Today, I'm happy to introduce my readers to guest blogger Jeff Clemons. Jeff, 28, owns Caught My Eye Photography in Hesperia, CA, and has been shooting for 15 years, and professionally for the past four. He shoots with a variety of gear but tries to stick to his roots with Canon. Jeff is a photography colleague as well as a 4-wheeling buddy of mine on the Colorado4x4.org forums. Clemons initially posted this product review on the Shutterbug forum. But he has given me permission to reprint his review here. Thank you Jeff for taking the time to do this and your willingness to share what you've learned!
I bought some AlienBees studio lights a while back and found myself wanting more. I was going to just buy more Bees, but after doing some shopping, I found Calumet's Genesis 200 2-Light Kit and after hearing good reviews on them, I bought a couple.
We'll start this review off with the AlienBees.
This is the "Beginner Bee" kit that you can get through Alienbees.com.
It includes the B800 flash unit, reflector, shoot through or bounce umbrella, light stand, sync and power cords and a carrying case for the flash unit.
Back of the unit...
This flash is pretty nice. Build quality is nice and the fit and finish on everything is top notch. The power is controlled via the slider in 1 stop increments. The modeling light can be turned on, off or can track (dimmer switch like) to match the power output. It has a standard 1/8" sync port and can also be fired via the optical slave which can be seen next to the sync port. The optical slave works OK on this unit. I'll get more into that when I get to the Genesis. The Beginner Bee kit sells for $359.
This is the Calumet Genesis 200 kit.
It includes the Genesis 200 Flash unit, reflector, shoot through or bounce umbrella, light stand, sync and power cords but no carrying case.
Back of the unit...
Again, a well built, nice unit. First thing you will notice on this unit is, no slider.It's digitally controlled, which I've come to REALLY enjoy. It has the same stop range as the Bee, however, it is adjustable to 1/10th of a stop which is really nice for precision light work. This light also has an audible beep when it's charged and ready to fire. It also has an optical photo slave as well as a 1/8" sync port. Price for this kit is $199 for the 1 light kit or $369 for the 2 light kit(I bought the 2 light kit).
Biggest thing you will see between these two lights is a pretty substantial price difference. Where as with the AB kit, you get one light and all the gear for $359, you get twice the amount of gear with the Calumet for 10 bucks more. There is a power difference between these two lights to be fair...the AB800 is a 320 watt second light were as the Genesis are 200 watt seconds, but honestly, in a small to medium sized studio, they will both give more power than you'll ever use. Both are built well but IMO, the Genesis feels like a much higher quality light, especially the accessories it comes with.
The umbrella on the Genesis is about 8" bigger in diameter and obviously constructed of higher quality materials than the AB. The slave sensor on the Genesis is of much higher quality and it picks up the tiniest of flashes. In comparison, the AB slave takes a good amount of light to trigger. That's a moot point if your using cable or wireless sync, but it's a nice feature regardless. The light stand with the Genesis are lightyears ahead of the AB in terms of fit, finish and build quality. Take a look at the size difference. The Genesis is bigger in diameter and feels much more solidly built than the AB.
Flash performance between the two is pretty much indistinguishable, other than the AB offers a little more power. Again, not a big deal unless you really need it, and alot won't. The Genesis does seem to give a more consistent flash output and white balance at low power compared to the AB.
Don't get me wrong, the ABs are great lights, but dollar for dollar, they don't hold a candle to the Calumet Genesis kits. For the same amount of money, you're getting twice the lights and equipment. For budget studio lights, these are the ones to get hands down! I've had mine for a week now and have used the crap out of them so far, and they haven't missed a beat. Keep an eye out...the AB's might be going up for sale here soon!