Bowens: The Power Behind the Picture
A legendary lighting company is refreshed and repositioned to achieve its rightful place in the US imaging marketplace: Bowens International Ltd., based in the UK, has been a leading manufacturer of advanced photographic lighting systems for well over half a century, and has been a top-selling brand among professional photographers and serious enthusiasts worldwide, for many years. Until recently, Bowens’s presence in the USA has been overshadowed by more aggressively marketed brands of lighting equipment. But that began to change last year when MAC Group, a large and powerful marketing company representing such prestigious brands as Tenba, X Rite, Benro, Pocket Wizard, and Sekonic, became the exclusive USA distributor of Bowens high-performance lighting equipment. Bowens's reputation for innovation and high quality has established a compelling track record of reliability with demanding pros, enhancing their appeal for photographers in the USA who are seeking pro-caliber studio- and location-lighting solutions.
A Brief History of Bowens
Bowens traces its humble beginnings to a little camera repair shop in London’s Soho district, founded by Ken Bowens, in 1923. By 1947, he was manufacturing his own flash-bulb units. By 1963, Bowens began producing modern electronic flash units, and in 1968, he invented the world's first Monolight, a 400W/s unit that would revolutionize studio lighting.
The 1970s saw Bowens introducing light meters, power packs, and eight models of monolights with built-in photocells, while the '80s yielded more power packs and specialized flash heads like the ring flash, strip light, and a pencil light. The S-type reflector mount became a standard used by many other brands worldwide. The next several decades brought us the current Gemini and CREO lines that continue to inspire photographers and act as a springboard for further innovative design.
A Selection of Bowens Lighting Products
Bowens Gemini Lighting Systems
Bowens Gemini 400Rx 2-Light Kit (90-120V AC)
This comprehensive, easily transportable kit for studio or location lighting includes two 400W/s Monolights, two 36-inch Silver/White umbrellas, two wide-angle reflectors, two light stands, a Pulsar Tx Radio Transceiver that works with the Built-in Pulsar Radio Slave for wireless remote operation, and a kit case with wheels. The kit provides 5-stop power variability, includes a 250W modeling light, 5V sync voltage, and it delivers 1.2-second recycling times with flash durations down to 1/1000-second. The Tx Transceiver uses four channels and six groups to allow full control of up to 24 different radio zones, enabling photographers to trigger individual light sources or combine and fire them from the camera position or from up to 82' (25 m) away.
This powerful studio or location lighting system includes two Gemini 500R (500W/s) Digital Monolights, two 36-inch umbrellas, two umbrella reflectors, two light stands, a Pulsar Radio Remote and Receiver Card, two flashtubes, modeling lights, and a BW-1025 kit bag. Optimized for on-the-road portrait and event photography, the 500R Monolights have powerful 250W modeling lights and provide fast 1.3-second recycle times, plus full Bowens system compatibility. Power settings are set via two convenient dial-type knobs (one for full-stop changes; the other for ultra-precise 0.1-stop changes), both displayed on a large, bright LED panel. Modeling lights can also be set to Full, Proportional, a user-defined level, or turned off. The included Pulsar Tx transmitter lets you trigger the flash wirelessly from up to 82' (25 m) away.
This remarkably lightweight compact kit provides sophisticated lighting-control options that make it ideal for pro-caliber, on-the-road portrait and event photography. The comprehensive 3-light kit includes three Gemini 500R 500 W/s Monolights, two 45-inch umbrellas, a 39 x 39-inch Softbox, two wide-angle reflectors, three light stands, a Pulsar Radio Trigger and Receiver Card, three flashtubes, modeling lights, a stand case, and a wheeled kit case. The Monolights feature powerful 250W modeling lights, fast 1.3-second recycle times, 1/900-second flash duration, plus full Bowens system compatibility. Other features: solid metal construction, intuitive controls, recessed switches and sockets, built-in-handle, and LED readouts. The Pulsar Tx transmitter and Rx receiver can trigger your flash from distances of up to 82' (25 m) away.
This is the latest version of the Gemini Monolight controller that lets you easily adjust the power output, modeling-light level, test flash photo cell, and channel settings on Gemini R and Gemini Pro Monolights from up to 23 feet away. At a mere 1.2 ounces, it weighs about 1/5 as much as the previous version, and it’s designed to be hung on a key ring! It operates on a single CR2032 battery (included).
Bowens Softboxes and Softstrips
Bowens Lumiair 80-100 Softbox This sturdy 39.5 x 31.5 x 15.8" rectangular softbox is designed to provide precision tension to deliver a clean cutoff of the light beam, and its highly reflective interior surface and shallow design ensure a high degree of light efficiency. Two-layer construction provides a very even spread of light, varying by no more than ½ of a stop from center to edge, without hotspots. The unit includes a removable front diffuser, internal diffuser, main canopy, rear cowl, support rods, and it accepts Bowens adapter rings. This softbox comes with a simple zippered carry case for easy transport to location shoots.
Measuring an impressive 55 x 39.5 x 21.6", this large, well-made rectangular softbox provides precision tension to ensure a clean cutoff of the light beam, and a highly reflective interior and shallow construction to maximize light efficiency. All other comments on the performance and construction of the Lumiair 80-100 above also apply. This softbox includes a removable baffle and front face, and comes with a zippered carry case.
The unique shape and large area of this 48", one-of-a-kind softbox creates a unique wrap-around light quality and natural catch lights in the eyes that make it one of the most popular softboxes in the Bowens line, especially among fashion and portrait photographers. Its precision tension design ensures the straightest edges, delivering the perfect cutoff for fashion and portrait work, and its highly reflective interior and shallow construction optimize light efficiency. Other features include even light spread, varying no more than ½ a stop from center to edge without hotspots, a removable baffle, front face, and support rods. A zippered carry case is included and the softbox accepts the extensive range of Bowens adapter rings.
A great choice for any photography or video application requiring a long, thin light source with a minimum of spill, this 29.5 x 15 x 15.4" softbox has a highly reflective silver interior and shallow construction for maximum light efficiency and a translucent diffuser, to ensure even light distribution without hotspots. This softbox has a removable baffle and front face, comes with a zippered carry case, and will accept all Wafer adapters.
Basically, it’s a longer (or wider) version of the Softstrip 100 detailed above, which measures 55 x 15.8 x 21.7", and all comments on the model 100 apply. It also includes a front diffuser, internal diffuser, support rods, and an S-type speed ring with adapter, accepts all Wafer adapters, and includes a convenient zippered carry case.
Providing an effect that’s in between a softbox, umbrella, and a polished metal reflector, this popular reflector delivers a soft but crisp 75-degree-angle light beam with enhanced contrast and a textural quality that complements models' makeup and accentuates character in portrait subjects, and produces natural-looking catch lights in the eyes. Its built-in deflector bounces direct flash output backward to fill the shallow dish, casting a wide, soft beam of light forward. A Bowens “shower cap” diffuser is included, which fits over the front to provide an even softer lighting effect. The Beauty Dish has an S-mount adapter that's compatible with most major brands of lighting equipment.
Featuring the same basic design and construction as the White 21-inch Bowens Beauty Dish Reflector above, this dish's basic performance parameters are same but the quality of its light output is a bit snappier in terms of contrast and emphasizing textures. Like the white version, it comes with a “shower cap” diffuser that fits over its front when a softer lighting effect is desired.
This is one of 14 different reflectors available for the Bowens Monolight and is one of the most popular due to its “normal” 60-degree angle of coverage and etched silver reflective surface that helps photographers shape and control the light. The reflector also accepts Bowens honeycomb grids.
It’s identical to the reflector described above but it comes with three honeycomb grids that let you vary the light output as desired to provide a narrower light spread. The grid set includes a 1/8" grid, a 3/16" grid, and a ¼" grid, each of which attaches to the front of the reflector.
This high-performance reflector for Bowens Monolights delivers a bright, approximately 50-degree narrow light beam that can be used very effectively to mimic the effect of natural light. Its stippled silver surface allows the photographer to emphasize textures and recreate the effect of sunlight in the studio or on location.
Bowens Fluorescent Light and Kits
This sturdy 16.3" diameter fluorescent light delivers a digital-friendly, daylight-equivalent color temperature of 5600K, and its soft white interior complements the beam spread of spiral-shaped lamps. If you require even softer light, slip on the included white diffuser. You can also remove the reflector to obtain a crisp but diffused 180-degree bare-bulb look. Other features: three 30W bulb (90W total, 10,000-hour lamp life, integral handle, and 5/8" receiver that accepts standard “baby” stands and accessories).
An ideal solution for tabletop and product photography, it consists of two Streamlite 330 Fluorescent Light units as described above, each with three 30W daylight-balanced (5600K) lamps for a combined total of 180W. Two 3-section light stands and a Cocoon 20 x 17 x 28" Light Tent are also included. The Cocoon lets you capture soft, shadowless renditions of subjects that appear to float on its glassy, opaque interior surface, while its included Cocoon support stand lets you light the subject from all sides or underneath for maximum flexibility. Cutouts in its top allow a wide variety of camera-angle options.
Bowens Specific Application Lighting Kits
This comprehensive lighting kit is designed to allow you to create special effects in a broad range of creative lighting scenarios. It includes a standard 60-degree reflector, a backlight reflector, 4-leaf barndoor set, a snoot, and a set of 12 color gel filters to assist you in creating memorable images. The barndoors and snoot help you to shape the light and the gel filters alter the color and intensity of the light from your flash head.
This popular kit includes 7 of Bowens' most popular lighting accessories for portrait-lighting setups. These include a 24 x 32" softbox, a grid reflector with three sizes of honeycomb grids to narrow the light beam's width, a backlight reflector, and a set of 12 colored gels and filters. A telescopic backlight stand, and a 32" gold/silver reflector for adding warmer tones or "zipping up" the lighting contrast are also included.
A popular choice among fashion photographers, this comprehensive kit includes two high-performance 12.5" reflectors for broad high-contrast coverage, a 15" beauty dish with opal diffuser and grid, a 15-degree snoot for highlighting details, and a gold/silver collapsible reflector disc for adjusting color tones. In short, this kit provides a combination of light-shaping tools essential for creating outstanding images with Bowens Monolights.
The most comprehensive kit in this series, the Advanced Lighting Kit covers the widest possible range of shooting applications. It includes a 24 x 32" softbox with adapter, two 8-inch, 65-degree Maxlite reflectors, ¼" and 3/16" honeycomb grids, a 4-leaf barndoor set, gel holder with a set of 12 colored gel filters, and a Bowens 32-inch silver/gold collapsible reflector disc for adding warmer or cooler tones to your images. This kit provides the tools for creating outstanding and distinctive images.
Bowens Power Packs For Bowens Gemini Monolights
This compact, portable unit (battery: 7.7 pounds, control panel: 3.3 pounds) can power two 1500W/s lights on full power—a total of 3000W/s—from any electrical outlet, allowing you to keep shooting even when the battery fades. You can hot-swap batteries anytime by simply unclipping the control panel and clipping it onto to a fresh battery without waiting for the battery to charge, thus providing power for up to 375 shots (at 200W/s) on a single charge with 2-second recycling. Other features: fast/slow recycling options, recessed switches and sockets, robust all-metal construction, easy-to-read battery indicator.
A larger, (battery: 10.8 pounds, control panel 3.3 pounds) higher-capacity alternative to the Bowens Small Travelpak, it incorporates the same features as the unit described above, but also provides power for up to 750 shots per charge (at 200W/s) with recycling in 2 seconds. A multi-voltage charger and 9.8' cable are included.