I honestly think the Digibee – the DigiBee DB800 by Paul C. Buff, to be exact – is the most underrated flash unit on the market today.
This DigiBee DB800 has been on the market for just about a year now and I will admit that I just started using them about two months ago… So I was late to the party.
Now before we get too far into this flash, let me be upfront about a few things… This is a bare bones flash unit. No TTL, no HSS, and it won’t do the thinking for you. It is well built and extremely small for a studio strobe, which makes it super easy to transport. It’s even multipurpose, doubling as a video light, plus its bright LED modeling light is a great tool to get smaller pupils and more color in your portrait subject’s eyes.
Also it’s worth mentioning that I am not being paid to talk about this strobe – I own 7 of them, all of which I paid for. That being said… if you folks at Paul C.Buff happen to see this review, feel free to throw some love my way!
Types of Digibees
So there are actually TWO Digibees. The Digibee DB400 and the DigiBee DB800. The Digibee DB400 is a 160 watt second strobe that sells for $309.95 and the DigiBee DB800 is a 320 watt second strobe that sells for $349.95. So let’s see… double the power for $40.00… The only one we need to talk about is the DigiBee DB800.
The DigiBee DB800 measures just 5.25 infrom front to back and is 4.75 in square and weighs just 2.9 lbs.
It fits stands up to 5/8 in and will hold umbrellas with poles up to 3/8 in mounted directly on the top of the strobe. I’ve had umbrellas as big as 60 in mounted on these with no stress.
Power and Recycle time
The DigiBee DB800 has a seven stop power range from 5ws to 320ws at full power. Recycle time is one second at full power and just half a second at half power. Paul C. Buff offers two different Lithium battery options that will allow you to power the strobes and recycle in just one second at full power with their Vagabond VLX or 2 seconds with the Vagabond Mini Lithium. The lithium batteries will provide approximately one thousand full power flashes per charge with the DigiBee DB800.
The t.1 flash duration for the DigiBee DB800 is 1/975s at full power. This means that you are not going to shoot milk drops with this strobe, but if you want to photograph people moving it’s a good idea. It will handle most scenarios easily, provided that you also understand how to photograph action.
This flashtube is user replaceable and daylight balanced at 5600 K.
The DigiBee DB800 is available in four colors: for those that like the classics there’s basic black, for those that are a little more fashion forward there’s red or blue, and for those of you who are afraid you will lose track of your Digibee there is fluorescent lime green.
It doesn’t get much easier than a DigiBee. The back of the strobe contains the power setting display as well as all your controls for the flash.
The cord that comes with the DigiBee has an angled plug that allows you to place the unit close to a wall if necessary without the plug getting in the way. The on and off switch is centrally located above the power cord.
Adjusting the power is simple with these large triangular buttons that allow you to move up or down in 1/10th of a stop increments. That’s full power all the way down to 1/64th power. If you are in a hurry, just press and hold either button to cycle through the settings faster.
The flash button allows you to turn off the flash so that you can use the unit with its 75 watt LED light as a constant light source. In case you are not up on LED speak… the 75 watt LED bulb is comparable to a 400 watt traditional light bulb. It also has a high CRI of 90, which simply put means good color.
The modeling light button has four settings. You can use the modeling lamp at full power, you can have it track to mimic your flash output, you can adjust the power of the modeling light manually or you can simply turn it off.
The recycle button lets you set one or both of two recycle indicators. You can have the flash beep when the capacitor is charged and ready to fire or have the modeling lamp turn off and then back on as a visual indicator that the flash is ready. And you have the option to use both indicators at the same time.
The Slave button allows you to toggle the slave on and off. The slave itself sits on top of the unit in this little white dome.
The frequency and channel buttons allow you to change frequencies and channels if you are using the Paul C. Buff wireless Cyber Sync System and the test button allows you to test fire the flash.
On the underside of the unit is a that allows you to use a mini plug sync cord to fire your strobe by wire or to attach a wireless trigger like a Pocket Wizard.
On top of the strobe, in addition to the slave dome, you will also find a port to plug in the Cybersync Transceiver if you are going to use the wireless triggers from Paul C. Buff. These triggers are very reasonably priced at a fraction of the cost of Pocket Wizards.
On the front of the strobe you will find the flash tube, the LED modeling lamp and the four fingers that hold speedrings to mount reflectors, softboxes and other modifiers.
Simply pinching the two wings on top of the strobe contracts the fingers, allowing you to slip on the modifier and then when you release the wings, your modifier is attached. See how in my video here. I have used a 4 lb 60” Octodome on this unit with no wiggle or looseness. These fingers… they’re solid.
The Digibee DB800 arrives with a protective cover for the flash tube, a 15ft power cord and a 15ft 1/8in PC sync cord for those of you who still like to shoot wired to your strobe. What it doesn’t come with is a reflector. The Paul C. Buff Alien Bees do ship with reflectors and since I have used them in the past I was surprised when I opened my DigiBee and found that there was no reflector. The standard 7in silver reflector sells for just $14.95 The company offers a full line of reflectors ranging from high-output to wide angle reflectors – all of which fit the DigiBee DB800.
Just in case you haven’t figured it out already, with a 400 watt equivalent modeling light – the DigiBee DB800 has a few bonus features that most studio strobes don’t include. You can use the DigiBee DB800 as a daylight balanced light for video. Do understand that the units have fans in them so if you are planning on using them for video, don’t place them near microphones. The DigiBee modeling lamp is bright enough that in close quarters you could shoot with the modeling lamps and avoid using the strobes. This can be very useful if you have subjects who are skittish from the flashing lights.
If you want to get lots of color from your subject’s eyes, dial up the power of the modeling lamp. This will cause your subject’s pupils to contract and show more of the color from their iris. This is a much better solution than the frequently suggested idea of pointing a flashlight at your subject’s eyes to contract the pupils or even using a pre flash.
You could also use the DigiBee’s modeling lamp as a soft fill light against window light for some very sweet portrait arrangements.
Oh – I forgot to mention – Paul C. Buff also sells a DigiBee Carrying Bag for less than thirty dollars that holds up to two DigiBees and has pockets for cords and remotes. These are great for taking your lighting gear out on location.
So there you have it. The Paul C. Buff DigiBee DB800. With a two year warranty, I sincerely feel that given its balance of features, quality, and price-point, this is the most underrated studio strobe on the market today. It’s also worth noting that Paul C. Buff is known for their outstanding customer service.
I hope you found this information useful. Now go pick up that camera and shoot something! Because – “Your BEST shot is your NEXT shot!” — Joe Edelman