If you have been reading along lately, you know my battle with cheap lights and my discovery of the Lowel Omni light which totally changed my mind about trying to do things on the cheap. But did it? Yeah, I knew I should have just kept bidding away on eBay until I won another Lowel light, but hey, I have been trying to save you all some money along the way as well so I decided to try some of the cheapest of the high wattage lights available. The DynaPhos products from Amvona are some of the most affordable around, butâ€¦..are they any good?
I was already familiar with Amvona as I had bought a white umbrella from them for the Omni light which turned out to be better than I had expected. The light, well, only time would tell. What can you expect from a 1000 watt light system with a softbox for around $100? Ok, letâ€™s start at the top, the DP-LHRD-3497S Light Head Kit at http://www.amvona.com lists for $275.95 which is supposed to be 50% regular price. I watched a number of these go on eBay for $100-$150. It took two weeks of bidding at the last second but I snagged one for $66.99 + $16.00 shipping ($82.99 delivered). This kit does not include a light stand, but I had just bought a stand for $10 so I wasnâ€™t complaining too much.
- Light head
- Power cord
- (2) 1000w bulbs
- (2) 500w bulbs
- (4) steel rods
- Inner baffle
- Outer baffle
- Egg crate grid
- Two different control baffles
- Swivel head
What the box did not contain was any instructions. Now I consider myself to be rather intelligent but there was nothing about the setup that made any sense to me. I went to Amvonaâ€™s website and found some directions saying to connect the rods to a connectorâ€¦.well, I didnâ€™t have a connector so I called in. After a few minutes on hold, I got someone to email me the current instructions which still had me scratching me head a little, but I went ahead and followed them.
The first time, you will actually end up putting a permanent bend in the steel rods, so this actually takes a little bit of work. Layout the softbox and insert the steel rods, put two of them in and then bend the whole setup down to insert the third. Save the ball end for last and an awkward twisting, bending, pushing action will get it into place and a quick twist in the opposite direction locks everything into place. All of a sudden, everything makes sense. You do not want to have the bulb installed for this process, itâ€™s not worth risking the bulb.
I attached the swivel head to a light stand and slid the light head into place and locked it down. Now is a good time to install the light bulb into the head. BE CAREFUL, do not touch the bulb with your bare fingers, the oil from your fingers will cook on the bulb and cause it to explode. Always use a towel or paper towel to handle the bulb.
With everything in place, you can now attach the inner and outer baffles, be sure and inset the outer baffle by about an inch or so if you plan on using the egg crate.
I donâ€™t know if it is actually putting out 1000 watts or not but it sure is bright. The softbox works great and spreads the light out nice and evenly. It is seriously not a good idea to leave all of the cooling vents on the softbox closed, it gets VERY hot and you need all the cooling you can get. If you need to keep them closed to keep the light spill down, then you should limit the on time to only a few minutes at a time.
The swivel head that comes with the kit also has a built-in umbrella holder to give you extra flexibility. With a small variety of umbrella such as a silver reflector and a white shoot-thru, you have quite a few different options. You could go without any modifiers and boost the ambient light, use the softbox for directed soft lighting, utilize a reflector umbrella as a large key light, and the white umbrella can be used as a shoot-thru the same as the softbox or as a reflector to really tone down the light. Combine all this with the fact you get both 1000 watt and 500 watt bulbs with the kit, and you get a very capable lighting system.
I will be honest and say I was expecting the softbox housing to be made from pretty cheap materials and I was a little surprised with how good the quality actually was. The â€œMagmaâ€ material is actually a heavy duty pleather-like material with an interior that is silver reflective material. The softbox disassembles down and fits into a small carry bag that is included leaving you to fend for yourself with the light head and the bulbs.
At a local tool store (http://harborfrieght.com) you can buy an aluminum tool case for about $15 that is stuffed with foam padding that is easy to break apart to customize for your needs. I keep my light heads and bulbs safely stashed into one of these cases.
The following pictures were taken with a simple white muslin sheet with different lighting setup so you can see the difference.
On-Camera Flash Only
Softbox from left
Dual Light Setup
Overall I am very happy with the new setup, with two good, bright studio lights, the sky is the limit. It remains to be seen if it will hold up or if the bulbs will have a short lifetime, until then, I am pretty happy with the purchase.