Essentials SPEEDOTRON DM402 KITThere are several important factors in choosing lighting equipment among the many available options. For one, you want to invest in lighting equipment that will last for years. When youevaluating the various lines, look beyond the initial investment youmake in the lights themselves. Find out the variety of the available accessories in each line, and how expensive they are. The initial investment in the lights might be reasonable,but then a simple compatible accessory like a honeycomb grid could cost you more than $100. The material and construction of the equipment is important too. Will you be taking it on the road? Traveling can take a toll on inexpensive equipment, but on the other hand, more costly and robustly built equipment might be harder to lug around. I recently had the opportunity to check out a Speedotron DM402 CC 3 - Light System, which sells for $1,240. From the Speedotron Brown line, this kit consists of a 400 - watt power pack, three lights, two with fixed - mounted, 8.5 - inch parabolic reflectors and one with a 5.5 - inch parabolic reflector, and some accessories: three light stands, two 8.5 - foot air-cushion stands and one 4 - foot air-cushion light stand, a snoot for the 5.5 - inch head and a carrying case. The equipment seems well constructed; the parabolic reflectors are made of heavy gauge metal that shouldneasily dent or deform. Air - cush - ioned light stands are desirable, as they help prevent accidental damage if you lose your grip while adjusting the height of the stand. Compact, the kit fits nicely into the supplied soft case (too bad it doesnhave wheels). If you added an umbrella for each of the two 8.5 - inch parabolic reflectors, one for the main light and one for a fill light, this kit would be ideal for a photographer who needed a simple portrait lighting setup, perhaps for school photography or location shoots. The 5.5 - inch head could be used to illuminate the background and to delineate the subject from the background. Essentials SPEEDOTRON DM402 KITIf you do more advanced creative portraiture, the kit would serve only as a starting point. For additional control over the lighting, youwant a set of barn doors (two leaf barn doors for 8.5 - inch reflectors, $56). To use the main light without an umbrella, you could combine the barn doors with a clip-on Mylar diffuser ($14), and Mylar covering, which would create a small but diffused light for individual portraits with defined shadows. Because the parabolic reflector is permanently mounted to the heads, the use of additional modifiers is limited to umbrellas or modifiers that mount with a shaft like an umbrella. You could control the spread of light with a barn door, and soften it with a panel between the light and subject. For example, if you illuminate a 4x6 - foot panel as a main - light modifier, youhave a large light source, and therefore soft light on the subject. Panels take a bit of getting used to, but they can function like soft boxes. The strobe head cord length is fixed, limiting the distance between the strobe and the other heads. If you have a very large set, that could be an important factor. If you canachieve the desired f/stop (light output), and the distance between the light and the subject cannot be changed, then to reduce the light to the desired f/stop, youneed to use neutral density filters in a variety of densities. The pack will accept up to four heads. However, the output of each will decrease, either symmetrically or asymmetrically, depending on the switch setting on the power pack. Itimportant to know, too, that the modeling lamps do not have individual on/off switches. If you cannot isolate a single light, it can be difficult to see where the light is striking the subject. The workaround is to turn the other lights away from the subject. This pack has 400 watts of power, which should be sufficient for a small studio setting of individuals and small groups. For large groups and large spaces, you may find the pack insufficient. If you want to add wattage packs, note that the flash tubes supplied with this pack will handle only 400 watt - seconds and cannot be used with a higher rated pack. Is the Speedotron D402 kit a good investment for you? That depends on your answers to several other questions: Do you want a lightweight, portable system for portraiture or small products? Do you like working with umbrellas and panels? Do you work well using parabolic reflectors with barn doors? If you answer yes to those questions, take a serious look at this kit. If you prefer to use soft boxes, octoboxes, beauty dishes and other removable light modifiers, or if you need to light a large area or groups of people, this is not the lighting kit for you.

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