The most recent addition to my studio is a relatively inexpensive Studio Strobe, manufactured by the Chinese company JinBei. After a great deal of research and investigation I settled on a JinBei Spark 400w Studio Flash. A little older in technology than some of JinBei’s more recent offerings such as the JinBei DPs III Pro or the Digital Pioneer III, the Spark 400 is a very stable and reliable unit, cased in aluminium. The lightweight and simple design offers a range of useful features including proportional modeling light, ABEI (turns off the modeling light when the flash fires) and built in cooling fan for those long studio sessions.
Along with the Strobe, I bought a JinBei JB300 air cushioned aluminium light stand and a 120cm (M-Octagonal softbox). Purchasing all these items from one dealer on Taobao.com was simple and painless, and as the seller was located in Shanghai everything was delivered next day for a total price of 970rmb or £98.00 (that’s approximately $152.00 for our American readers).
One thing to mention here before I move onto the test shoot relates to the setup of the softbox. While in reality the softbox is quite simple to assemble, if you try to follow the included Chinglish instructions you may face a little frustration. What the instructions do not clearly indicate is a need to assemble the softbox in two stages. First add the stays to the attachment ring and the larger portion of the softbox, being sure to thread the stays through the white Velcro loops on the interior of the softbox. When that is done, turn the softbox on its face on the floor and fasten the second small part of the softbox which attaches using Velcro at the rear and covers the mounting bracket. Failure to assemble in this order will result in frustration as the stays are then too tight to fit easily into their respective sleeves on the softboxes’ outer edge.
For my first test of the new strobe with its rather large softbox I used my pair of trusty Yongnuo RF602 wireless triggers to fire both the strobe and an additional Yongnuo 460II flash positioned behind a white translucent umbrella. Finally I added a third light (hair light), my Nikon SB-700 Speedlight which I set into SU4 (slave) mode under the menu’s advanced settings. The SB-700 was placed above and slightly behind the model using a boom arm attachment on top of an extra light stand. To diffuse the hair light I used a small attachable rectangular softbox (35rmb, £3.60, $5.50 on Taobao.com)
My first impressions are excellent. The strobe has a very nice even light, due in part to its secondary internal diffusion panel (detachable). Flash recycle time is very fast even at full discharge. The Yongnuo wireless trigger worked flawlessly with the strobe and secondary flash, and of course the Nikon Speedlight performed perfectly in slave mode. All in all I’m very happy with the setup as it allows me to be very creative and experimental with my studio lighting.
Stay tuned for part 3, adding a photo-realistic background to my studio.