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Goodbye, Bowens | Company Is Officially Shuttering After 94 Years

By Holly Roa on July 20th 2017

Today we received an official confirmation after information had been circulating last week of lighting company Bowens’ untimely demise. After 94 years of business, Bowens is down for the count. Last year they were acquired by the investment firm AURELIUS, unfortunately for Bowens, as an add-on to a transaction that held higher value to the firm. Calumet, the other brand bundled in the acquisition, is intended to expand across Europe.

Some curious claims have been made in an attempt to explain Bowens’ failure. AURELIUS told PDN,

“…the far-reaching changes affecting its market, including new, considerably less expensive products by Chinese manufacturers, product innovations by competitors, and the changed buying behavior of professional photographers, who are now only willing to invest in new equipment if the investment guarantees additional income.”

In Europe, Calumet will continue to provide service for discontinued Bowens products, and Calumet CEO Christof Bergmann has told PDN that they are working to ensure service globally, though details are not available on that yet.

[REWIND:] DRAMATIC LIGHTING FOR PORTRAITS | CHRIS KNIGHT COMPARES LIGHT MODIFIERS

From a consumer perspective, it’s not particularly surprising that Bowens would not make the cut when acquired by a new company. Their Generation X Line, released in 2016, was a step to get in line with the times, but it appears to have been too little, too late. Prior to that release, their products felt dated and lackluster in comparison to other lighting options available.

If nothing else, the ubiquitous Bowens mount will surely live on, as it has become a standard for non-proprietary lighting mounts around the world.

About

Seattle based photographer with a side of videography, specializing in work involving animals, but basically a Jill of all trades.
Instagram: @HJRphotos

9 Comments

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  1. Paul Aparycki

    None in Montreal or Toronto? Where do you make up this BS? Photo service, Llozeau (Montreal), B3k, Henry’s, Vistek (Toronto and Canada wide) sell, offer service for, and rent almost exclusively Profoto . . . For all the reasons I have cited. Virtually every pro shooter I know in Montreal doing commercial advertising work uses Profoto for a simple reason . . . there is nothing else that can compare. AND contrary to your uninformed implication in the first post about Profoto giving equipment and looking for placement, they are about the ONLY company that doesn’t do this. Don’t believe me? Look at ALL the websites of well known or so-called “professional” gear . . . Nikon, Canon, Sony, Broncolor, Sigma, etc, etc, etc ALL have “ambassador” programs. Profoto does not.

    I guess they have the balls (Swedish) to stand by what they sell.

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    • Motti Bembaron

      You should read comments more carefully before screaming BS. I do not know about camera stores renting because I never needed any  rental equipment.

      Let me try again: I said, I do not know any PHOTOGRAPHER that owns Profoto.  And since you seem to think that using Profoto is somehow related to success, many of them are very successful :-)

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    • Motti Bembaron

      By the way, here is a “Profoto Canada Wedding Ambassador”. Not sure what it all means really but it seems Profoto does have ambassadors.

      And I HAVE NO DOUBT Profoto promotes their gear to death through all those Youtubers.

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  2. Paul Aparycki

    Motti, you think Profoto are not doing well? Go to any pro rental outfitters anywhere in the world, ANYWHERE . . . and their shelves, offerings . . . will be predominately Profoto. Broncolor is arguably more intense in its versatility, but there is nothing on this planet that approaches the reliability of Profoto gear. Rental houses do not drop hundreds of thousands of dollars investing in something that won’t last. Their business relies on longetivity, reliability.

    Nothing from China can give them that, and for that matter, nothing from the USA can either.

    Profoto did it right . . . at a cost . . . those of us who rely on our equipment pay the price. I wake up tomorrow, the day after, week after, and usually the month after knowing that I won’t have a smoking, burning worthless heap on my hands, which in turn means I can, and do, better work and more $$$ from, and for my clients. Something I think you don’t quite grasp.

    Bowens was on the right track . . . they had great ideas and innovative equipment though a few years behind, but as I said, the brits (and I am one) frequently screwed up on their marketing.

    And while I thank your hopes that I might find better deals, I have started looking and don’t hold out much hope.

    But for those of you who are fishing for new lightbanks, make the effort to find and perhaps try out a Bowens Wafer/Plume Wafer/Calumet Illumina(?). Brilliant light banks, thin profile, innovative inner diffusers that give you a multitude of light effects from one source. Ain’t cheap, but worth every penny, . . . er, $$$

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    • Motti Bembaron

      Paul, I am not saying that “pro” equipment is not worth investing in. It is important to have confidence in our gear. In most cases you get what you pay for.

      Saying that, there are now so many great options for much less money. Less money does not necessarily mean less quality. Remember, Bowens were also made in China.

      Don’t know about rental stores but I know many photographers in Montreal and Toronto area, very successful and none carries Profoto.

      I don’t know if they doing well or not, I hope they do, we need strong competition.  Bowens closure came as surprise to many. They also seem to do very well. They did not.

      What would you call “pro level quality lighting gear” anyway?

      Every time I take out my Einsteins or Godox they just work. Every single time.  I have had the Einsteins for over five years now and they were bought used. They never quit.

      I invested in the Godox speed lights for over two years, same here, they never quit.

      Now I have the AD200 and although they were only born a few months ago I bet they will do just fine in ten years.

      I had a bare bulb Sunpack that was so old it had its outer color changed. I finally gave it away, could never make it quit. Sunpack was never really “Pro level”, the Quantum were the “pro level” of those days. Where are they now? When was the last time anyone mentioned this brand? They were good but way overpriced. They still are. Why would you spend $1,500 on a flash and a battery when that would buy you THREE better units (Bolt, Wistro, Godox and Sunpack) 

      My Nikon SB900, pro level speed light by all counts, burnt on me not even two years after purchasing (new). Worst piece of sh**t I ever owned. My SB600 (not pro level speed light) was still working when I sold it three weeks ago.

      We buy what we need. If your needs demand high priced gear then you do not have a choice. Like many other photographers, I do not need $2,100 strobes ($3,000 in Canada). I do very well investing much less.

      Cheers.

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  3. Paul Aparycki

    Two comments from people who seem not to have any experience with pro level quality lighting gear.

     I find it difficult to understand completely how this came to pass.

    Profoto (which I have used for decades) gets more expensive by the minute, as does Broncolor. Neither, along with Hensel seem to be suffering. Before anyone whines about “snobbery, etc”, I long ago adopted a policy of buying their gear used . . . it is so well built that there is little risk of acquiring a dud if purchased from a reliable source (out of the six packs that I own, the oldest is a 3a . . . ancient . . . been in for a repair ONCE). No Chinese manufacturer can claim that . . . not one.

    Bowers was built to the same level, but it’s marketing was like the British motor industry, rather complacent and I think that ultimately did them in. A pity because they had one of the best online industry magazines, and they designed and produced what are absolutely the best light banks ever. Their wafer series.  (Plumes’ licensed banks whilst being Bowens use lower grade sailcloth for the faces  . . . they yellow very quickly). Brilliant design, incredibly versatile, and a quality that would make even Chimera shudder, and unfortunately a stellar price tag, but worth every cent, more precisely dollar, dollars . . . lots of.

    I hate being a vulture, but I am going to fish for, and hope I find some excellent deals.

    Another one bites the dust . . . how long before last man/company standing?

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    • Motti Bembaron

      Who says Profoto is doing so well? How do we know that? It seems to me they create a perception of wellness by outfitting known Youtubers and the likes of Adorama with tons of gear and demand they make sure their gear is in EVERY video even if lights are not even needed :-)

      If you watch videos with named Youtubers, Profoto logos are everywhere, not one umbrella or soft-box is misplaced or on the wrong side of the logo.

      Seems to me that when a company tries so hard it is not necessarily a good thing.

      Chinese manufacturers are getting better by the day and companies like Godox are making a huge difference in the industry.

      I agree that until recently, Chinese stuff was not made to last, that is however, is changing and fast.

       Saying that…About ten years ago, when I just started, I bought four strobe head of a no-name Chinese brand (four heads, four stands, a 3×3 softbox all for $500). They were plastic and flimsy.  With each strobe came a dozen of fuses and two bulbs (just in case). I thought that if they last me a year or two I will be very happy. Well, I sold them after five years of use and never once had to replace a fuse or a light bulb. They were not the best at all but for most work they were exactly what I needed.

      Anyway, best of luck finding cheap Bowens, I feel you will be successful.

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  4. Motti Bembaron

    “…the far-reaching changes affecting its market, including new, considerably less expensive products by Chinese manufacturers, product innovations by competitors, and the changed buying behavior of professional photographers, who are now only willing to invest in new equipment if the investment guarantees additional income.”

    i.e: Photographers became much smarter and are not willing to overpay for equipment.

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    • Steve VanSickle

      Agreed. It’s sad to see them go, but while the Gen X lights looked great, I don’t know that they could justify ProFoto-level price tags. 

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