Art and Photography

Continuous studio light vs Strobe for <$300?

  • Last Updated:
  • Dec 10th, 2014 6:22 pm
Deal Fanatic
User avatar
Jun 29, 2009
5391 posts

Continuous studio light vs Strobe for <$300?

So, my workplace offers x-mas gift for $300 after tax, which comes to about $260-ish before. I'd like to get a beginner studio flash setup, and I'm having some trouble deciding between continuous light and strobes.

I've very briefly worked with studio strobes before, doing photo-booth-like shots at events and some baby photos. Very basic stuff. Can't say I know my way around them, but I do notice certain pros and cons. The biggest problem is having no idea how the scene would look without actually taking a test shot first. Then there's the problem with sync speed - sometimes you just want more than 1/250s :o

I've read a bit on continuous light and how its colour spectrum isn't as desirable compared to strobes, but the technology has improved since then, right?

Anyway, I'm choosing between 2 Godox 300 SDI or a continuous lighting kit on right now, but any input or suggestions would be appreciated. Thanks!

What I have right now:
Canon 70D
Speedlight 430 EXII
Sigma DG-610 Super (very slow recycle rate and doesn't work with Cactus V5)
Cactus V5
5 replies
User avatar
Aug 8, 2008
400 posts
Continuous light requires an AC power source, whereas for strobes you can have battery packs (although still heavy).

You have to learn to visualize how the light will look - many strobes have mode to allow you to visualize the output by firing very rapidly at a dim setting for a short period of time. However, your best friend will be a good light meter.

Haven't looked into it for a while but Alienbees were a good budget set up, but everything is proprietary. Vistek also sells a good brand, but the name escapes my head (it's available at B&H as well).
Deal Addict
Aug 30, 2007
1666 posts
Or perhaps consider speedlight setup? Yongnuo recently introduced super convenient (and with very good reviews) manual speedlight system with radio control - YN560-III (or IV) flashes, should be as bright as Canon's 580EX, and radio-controller yn560-TX which allows you to operate remotely (trigger, change power and zoom) up to 6 groups of YN560-III/IV flashes. So there will be no wires in this setup (unless you use an external power source for the flashes, which is possible), and full control of your studio from the yn560-TX controller (which can sit on camera). The flashes can be found for 80 CAD all in, the controller - 40 CAD all in. You can find reasonable quality umbrellas, light stands and speedlight brackets on ebay for ~50$ per light. So a 2-light setup will cost you ~300$ all in.

I am upgrading my basment studio to all-YN560-III setup, with YN560-TX controller. (The studio currently has 5 speedlights, random brands and model, under cheap radio triggers). I am also upgrading my main light from 40" shoot-through umbrella to a proper softbox (60" octagon from Canadian Studio on; 93 CAD all in) + the Bowens speedring for speedlights ("PRO Godox S-Type Bracket Bowens Mount Holder for Speedlite", 22$ on ebay). I will have the following lights:

- Key light: 60" octagon softbox with YN560-III;
- Fill-in light: 40" shoot-through umbrella with YN560-III;
- Background light (for dark grey paper background): 36" reflecting umbrella with YN560-III + hundreds of different color gels;
- Background light (for white paper background - high key): two bare old Canon flashes with DIY manual power control and optical triggers;
- Hair light: DIY narrow softbox with YN560-III on a tall boom stand.

I think this setup will give me a lot of flexibility, and should be very convenient (for occasional use). For power users, one can consider attaching external battery to the speedlights (or go with monolights - but AFAIK there are no affordable monolight systems with full remote control, the way YN560-III works).
Sr. Member
Nov 12, 2012
611 posts
Keep in mind that despite your camera having a sync speed of 1/250 using the speedlite, certain strobe systems cannot sync to your camera at speeds higher than 1/180.
Deal Addict
Jul 13, 2008
1667 posts
Speedlight / strobe usually have modelling light feature so you can roughly see how the light would look
Deal Fanatic
User avatar
Jun 29, 2009
5391 posts
pulsar123 wrote:
Dec 10th, 2014 3:33 pm
Or perhaps consider speedlight setup?
Well, the catch is that this gift can only be for a "single item" ordered by the company. So if there's no existing complete kit on the market, I can't maximize the value of my purchase. E.g. If I buy only a single flash for $100, then I can't use the $200 leftover for anything else.

As far as I can tell, strobe studio kits are more common than speedlight kits.