Strobist Startup Kit — Budget vs Premium
Jan 2013 — still get people interested in this so I’ve just been through and updated it with fresh links & such.
If you want to get started with strobist photography it does not have to cost the earth. I’ve put together a list of budget kit with a direct comparison to their premium counter parts. I set John & a few others up with with exact set up listed on the left-hand-side for their first strobist adventures — happy to report they are still loving it.
Yongnuo YN460 II
These little flashes are amazing for the money! The Yongnuo products are actually really well made; not your typical Chinese product. With a guide number of 38 and power control down to 1/64th they have everything you need. However they don’t have an automatic mode (E-TTL) but you wouldn’t be able to use your flash on an auto mode when firing it with radio triggers. You can buy them here, Make sure you get the YN460 II it’s much better than the YN460.
These are both great flashes, but will cost you over seven times more, they have more features but none you really need. The automatic modes are nice when you are running the flash on the camera but you wont be able to use it when running the flash wirelessly. In fact you won’t be able to use any of the extra features of these flashes when firing them via a radio remote. You can get the Canon 430ex here and the Nikon SB-700 here
A light stand is a light stand right? These aren’t heavy, come with their own bag, and have lasted me a year and counting. Grab yours here
The Nano stand is a really nice product, it’s quite a bit smaller when folded down due to it’s 5 section design and it’s just 930g in weight. Available here.
This is really flexible, it’s modular design gives it a transformer like ability to suit nearly every combination of flash, trigger & modifier you could throw at it. And it does this pretty cool double lock thing on the light stand so you can move it around with out worrying about dropping it all. Buy one.
Manfrotto Lite Tite Swivel
This seems to be the holy grail of light brackets, I haven’t seen one in person, but if Manfrotto’s other products is anything to go buy they will be very well made. Available here.
For a first modifier it’s probably a good idea to go for something flexible, this convertible umbrella will fill that role nicely. You can use it as a shoot through as well as a reflective white & silver. Grab the this little beaut here.
Lastolite 100cm Dual Duty
This is exactly the same thing as the one on ebay special just with a brand name on it. The build quality may be slightly better but I can’t really see any other benefits here. Available here.
These are the best things I have bought in a long time! They are super reliable, have a great range & the added benefit of being useable as a remote shutter release. They come in 2 flavours, Nikon & Canon, so make sure you get the right ones for your camera. These have now been replaced with the improved RF-603s which I hear are even better! Buy buy buy!
Pocket Wizard Plus II Set
These are the big boys when it comes to firing flashes remotely, honestly I couldn’t bear to part with this sort of cash for this type of product. They just aren’t exciting enough. But if you are really feeling flush with cash you can get them here — don’t forget you’ll need at least 2.
I am not saying that premium products are bad, I like them a lot, but there is a time and a place for them and making your first step into off camera flash photography is probably not the time or the place. £117 will get you a great setup to start experimenting with and it’ll also feel a lot less rapey than £586!
A Note On: Softboxes
Ok, so since I put this post live I have had a lot of questions about softboxes and what a good cheap softbox would be to get started. Honestly all the cheap softboxes I have used have been horrid, really terrible — fiddly to put up, fiddly to take down. The first portable/strobist softbox I have come across that I have really liked is the Westcott Apollo, and I mean REALLY liked! This thing owns! So here I wouldn’t recommend going cheap — if you really want a softbox splash out a bit, you can pick them up for about £120 & IMO they are well worth it. Also Westcott recently announced that they have a new distribution partner in the UK, so that should make it even easier to get their products. I just wouldn’t recommend buying it from Creative Video.
If you really cant bare to part with that sort of money you could grab some umbrella boxes, they don’t give you the control of a soft box but they do give you that nice diffused light. You can grab some nice big 43 inch ones here for £44.