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Why I Paid To Have Paul C Buff Einstein’s Shipped To The UK Gear & Apps

Why I Paid Through The Nose To Have Einsteins Shipped To The UK

By Max Bridge on September 22nd 2016

I always wondered why on earth someone would pay tens of thousands for “the best” lighting out there when the same could be accomplished with equipment that cost far less. That is until I began realizing why I wanted/needed that kit. For particular types of photography, your lights need to do some fairly uncommon things; things, which, until relatively recently, only very expensive lights could do; think Broncolor and Profoto power packs.

Why Did I Choose To Import Paul C Buff Einsteins?

As a product photographer, I demand the maximum in stability from my lights. I’m talking about color and power. I focus stack almost all of my photos using a program called Helicon Focus, and if shots vary in color and power from shot to shot (especially power), then the stack will not work. In addition to consistency, I need lights which have a wide power range, can be adjusted in 1/10th stop increments, and have a fast flash duration. Finding lights which can do all of these things is not as easy as you might think. Most lights will do some but not all, and sadly I need every one of those features.

Side Note – You can purchase Helicon Focus with a 20% discount here.

One of the key features for specialist types of photography which involve freezing motion is flash duration. If that concept is new to you, then check out this video from Lighting 101 which explains it perfectly. (Off topic slightly, I’d also recommend Lighting 101 to those that have not already seen it. It’s a great resource). Generally speaking, lights which have a flash duration fast enough to freeze motion, anything from 1/2000 – 1/9000 t.01 (depending on the movement), are very expensive.

back view of the paul c buff einstein


Why Einsteins and not other available lights?

So now you know the features needed, why did I import Einsteins? The simple answer is that no light available in the UK has all of the features I mentioned above at a price point I could afford. I’m sure some of you are stretching your fingers about to write a comment concerning either the Phottix Indra or Godox AD600 (AKA Adorama Xplor) flashes, and Both are great choices, but neither allow control of the lights in 1/10th stop increments. There’s also the Broncolor Siros S series but they are a little too expensive. Oh, and I almost forgot the Godox QT600 II…I bought them and returned them, the color consistency is atrocious. So really, the Einstein’s were the only choice. That may have changed but I’ll get to that later.

Side view of Hensel Cito being compared to paul c buff einstein

How I did it

As anyone outside the US will know, Paul C Buff do not sell their lights internationally. However, if you would like to purchase them, you can. It’s a rather annoying and elongated process but it’s doable. A very important fact to note, however, is that you are liable to pay any return postage costs should they be necessary, like repairs, for example. As there was no other alternative, this was a risk I had to take.

screen grab of the MyUS website which was used to import paul c buff einstein

To get the lights shipped to the UK, or any other country for that matter, you’ll need to wire transfer the funds to Paul C Buff. Having done so, an order will be generated and sent to something called a freight forwarder; I used a company called MyUS. The job of this company is to provide you with a US address for the goods to be sent to. Once received undamaged, the job of Paul C Buff is done and any issues from there on are your responsibility. You’ll have to pay for the postage to your country and any import fees your country applies. In total, it cost me £1530 for the order (3 lights, cyber commander trigger system and spares), £120 for postage to the UK, and £340 for import fees. The grand total came to £1990 or $2583.49 USD.

Paul C Buff provide an explanation of the process here. Skip to the section titled “New International Customers”.


the profoto d2. comparing it to the paul c buff einstein

Million Dollar Question, Would I do It Again And Should You?

The short answer to this question is, yes. I needed the lights and, at the time, there was nothing comparable. The color and power consistency is wonderful and I’m sure I’ll be able to use these lights for years to come. However, in just the last few days some alternatives have been released which throw a new angle on this.

The keen eyed amongst you will have noticed two images in this article which show lights that are certainly not Einstein’s. They are the soon to be released Profoto D2 and Hensel Cito. Both lights appear to fit my criteria and potentially yours if you demand the same features. The Profoto is on the expensive side and will probably be out of reach for many. The Hensel, on the other hand, might come in a little bit cheaper and could represent the best value (considering build quality etc.). Neither light has been released yet and hence there are no tests to reference but if you can wait, I would certainly advise doing so.


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Max began his career within the film industry. He’s worked on everything from a banned horror film to multi-million-pound commercials crewed by top industry professionals. After suffering a back injury, Max left the film industry and is now using his knowledge to pursue a career within photography.

Website: SquareMountain 
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Q&A Discussions

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  1. Teemu Riihelä

    Hensel mentioned as a possibly less expensive option to Profoto? Hensel, the guys that work with Briese? Hand made in Germany as well…Ok then^^;

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  2. Keith Betterley

    I used Einsteins for a few years and the quality of light is good, flash duration is short and so forth, but they are fragile even in careful use. They just aren’t well built. Buff is good about fixing but the shipping cost are annoying expense even in the US. Let’s not even mention the down time. I never owned a Buff light that wan’t sent in less than two times. Two of my Einsteins arrived malfunctioning as did the AB Ringlight. One of vagabonds minis has been in the shop twice and is still not fixed. Had a White lightning go in 4 times and that was a back up light. At least it had a 5yr warranty. I can’t say enough how awful the mounting system is. Don’t even try to use a larger Buff branded softbox or Octo on them, they will fall off. They just aren’t suited for actual pro use. Even the levers are super cheap metal and have broken off on occasion. I have upgraded to combination of Profoto’s B1s and D2s. They may be more expensive but Buff gear can cost you plenty in the long run. I am so much more confident in the Profotos and that is worth the price.

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  3. Ben Perrin

    Yeah sometimes it sucks to be outside of the US for photography. I almost pulled the trigger on some einsteins when they had an Australian re-seller that made things rather easy. I really wish they would organise shipping through amazon or something to make it easier on overseas buyers.

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    • Max Bridge

      Yeah it is annoying. I only really see the Einsteins as stepping stone lights though, if you get my meaning.

      Other than them and B&H, I’m fortunate that London has pretty much everything.

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    • Lauchlan Toal

      I’d have to agree with the stepping stone aspect – while the light output’s great they aren’t the most enjoyable lights to use. But for people who need power and speed at a good price, there’s no beating them (where they’re available).

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  4. Vince Arredondo

    What about Godox, have you consider the AD600?

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  5. Neu Porabno

    Have you heard about Elinchrom? Available in EU. Short flash duration, 1/10 increment power adjust, etc. Can go for studio monoblocks (ELC PRO HD 500 or 1000) or for battery powered ELB 400. All of them fitting within your needs.

    Many modifiers, service provided in EU and many more advantages. Not saying that Einsteins are in any way inferior but if you are asking if the import was reasonable I would say not really.

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    • Max Bridge

      Hi Neu, I have heard of ELinchroms. In fact, I was using some today. I like them but the flash duration is not fast enough to completely freeze liquid in motion without trails. Even in the marketing image of the ELC Pro you can see trails from the powder.

      I believe the stated flash durations are t.5 not t.1. I could be wrong however as I’ve not got the time to look right now.

      Thanks for your input

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    • Neu Porabno

      Flash duration is measured at t.5 but on Quadras or ELB400 the B port offers 1/5700 t.5 flash duration which in my tests and also in other reviews was short enough to freeze liquid. Although I have not tried with powder yet so there I can not comment.

      For ELC t.5 is 1/5260 so should be the same as with ELB400 models.

      But if you tried it I’ll take your word for it for powder since as mentioned I have no problem in freezing liquid.

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    • Max Bridge

      Hi Neu. No I’ve not tried it myself. From what I know, however, a t.5 time of 1/5700 may freeze some action but not all. After all, that only equates to a t.1 of roughly 1/1900. You’ll definitely freeze the majority of the movement but there will be some trails in particular areas.

      If you look at the image on Elinchroms site, you’ll see the trials caused by the flash duration not being fast enough:

      It would be suitable for many applications but I don’t see why I, or someone else, who’s interested in freezing motion would go for something more expensive that won’t freeze everything (or at least most things). I have no doubt that the build quality would be better but for the purposes of freezing action, the Einsteins are undoubtedly better.

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  6. Jacques du Toit

    As I don’t live in the UK, out of curiosity what would it have cost for Siros S or a B1 location kit that side? I know down here in South Africa, we can sometimes pay up to double what it would cost had we just flown to USA and “snuck” through customs – not saying do it, just saying price wise.

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    • Max Bridge

      Profoto B1 location kit on Wex is £3210, individual light is £1632. The 400 S Bronoclor is £1278. Pretty steep! The Profoto D2 is going to be £1194. You can find more UK prices here-

      …nothing wrong with a little sneaking…

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