By Steve Aves, September 2009
2009 has been quite a year for Bowens; so far they have introduced a glittering array of new products, including the Bowens Gemini 200 and 400, a completely re-vamped Travel Pak system, the Bowens Pulsar radio trigger card, plus the superb Gemini R 250 and R 500.
Quite a staggering achievement you might think, but Bowens haven’t finished yet, as it was always their intention to overhaul their entire monobloc range this year. So this month saw the introduction of another new Gemini, the Gemini Pro. The Bowens Gemini Pro range will be available in powers ranging from 500w to 1500w and they will replace the Digital 750 Pro and the older Esprit 1000 and 1500 models. To begin the process, Bowens have introduced the Gemini Pro 500 and Pro 750 models first, with the 1000 and 1500 to follow shortly.
I’ve had the opportunity to look at the new Bowens Gemini Pro 500 and I have to say I’m impressed. Outwardly the new Gemini Pro looks identical in size and shape to the Gemini R range. Needless to say, the build quality of the body, carrying handle and stand bracket are superb and will probably last a lifetime!
It shares the same black metal body and the same layout of knobs and dials, as the Gemini R type, both on the side and rear panel. This is a very good start, because having uniformity across the ranges will make both the Gemini R and Gemini Pro easy to mix and use in the studio.
Let’s look at the layout on the side panel first. Like the R type, the Bowens Gemini Pro has two dials that control the power, the left hand dial in stops from 1 to 5, giving a four stop calibration and the right hand dial calibrated in tenths of a stop from 0.0 to 1.0, effectively the giving fifth stop. Between the two dials is a red LED that tells you the power in full and tenths of a stop. So by using combinations of the two dials, you can select a full five stop range from 15w to 500w in accurate tenths of a stop.
Also on the side panel is a vertical row of neat LED’s that show the status of the modelling lamp, Ready, the Beep Audible signal and Slave Cell. The controls for these functions are all on the rear panel, but having those red LED’s on the side makes life that much easier when you are in a darkened studio environment.
On the rear panel of the Pro are the switches to control the modelling lamp with settings for proportional, up and down with the power, a user setting and Max for 100% modelling lamp. The Bowens Pro version is fan cooled and kicks in when the modelling lamp is on. Next to the lamp switch are the Ready, Beep and Slave Cell switches.
I have to say that Bowens have done a nice job here, using super quality switches that feel very positive and come to hand easily in the darkness of a studio. To operate all these functions, Bowens have also introduced the RC3 remote control, ideal if your Pro’s are up on Hi Glide, a must have.
The whole Bowens Gemini Pro range is Travel Pak compatible, so the Gemini Pro has the usual chunky two position On/Off switch, up for mains and down for Travel Pak. The Bowens Travel Pak socket is in the usual place, just under the On/Off switch. But the Gemini Pro’s have another trick up their sleeve; they are all dual voltage and can be used anywhere in the world. A nice feature.
So apart from that dual voltage function, what else has the Bowens Gemini Pro got to offer? Looking at the flash tube gives you the answer. Bowens have used high-speed flash tubes across the whole range of Pro heads. You can tell this at a glance, because when you look at the daylight balanced 5600K tube it has three terminals instead of the usual two. That means that it will deliver much faster flash durations ideal for the professional photographer who wants to capture movement.
To put that into perspective, let’s compare the speeds from the Bowens Gemini 500 R type that has a standard flash tube and gives a very respectable flash duration of 1/900th of a second, to the Bowens Gemini Pro 500 that will deliver a flash duration of 1/2900th of a second, all due to that high-speed tube. Flash durations are one of the most important features of any flash head, but often overlooked by buyers who tend to look at cost, before specification.
This is a shame because it really is one of the key reasons for buying a particular model. I speak to people who have bought flash kits and been disappointed that they can’t get the results they were hoping for, usually to capture movement. So you can rest assured that if you buy any head from the Gemini Pro range, you certainly won’t be disappointed in that regard.
It’s worth mentioning that despite the specification of that high-speed tube, the Pro’s all have user replaceable flash tubes and you won’t need to return the head to a service centre if it should fail. That is very unlikely by the way, all the flash tubes that Bowens use, whether standard or high-speed are good for at least 100,000 flashes.
While we’re at the front end of the Pro 500, it’s worth mentioning that it uses the standard Bowens 250w Halostar long life modelling lamp, good for up to 2000 hours of use. The 250w modelling lamp has always been a favourite of mine, especially when using large accessories such as soft boxes – believe me that 250w is well worth having. As for the more powerful Pro’s, I’m guessing that that the 1000 and 1500 will also use 650w halogen modelling lamps.
Another feature worth mentioning is the recycling time, despite the power and that flash tube, the Gemini Pro 500 has a very respectable 1.1 second recycle time at full power, not bad. Other key facts you should know about the Gemini Pro are its trigger voltage of only 5 volts, making it compatible with any DSLR. It also uses the latest version of the Pulsar trigger card and has a dedicated slot for it on the rear panel.
There really is not much more I can say about the Bowens Gemini Pro 500, it’s beautifully designed and bristles with the very latest in flash technology. This model should be the automatic choice for any photographer who uses a top end DSLR and wants to shoot images of the highest quality. The consistency and accuracy of the Bowens Pro combined with its key feature, the flash duration, makes it one of the most desirable models on the market today.
To recap, the excellent build quality, user replaceable flash tube, fan cooled 250w-modelling lamp, Travel Pak and Pulsar card compatibility, combined with remote control operation, dual voltage and the outstanding performance it can deliver makes this a very serious piece of equipment.
|Gemini Pro 500 Specification|
Gemini Pro 750
Because of its many similarities, I won’t be writing a separate review for the Gemini Pro 750. It shares exactly the same specification as the Pro 500, except for its increased power, a flash duration of 1/2300th of a second and very slightly longer recycling time of 1.5 seconds to full power.
Because of its increased power it’s also a little heavier, 0.5kg more than the Pro 500. Apart from these differences, small but nevertheless significant, the Pro 750 offers the photographer more even power and super fast flash durations, making it the ideal choice for the social or commercial photographer.
|Gemini Pro 750 Specification|
Ease of use 8/10
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