Speedlights vs Studio Strobes: Which is best depends on what you want to do with the light


posted Monday, August 29, 2016 at 3:59 PM EST


Off camera flash can be tricky enough to get involved with as it is, but the eternal debate between choosing speedlights or studio strobes makes it all the more daunting for beginners. Photographer Joe Edelman has made a video discussing the pros and cons of both speedlights and monolights and which flash is better. So that we're all on the same page, a speedlight is something like the Nikon SB-5000 and a studio strobe is something like the Priolite Ultra.

In certain situations, you can create nearly the same light with a speedlight as you can with a monolight (studio strobe), so what are the differences between the two? Well monolights can work better for lighting bigger areas because they're more powerful. This high power output can also help them to be more effective when using light modifiers. With that said, speedlights are compact and don't need an external power source such as a battery or outlet.

When you ask someone "should I buy a speedlight or monolight? And which ones?" and they give you an answer that doesn't itself involve more questions, then Edelman says you're not getting a good response. When you ask which type of light you should buy, you need to answer more questions before you can get the proper answer to that first question. "What do you want to do with the flash? Where will you be using it? Will you use modifiers? Will you use it as fill flash outside?" Those are just some of the questions you need to answer before selecting the right flash for you. Neither a speedlight nor a monolight is the perfect solution to every lighting situation, but one might be decidedly better for you.

Generally, the following is true about speedlights and monolights. "Monolights are more powerful than speedlights. Speedlights cost less than monolights. Monolights recycle faster and let you shoot longer bursts. Speedlights are smaller and more portable. Monolights are predominantly manual only. Speedlights are predominantly automatic and TTL (through the lens). Monolights usually have more modifiers available. Speedlights allow you to stop very fast action and even shoot at very high shutter speeds."

So how do these changes affect the quality of light and what you can do with your off-camera lighting? Watch Edelman's video above to find out. To see more from Edelman, including his video about what a speedlight is, visit his YouTube channel. He will be doing more tutorial videos about off-camera lighting, so stay tuned to his channel! You can view more of his work at his website.

(Seen via ISO 1200)