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Review: ABR800 Ring Flash (page 2)

Set to full power it only takes about one second to recharge for another pop.
Speaking of light (bad pun alert), the ABR800 produces 320 watt-seconds of it and when set to full power only takes about one second to recharge for another pop. At lower power settings the recharge time is even faster. You can adjust the flash power using the slide control over a 5 f-stop range – down to 1/32 power. Additionally the modeling lights can be set to either be off, full on, adjust with the power of the flash, and even get brighter as the flash charges, giving you a visual cue that the flash is ready to fire again. The back panel also features status lights to let you know when charging is complete as well as a dump button to shed any excess charge.

The flash can be fired with the included sync cable, built in slave sensor, or your own remote system. Using a Paul C. Buff wired or wireless remote, you can even control the settings of the flash (power, modeling lights, etc.) from a distance – perfect for when you’ve got the flash mounted out of reach.

I have found the unit to be a great flash both on and off-axis – in fact it’s one of my favorite studio lights, period. I discovered the hard way how convenient the multiple mounting options can be. On a location shoot one night, my light stand decided to break. Fortunately, I was able to mount the ABR800 onto a monopod and hold onto it like a shepherd’s staff, aiming the light and completing the shoot one-handed.

Just zappa the moon unit onto the ABR800
for softer light, either direct or bounced.
There are detailed warnings in the package about what to do to avoid heat buildup. I either paid attention to those warnings or never came close to taxing the build-in cooling fans. The ABR800 never became too hot for me to handle as some larger strobes can. One caution is if you’re taking a lot of photos in a downward angle, the heat can build up. But again, you’d have to take many pictures in succession for the ring flash to get too hot. However make sure you read all the warnings and instructions to get the most from the unit.

Optional accessories for the ABR800 include gels, pattern filters, a honeycomb grid, moon-units, and even a tote bag. You can also buy replacement parts like bulbs and cables direct from Alienbees to protect the length of your investment.

The 30” moon unit assembled easily and includes a gold and silver reversible inner reflector. Attaching the moon unit to the ABR800 was a bit of a challenge as you have to pop it on the outside of the unit, rotate it and then install the inner bracket to the inside of the unit before locking it all down. But the resulting softer light was well worth it, both for on-axis and off shooting. The 20 degree honeycomb grid popped right into place and can be used with or without the diffusion cover. A small label/tab is attached which makes removing the grid a snap.

I’ve used the ring flash to shoot close-ups, portraits, family photos, as well as long distance shots on a football field and it has performed without fail. It should be no surprise then that photographyvoice.com gives the Alienbees ABR800 Ring Flash a rating of HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. For its portability, ease of use, versatility, options and price of $399, the ABR800 is a great addition to any photographer’s studio.

Strengths Weaknesses
  • Solution for a variety of lighting needs.
  • Fast recharging times, under one second.
  • Versatile mounting bracket.
  • Compact and lightweight.
  • Optional accessories and parts extend usefulness.
  • Some plastic parts feel fragile.
  • Lock mechanism a little loose.
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