Westcott’s Strobelite Plus Monolight; A Lightweight, Versatile Light Page 2

I always press Mary into service as a model for some test shots and my initial flash meter reading for this setup showed an aperture of f/8 at 1/60 sec and ISO 100 on my Gossen (www.bogenimaging.us) Luna-Star F2 light meter. My first shots looked slightly overexposed when viewed on my Canon EOS-1D Mark II N's LCD screen so I adjusted the camera's Manual setting to f/9 so it looked perfect, but when I downloaded the images onto my computer it was clear the f/8 reading the meter originally gave me was right on. As Groucho Marx once asked, "Are you gonna believe me or your own eyes?" When measuring output from Westcott's Strobelite Plus, believe your flash meter.

Here a 45" Westcott Round Halo Mono was attached to the Strobelite Plus. Camera was a Canon EOS-1D Mark II N with an EF 135mm f/2.8 SF lens with an exposure of 1/30 sec at f/8 at ISO 100 in Manual mode. I would have preferred to use another light with an umbrella mounted on camera right for fill but made do with a reflector to control contrast; the final portrait was still a touch more contrasty than I normally prefer.

Subsequent sessions with Shayna for my "Corset Series" showed me the versatility of the Strobelite Plus. Bouncing back and forth between using Westcott light banks and umbrellas--used in both Shoot-Through and Bounce modes--made it possible to create several different effects using just a single light and a reflector. While I would have preferred to work with more monolights--three is a nice round number--using one was a challenge and the Strobelite Plus was up to the job. It allowed me to shoot several hundred photographs with no misfires and no problems. Westcott packs the Strobelite with a fairly high-quality sync cord but I only used it as backup, preferring to use a wireless control such as Booth Photographic's Flash Waves (see the "Wireless Tripping" sidebar).

Wireless Tripping
Both the Strobelite and Strobelite Plus feature a built-in slave, but whether you're using one monolight or a bunch of them you're gonna need something to trip the main light. Westcott includes a nice sync cord but I prefer tripping wirelessly, mainly because it gives me one less cord to fall over. Not only that, you're free to move around to get the perfect angle unrestricted by the sync cord's length or the realities that sometime these cords just stop working--Poof!--usually when you're in the middle of an important session. I like Booth Photographic's (www.boothphoto.com) tiny Flash Waves transmitter/receiver with the Strobelite Plus because it also isolates your D-SLR, eliminating the chance of voltage feedback into the camera. Bang!

The Flash Waves Kit is small, inexpensive ($249.95), and versatile. It synchronizes at shutter speeds up to 1/250 sec, which should match up with your favorite D-SLR, and has a 165-foot operating range, but I'm guessing that's a conservative rating and you could probably push it. The receiver uses two AAA batteries that are not always as easy to find as their AA cousins, so make sure you have spares because it's easy to forget to turn it off. The transmitter uses what appears to be a garage remote control battery and although one is included, I'd keep a spare handy, too.

"Light," as a wise photographer once told me, "is light." The decision as to whether the Strobelite Plus is the right monolight for you ultimately boils down to cost/watt seconds and many of the convenience features it offers, such as variable power output and a built-in slave, which seems to be a minimum requirement these days. Sure you can work without them, but why would you want to? The fact that all of these features, along with accurate output, are wrapped up in a compact form factor that makes it easy to assemble a multiple light system that won't break the bank or your bank is, as the lady says, "a good thing."

Comparison Chart .pdf & Technical Specifications (538KB)

For more information, contact The F.J. Westcott Company, 1447 N. Summit St., Toledo, OH 43604; (800) 886-1689; www.fjwestcott.com.