If you're a hobby photographer, with maybe a decent DSLR and a growing collection of lenses, tripods and other accessories, you've probably tried your hand at portrait photography. You can do a lot with natural light or with very basic equipment, but if you want to get creative then sooner or later you're going to want a proper studio lighting system. The big names in home studio lighting are Elinchrom, Lastolite, Interfit and Bowens, and they all make starter kits designed for the home-based hobbyist, mostly costing between £400 and £600. This is obviously no small investment for the non-professional, so to help you make the right choice, over the next few weeks I'll be reviewing some of the latest kits. Today I'm taking a look at the new Bowens Gemini 400/400 twin-head kit, which retails at around £560.
The Gemini 400/400 kit contains the basics of a good home studio lighting system. For your money you get two compact but powerful Gemini 400 flash heads, two aluminium 120-degree reflectors with brolly mounts, two sturdy metal stands, two mains leads, a camera sync cable and two 90cm silver/white brollys with removable covers that can be used as either reflectors or diffusers. The kit comes in a large black holdall bag, and all included weighs approximately 12.5Kgs (27.5lbs), so you won't want to be carrying it up too many flights of stairs. It's possible to slip your arms through the bag's handles and wear it like a rucksack, but I wouldn't exactly describe it as comfortable.
The Gemini 400/400 kit isn't the entry-level product in Bowens' range. There is also a cheaper Gemini 200/200 kit selling for around £480, which contains the same accessories but has two of the less powerful Gemini 200 flash heads. If all you want to do is shoot solo portraits at home then this would probably be sufficient, but the extra power of the 400Ws Gemini 400 head gives you the option of shooting larger groups, or shooting in larger spaces. There is also a 400/200 kit for around £550. The next step up the price ladder is the professional 250/250R kit for around £800.