I will be planning on doing some more indoor studio shots of motion/fast speed photography and curious on what would be your choice for this kind of project? I am familiar with Bowens, Elinchrom, Alienbees, Impact, etc., but there are so many generic brands I get so confused and not sure which one to purchase. I am planning to get 2-3 monolights as well. Let me know what you use and what would be some pointers for getting the best results.

2 Answers 2


For high speed work I would look into the Paul C Buff Einstein. From the guy behind Alienbees, this strobe was specifically designed for high speed work. Unlike most monolites utilizes tail-trimming whereby power to the bulb is cut after a certain duration to reduce power. This effectively means the lower the power the shorter the flash duration. Other lights tend to use voltage lowering or charge a different number of capacitors for lower power output.

It also has a hybrid tail-trimming/voltage-lowering mode to provide consistent colour across all power settings (though this is not as good for freezing action).

There's a pretty thorough write-up here:


Regular hotshoe strobes also use tail-trimming and offer very short flash durations at low power, however an Einstein at low power will produce about the same amount of light as a hotshoe strobe on full power!

  • I thought that was the norm for strobes? I've never seen one that didnt do that. (granted I havent seen a lot) Nov 2, 2012 at 15:50
  • @MichaelNielsen ltage lowering, I have a set of Elinchrom lights that are pretty useless for action because of this as the duration is around 1/400s!
    – Matt Grum
    Nov 2, 2012 at 15:54
  • checked an example I saw recently, at 50% its like 1/3000s and your suggestion is still much faster. flashogfotobutikken.dk/flashlamper/… And the one I used in California started at 1/250s at max strength. Forgot the brand. Nov 2, 2012 at 16:18
  • @MichaelNielsen the first half of my comment seems to have disappeared. Tail trimming is common with hotshoe flashes but isn't with most studio strobes, making most of them rubbish for action shots.
    – Matt Grum
    Nov 2, 2012 at 18:12
  • It is studio strobes Im taking about. We ran one off a car battery in the field in CA :) Nov 2, 2012 at 18:17

You might actually find that a pack-and-head system will do a better job. Most of the major brands (Elinchrom, Profoto, etc.) offer fat, dual-path tube and twin-tube heads (I've even seen a quad-tube head, but not lately), and when they are paired with the lowest-output packs that will do the job, you can approach speedlight macro flash durations. (If both A & B channels are driving fat tubes through separate lines, you'll dump the current very quickly.) The Elinchrom Digital 1200, for instance, through the 6000N or X4 heads will have a t 0.5 of under 1/3000 at full power.

As for the monolights, you really have to pay attention not only to the brand but the model. Matt mentioned that his Elinchroms can't outrun his shutter in any real sense; I've owned Elinchrom monolights that were many times faster (the EL Compact Rs I owned in the '80s were true 1000J units with a max duration of under 1/1600s). Of the current mains-powered units, the lower-powered Style series (300RX and 600RX) are both faster than 1/2000s, as is the 250 BRXi, while the 1200RX clocks in at around 1/1500s. (All times are t 0.5.) The 300RX is about the same power as the Einstein, and while it is more expensive, you get the Elinchrome modifier system (the Rotalux softboxes are truly sweet).

(I know, I know: I sound like an Elinchrom shill. None of their stuff is the best of the best all by itself, except for the indirect softboxes like the Octa, but the system as a whole makes me happy. Everything I bought in '88 still works with everything I can buy today, and they've still got parts for the stuff I bought in '88.)

  • If you don't need a lot of light then the Einsteins will give you a much shorter pulse, at 160ws the Einstein reaches 0.1 in 1/3300s compared to 1/400s for the Elinchrom 600RX. I find the t0.1 timings are more useful for predicting how the light will behave with really fast motion. If you need the power then there are pack and head systems that will give you very short durations but at a much higher price!
    – Matt Grum
    Nov 3, 2012 at 16:08

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