Tabletop Lighting : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

I'm trying to put together a small lighting setup for some still life work I'm doing (probably 2 power packs and 3 heads to start) and I'm curious whether anyone can give feedback - positive or negative - on Calumet's line of lighting products. I'm also interested in feedback on Photogenics monolights. Both companies have some interesting offerings, but I don't know anyone who has used either brand. Does anyone know who's manufacturing Calumet's line?

I haven't really decided whether to go the monolight or power pack/head route yet, though I'm probably leaning towards the power pack. If I had to make a decision today, I'd probably choose Dyna-Lite, simply based on previous experience with their products. I'm not familiar with their current line though, so any feedback there would also be helpful. Ultimately, I'll probably use this equipment for medium format portraiture as well as my 4x5 still life work.

I've used Profoto and Speedotron in the past, though Profoto is a bit beyond my current budget and I never enjoyed the frequent zaps that Speedotron is famous for. If someone thinks I'm making a big mistake writing off Profoto, or if you think I'm missing another worthy company, please feel free to give me that feedback and your reasoning. (As you can tell, I'm still pretty open to suggestions!)

Thanks in advance for your help.

-- Tim Klein (, July 05, 2001


Dyna-lite or other pack and head set ups over monolights for the following reason: when you do still life you often want to get the light over your set. Monolights are really too heavy for most boom systems. I never had shocking experiences with Speedotron and I agree about Profoto being too pricey. I use Balcar.

-- Ellis Vener Photography (, July 05, 2001.

I know very little about tabletop shooting, but I have used white lightning and later Profoto for medium format portraiture. I've got the Acute pack which I've had for some time, a system that I gravitated to because of its ringlight.

I would defer to the tabletop shooters as to whether the ringlight is a plus for tabletop shooting, but I can tell you it's a real plus for portraits. Depending on the set-up I'll use the ringlight by itself or with another head sometimes to replace and/or mimic a 'butterfly' set-up (head and reflector set up over and under).

If you've used Profoto you know it's built like a tank. The current system is the Acute-2 which is now fan cooled as are the heads which are cheaper than the ABS heads. I bought my kit 'whole hog' sometime ago but now Profoto I believe has a promo up 'till september of the Acute-2 w/two heads and a third head free. A lease on an Acute-2 w/two heads is $100.00 and change for 3yrs and a $1.00 payoff(you'd have to check if they could combine a lease w/promo).

I know you talk about your budget, but Profoto is warranteed for three years(unless that's changed). Even if you go with a system that might be cheaper initially than Profoto by the time you get through with the heads, the pack, all the accessories, I don't think there's going to be that big of differnece in cash outlay(for an Acute-2).

Also I learned a long time ago the hard way that cheaper now sometimes means a lot MO money later.

-- Jonathan Brewer (, July 05, 2001.

White Lightening Ultra's. Pat

-- pat krentz (, July 06, 2001.

What's available to rent in your area? If you need to augment the system for a one-off job life's going to be easier if you can hire stuff you are already familiar with. For me, that would definitely tip the balance to Profoto.

-- Struan Gray (, July 06, 2001.

I'm seconding Ellis's comments. Monoblocs overhead are cumbersome if not risky. Also a pain to change the power settings. I have Dynalite 1000x power packs and love them... used them hard for 15+ years and counting. Very light, very powerful and a breeze to work with. Profotos and speedo's are nice also but also as somone pointed out... what is used in your area. This means (usually) that a reputable repair person is close by. What you want to look for is an "arc proof" system... and naturally don't unplug when the power is on... at least that is what I do. With an arc proof system you can do this without blowing out your ear drums from the huge sonic boom that will happen but why chance it! To me, monoblocs are good to be used as fills with snoots but that is me. Saying your going to use the stuff for 4x5 is key to your decisions! You will need to spend as much as you can (even if it is just getting one pack for now) on as much power as you can get. I have never been at a loss with the 2 1000x's and 4 heads that I started out with. If you are going to even plan on a small amount of location work... something light is in order also. One last thought... whatever you choose, make sure a camera store in your area has or can get the things you need in a hurry. Calumet's line is a clean light but they have to be sent off to Chicago for warranty repairs. I would stick to what you feel about the power pack/Dynalite thoughts that you have. I have NEVER been let down by mine and that is pretty much what you will here from anyone that has them! I hope this helps. Cheers

-- Scott Walton (, July 06, 2001.

Time, we use speedotron black line units at work, and I use Dynalites for my own stuff. The Dynalites are great for location shooting, but sometimes the small pack size (I just have one 1000 watt pack) is puny for 4x5 work...I have to use multi-pops most of the time when I do small table top work. Which is no big deal, I prefer to do that anyway, but with more power it's easier to do this work on a daily basis. We still do the majority of our shooting based around multiple pops....with 3 packs, they're still stretched at times. You can really almost never have enough power for studio work....FWIW I always turn off my dynalights even though they're's an old habit from the speedotrons....I have personally never arced a speedotron but have worked with some poor souls who did...

-- DK Thompson (, July 06, 2001.

Yeah, I've worked with Dynalites and Speedotrons both as a photo assistant and shooter. I like the Dyn's a lot and the photog I worked for had a 1000w pack and a few of the smaller, I think 800w packs. They worked fine and we did a lot of multi-pops but the images always looked great in the end. I have speedo stuff that I got used for me and I have never had a problem with it. But it is bulky for location use...

-- Jason Janik (, July 06, 2001.

I am debating on the same question. Right now I use a White- lightening Ultra1800 with a matthews C-stand. The C-stand and boom seems strong enough to support the monolight. But I am still a little worried. And when it's used this way, I need a chair to get to all the controls. Recently on ebay, I saw some old Balcar 2400A back and heads for less than $1000. The seller said that it's about 20 years old. I wonder if anyone knows about them. Ellis seems have a lot of experences with Balcar, maybe he can give some suggestion on these Baclar equipment and the reasonable price for them. Thanks.

-- tao wu (, July 06, 2001.

Tim, sorry I spelled your name wrong...about the mulitple pops, I actually prefer to shoot this way..I usually just shoot a normal, and a +1/2 stop...this way I just do it in pops, usually 2 and 3...or however it works's much easier than changing an aperture in a way....but the smaller packs, like 800-1000 watts, are more suited to portrait & location work...and smaller formats. It may just be me, but I've found 2400 watts to be the least I'd want for table-top or studio work...LF will eat up alot of power in terms of bellows factor, and the type of subject matter...

As for Calumet's stuff, I'm not sure, but some of it resembles Bowens gear in a way....I agree that whatever you pick, try to get something that you can get repaired & serviced easily and can also rent in your area as well. I know there are alot of bargains out there, but I'd be a little wary of heavily used studio gear....

-- DK Thompson (, July 06, 2001.

Try putting a 7-10lb weight on the end of a six foot boom and then attach a softbox and you'll quickly see the need for a bigger stand than even a Matthews C-stand and 40" arm and grip head.

I can't really give advice about what sort of pricing you should expect to pay for used Balcar or any other equipment: Some equipment that is 20 years old is in better shape than some stuff that is 2 years old. All I can say is I've bought all of my Balcar equipment used, about 60% of it on e-bay and with a few exceptions I'm quite happy with the gear and with the prices I paid, but I did some research on everyone I was buying from.

-- Ellis Vener Photography (, July 06, 2001.

You don't need anything bigger than a legit Matthews 'C' stand and the arm for 7-10 pounds. I've used my White lightning Ultra with just this set-up with a softbox on occasion. When you've got the monolight at the end of the arm, You should always have a counterweight at the other end of the arm and lots of sandbags on the base of the stand. If you ignore this you're inviting the stand to fall over. A legit Matthews and the HD arm are going to hold 10 pounds no if,ands, or buts. If this is the only set-up you have the couterweights and sandbags are a must to keep the set-up comparatively safe.

In the last few years in an effort to get power cords and cables out of the way, and in an effort to keep myself or anyone else from tripping over the stand or knocking it over, I've drifted away from this set-up. I've come to rely on some bogen wallmounted booms(you can screw the base into the wallstuds). These booms were intended for the lighter heads that come with power packs, but they support the White lightning Ultra easily if you don't extend the arm to any great degree which I don't have to since they're set up directly behind camera position(for portraits not tabletop).

-- (, July 07, 2001.

I agree that pack lights are much more convenient than monos especially when they are supported on a boom arm and when you need to adjust them.

I have a mixture of lights here, and am very happy with my Elinchrom 2400 watt units, although I am less happy with Elinchrom mono units. They have fairly short flash duration, plenty of power and a vast range of adjustment.

-- Garry Edwards (, July 10, 2001.

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