Cowboy Studio Lights
Before I get too far into the lights that I bought, let me talk a little about Cowboy Studio. They’re a small company out of Dallas, Texas that makes super budget friendly gear. For anyone who is working low-budget, or needs low cost replacement parts, Cowboy Studio would be worth a look. Lighting looks to be their main focus, but they make camera accessories as well. Like this $39 LCD Viewfinder for the 5D MkII, that might be a good option versus the almost $400 Zacuto Z-Finder. I’m not saying they are for sure better, but for the price, they’re worth a gander.
For $98 I got two stands, four fixtures, two umbrellas, four bulbs. I decided to do the Amazon bundle deal, which bumped my order up to $120; but I also got a four foot, five surface reflector and a set of clamps. Shipping included in the price. For the price, this was a great deal.
Now, the lights themselves have two bulb fixtures on each head (each fixture has it’s own power switch), and each bulb puts out the equivalent of a 300 watt light. So, either stand could be 300 or 600 watt equivalent lights. That’s up to 1200 watts of output. But because the bulbs are CFLs, they don’t draw nearly that much power; and they don’t heat up that much. The bulbs themselves are daylight balanced, so they’ll work well in conjunction with other Fresnel lights. The rigs are easy to set up, and quick to take down. They also came with an easy carry case, and individual cases for the stands.
My girlfriend has been using the lights for product photography, and I’ve used them for quick video shoots. And so far, I’ve only found two downsides. Number one, the lights are flood only. The bulbs aren’t in a housing, so they don’t have the ability to spot, or focus at all really. So, if that’s a necessity for your lighting, go a different direction. If you just need “studio” style lights, these might be a good option. The second issue I’ve found is with the materials that the rigs are built with. The fixtures are made of plastic; CFL bulbs don’t heat like regular bulbs, so you don’t need metal. But, I found that the screw rings (what actually keeps the bulb in the fixture) aren’t that great. In fact, one of them came completely out when I unscrewed the bulb. It’s easy enough to fix, but it is an issue. Making the fixtures out of metal or ceramic would make these lights a little more durable.
Overall, I’m happy I bought these lights. They’re lightweight, have low power draw with high output, and have daylight balanced bulbs. The minimal downsides (no focus, made of plastic) don’t outweigh the low cost. For less than $100 you get a 1200 watt equivalent set. And that’s hard to beat. I would say that for anyone that is just starting to acquire gear the Cowboy Studio CFL 1200 Watt Equivalent Lighting Kit would be a good place to start.