Paul C. Buff lighting company, producers of such lights as the Einstein, AlienBees and DigiBee lighting products, has announced a new strobe called the Celestial. What makes this light special? Well, in the grand scheme of things, not much. But in the Buff lineup, it means they’ve finally got a small portable strobe that supports High Speed Sync and TTL flash metering – only a decade behind the competition.
It’s a 500Ws strobe with a light output that Buff says is “similar to the 640Ws Einstein” strobe, with a 12-stop brightness range. It has a recycle time of only 1.5 seconds and syncs with shutter speeds all the way up to 1/8,000th of a second. It also features a “160 Watt equivalent” LED modelling lamp.
This isn’t the first strobe Buff has released with HSS and TTL capability. They announced the Link back in 2020, which introduced those features into their range. But it didn’t get released until 2021 and is pretty expensive and unwieldy for location work and used an external brick for power. This is Buff’s first all-in-one self-contained battery-powered light with those features. The Celestial is a little less powerful than the Link, coming in at 500Ws vs 800Ws, but it also offers a much better price tag, at $650 vs $1200.
It uses the company’s Hub trigger for Nikon or Canon as the Link with receivers built into the Celestial itself. It’s a very primitive-looking trigger with just a couple of buttons to control everything. When compared to something like the Godox XPro, this doesn’t look like a very efficient user interface when used on a shoot n location. You can connect to it using a smartphone app for iOS or Android, but that just adds an extra layer of hassle that most people aren’t going to want to deal with.
Another big issue with Buff lights is the modifiers. Buff has their own modifier mount and their own line of modifiers. I can’t think of a single 3rd party company off the top of my head that still makes Buff-compatible modifiers today. And with many photographers switching to companies like Godox over the last decade – or who now also shoot video and have picked up a bunch of continuous LED lights from various brands, not being able to use their existing Bowens mount modifiers is going to put them off immediately.
I was really hopeful that Buff was coming back in a big way in 2020 when the Link was announced. However, it kind of feels like they still think it’s the early-2000s when Buff ruled the low-budget and entry-level strobe market and everybody was still just figuring all this digital photography stuff out. The lighting landscape has changed massively since the days when Buff and Yongnuo ruled the beginner flash market.
I still hope Buff can figure out a way to become what they were 15-20 years ago, but I’m not confident that it’ll happen.
The Paul C Buff Celestial will be available to buy for $649.99 from January 20th from the company’s website.