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The holidays have always seemed like a season of lights, so what better time to point out some of the great lighting kits available at B&H as gifts or for those gifting themselves? It's a very broad field and the items suggested here represent a fraction of 1% of the many kits we carry, so we'll take it one category at a time.
Basic factors to consider are the type of work you're doing and number of lights you need, size, weight, and portability. What types of accessories are included? Some comprehensive kits come with stands, softboxes, and umbrellas. Alternatively, you may want to make up your own accessory kit and just buy the lights. Is AC power available or do you need the convenience of battery power? Then there's the choice of a power-pack system or self-contained monolights.
First on everybody's list of performance features to consider is recycling time that will affect how fast you can shoot. Flash duration will determine whether your system can freeze action, such as water droplets and splashes or sport scenarios. The power (watt/second) rating will determine the area you can cover and ISO you'll be using. Do the units have a built-in radio receiver so they can be triggered remotely?
Bolt VB-11 Bare Bulb Flash Kit with Cyclone PP-400DR Power Pack The VB-11 Bare Bulb Flash in this kit looks like an oversized on-camera flash with a large round removable reflector on it. While it does have a cold shoe, it's also stand mountable, with the purchase of an adapter. The manual flash has power adjustment from Full to 1/128 power and will recycle to full power in 1 second when paired with an external battery pack like the Cyclone PP-400DR that's included in this kit. The pack separates from the controller so you can swap it out for a fresh battery. It weighs 1.2 lb and comes with a multi-voltage charger.
Lumedyne ZK40 400 Ws Basic Fast Kit The ZK40 Basic Fast kit is built around the 400Ws P4BX power supply. The pack recycles to full power in 2.5 seconds when used with the included HEBC flash head. This kit has a Mini battery that will give you 100 full-power flashes at 200Ws. The flash head has a 25W modeling light for easy focusing in dim light and a flash tube that can handle up to 800Ws when using an optional Booster to increase the P4BX's power.
Profoto B1 500 Air Battery-Powered 2-Light Location Kit Profoto wowed the photographic community with the recent introduction of the B1 and B2 battery-powered flash heads. Both systems run on rechargeable lithium-ion batteries and can be triggered wirelessly, as well as interface with Nikon's or Canon's TTL capabilities with separate purchase of an AirTTL transmitter. The B1 kit comprises two 500Ws flash heads that look very much like a D1 monolight, packed with a charger in a backpack case. Recycling to full power is a fast 1.9 seconds and flash durations are as short as 1/19,000 second for freezing action. The heads' onboard batteries will give you 220 full-power flashes per charge.
Profoto B2 250 Air TTL Location Kit The B2 kit is a very compact 2.2 lb, 6.3 x 3.1 x 6.7" 250Ws battery pack system with two 4 x 3.9" flash heads and 1.35 seconds recycling to full power. It can also freeze action with flash durations as short as 1/1,500 second and gets up to 215 full-power flashes on a fully charged battery.
Impact Fashion Beauty Dish Kit This is a great single-light kit for portraits, fashion, or advertising work. The kit includes a 400W/s monolight that recycles to full power in 2 seconds with power that's variable over 4 stops from full to 1/8 power. The included beauty dish has a signature soft but crisp quality of light, favored by fashion photographers. You can use the kit's 40-degree grid to tunnel the light forward and confine it to the subject for a classic look. Alternatively, slip the diffusion sock over the reflector for a softer, more diffused rendition. The kit also includes a 9.6' air-cushioned light stand.
Hensel Integra 500 2-Light Kit with Chimera Softbox (110-230VAC) Hensel has been offering versions of this kit for several years, and the source of its popularity has been its friendly quality-to-dollar ratio. The kit is built around two 500Ws monolights with sturdy aluminum construction, a recycle time of 2.2 seconds to full power, a built-in handle and a powerful 300W modeling lamp. Umbrella and grid reflectors are included, as is an umbrella, a 16 x 22" softbox and 2 light stands. It all fits in a padded, wheeled carry case.
Dynalite RK8-1222 Road 800W/s 2 Head Kit The benefit of pack systems is their ability to lighten the weight of the flash heads and run the heads on a single central power source. Dynalite fills the bill with an 800Ws roughly 6 x 6 x 6" pack that weighs about 5 lb and takes up to three small 2-lb heads, such as the two included here. But reduced size doesn't mean reduced performance—recycling is a super-fast 1.2 seconds. The heads have bright 250W modeling lamps so you can see what you're doing on the job. The kit includes 2 compact stands, umbrellas, and a padded carry case.
Profoto Acute 2R 1200W/s 2 Head Value Pack Kit (90-260V) Profoto has been regarded as a top brand for quite some time now, and it's reflected in the price. If you're looking to make an investment, this is a complete system. The 1200Ws pack has three outlets for the 3 heads included in the kit. Power can be varied from 37.5 to 1200Ws and there's a bracket knob for fine tuning the entire pack. Recycling to full power is a fast 1.5 seconds and the pack has also got a built-in PocketWizard receiver that can be triggered wirelessly from up to 300' away. The Acute 2R is rated for 90-260VAC, for worldwide use.
A staple of the motion picture industry almost from its beginning, besides exotica and HMI, it basically breaks down to three choices: Tungsten, Fluorescent, and the newest—LED. Features to look out for include power, of course; an easy assessment with tungsten fixtures but a little more difficult with LED and fluorescent sources. The both draw very little electricity, so manufacturers often include a "tungsten equivalent" in their specs.
A high CRI (or TCLI) rating indicates faithful color rendition. A rating close to or higher than 90 is desirable. Reflector shape is important, since it affects how wide or narrow the beam of light is. Does the fixture have or accept accessories, such as barndoors or grids, to help modify the light? Heat dispersion is a factor. This is usually handled with a heat-sink construction that radiates heat from small fins at the rear of the fixture. Some of the more expensive lights use fans that can be turned off, when necessary, on film sets. Finally, how is the light constructed? Heaviness generally indicates sturdiness, but there's a point at which it becomes a chore to lug a heavy kit. There are lots of lightweight materials for fixture construction that will stand up to rigorous use.
Tungsten fixtures remain on during filming to record the action of the actors. Basic categories of fixtures are: broad and spotlight output, focusing and non-focusing.
Impact Qualite 300 Focusing Flood 2 Light Kit (120VAC) This straightforward kit provides illumination for photographers and videographers alike. The two included lights come with barn doors, a 300W halogen lamp, and safety glass. These are broad light sources, but they are focusable from a wide to medium wide (40 to 21 degree) beam angle. They come with tilting mounts that accept the kit's light stands, and also have a channel for the two included white umbrellas. Use them in the traditional bounce mode or turn the umbrella around toward your subject and use the light that's transmitted, as you would with a softbox.
Lowel DV Creator 1 Kit, LB-30 Case This is a comprehensive three-point kit for small productions or solo shooters. It's built around three of Lowel's most popular lights. The Omni-Light is a 500W focusing flood with a folding stay-cool handle and will probably serve as your main light. It comes with 4-leaf barn doors and will take a softbox with the purchase of an optional speed ring. The spot-to-flood focusing also makes it a candidate for use as a hair light or edge light. The second light in the kit is the Tota-Light—a broad light source with built-in barn doors that fold protectively over the lamp for packing. It's got an umbrella channel built into it for the included umbrella, and Lowel has also included a filter frame with a blue conversion filter that balances the light output for use in a daylight location. The third light is a small 250W fixture that is a perfect accent or hair light. Part of a system, its front clear glass can be exchanged for frosted glass and, by swapping out the bulb, it can also be used as a battery-powered on-camera video light. Three 8' light stands with a compact folding design come with the kit, as does a padded case to store and transport it all.
Kino Flo Diva-Lite 415 Universal 1-Light Kit (100-240VAC) Kino Flo pretty much invented the photographic use of fluorescent lights, and they've been leading the pack ever since. The kit is built around one of the company’s most popular lights, the 26 x 12 x 6" Diva-Lite. The light's slim profile of 6" makes it very handy in tight spaces. This light has all of the core features that made Kino Flo famous. Built-in barn doors on the relatively lightweight 14-lb fixture, 5 - 100% dimming, individual lamp switching to control light intensity, and very low heat. You can also use the Diva-Lite anywhere in the world, thanks to its multi-voltage, auto-sensing power supply. Kino Flo doesn't supply lamps in the kit but they do manufacture True Match lamps in 3200K and 5500K, with a very high CRI for accurate color rendering. Special lamps for blue and green screen work are also available. The kit includes a filter frame for gel filters and a honeycomb grid for narrowing the beam spread and controlling what's illuminated. A diffuser is included to smooth rough details for a softer look. A case for spare lamps is also included, as is a hard travel case.
Raya Octa Fluorescent 7-Socket Fixture 2-Light Softbox Kit Raya is known for making dependable gear at a wallet-friendly price. This kit's Octa 7-socket heads come with 26W compact fluorescent lamps and have dual rocker switches on their back panels, each of which control on/off function for three or four lamps, allowing you to create a light ratio. Each light is outfitted with a 32" diameter octagonal softbox—a perfect shape for portraits or fashion. An Octa softbox has a large surface area and renders a signature wraparound quality of light that is particularly pronounced when used close-up. The catchlights reflected in the subject's eyes also have a more natural look as compared to square or rectangular softboxes. The lights have multi-voltage power supplies for worldwide use—just swap out the bulbs for the local voltage and add a plug adapter if needed. The kit includes two 9.5' light stands to support the Octas. They're air-cushioned so that they descend slowly when making height adjustments to avoid mishaps.
ikan iLED312-V2 2-Point Bi-Color Flood Light Kit LEDs are definitely having their day, with nearly every company that manufactures lighting equipment offering a model or models. Some of LED’s many benefits are impressive output for very little electrical draw and almost a complete absence of generated heat. Another great thing about LEDs is the option to have a variable color balance in one fixture instead of using filters. This comprehensive kit contains two 8.25 x 4.5 x 1.7" Bi-Color panels that allow you to simply dial-in any color balance from 3200 to 5500K to match the ambient conditions or another fixture. These lights are AC/DC so you can use can use the included power adapters to run them from a wall outlet in a studio-like setup mounted on the kit's light stands. A shoe mount is also included for on-camera use and the kit includes 4 batteries and a charger for complete mobility. The iLED312-v2's also come with 4-way barn doors to control the 60-degree beam spread, and a kit case is included to transport and store it all.
Litepanels Caliber LED Fresnel 3-Light Kit with Soft Case One of the early proponents of LEDs, Litepanels made its name on 1 x 1 panels, eventually branching out to Fresnels such as the Caliber, a more focused light source with 73-15-degree flood-to-spot beam variability. This kit contains three daylight-balanced fixtures with barn doors and multi-voltage power supplies. You can also run them on 6 AA batteries for easier mobility. The lights measure just 8.8 x 2.7 x 3.3" and weigh only 1.3 lb, so they can fit almost anywhere. Their power is adjustable from 0-100% for greater flexibility. Three small flexi-jointed tripods are included so you can even mount them on a pole or pipe. A compact light stand is also included, along with a kit case to store it all.