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Speed lights vs Studio lights: Nikon SB900 vs Yongnuo 560 YN III vs Alienbee

Today we take a look at the differences between speed lights and a studio mono light. Specifically we’re looking at 3 speed lights and 1 studio strobe. We’ll put the Nikon SB-910 against the Yongnuo YN 560 III , against the Nikon SB-700, against the Alien Bee B800.

This is essentially a follow up to one of our first posts, here comparing the Yongnuo YN 560 III to the SB 700. After a year of using the gear, I’m glad to report that all of our Yongnuo’s are working well. After using speed lights, I was always wondering how a studio strobe compares to the speed lights, so I finally got my hands on one of the most popular studio mono lights on the market, the Alienbee B800.

If you take a look at the chart below, you can compare the output of the lights.

Alienbee vs Nikon sb900 vs Yongnuo

Alienbee vs Nikon sb900 vs Yongnuo

All of the above shots were taken on the Nikon D800E and the Nikon 85mm f/1.8G ; the camera settings were 1/200th of a second, ISO 100, and f8. As you can see, the Yongnuo YN 560 III is consistently tad brighter than the Nikon SB 900, measured, it’s right around 1/10th of a stop. Compared to the Nikon SB 700, both flashes are about 1/2 a stop weaker than the Nikon SB-910 . With the speed lights, all were set with the a zoom of 35mm. After some testing, I determined that zooming the flash to 35mm, matched the same spread as the Alienbee B800.

Now, comparing the Yongnuo YN 560 III to the Alienbee B800 really shows the power of the studio flash. The Alienbee B800 is roughly 1 full stop more powerful than the Yougnuo YN 560 III. The other advantage of the Alienbee is the recycle time. At full power, the Alienbee took roughly 1 second to be ready for the next shot, where the Yongnuo and Nikon flashes took about 2 seconds.

These findings more or less verify what many people say, and that is most speed lights are around 150 watt seconds, and since the Alienbeen is roughly 1 stop brighter, and rated at 320 watt seconds, double the power, that falls right inline with the inverse square law.

Another thing to note, is that after a year of use, the different color temperature issue I experienced with the Yongnuo has gone away.