The very first lighting kit I ever bought some 20 years ago was a pair of Bowens Esprit 250 monolights. I thought they were sooo cool. I used them for a while, but then fell out of love with the idea of studio photography and they got stored under my bed for a few years until I decided to sell them for some other gear I couldn't live without (I can't recall what it was).
Fast forward about a decade from 2002 and I found myself buying a pair of Broncolor 600W monolights from a retiring product photographer. They were also pretty good, but finding modifiers for them required parting with human organs or bonding yourself to Satan for eternity. So I sold those too and after a short while I ended up buying 4 new 500W Chinese brand Menik lights, which had a Bowens mount. They were OK and I used them for a long time. I actually ended up selling 3 of them recently and still have a solitary unit lying in my gear storage cabinet. While they were fine to use, the fans were really noisy and about a year ago I started using constant lights for pack shots instead of the strobes. I've been shooting that way happily ever since.
However, the problem with shooting constant lights in my little studio is that in the summer time (now) I have to draw the blackout curtains and with some 500W of CFL lighting burning during a shoot, not only do I need to strip close to naked to survive the heat, my electricity bill is also not that happy with the idea.
So I decided to look into shooting with flash again, but these days you can become easily overwhelmed by the sheer amount of choice available. It seems that Chinese brand Godox is one of the top options because they have a very useful wireless system and of course are also using the ubiquitous Bowens mount for modifiers which are easily found for little money these days. But... I hesitated to go there because while I have two Godox TT600 speedlights, the interface for the X-Pro trigger system is a little confusing to me and I think the only real benefit is if you need to remotely adjust power settings often, or use the high speed sync features. I am a "set it and forget it" type of photographer, especially in studio with the pack shots, so that wasn't a big deal for me. If I was going to get more a/c powered strobes I would probably have gotten a couple of their 300W or 400W units. Not as cheap as I thought they would be, unfortunately. I definitely wasn't considering the battery powered options, which although convenient will leave you with useless hardware when they decide to stop making the batteries in a few years to force you to upgrade to the latest models. Screw that.
Then I remembered that a very kind lady I bought some LEE 216 diffusion material from last year had a couple of older 500W Bowens Esprit lights that she was selling off too, so I got touch a couple of weeks ago and she still had them, along with some Godox softboxes. I bought them all. She actually had a third 500W unit that she included at no extra cost because it had suffered a fall onto the power supply unit and while it still worked, it was held together with gaffer tape. And you couldn't just remove the power cable easily. I got this stuff for a really ridiculously low asking price; 3 x 500W Bowens Esprit units, 2 x Godox 1000x700mm softboxes and a 1200mm octabox for a shade over $180 including shipping from Cape Town to Durban. Bonanza!
The lights arrived last week and I hooked up one of them to the new Godox Octabox for the 4th batch of a big catalog job I am doing. These units are fanless and in spite of running for hours on end in my little hotbox studio I had no overheating issues with the unit at all. This has now prompted me to source another wall mounted boom arm (pictured lying on the table above) which I will install tomorrow and connect a second Bowens unit to (for fill use), or maybe to easily switch between the constant lights and the strobe lights without any fuss.
Oh yes, I also "fixed" the broken unit's power supply with some good old fashioned South African Pratley's Quickset Putty. Not the most elegant repair, but it is working 100% and removing the power cable is now just as easy as it is with the other units. If I can find some black acrylic I will paint the putty to make it look less conspicuous.
Have you ever used studio flash? Let me know your experiences in the comments below.