Budget studio lighting kits are widely sold online, usually featuring low-price monolights with a basic set of features. Mini studio flashes, with energy ratings from 120J to 300J, can often be a better option for beginners than speedlights. There are several reasons for this:
- Mains powered, so no need to worry about keeping lots of AA batteries charged
- Modelling lamps mean you can see the light falling on your subject before you take your first shot
- Fewer adapters and brackets are needed to add umbrellas, stands and lighting accessories
- Simple controls
- Cheap and available in value kits with accessories
- Wider spread of light and more power makes them better suited for use in softboxes
However, there is a caveat (well, a couple, but that’s beyond the scope of this article). While speedlights – even cheap ones – are widely adjustable down to 1/64 or even 1/128 of full brightness, the same is not true for mini studio “strobes”. Many budget studio flashes can only be turned down as far as 1/8 or even 1/4 power. What’s more, the analogue dials are not always linear or easy to read.
Why is this a problem? If you’re on a budget, you probably have a modestly-sized studio or are working from home, so you don’t have much space to move your lights away from your subject. With modern, highly sensitive cameras this means your flashes might simply be too bright for some set-ups. You are forced to use very small apertures, giving you less creative choice when it comes to depth of field.
Skyeagle Photo, based in Shenzhen in China, have developed an affordable studio flash, the SK series, with more user control than any in its class.
The SK Mini Studio Strobes can be turned down all the way to 1/128 power using digital push-button controls. The lights, available in 150J, 180J and 220J models, have eight different settings from 1.0 (1/128 power) to 8.0 (full power). Adjustment is only in whole stops so you’ll still need increase your budget if you need finer increments than this.
The other features are fairly standard – built-in optical slave cell, sync port, modelling lamp, ready beep and an aluminium shell. At full power the units recharge in around one second, according to the specs.
|Guide number (GN)||38||40||42|
|Colour temperature||5500 ± 200K|
|Power supply||180-220V AC 50-60Hz|
|Power adjustment||Full to 1/128 in full stops|
|Modelling lamp||50W, 220V (user-replaceable)|
Still being entry-level lights, there are plenty of missing features that some discerning professionals probably wouldn’t want to be without. For instance, the flash tube is not user-replaceable, there is no integrated accessory bayonet (though universal softboxes can still be used) and the modelling lamp only runs at 50 Watts. Still, speedlights don’t have any of those things either.
The Sky Eagle SK-series Mini Studio Strobes aren’t available for retail yet, so we don’t know the end-user price. For enquiries, contact the manufacturer directly at skyeaglephoto.com.