Joey L. Reviews Three Portable Lighting Kits for Traveling Photographers

Joey L. is a photographer best known for his stunning personal work creating portraits of the peoples of Ethiopia, India, Indonesia, and other exotic places of the world. He uses studio lights on-location to achieve his unique and dramatic look for his portraits of these exotic people. Consequently, he is frequently asked about what lighting gear he takes with him for those kinds of shoots. Recently, Joey made a video and blog post outlining three major options for portable studio lighting for photographers with varying budgets who want Joey L.-esque studio lighting on the go.

In his blog post, Joey L. reviews three kits based on lights by Paul C. Buff, Profoto, and Broncolor. He goes over the basic items in a kit. Namely,  "four main items — a flash head, a soft modifier, a power source, and a stand — as well as any other things you need to make your lights fire with your camera.” The main criteria of the kit described in his blog post are that it be powerful, portable, battery powered, and lightweight. As a result, Joey L. excludes speed lights and lead acid battery dependent packs from the kits he discusses.

Here are the three kits Joey L. reviews in the video:

With all three kits Joey L. recommends a quality C-Stand, and a mid-sized octabox (Elinchrom 39" Rotalux Deep for the two more expensive options, the PCB foldable 47" octabox for the Einstein kit).

Joey L. emphasizes that the kits are not being compared as equivalents, with advantages and disadvantages of each. He advocates for purchasing the nicest lighting kit that fits within your budget, but provides three different kits that he would purchase if he were held to three different budgets. Prices for these kits range from $1,000 to a whopping $7,000 for a single light kit. An additional point stressed in the tutorial is the importance of purchasing a solid and reliable stand to support your light and modifier. As Joey L. points out, an entire lighting kit could potentially be destroyed by the failure of a cheap light stand. If you’re spending multiple thousands of dollars on your portable lighting kit it would be especially foolish to try to save a few dollars on such an important piece of equipment.

Most of Joey L.’s tutorials are only available through purchasing, so the fact that this high-quality “tutorial” is free is quite a treat, particularly if you’re looking to make an initial investment or upgrade your on-location lighting kit. You can check out more of his tutorials at LearnFromJoeyL.com or view his work on his website.

[via Learn from Joey L.]

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20 Comments

Aaron Geller's picture

It's not $7,000 if you are a student - I took a photography course at a local art institute for $250. Broncolor counted me as a student and I received about 35% off - essentially, I paid $3,900 for the Move 1200 L one light kit. Even the profotos are cheaper with a student discount - significantly.

Chris Ingram's picture

How / where can one buy Profoto gear with a student discount?

Aaron Geller's picture

B&H has a program. I got my Bron unit from Fotocare in NYC and the rep got me the discount.

Chris Ingram's picture

Cool, thanks for that info.

Students get a 10% discount on Einstein and Alienbees. Direct from PCB. www.paulcbuff.com

Aaron Geller's picture

I got my first 2 lights from you and they have been amazing for me - I use them in most of my work. The student discount was great for helping get started

Cameron Akin's picture

In my opinion, the Adorama Rovelight RL600 is better than all three!

600 watt seconds
400 full power pops
Actual HSS
$379 per head
Light weight
Well made
Glow modifiers are cheap and look fantastic
Color is consistent
Did I mention $379?

Will Pursell's picture

If only they had a proper transmitter that worked with more then 1 group.

We have carefully lab-tested Rovelight. Color consistency is far from accurate. Color temperature rises 700K from Full to minimum power and M/G tint shifted by 15 Photoshop units. Recycle time doesn't meet specs - we measured 6.7 sec in slow mode and 4.7 seconds in fast mode. Specs are 4.5/3.5 sec. A fan is specified - we found none.

Rex Larsen's picture

The informal comparison of light kits was enjoyable. It would have been helpful if a sample was done using hard light. I haven't noticed any color inconsistency from the Einstein as described by Joey. Comparing the strobes is tricky when two octoboxes are used for the three lights. The Einstein should perform perfectly well in any "soft" modifier, but the PCB reflectors are by far their weakest products. Quality pro hard lighting is best left to the other brands mentioned.
The most striking result from the comparison is that all three test pictures look about the same !

Jarrett Hunt's picture

He forgot to mention the cyber commander with the Einsteins.

Kristjan Järv's picture

Well, I love the video n all. But what should us european guys do :D? We don't have anything PCB over here. So what would be a good alternative? I've checked out Bowens and their Travelpak, but it's too slow (500ws takes nearly 5s to recycle). Any suggiestions?

Henry Louey's picture

Spare a thought for us Aussies when we have a choice of 1 yes one retailer only to buy Broncolor gear from. They haven't ever got any pricing or local release for the Siros line. Not to mention what a ripoff they are in regards to pricing.

Pretty much made the decision for me to head to profoto for my next update. I am currently shooting with PCB in an almost exact setup to this video. Scary!

Nick Simonis's picture

I own 2 Profoto B1's and have used multiple Broncolors (at school and rentals), just not this particular model. But what I can confirm is that the way you attach modifiers to the Broncolors is enough to consider NEVER buying one. The quality of the light is awesome, but the last thing you want to be struggling with on location, is wether or not you'll damage the glass. I've actually damaged the glass of Broncolors multiple times and it's extremely frustrating. That design flaw is more than enough to highly consider just going for the B1's or any other Profoto kit if you need more w/s. To me, Profoto's focus on design and their innovations (m0therf*ckin' click on lithium battery!!!) are more than enough reason to go for the B1's if your budget allows it and the 500 w/s is enough.

Frederic Dupoux's picture

This video shows that you don't really need expensive gear to make great images.
Obviously joey makes incredible images but does not really know much about the gear he uses.

Joshua Boldt's picture

Philip, they should probably put this article in Worksafe mode since the end of his video has some NSFW nude shots. I don't have anything against nudity, but if I was at work and that popped up at the end I could get in trouble. Thanks.

John Skinner's picture

If we take his word on the reasons he's placed this opinion piece out there. And, the comparisons by price point where in fact, just that. It would have been nice to see that all the features of each head were brought into the presentation.

(eg) in the 1st head vs. 2nd head, he places an emphasis or 'Pro' on the adjustable f stops via remote (joking a guy could loose his job now) when the first kit has this option also. He just made the choice not to mention it or use it. He also failed to have a friend that uses the B1 models apparently to know that the head extensions are a known weak point on these units. Much the same as the shoddy plastics and buttons on the 1 head hit.

The creeping up to the 7K mark... This is not initial investment gear territory. If you're past 7K for 1 head, your not just looking to invest.

So in looking over the final posted results, given the costs as he relates them, and, the 'pros & cons' as he puts it.. I have a feeling that he's only familiar with what is at his disposal and has worked with, as apposed to having a full understanding as to EVERYTHING considerable. That being costs vs. result vs. reliability vs. cost of maintenance etc..

Nice opinion piece.... but it's that. Opinion.

Einstein in Color Mode has excellent shot to shot, and over the entire 256:1 power range, color and exposure accuracy. VML battery powers 640Ws at 500 pops per recharge and has 3 times the battery capacity as B1. That's about 6X the Ws per charge of B1 battery. Both batteries, to my knowledge, use Lithium NMC batteries. VLM battery is good for about 300 charge cycles. B1 battery is driven harder due to it's small capacity VS recycle. This suggests the number of charge cycles will be fewer. VML replacement battery cots $89.95.

New VLX battery recycles 640Ws in less than 2 seconds and can recycle three Einsteins at 1920Ws in under 6 seconds, provides 1200+ charge cycles.due to its LiFePO4 battery, which costs $159.95. Most pros use more than one light. See https://www.youtube.com/user/paulcbuff

Oh yes, there is our Cyber Commander remote that yields more control with up to 16 unique lights and 16 frequencies than anything else on the market. Einstein places much less weight on the stand and is way smaller for travel.

Mark Kitaoka's picture

I have been an Einstein user since they first came to market. In over 200 commercial shoots they have NEVER let me down in terms of flash duration, power, controllability or quality. Sure I've been trying some 'other lights' but I will simply say that the more I try other lights, the more I appreciate Einsteins. Are they perfect? Hell no, but then again neither am I for that matter. I'm always interested in what people PRODUCE with their gear, not what gear they own. JoeyL's work is exceptional but to purchase what he uses just because he uses it seems silly. But to each his own.

It's pretty common knowledge that D1 and B1 built in reflector requires you to buy the frosted dome to get decent results in beauty dishes, PLMs, and most softboxes. The all require a wide beam spread such as bare bulb.