Q: Will PowerLights and StudioMax lights work together?
A: Yes. Solair PowerLights , PL2 PowerLights and StudioMax lights all have built in optical slaves. When you trigger your main light with a sync cord or wireless triggering device, the flash from the main light will trigger your secondary lights. Many photographers are using Photogenic Solair PL500's or PowerLight PL1250’s as main and fill lights, and StudioMax lights as background, hair and accent lights.
Q: I want to buy Photogenic lights. How can I try them out?
A: Many of our dealers rent Photogenic lights. You may also have studios in your area that rent space and also rent lights. Renting is an excellent way to try Photogenic lights to find out which are best suited to your work and style.
Q: What is a guide number?
A: See the next question.
Q: What’s the best way to determine the light output of a flash unit?
A: The beam candle power seconds (BCPS) measurement of a flash unit is the most accurate way to determine light output. The higher the BCPS, the greater the light output. However, BCPS will change depending on which reflector is used. The reflector’s angle of illumination and finish will increase or decrease the BCPS. Generally, the narrower the angle, the higher the BCPS, and the shinier the finish the higher the BCPS. If you are comparing flash units made by different manufacturers, the most accurate method is to make a bare bulb BCPS comparison rather than a reflector comparison. Photogenic lists the BCPS measurements for our lights with bare bulb, seven reflectors and three Eclipse umbrellas. Unfortunately, not all flash manufacturers will give you BCPS measurements.
The next best method to determine output is guide number. However, guide numbers are not nearly as precise as BCPS. The standard for establishing a guide number is to point an incident flash meter at the center of a light source’s beam from a distance of 10 feet. Set the ISO on the meter to 100. Trigger the light and record the exposure as an f number. Add a zero to the f number to obtain the guide number. For example, if the exposure is f /16 the guide number is 160. If the exposure is f /16.5, move the decimal point one place to the right and the guide number becomes 165 Using the guide number to set the aperture with the light 10 feet from the subject, should provide a properly exposed image. The problem is that there is no definition of “properly exposed image”. If a manufacturer thinks that proper exposure is one f stop under exposed, the guide number will be one f stop higher than it should be. Consequently, two flash units with the same light output can have two completely different guide numbers. In our example the guide number for an accurate exposure is 160 (f /16), and the guide number for the inaccurate exposure is 220 or f /22). Which flash unit would you buy? The best answer is to take a flash meter to your dealer and determine the accuracy of the guide number. In addition to BCPS output, the Photogenic instruction manuals will also give you accurate guide numbers for our lights with bare bulb and all of the reflectors.
The least accurate way of determining flash light output is watt seconds. The watt second rating of a flash unit simply indicates the amount of electrical energy the power supply can store over a temporary period of time. There is no direct correlation between watt seconds and light output. Light output is affected by the electronic design of the flash unit, cable length, flash tube and reflector efficiency. Watt second ratings will put you in the power level ballpark, but will not tell you much about light output or light quality.
Q. What’s the difference between true watt seconds and effective watt seconds?
True watt seconds measure the actual number of watt seconds a flash unit is capable of storing. Effective watt seconds is a term that is used in an attempt to make you believe a flash unit is more powerful than it actually is. The seller of a flash unit advertises that the light is rated at 800 effective watt seconds and 300 true watt seconds. The implication is that the light is three times more powerful than other 300 ws flash units. In fact, the unit is only 300 watt seconds, but by using a highly polished reflector the light output can be increased by about one f stop which would be equivalent to a 600 watt second unit. By inflating the guide number by 1/3 f stop, the output is claimed to be 800 ws. Since there is no direct relationship between watt seconds and light output, effective watt seconds is not an accurate method of defining actual light output or a flash units ability to store electrical energy.
Q: Why is constant color temperature important?
A: Constant color temperature is particularly important if you are shooting digital. Digital cameras are extremely sensitive to minute shifts in the color temperature of your lights. It is important to understand that every time you change the flash power level on a flash unit, you also change the color temperature of the light. The current standard allows for a maximum deviation of 200 degrees Kelvin before you begin to see significant shifts in color. Conventional electronic flash units, without constant color temp., can have color temperature deviations of more than 650 degrees Kelvin from full power to 1/32 power.
For all practical purposes, if you have a one f stop difference between your main and fill light, the color shift probably will not be noticeable or can be easily cleaned up in your digital darkroom. However, if the main light is at full power, the fill light at 1/2 power, the background light is at 1/16 power and the hair or accent light is at 1/32 power, you may experience extreme variations in color. This will be apparent as a series of color crossovers that either cannot be neutralized, or will take a tremendous amount of time to clean up in the digital darkroom.
Constant color temperature lights are specifically designed to minimize shift in color temperature caused by changes in power levels. The Photogenic Solair and StudioMax III Constant Color lights will have a color temperature change of 50 degrees Kelvin over a six f stop range, and for the Solair lights a change of 150 degrees Kelvin over an eight f stop range. This is well below the maximum deviation standard of 200 degrees Kelvin.
Q: What is the difference between color temperature and Kelvin temperature?
A: They are both the same. The concept was developed by William Thompson, Lord Kelvin. When you heat a “black body” (a piece of carbon or black iron), the color of the object becomes cooler as the temperature increases. A one degree change in Kelvin is the same as a one degree change in Celsius. The Kelvin scale starts at 0 which is the same as -273° C. The light from a candle is about 1500K, tungsten photo floods and quartz lamps about 3200 to 3400K, sunlight or white light and electronic flash are about 5500K and blue sky is about 9000 to 12000K.
Daylight film is balanced to about 5500K which is the same for the light from most electronic flash units with color-corrected flash tubes. If you are shooting film you can compensate for differences in color temperature by using color correction filters over the lens or over the light source. Digital cameras will allow you, in most instances, to make color corrections by changing your white balance. However, you cannot mix light sources without filtering one of the sources to prevent color crossovers. If you use flash as the main light and a 3200° incandescent light as the fill, the highlights will be neutral and the shadows will be yellow orange.
Q: Is there any way to lock in the power settings on the Photogenic PL1250DR? Our company has 78 school photographers all using Photogenic PL1250DR monolights. Each four light setup must have identical power levels, and we don’t want the photographers to accidentally change the settings.
A: To lock the unit: 1. Set the Power Level and modeling light level, turn the unit off. 2. Press and hold the “Track Set” button, and turn the unit on. When the “Adjust” and “Full On/Off” LED’s are illuminated, release the “Track Set” button. 3. Quickly press the “1/10 Up”, then “1/10 Down” and then “1/10 Up” buttons.
To unlock the unit: Repeat instructions 1 and 2 above, and 3. Quickly press the “1/2 Up”, then “1/2 Down” and then “1/2 Up” buttons.
Q: Are top mount lights available?
A: Yes. You can order any of our Solair and PowerLight models with a top mount by adding T to the end of the part number. For example, the PL1250DR becomes PL1250DRT. Monolights in general should not be mounted upside down. Doing so puts additional stress on the capacitor vents that can cause premature failure.
Q: Can I get a manual for my older model lights?
A: We do have some manuals available for discontinued lighting systems. Please see our Manual page for a listing and links to available manuals.