Hi and welcome back.
It has been a busy two weeks, so I’ll have images and lighting descriptions soon.
I rarely do a holiday gear guide, but let’s give it a shot as it seems to be in vogue these days.
Plus you still have a few days till Christmas!!
I don’t recommend cameras. it is such a personal choice. I recommend you get the camera that fits in your hand. If it is comfortable, it will get used!
Phottix Odin is my trigger of choice. It beats the Pocket Wizard Flex hands down for TTL, Manual control, High Speed Sync, and Overdrive Sync for strobe lighting. If you want a TTL trigger for Canon or Nikon and I think Sony, get the Odin!
For a basic radio trigger, get the Phottix Ares. At $60 for a sender and receiver kit, you can’t beat it. It is perfect for speed lights, compact, and has 8 channels.
I’ve been a Pocket Wizard user for many years and still recommend them. The new Plus X is a great trigger for the money and if you want PW’s, that’s the solution.
If you are just beginning in lighting, then speedlights are your answer.
I prefer proprietary units and think everyone should own at least one flash that matches your camera for perfect TTL, but 3rd party units are getting better everyday.
Phottix Mitros, honestly I would wait until the unit is upgraded to the Mitros +. The + version is refined and has a bunch of the early bugs taken care of.
Nissen, if you need something dependable right now, get a Nissen. Strong and durable with solid TTL, it’s a unit that will work well.
I don’t have much experience with Yuongnuo, Vivitar, or the other knockoff brands, but for only a few bucks if you fry it, who cares?!
The best value in strobes is the Hensel Integra 500′s.
I shoot the Hensels and love them. They offer everything you need in a quality system at a great price. Their kits are the most comprehensive, and now that they’ve merged with Chimera, the new kits will have Chimera softboxes in them.
I also shoot Profoto. I love my Profoto’s but unfortunately they are priced out of reach for many of us. The brand is amazing, but unless you are willing to give up your first born, go with Hensel.
I am a huge fan of California Sunbounce. Spend the money on a great reflector and never regret it.
The Micro Mini, silver/white is my absolute favorite, with the Sunmover coming in a close second.
Don’t waste time or money on cheap alternatives that give you grief trying to collapse them.
First Small Flash:
Photoflex 45″ Convertible umbrellas have been the mainstay of modifiers in my kit since day one and I would not be caught without one.
Rogue Flashbenders are arguably one of the most versatile light modifiers for small flashes out there. Get any unit and be happy!
Westcott Rapid Box, 43″ Orb, and Strip softboxes totally rock! I love and use them all the time.
Phottix Luna, looking for a true and traditional beauty dish for your speed light, for the money, the Luna rocks and you can get optional speedring adapters for your strobe lights as well. Just get it.
Photek Softlighter II. I have the 45″ and 60″ but find the smaller of the two easier to transport. It is a convertible umbrella, shoot through umbrella, and a softbox all in one. The light out of it is amazing and it is easy to travel with.
Chimera: The best softboxes ever made, period! Chimera brand softboxes are legendary in the film and TV industry and produce some of the softest and most beautiful light I’ve ever seen. I have a 36×48 and love it!
Phottix Luna Beauty Dish. You can get a speedring for nearly any strobe light system. I have one for my Hensel’s and use this modifier all the time. It totally rocks and for the price one of the best values in modifiers.
For travel speedlighting, I use a Lumopro Compact collapsible light stand. It fits in my luggage and I never travel without one. Attach a Lumopro LP633 Umbrella bracket and you are ready to work anywhere.
For larger speedlight stands, get the Manfrotto 1052 BAC Quickstackers. Compact and sturdy, they rock and will support my Hensel’s with small modifiers.
For strobes: Matthews Century Stands are the best. Get Matthews hollywood arms in the kit too. For about $180.00, they are super sturdy!
My Avenger A420′s are my roller stands for heavy studio work. They go up to 13 feet, but at $250.00 per unit, may not be within budget.
I think that about covers it. If you are shopping for gear, have fun!!