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Paul C Buff

Studio strobes, triggering system and tons of flexibility

Off camera lighting is certainly a major consideration for every photography studio and we rely on Paul C Buff for our needs. While it’s certainly possible to photograph an entire wedding with on-camera flash or by combining high ISO with fast prime lenses, some situations will benefit from off-camera lighting – especially indoor groups with limited ambient light.  When the photographer is placed in situations that call for f5.6 or higher light requirements no other option exists.

We turn to the Paul C Buff’s Cyber Commander and Einstein to aid in the task. The Einstein is Paul C Buffs most recent high powered studio strobe and it gives us enough light for any situation at a very reasonable cost. The Cyber Commander can not only trigger Einstein’s flash, but can also adjust the power levels from across the room! The Cyber Commander’s built-in light meter solves complicated settings without having to run back and forth.

This is a huge advantage on a wedding day and saves us tons of time setting up. The Cyber Commander can also be paired with the CyberSync which enables the ability to fire speedlites via radio triggers. This works wonderfully when we are using our flashes for artistic purposes on a portrait session or to enhance reception dancing shots. This system allows for a lot of flexibility and given the rather fair price point makes for a very sound investment for all our lighting needs.

Cyber-Commander

The Cyber Commander

This is the brain of the system and it has some pretty remarkable features for its price point. It works as a trigger and fits atop your camera via the hot shoe, it will allow you to trigger up to 8 lights in up to 8 groups. This is a lot of flexibility. However, we rarely ever use more than three light for our needs. However, complicated lighting can be figured out in a moment and there is no need to run back and forth to the Einstein to make adjustments. If you need to light an entire room, a couple of Einsteins placed in perfect locations and controlled by the Cyber Commander can get you artificial f8 or brighter light in the darkest of locations!

The Cyber Commander does come with a bit of a learning curve.  If you spent any time with an Atari you will feel right at home here. The joysticks and 8 bit graphics are certainly a throwback to days past. The device does come with a very informative manual that clearly outlines all the screens and menu functions. However, it took us a little time to learn the system as it’s not super intuitive to use. However, once mastered its uses are endless! It also features an ambient light meter that works in conjunction with Einstein to assist the photographer in dialing ideal settings for the scene.

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Cyber Sync

These little receiver/transmitters are great additions and we carry at least two in our mobile studio at all times. As wedding photographers, we like to keep our light configurations quick. There is never enough time on a wedding day to pull together complicated setups and the Cyber Syncs are very simple to operate with their built in dials. These units have both frequency and channel dials, allowing multiple photographers different frequencies with subsequent channels. This allows lots of light setups at the same location if multiple photographers need to operate different lights. They also have a test fire button so you can test to ensure it’s working before walking away.  They run on 2 standard AA batteries and typically last 3 to 6 months per charge. We use rechargeable batteries in all our studio equipment to save money and of course to reduce our ecological footprint. We use these with our Canon 430EX speedlites for our low wattage off camera needs.

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Einstein

This studio strobe is simply a marvel. Considering its price tag is comparable to Canon’s Flagship Speedlite Flash, yet it’s capable of delivering six times the power! This kind of additional light can get any photographer out of tricky situations. With its 640 watts it can literally over power the sun. Directed at a large white wall it can serve as the key light, and if setup far enough back in a church it can light the entire building. This kind of flexibility does not come without trade offs and we only use it when required.

The strobe is relatively heavy and requires a tripod to use for our applications. It also requires a 12 volt plug unless equipped with the optional battery system. We have opted for the battery in our system as it allows us the most flexibly and the quickest setup. We rely on our Einstein in must-have situations only; typically indoor family formals that require the extra light. We also should mention that we never flash these strobes during ceremonies as they can be quite disruptive during nuptials and cranked way up it can even seem blinding.

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Final Thoughts

We use our Paul C Buff gear at most events and with some frequency at every wedding, however we rarely rely on it completely and we always have another plan should something fail. The Paul C Buff products have been fairly reliable even though I’m (Mathew) notorious at breaking things. We honestly feel that the hot shoe adapter on the Cyber Commander is the achilles heal and should be used with some caution while moving with it attached to the camera. It’s also worth noting that Paul C Buff has exceptional customer service and their southern hospitality is certain to put a smile on your face. Also all of their products are made in the USA. If you are looking to get into off camera flash this is a great way to go, lots of flexibility with speedlites and studio strobes and all at a very reasonable price tag. Thank you Paul C Buff for bringing expensive, mostly out of reach lighting to the masses!

*Past Love: We no longer carry this light in our bag. It’s a great peice of kit and it can level just about any lighting issue out there. However, with the strong ISO capabilities of modern cameras paired with powerful speedlites can resolve our everyday wedding problems. For studio work we still rely on this great platform!

More Resources

Are you interested in learning more about this lighting system? There are lots of great, useful resources all over the web to help us photographers achieve our photographic dreams! We have included some of the articles and resources that were helpful for us when researching our own gear purchase.