found them to be great triggers! I was thinking maybe the 600EX RT system would make things easier, but Chris has reminded me that there's really nothing I can't accomplish with my current setup that I could with the 600s... and the price just isn't worth the small benefit.

With that in mind, I will probably just sell the 430 and replace it with a 580EX II and continue using my manual speedlite setup while saving $$$ for some AB/Einstein strobes in the future.

Really liked your example pic as well, Chris... the hall looks like it was lit that way to begin with! May I ask where you placed the speedlites? :)

neuroanatomist

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Re: 600EX RT vs AlienBees
« Reply #6 on: February 21, 2013, 07:48:04 PM »
Ok, then what the hell am I supposed to do with this ball peen hammer?!?   :P
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Re: 600EX RT vs AlienBees
« Reply #7 on: February 21, 2013, 07:56:49 PM »
You mention shooting in bright sun. If you want to add fill light, the Speedlites are fine.  If you want to shoot portraits and overpower the sun to fully control the light, monolights are the way to go.  Outdoor portraits usually benefit from wide aperture lenses, but when you add flash into that mix, HSS doesn't have enough power except for fill, so to use fast apertures you have to use ND filters to knock the shutter speed down to Xsync, and again, not enough power from a Speedlite.  Of course, you can gang 3-4 Speedlites inside each modifier - that would give enough power.  But it's not really a cost-effective solution.

Syl Arena uses HSS with 580's (now 600's) to knock down the sun. He lives in a sun drenched area like me so that is his solution to control the outdoor light. I haven't experimented a lot with that myself so haven't verified, but he's got the technique extensively documented in his books.

He's also a fan of ganging speedlites, but I'm pretty sure he uses the technique without that.

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Re: 600EX RT vs AlienBees
« Reply #8 on: February 21, 2013, 08:15:45 PM »
Ok, then what the hell am I supposed to do with this ball peen hammer?!?   :P

They work great on somebody with a few screws loose...if you know what I mean....

b&

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Re: 600EX RT vs AlienBees
« Reply #9 on: February 21, 2013, 08:53:31 PM »
Now, do keep in mind, if you go by pure full Guide Number, the 600 is stronger (when fully zoomed and in optimum conditions) than the 800 w/s strobes, but the 1600 w/s are more powerful.  Also, you get a bigger, wider light source at that high power than the 600, which only gets it's peak power at full zoom and full power, so in essence you only get the full 58meter guide number at an 100mm lens wide area... not that much.  You may lose high speed sync, and you may lose strobo/multi flash and radio sync, but heck, you can get multiple flashes for the price of one 600. 
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Re: 600EX RT vs AlienBees
« Reply #10 on: February 21, 2013, 09:20:13 PM »
Also be aware that the 600-RT's don't have complete bells and whistles in wireless ETTL that you can get with some 3rd party RF triggers these days. Such as you can't adjust the manual power of individual speedlites off camera, you can only use group ratios to adjust the power of the off-camera speedlites.

Not saying it won't meet your needs, but be sure to read 100% of the manual on the 600-RT's to know what they can, and can't, do via RF. Not saying you can get more out of the Alien Bee's/Einstein monolights, but it's always good to be an informed consumer.
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Re: 600EX RT vs AlienBees
« Reply #11 on: February 21, 2013, 11:50:24 PM »
I have both systems.  From my experience, I prefer to have the portability of the 580s or 600s.  I shoot mainly weddings and on-location portraits.  And the light load makes me thankful I'm not carting around my ABs.  For that I would need an assistant.  If I could afford an assistant for all shoots, then yes, I'd prefer the power of the ABs as it gives you full control of the lighting situation.

As for weddings, there's more opportunities for ABs, but I generally just quickly setup my 600s at the reception and be done with it.

cayenne

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Re: 600EX RT vs AlienBees
« Reply #12 on: February 22, 2013, 01:40:01 PM »
So I'm trying to decide what kind of lighting gear to buy in the near future. Currently, I shoot with a 430EX on-camera and some cheap manual flashes triggered wirelessly by radio, but I want to move into wireless TTL OR monolight strobes. I realize that each of these systems has advantages and disadvantages -- I feel that I would benefit from the advantages of both, but purchasing both systems is out of the question due to the cost. I would be shooting on-location portraits and weddings with this gear.

600EX RT advantages:
1) Built-in wireless transceiver
2) Portability
3) High-speed sync
4) ETTL

The main reason I would choose the Canon RT system over 3rd-party speedlites is point #1: no longer do I have to worry about charging dozens of batteries just to use two speedlites, or trying to figure out whether the problem is with my flash or the radio triggers when troubleshooting during a shoot -- everything is in one self-contained unit.

As for point #2: I can fit 2 or 3 of these speedlites in my bag with my camera... I don't have to worry about packing strobes in a separate bag.

Point #3: I'd like to do more shooting in bright sunlight. I'm using a 6D right now which has a terrible sync speed of 1/180 (I've shot at 1/200 with no problem without HSS but I would still prefer a higher sync) so HSS could prove to be a real advantage for me.

Point #4: I'd be able to hotshoe mount the speedlites and use them for bounce flash, which is something I already do pretty frequently with my 430EX. In addition, I might find that I like having wireless ETTL ratio control and use that instead of manual.


AlienBee advantages:
1) Power
2) Recycle time
3) Price
4) Modifiers

Point #1: You can never have enough flash power.

Point #2: Although I haven't had too much of an issue with speedlite recycle times, instant flash recycle times definitely won't hurt.

Point #3: For the price of just two 600EX RTs I could buy four ABs and a Vagabond. WTF is with that price, Canon?

Point #4: Really liking the Paul Buff modifiers. They're inexpensive and seem to work great with the ABs.


So what do you guys think? It looks like I spent a lot of time trying to justify going with the Canon system whereas the ABs are a no-brainer at the price point. Honestly, if I do go with the Canon system I am going to wait for them to release some RT slaves first so I would only have to buy one 600EX... 480EX RT anyone?

What all of AB stuff are you thinking about here? Model numbers? What's the cost you're looking at?
I've heard of AB stuff, but don't know much about it...sounds interesting, but I'd not know what a noob to them would be buying...can you fill in a bit more detail please?
:)

Thanx!

cayenne

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Re: 600EX RT vs AlienBees
« Reply #13 on: February 22, 2013, 09:46:14 PM »
The only significant real-world advantage to me of a hotshoe-mounted flash is that...well...you can mount it to your hotshoe.

As soon as you take that flash off the hotshoe, it loses its single most important advantage and takes on almost all the disadvantages of studio lights. And you're still saddled with all the very significant disadvantages of a hotshoe flash -- its very wimpy power, its astronomical cost, the hell of using it with any modifier other than a small and cheesy umbrella, and so on.

For me, a hotshoe flash is only for situations where it's going to stay mounted to the camera, and even then it's really just for bounce flash. If I was going to use it straight on, I might as well whip out the iPhone -- the end result will be just as ugly.

If I'm going to go to the bother of setting up stands and softboxes and what-not, I'm damned well not going to put up with the nonsense of an overpriced, underpowered toy at the heart of all that effort. An Einstein and a Vagabond, compared with the light stand and the softbox / parabolic reflector / whatever, isn't adding significantly more to the bulk and weight at that point. And the Cyber Commander is such an awesome remote control system that I really couldn't care about messing with on-camera menus.

So, that's my advice. Get the hotshoe flash if you'll actually use it primarily in the camera's hotshoe, and get real strobes for the stuff that won't be mounted to a hotshoe.

Right tool for the job and all that. A sledgehammer and a claw hammer are both hammers and, I suppose, at some vague level, theoretically interchangeable. But you'd be nuts to try to bust up a concrete pad with a claw hammer and even more insane to try to frame a house with a sledge.

Cheers,

b&

Cheers,

b&

While I agree with most of this, Taking a speedlite off camera, mounted to a monopod (easier to hold then in hand) in either wired or wireless can be amazing for event lighting, providing wonderful fill flash. I do this with a 15" Lastolite and 8" Lastolite soft boxes with great success in areas with ceilings that are too high to bounce, outside and even in my attempts at studio work which I am slowly learning.

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Re: 600EX RT vs AlienBees
« Reply #14 on: February 24, 2013, 02:13:45 AM »
RMC33,
Are you hand-holding the lights you describe -- while shooting with the other hand? Or is an assistant carrying the lights by a monopod/pole while another on-camera flash and radio triggers both?

I want to do multi-light event work, so was visualizing your arrangement. The hard part is covering the cost of the two-legged light stand out of the fee if the customer has been price-sensitive.

jonathan7007