alien-beeNormally I would never hesitate to highly recommend Alien Bees studio lights to anyone. Their products are stellar, and their sales support is fantastic.  But any product, no matter how well made, will eventually need to be repaired.

I had two of Alien Bee 800s die on me last year. The first one just *poof* blew up at a shoot. The acrid smell of burning electrical parts filled the shooting space, and I was down from 3 Bees to 2.

In December a friend was using my lights, and one of them decided to no longer flash and just stay on constantly. I was now down to just 1 Bee.

The holiday season had me busy with family, and the first few months of 2011 have not been studio heavy, so I kept putting off getting my lights repaired until I realized that I only had one studio light left! If (when?) that one blew out, I would be crippled. So I sent my two ailing Bees back to Nashville for repair.

If I ship from Atlanta to Nashville via FedEx ground, the package will arrive in one day. I sent my lights out on March 28th, and true to form they were in Nashville and delivered to the folks at Alien Bees on the 29th. But by Friday I had no word from them. A quick call to find out the status was not encouraging.

“Sorry Mr. Selby, there’s nothing logged in. When did you send them in?” Hmmm…. I told them delivery was confirmed on the 29th. She checked, and tah-dah, my lights were there after all – still in the box and still on the received shelf. They had not even been checked in, but the lady I talked to said she’d get them checked in and sent over for repair that day.

As of today I still had no word, so I called again.

“Sorry Mr. Selby, we don’t have anything logged in for you. When did you send them in?” What?? I repeated the facts from a week ago, and again I was told, “Yes, they’ve been marked as received, but we don’t have them in repair yet. We probably won’t have them until Friday at the earliest, maybe Monday.”

“How long does it take to turn around a repair,” I asked with just a hint of whining.

“Well, we’re really busy in repair. It is a three  to four week turn around once we get it.”

Obviously there’s nothing I can do about that (yet), but if we take the worst case four week turn around, then it will be close to six weeks before my two Alien Bees will be back in service in my studio. I had an engine replaced in a car in one week. I don’t understand why it will take almost six weeks to get my studio lights back.

I still love Alien Bees. They are reliable and affordable, and generally well made. And I can’t “blame” Alien Bees for the fact that I am down to just one light. I should have sent the first one in for repair the day after it blew. Same goes for the second. I would certainly be in a better position now, but a six week turn around? Really?

(The picture was borrowed from Jeff Denomme at Check out his work. It’ll make you laugh)

  1. I’ve had really good service from PCB in the past, but I’m kind of concerned about the present quality level. I have two Zeus power packs. When I power them up, they seem to flash at random for a while, but have then settled down. I have a couple of Bees and some older UltraZaps. I’ve never had a problem with them. I had a Vagabond 2 that died after a few hours of operation. They replaced the inverter right away. They’re still the most affordable, but maybe not the most reliable.

  2. I have profoto 600R 4 of them, but they are to heavy for the booms, so I purchesed Alien Bee 800. One blew up just over the models head an water or something came out. Smelly water. Now I am concerned about the quality and safety of Alien bees.

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