UK Strobism – Buyers Guide

Hello people,

 Hi folks, I hope this weeks post finds you all well!

For reasons completely unbeknown to myself, off camera flash or to call it by it’s more popular name Strobism has not really caught on yet in the UK and for that reason buying all the required kit can be a real nightmare (It’s taken me almost four months to source everything).

All of this stuff can be procured quite easilly from the states from a great shop called Mid West Photo Exchange which is a Mecca for strobists. However, where items can be purchased in the UK I have provided relevant details in order to keep the shipping costs down . I’m sure all this gear can be bought elsewhere on the web but those sites I have listed are ones that have provided a great level of service.

Right, here we go then:

* Off Camera Flash – Vivitar 285HV.

Vivitar 285 

The Vivitar flash has an excellent reputation as being a well built piece of kit and should be considered as a real work horse flash. It’s built like a brick and is really affordable, the downside is that it’s pretty simple i.e. no digital display/controls and It does not support TTL technology inherent in most digital cameras. This means that you need to get down and dirty using the flash in manual control, but hey, whose scared of manual?!

One thing to mention is that if you plump for the Vivitar flash make sure you buy the 285HV not the 285 as the latter had a tendency to fry your camera!! A good review of the flash can be found here. The Vivitar 285HV can be bought here and retails for about 40 squid.

*Light Stands – Manfrotto/Bohen 004b or 001b.

Now that you have your flash now you need something to stick it on. Not much really to say about these light stands, aside from the 004b is bigger than the 001b. The latter is really compact and lightweight with a collapsible length of only 109cm and weighs in at a feathery 2.1kg. Although lightweight the 001b can extend to 385cm.

The 004b is much bigger in scale than the 001b and is designed for carrying greater weight. I have two of the smaller lightstands and opted for 004b in case I should decide to mount larger flash units than the Vivitar. Although bigger#, the 004b is no back breaker and is still portable. The Manfrotto lightstands can be bought from CKE distribution based in the UK. There are other UK stockists but the guys at CKE have been especially helpful, providing excellent customer care. Here is the link.

*Umbrella – Westcott 43″ double folding umbrella White or Silver.

These umbrellas are super lightweight and compact and are an ideal way to take the sting out of bare flash light. The silver umbrella provides a more reflective surface therefore optimising your flash light. The white umbrella provides a softer light and can also be shot through, in effect creating a softbox effect, albeit with some light overspill. The Westcott umbrellas can be bought from our good friends over the water at Mid West.

*Umbrella Clamp – Manfrotto 026 Light Clamp.

Umbrella Clamp

Now that you have your umbrella, you need to attach it to your lightstand. The Manfrotto light clamp does the job perfectly. Relatively cheap at around 20 quid, you can pick these up from the guys at CKE.

*Remote Triggers – Cactus V2S

Cactus Triggers

Now that you have everything assembled, the last thing that you need is a way of firing all the flash simultaneouly. The cheapest way of doing things is probably with a PC synch chord, but hey, we’re in the wireless age so scrub the cable. The best wireless triggers are called Pocket Wizards. These bad boys never misfire and have an incredible range, that’s why they are the choice of the pros. Unfortunately they weigh in at around 400 quid.

Fortunately there is a cheaper method and thay are the Cactus triggers or as they are more often called ebay triggers. I picked up a trigger and three receivers for about 40 quid. Unfortunately the Cactus triggers can misfire when in close procimity to the high voltage batteries needed to power your flash unit. This problem can be largely avoided by linking the receivers using the sync cable that comes with you Vivitar flash yyeeehhaaawww! The Cactus V2s can be bought from you guessed it, the good folk at Mid West.

*Cold Shoe Mount – Stroboframe General Purpose Shoe  Mount


The last item on your shopping list should be these little rude boys. Imagine my delight when after finally having all my kit, I had overlooked the means to attach my flash to the umbrella stand. The answer to my nightmare was these Stroboframe mounts, worth their weight in gold and available to buy from here.

That should be everything you need to get up and running. If you do hit any problems then just drop me a quick comment and I’ll see what I can do.I would also advise checking out the Strobist group on flickr along with the Strobist dedicated blog.

Also, sorry for those people not interested in Strobism and were instead just looking for a nice photo. Things will be back to normal next week!

Untill then!


~ by imagespike on January 16, 2008.

3 Responses to “UK Strobism – Buyers Guide”

  1. is there anywhere you know of that does a basic package stand/flash/trigger?

  2. Hi Benjam,

    As far as I am aware, the only place that does kit’s is the US bases MPEX:

    Hope this helps!

  3. Wescott umbrellas and other strobist kit available in uk from here:

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