I’ve been a hobbyist of Strobist work for a long time. I think that overall, I’ve got a fairly good understanding of lighting and the technology that goes with it. Playing with AlienBees, Bowens, Profoto and Elinchrom systems, I think I’ve got a fairly decent understanding of the tech.
About 3 months ago, I decided to try a different path with lighting. How bad could these Chinese no-name brand lighting systems be? At 1/3 the cost of most name-brand systems, I figured, why not. Cause really, light is light? Right? Well, you can definitely save money. 3 x 300 monolight strobes, stands and accessories cost about $450 USD. One strobe from any of the mentioned systems above could cost the same. Are the cost savings worth it?
I will say this, it highly depends on what you’re doing with them. I tell people all the time that light is light, and that you use what you have. BUT, and here is the kicker, if you need consistency of the light, you’re going to have to pay for it. I was doing some headshots on the weekend and I noticed that without changing settings on my camera, one set looked like my output was going down 1 f-stop. It didn’t happen more than 3 times out of 200, but it caught me off guard. Professionals rely on their equipment to perform each time they are called upon. If a pro-shooter’s camera started to give different output without changing settings, what do you think would happen? That’s unacceptable. I gauge the utility of name-brand systems on the pressure you have with your shooting. If you have an opportunity to edit and work with the lighting, there is NOTHING wrong with using these systems. I’m not a pro, but if you’re like me who likes to shoot fast and very few frames, you need to know what to expect from your equipment.
To summarize, these no-name strobes are worth it. You get the ability to use strobes in your photography and it’s worth it. In my only incident in 3 months with them, 3/200 exposures that went a little wonky, Those are pretty good odds. Manage your own expectations, and know what you’re getting into.