Worst lighting purchase you ever made? The best?

CanonFanBoy

EOS 5D MK IV
Jan 28, 2015
3,332
952
Irving, Texas
Some of us may have made a gear purchase we regretted at one time or another. It happens.

Lighting is probably a big one on the "wish I hadn't done that" list.

What is the worst lighting purchase you ever made, and what is the best?

In my case it was a matter of being ignorant. I was truck driving full time and decided I wanted to get into photography. I did a lot of review reading, watched a lot of how to videos on YouTube, and thought I knew how to delve into the hobby in a smart way. Was I ever wrong.

Sadly, nearly all my lighting purchases were the wrong purchases for me.

First I thought that continuous lighting was the way to go. While that works for some it turns out my spare room is too small for any kind of portrait work. I bought a bunch of Fotodiox LED lighting products I never use except to plug into a generator when I go camping. The biggest expensive mistake in continuous lighting was the purchase of a Rosco Litepad Axiom 12"x 12". It got used once or twice for some tabletop fun involving bottles of liquor.

My biggest mistake for flash? I had just read Syl Arena's "Speedliters Handbook". There was his work in all its glory and using up to 15 Canon 600EX-RT for his shots. He'd mount them on wooden boards in big gangs.. I thought, COOL! That has to be the way to go for outdoor shots! So I ended up with 7 of the 600EX-RT and the ST-E3-RT.

That's when I realized that although Mr. Arena's work is famous, his method is unwieldy at best. It is just too much work and too time consuming to gang the mob together for shooting outdoors and they really don't pack much of a punch.

Long story short I never use the LED lighting or the Canon Speedlites.

I use a single Flashpoint Streaklight (360ws) and have been happy as I can be with it. I wish I had just bought 2 or 3 of them instead of the rest. Could have had a 1DX for all that wasted money.

So, now that I've told my most embarrassing story in the hobby, what is yours? :D
 

mb66energy

EOS 6D MK II
Dec 18, 2011
1,207
141
Germany
www.MichaelBockhorst.de
The worst: A bunch of E27 socket LED lamps for continuous lightning which is still in its original package or fulfills its service in other lamps.

Medium: A 430 EX flash bought for a wedding of friends but proved its usability during a lot of festivities in the meantime.

The best: Three Aputure Amaran AL-H198C LED lights with ~800 lumen, variable intensity and color temperature. For table top, macro, portrait etc. They are waiting for the first spring season as fill light for contralight macros etc. Some use for documentation of 3D prints and other stuff showed the great flexibility of these.
 

Viggo

EOS 5D SR
Dec 13, 2010
3,957
470
The worst experience was with the Pocket Wizard Flex system, i fried two 580 flashes and had two sets of hardware and a million firmwares, even had to ship the half across the world, and they NEVER worked.

But the most embarrassing was that I kept buying the cheapest stuff on eBay thinking it was more than good enough, they always lasted exactly one outing, after waiting three weeks on shipping, haha :) and I didn't learn, but kept buying the cheapos. All the way up to buying the Elinchrom Quadra which was way to heavy and no hss.

I then decided enough was enough and went for the ad360 and loved it! But the best lightning gear I have ever bought is my current Profoto B1 plus modifiers. Absolutely does what I want when I want and no cables so I always bring it with me and that's what matters.
 

Zeidora

EOS 7D MK II
Feb 15, 2015
668
10
Worst: Olympus F280. Was the first flash that permitted flash at any shutter speed, but did to realize that power also goes down with faster speeds, so the flash became useless. While a cool engineering achievement, it was useless in the real world.

Best 2:
- Westcott 7-in-1 diffusor/reflector. So simple, so effective.
- PCB Einstein 640 with softbox. Made a HUGE difference for studio lighting of plants.
 

Besisika

How can you stand out, if you do like evrybdy else
Mar 25, 2014
634
21
Montreal
My worst: some cowboy studio manual studio strobes. I thought I would shoot a lot in studio using shallow DOF so I bought the weakest power, but they ended up sitting on the shelf.
Together with them a bunch of (around 10 or more) umbrellas that have no use at all, except the 7-foot Westcott black and white.

My best: Paul C Buff system: Einstein + mini vagabond + Cybersync. I just love the fast recycle time as well as measuring light just once and then adjusting it anytime using the Cybersync. I ended up shooting on location 100% of the time and the system works flawlessly for me. I own as well a Jinbei DC 1200 and whenever I need more juice it comes in handy.
I might complement them this year with the Impact Venture, I miss TTL when bouncing strobe indoor, in big space.
 

Jopa

EOS 6D MK II
Dec 11, 2015
1,056
0
Worst - Sony F60M flash, overheats quickly as everything else Sony made.
Best - 4x Einstein 640 + the cybercommander.
 
May 8, 2013
1,853
0
I wasted far too much money on Tupperware cups and stuff for flashes.

You can't change the laws of physics when it comes to light. That was an expensive lesson.
 
Mar 14, 2012
2,272
155
Following this forum has prevented me from making egregious errors in lighting, so thanks for that.

Worst: buying a small umbrella after following good advice and starting with sofboxes. The umbrella was used once, spilled too much light and wasn't used again. I have a grid or a flashbender that has yet to be used, but I got them knowing they wouldn't be used much.

Medium: Ended up with four 600ex-rts and a st-e3-rt. Only paid retail for the first 600ex-rt, rest were on sale or refurbished. St-e3-rt was a good price off ebay. For portraits, usually use three and sometimes four, so they are getting used. However, it has definitely delayed my experimentation with strobes.

Best: boom light stand. Having the option of hanging a light source from above enabled more control. Wish I had gotten it earlier.
 
Worst - Purchasing the original Canon 270EX. That thing did not help me at all when I first got into photography. Also, after reading The Speedliter's Handbook, I bought too many modifiers and I eventually gave some away.

Best - The best investment I've made for lighting in general was The Speedliter's Handbook. It taught me almost everything I know about OCF. Even though I couldn't afford a ton of 600EX-RTs, I was able to do research and eventually ended up purchasing all Flashpoint (Godox) gear.

From the XPLOR 600 TTL (studio flash) to the Zoom Li-on TTL (speedlite), those are the best flashes I've ever purchased! I've had a couple of 600EX-RTs and YN560III flashes however, nothing can beat the convenience of having a diverse group of flashes with each one including TTL, HSS, a single built-in battery, no cords (except for Streaklight 360 (AD360)), great price, built-in radio receiver, and one trigger for everything (no external receivers necessary). Also, Flashpoint (Godox) continues to expand their line-up and I can't wait to get their latest flash, the EVOLV 200 (AD200). That flash will have a unique placement in my gear bag once it comes out.

I'm not trying to sound like a commercial however, out of the 4 years I've been a strobist photographer, I finally found flashes that do everything I dreamed of after reading The Speedliter's Handbook. The Flashpoint (Godox) system isn't perfect however, I think anyone would appreciate the options it provides.
 

Talys

Canon 6DII
Feb 16, 2017
2,052
317
Vancouver, BC
Worst... a chestful of 85W CFL bulbs (400W equivalent). Close worst: a lot of crappy Chinese lighting of all sizes and shapes that I bought because it was cheap, and I love trying stuff out -- even if I'm pretty sure it will be junk. The only thing good that came out of 95% of these purchases is affirmation of my "junk spidey sense" is pretty good.

Best... Elinchrom strobes / softbox kit. I got so much mileage out of this. It's very versatile, and even the light stands that came with the kit are great quality. I still use every piece in the kit, many years later.

Close second -- The funky folding Manfrotto lighting/backdrop stands that can be stacked or connected to each other come in for a close second. I just love those things :)
 

LDS

EOR R
Sep 14, 2012
1,515
121
My "worst" purchase was a Lumiquest bouncer. Good for quick portraits (that's why "worst" with quotes), but little else, I hoped more when I bought it. Yet it taught me to be careful about buying "magical" add-ons :) For a while I preferred to master shooting using ambient light only, because I didn't like strobe effect much.

I'm glad I read "Light Science and Magic" before spending money into more expensive lighting setups, it helped me a lot to understand and choose what I needed - and that without naming commercial products. The internet is a good source of information, but there's also a lot of marketing in action, it's not always easy to separate the two, especially when a beginner.

My best is my Elinchrom D-Lite RX kit, and a few accessories for it.
 

pwp

EOS 5D MK IV
Oct 25, 2010
2,518
12
I've probably been lucky with most lighting purchases, but I guess the one notable fail was a Metz speedlight bought for my then new Canon 1Ds. The 1Ds played very badly with flash, and the Metz was a unit considered to be one that worked ok with the 1Ds. It was a monumental fail on most counts, culminating in a small explosion as the capacitors went bang. Other bad buys were Elincrom 500 monoblocs from late last century. They didn't have a fan so did get hot when working, even with the modeling light off. They spent a lot of time at the repair shop. Next came Profoto 600 compact monos, hopefully something that was rock & roll build quality. After a couple of stable years, they started spending a lot of time at the repair shop too. None the less, they were good lights. No regrets.

The king of them all is a surprise one to me. The Profotos were replaced with six Einsteins and a bunch of mods and accessories. They're super reliable, light and punchy when required. Fantastic. In the speedlight department, I've always been happy with two or three 550ex, 580ex, 580exII and 600ex.

As I've come to use available light a lot more as iso performance has gone through the roof, I'm often going to jobs with just a couple of good LED panels to assist with fill and shaping.

-pw
 

V8Beast

EOS 6D MK II
Jun 2, 2011
1,128
2
www.stephenkimphoto.com
Worst: Coincidentally, all of my "worst" purchases have been wireless triggers. I had an early version of the Cactus triggers. They worked reasonably well, but too many misfires. For the price, that was expected.

Nevertheless, all Radio Popper products I have owned take the cake for junk triggers. First came the JrX triggers. I liked the idea of controlling the output of my White Lightnings from the transmitters, but one of the two triggers started randomly misfiring at full output very five seconds on the first shoot out.

Against my better judgement, I gave Radio Popper another shot when the Jr2 triggers were released. Yet again, one of the two triggers got "stuck" at full power when attached to the White Lightnings, and turning the dial down did nothing to reduce strobe output. That puts the failure rate of my four Radio Popper products at 50%. As far as I'm concerned, their products are junk.


Best: Every lighting product I still own falls under the "best" category. I love the Phottix Odin triggers for controlling both my old stock of 550EX Speedlites and monolights. I love how they bring radio, TTL capability to old, dusty, Speedlites. They make dirt cheap used 550EXs a disposable item, so the times I've knocked them over and ruined them by mistake, I'm only out $50. LOL :)

In the four years that I owned them, I loved my 1000Ws White Lightning strobes. A bit crude compared to the fancier lights out there, but they flat out got the job done and I never had a single failure. Even after I got them soaking wet in a torrential tropical storm, they dried out a couple days later and kept on ticking!

Unfortunately, some POS stole them, so now I need to decide between the Profoto B1 Airs or the Phottix Indras.

I'll throw my two Cheetah boxes under the "best" category as well. Nothing fancy, but they get the job done.
 

pwp

EOS 5D MK IV
Oct 25, 2010
2,518
12
V8Beast said:
.....In the four years that I owned them, I loved my 1000Ws White Lightning strobes. A bit crude compared to the fancier lights out there, but they flat out got the job done and I never had a single failure. Even after I got them soaking wet in a torrential tropical storm, they dried out a couple days later and kept on ticking!

Unfortunately, some POS stole them, so now I need to decide between the Profoto B1 Airs or the Phottix Indras.
If you had such a great run with your PCB White Lightnings, why not stay in the same shop and pick up a few Einsteins? They are a ridiculously great buy.

-pw
 

V8Beast

EOS 6D MK II
Jun 2, 2011
1,128
2
www.stephenkimphoto.com
pwp said:
V8Beast said:
.....In the four years that I owned them, I loved my 1000Ws White Lightning strobes. A bit crude compared to the fancier lights out there, but they flat out got the job done and I never had a single failure. Even after I got them soaking wet in a torrential tropical storm, they dried out a couple days later and kept on ticking!

Unfortunately, some POS stole them, so now I need to decide between the Profoto B1 Airs or the Phottix Indras.
If you had such a great run with your PCB White Lightnings, why not stay in the same shop and pick up a few Einsteins? They are a ridiculously great buy.

-pw
I find myself asking the same question :) I'm getting lazy in my old age, so the 15-20 minutes I would save in set-up/teardown time with an integrated head/battery/trigger solution is very appealing with the newer strobes. This really wouldn't matter indoors, but most of my shoots are rather run-and-gun, on-location shindigs that often involve switching locations multiple times.

Obviously, the price of the Profotos was a major deterrent, but then Google told me about the Orlit RoveLight RT 610 lights from Adorama. For less than 1/3 the price of the Profoto B1s, I think I have to give them a go :)
 

Click

I post too Much on Here!!
Jul 29, 2012
12,165
748
Canada
Viggo said:
The worst experience was with the Pocket Wizard Flex system, i fried two 580 flashes
Ditto.

The best: I switched to Canon Speedlite 600EX-RT and Canon ST-E3-RT
 

applecider

EOS 7D MK II
May 20, 2012
486
42
Portland Oregon, Cape Cod
Seconded on the pocket wizard system (worse lighting related), works but constant tinkering and testing required.

Ok purchase was a LED panel with color adjustment that I picked up for about 200$, I've used it for close in macro lighting and for overnight time lapse of growing plants. Doesn't travel.

Best may be
Canon 600 Rt but the yongnuo 600 RT seems pretty good if not as solid as the canon. Between a mixture of canons 430, 580 600, a couple of yongnuo 600 RT clones and some of the cheap yongnuo triggers (the RF 603 Cii), I'm at a place where I can do 95% of what I want radio controlled. The other 5% would be related to macro and really a dedicated macro light seems the only way to illuminate those subjects and is an extra niche that I don't feel compelled to fill.
 

mnclayshooter

I love shooting - clay pigeons and photos!
Oct 28, 2013
314
0
Minnesota, USA
AcutancePhotography said:
I wasted far too much money on Tupperware cups and stuff for flashes.

You can't change the laws of physics when it comes to light. That was an expensive lesson.
But Gary Fong appreciated it.
 

mnclayshooter

I love shooting - clay pigeons and photos!
Oct 28, 2013
314
0
Minnesota, USA
The worst purchase I've made in lighting has been for my G1X. I couldn't get proper exposure to save my life in a dark space. The on-camera flash fired and I still wasn't getting any light in the images. I bought a 420 thinking it was a big enough gun to light up the entire space, which it was, but I still was getting almost completely black images.

Turns out the aperture was stuck due to a mfr flaw and it was on about f20 equivalent permanently regardless of settings. Got it repaired and it came back working great... decent exposures without even a flash firing.

Positives: gained a flash unit
Negatives: spent a lot of money on a non-radio triggered unit.

The best - a macro ring light with full-time pilot/focusing light.