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Thread: Flashlights for photography

  1. #1

    Default Flashlights for photography

    Hi all,

    I am new here so I apologize for what is likely an old question, but I could use some advice and didn't see quite what I was looking for in a quick search.

    I am a photographer who is heavy into macro work. The longer the lens, and the smaller the aperture, the more light you need. Unfortunately good dedicated macro flash lighting rigs tend to be quite expensive. They also are usually setup in a fixed configuration, which doesn't allow for much - if any - flexibility in lighting direction. Some do not provide the option of always being on either, which can make it hard to setup the shot in the first place. The next problem is that if I use a flash then I'm limited to the 1/200th flash sync speed of my camera, but I'd prefer to shoot faster when possible.

    To counter these problems, I've decided to try mounting small flashlights to the legs of my Gorillapod tripod (SLR Zoom version) - but still shoot hand-held. This could allow me to use the tripod legs to point the flashlights wherever I need the light, leave them on so I can see what I'm doing when setting up the shots, and shoot much faster than 1/200th of a second.

    I recently got two very cheap Niko 21 led flashlights, just to test the idea, and it seems like the concept has promise. However, along with their cheap price, these flashlights are also cheap in construction. Based on the reviews at Amazon, it seems this model is infamous for flickering/cutting out, and sure enough one of mine is doing that. Also, I want to have a whole lot more light than these two can deliver. They were just for the experiment though, to test whether or not the idea was worth pursuing with better lights.

    So this brings me to why I signed up here at Candle Power...I could use some advice on good, relatively inexpensive, flashlights to replace the cheap Nikos with. Here is my best case scenario:

    - White LEDs, with relatively neutral color (not too blue or purple). Yes, color can be corrected after the fact, but the less editing I have to do later, the better.

    - Very small and lightweight. Each needs to be able to be strapped to the last joint on a Gorillapod leg, and not make the leg drop anytime too soon.

    - Super bright. If the light is available I can always shoot faster to tone it down, but there's not much I can do if I don't have enough light to start with.

    - Somewhat adjustable strength. While not a "must have" feature, I can foresee situations where it might be nice. (Lighting one side stronger than the other, or only throwing a little light into the background.)

    - Does not get hot. At times, the lights will be almost touching the subjects, so I don't want to toast any bugs or cause them to run, and I don't want to risk igniting dried flowers.

    - Decent power usage and/or can use rechargeable batteries. If it works out, I'll be using this rig quite often so I don't want to be eating up batteries too quickly. If the light does burn through them fast, I'd like to at least be able to recharge them when I get home.

    - Reasonably well made. They don't need to survive a war, just hold together during daily usage.

    - Preferably $50 or less, each. I realize I might be asking for a Ferrari for the price of a Smart but since I'm new to this I figured I'd ask.

    If this isn't achievable, how close can I get within that price range, and how close outside of it?

    Thanks in advance for the advice.






  2. #2
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    Default Re: Flashlights for photography

    Welcome to CPF, Ugo

    We have a sub-forum especially for photographic matters, so I'm moving your thread there.
    Resistance is futile...

  3. #3

    Default Re: Flashlights for photography

    I'm a bit of a newbie around here, but I've had a GREAT experience with the highly recommended Romisen RC-G2 II from shiningbeam.

    Bright, white, simple AA batteries, simple on/off and good strong construction.

    Something else you might look at is strobist.com, off camera lighting on the cheap.
    My torches, ranked: Hugsby P31 | AKOray KD-106 | Romisen RC-G2 II | Romisen RC-N3 II
    Headlamp: Zebralight H501w
    Sticking to AA, i swear!

  4. #4
    Flashaholic* compasillo's Avatar
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    Default Re: Flashlights for photography

    Hi Ugo and welcome to CPF,

    I like also the macro photography and use several flashlights for the work.

    They are cheap (under $50) MC-E and SSC P7 based lights from DealExtreme.

    have a look on sku 16092 and 12060

    They have five modes (no use for the flashing ones but the Hi-Mid-low
    are usefull enough to control the amount of light you need in every shot)

    These items are very useful to me also

    sku 14150, 1310

    I have a little space to do the work so this is my mini studio

    Last edited by compasillo; 05-13-2010 at 04:06 AM. Reason: correction according to rule 6

  5. #5

    Default Re: Flashlights for photography

    Can't help with a specific light choice, but I can provide some "field tested" suggestions.

    1) Several 1xAA choices under $50 that will provide 1/400th at 12" for macro stuff (100ish lumens). JetFire, Fenix, Quark, Nitecore, iTP, EagleTac, etc.

    2) Devise a diffuser lens or buy a light that has the accessory. Hot spots are difficult to work with.

    3) Use a white piece of paper to figure out white balance for a shot prior to shooting for keepers.

    Good luck. I don't need it that much for most of my photography, but a good bright diffused flashlight can mean the difference between 1/20th and 1/200th. I have used my EagleTac T20C2 on numerous occasions for a flash like boost that you can expose for without trial and error.

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Flashlights for photography

    compasillo... putting all those links in your post is not acceptable. I have deleted them.

    Aside from everything else, posting links like that is just lazy - you gave no details of what any of those items are, just links to a dealer whose name is a byword for shoddy and unreliable products.

    Please read Rule 6.
    Resistance is futile...

  7. #7
    Flashaholic* compasillo's Avatar
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    Default Re: Flashlights for photography

    Quote Originally Posted by DM51 View Post
    compasillo... putting all those links in your post is not acceptable. I have deleted them.

    Aside from everything else, posting links like that is just lazy - you gave no details of what any of those items are, just links to a dealer whose name is a byword for shoddy and unreliable products.

    Please read Rule 6.
    I'm very sorry Dave. My appologies
    I'll edit my post and try to correct the info.

  8. #8
    Flashaholic chenko's Avatar
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    Default Re: Flashlights for photography

    I'm also using flashlights for photography with good results. Flashlights give me many interesting possibilities, the simpler one being to aid the autofocus function of the camera to work properly in a dark enviroment.

    Now for the macro photography examples.
    This jewel was shot in a totally dark enviroment using just a Zebralight H501w light:


    This key was instead photographed using a long exposure time and moving an Eagletac P20A2w flashlight at different angles:


    Several trials were needed to achieve the result of making the surface grit of the metal to "pop out".

    With the very same technique but different movements of the flashlight a more "standard" picture could be achieved:


    Flashlights are AWESOME tools for photography.
    I'd privilege neutral white versions of the leds, not because you cannot correct white balance of the RAW files, but because the neutral and warm tints work better toghether with other natural light sources and studio equipment.
    I ordered a limited edition warm white Quark preon2 just to experiment with warm leds for photography.

  9. #9
    Flashaholic* Rexlion's Avatar
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    Default Re: Flashlights for photography

    There's also the potential for creative colored lighting with the Quark RGB. Available in cool white or natural white, plus (of course) bright and vivid red, green, and blue.
    ___________________________________
    ==A 3D photography nut, turned flashaholic==

  10. #10

    Default Re: Flashlights for photography

    Sorry for the late reply, its been quite a week. Many thanks to all for the advice. I'll definitely check into your suggestions.

    chenko, great jewelry shot!

  11. #11
    Flashaholic chenko's Avatar
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    Default Re: Flashlights for photography

    Some other interesting things you could do with flashlights:





    It's all about "painting" with light. Literally!

  12. #12

    Default Re: Flashlights for photography

    I shoot a lot of outdoor macros, and really like the Romisen RC-C6 II from ShiningBeam for cloudy days. I use a Sigma DP2 - a relatively compact camera - and the Romisen works out great. Single 123 means I have a relatively compact light with my relatively compact camera. I can generally position the light with my lens-steadying left hand while operating the controls & supporting the camera in my right. The adjustable optic on the Romisen, I generally leave at its floodiest. This gives me a nice even beam across the photo.

    (image links to flickr in accordance w/ flickr's TOS.)

    That one was shot on a nasty dark day, yet I was still able to pull off 1/50 @ f/11.

  13. #13
    Flashaholic* EV_007's Avatar
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    Default Re: Flashlights for photography

    Awesome topic. I just got a macro lens and am excited to try my hand at macro stuff. using a flashlight has always intrigued me. The continuous light source seems to allow for more on the fly control over strobes.

    I like the fact that you can position them independently.

    I'll be posting more in this flashlight/photo section.
    TWO is ONE and ONE is NONE, but THREE is more FUN.
    My beamshot gallery


  14. #14
    Enlightened
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    Default Re: Flashlights for photography

    Quote Originally Posted by brh View Post
    The adjustable optic on the Romisen, I generally leave at its floodiest. This gives me a nice even beam across the photo.

    (image links to flickr in accordance w/ flickr's TOS.)

    That one was shot on a nasty dark day, yet I was still able to pull off 1/50 @ f/11.
    The light looks like a "middle morning" sunlight...very nice

  15. #15

    Default Re: Flashlights for photography

    Fiddling around with some ceiling bounce, found that a Xeno E03 (XM-L T5, neutal) running off a lithium primary makes for a great light source. It puts out 100-ish lumens with this setup. Had to use an eight second exposure. The trit vial really popped out color wise, maybe it's own luminosity? Cool white XM-Ls don't generate all that pretty of a light for photography. So here they are:

    Picture of Shiningbeam S-mini lit by Xeno XM-L

    http://webpages.charter.net/brembo/xenocb.jpg <----link to fullsize

    Picture of Xeno E03 lit by Shiningbeam (Neutral XP-G)

    http://webpages.charter.net/brembo/shinbeam.jpg <----link to fullsize
    I seem to have misplaced my occipital lobe, and as such cannot search for it. Do you see my dilemma?

  16. #16

    Default Re: Flashlights for photography

    I asked this once and Sundrop was the answer I heard quite often (still can't afford one though)

  17. #17
    Flashaholic* EV_007's Avatar
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    Default Re: Flashlights for photography

    Quote Originally Posted by EspionageStudio View Post
    I asked this once and Sundrop was the answer I heard quite often (still can't afford one though)
    Any high CRI will do. Diffused is even better. Although if you don't have a high CRI light and have access to photo editing software, and shoot in RAW file format, you can eek out some fine tuned color balance as well.
    TWO is ONE and ONE is NONE, but THREE is more FUN.
    My beamshot gallery


  18. #18

    Default Re: Flashlights for photography

    head to the CREE types, just a matter of dufusing and/or dimming, pulse controllers for brightnes and dimming work very well, the duty cycle control is the dimmer but it will go wayyyy down low compaired to the standard resiter type dimmers.

    [IMG] Uploaded with ImageShack.us[/IMG]

    or a cheep 5 doller cree from evil bay..light scribes as a just to see using a paragon 10 doller m42 lens.

    [IMG] Uploaded with ImageShack.us[/IMG]

  19. #19
    *Flashaholic* fyrstormer's Avatar
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    Default Re: Flashlights for photography

    Nichia beats Cree by a mile when it comes to light quality. McGizmo makes an un-reflectored light called the Mule which hosts a Nichia 119V emitter. It makes an excellent photography light.


  20. #20

    Question Re: Flashlights for photography

    Quote Originally Posted by EV_007 View Post
    Any high CRI will do. Diffused is even better. Although if you don't have a high CRI light and have access to photo editing software, and shoot in RAW file format, you can eek out some fine tuned color balance as well.
    ya, but, if you want to shoot photos that balance with ambient daylight, then what do you do?

    t

  21. #21
    *Flashaholic* fyrstormer's Avatar
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    Default Re: Flashlights for photography

    Quote Originally Posted by tmamer View Post
    ya, but, if you want to shoot photos that balance with ambient daylight, then what do you do?

    t
    You buy a McGizmo. See above. Note the similarity in color between the light from the Mule and the sunlight in the background.

  22. #22

    Default Re: Flashlights for photography

    Quote Originally Posted by fyrstormer View Post
    You buy a McGizmo. See above. Note the similarity in color between the light from the Mule and the sunlight in the background.

    Nice, but is there a zoomable version?

  23. #23
    Flashaholic* AnAppleSnail's Avatar
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    Default Re: Flashlights for photography

    Macro photography. Hold it closer or further away, with higher or lower modes.
    My biggest light-hog is my camera.

  24. #24

    Default Re: Flashlights for photography

    that's certainly the easy way to do it

  25. #25

    Au Re: Flashlights for photography

    It is really nice to join a board and see the very question you wanted to ask answered. In a bit of a twist on the macro photography question - what would people recommend as a light for underwater macro photography that I could also use on land for the same purpose?

  26. #26

    Default Re: Flashlights for photography

    If this isn't an original idea, please forgive me, but I've not seen this mentioned in numerous photo magazines, nor here. With my old film cameras, I long ago practiced until I could completely operate them in the dark. I've found that much more difficult with my digital Nikon SLRs. I got the idea of fastening a little button cell flashlight--like the ones made by Photon and others--to the adjustment buckle on the camera's strap. So far, I haven't noticed it being there, yet it is right where I need it if I'm shooting in dark place.

  27. #27

    Default Re: Flashlights for photography

    as a hobbyist photographer myself, I've been experimenting with my flash quite abit too. Because flash units are so expensive, I tried incorporating with flashlights in and I find that flashlights have color temperatures that are too cool. I tried using color gels too but it was too much work to try and determine the right gel to use (i generally find that I have to use CTO 1). Also, the output of the flashlight is fixed i.e. to say they have fixed modes (hi-med-low). Unless your flashlight has a rotary ring that can allow you to precisely set the amount of light output, you have to use distance or camera settings to compensate for the flashlight.

    That said, I was in taiwan a couple weeks back and i came across this: http://www.ebay.com/sch/i.html?_odkw...00II+&_sacat=0

    Basically it is a constant output LED light that allows you to control precisely the light output as well as the color temperature of the light. It has the standard flash mount so you can mount it on top of the camera or on top of a tripod. Comes with an IR remote so that you can adjust the light without leaving the camera (assuming you're doing a 2 light setup) Best thing about it is the price! I know it is made in china, but in my opinion it is quite sturdy and well built. Worth a consider.

    just my 2 c

  28. #28
    Flashaholic* jonwkng's Avatar
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    Default Re: Flashlights for photography

    Hi everyone. Just sharing my experience being a hobbyist photographer too. Took this photo using what I had with me at the time, namely my FrazLite and my quirky Streamlight Pro Reach.

    Found that both were pretty useful - with the Frazlite being a QTC based neutral white light, it was easy to dial-in the desired brightness. Used it for background lighting. The Streamlight Pro Reach with its articulated neck proved useful in providing the hotspot. Fuss-free for both lights. Just placed them in position and they stayed where they were needed without any extra hands or tripods.

    I suppose if I were going for shots where colour rendition was important, I'd probably go for a high CRI option.

    Just my 2cents.

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