Bowens, the highly respected manufacturer of studio lighting systems is in liquidation according to an article posted on Petapixel this past weekend. The original article appeared here and has been validated by independent sources.
My own contacts tell me that Bowens is going through the process of formally notifying its worldwide distributors of what is happening and looking to lock down what will happen from a warranty perspective.
This is very sad news. Bowens has been around for over 94 years and has a long and rich reputation for high quality product at very customer friendly prices. While less a household phrase than some other lines, I have never met a Bowens owner who ever said that the products did not deliver on their promises. Certainly they have demonstrated more consistency in output, very accurate and often overly modest specifications and build quality that can handle daily use and abuse.
Bowens was slow to adopt full remote radio options for power control, and this hurt them when Profoto and Elinchrom got there much ahead. The XMS and XMT product lines were well received, but in a market that already had established leaders. The Gemini series, however, became the defacto starter platform for many serious amateurs and aspiring professionals and continue to serve people everyday. My first set of "pro" strobes were from Bowens, and I used them a lot, and they are still serving the nice fellow who bought them from me.
Bowens impact on lighting, particularly strobes is evident by the worldwide adoption of their S Mount speedring system. It is a simple three prong bayonet and is used widely in the industry. This also means that there is still a home for all the awesome Bowens light shaping tools because they can fit far more than just Bowens kit.
When I was first getting heavily into studio strobes on my own, I was, as are many, budget challenged. I discovered that I could get name brand Bowens gear for as low as one quarter the cost of modifiers from other name companies. There are of course all manner of offshore offerings based on Bowens designs. I found all the ones that I saw to be slightly lower than utter crap but they work for some folks and that is of course just fine.
In fact, I made modifications to a number of Bowens light shaping tools to enable use on other strobes, because the value of the Bowens kit was superb and the quality was and is incredible. That Bowens looks to be going out of business will not change the usability of all the Bowens kit out there one iota.
I can say this, because I have made thousands of images with Bowens products, both Gemini family lights and of course Bowens modifiers. A 1000WS Pro head once did not pop consistently. I checked and discovered that the flash tube had been loosened in its mount, by a lot of transportation and bumping around. I reset the flash tube, now three years ago and the light still fires on every signal. Bowens owners should not be panicking because of potentially ending warranties. That's because service is so rarely needed. Fuses are user replaceable. Bowens struts for soft boxes are near indestructible and their umbrellas take far more abuse without giving up than higher priced options.
All this said, Bowens looks to be going away because the products are not in demand the way that they were. The company has changed hands over the last few years, and there certainly was a long period of invisibility between the last Gemini and the first XMS/XMT. There are also a lot more competitors that while nowhere near as good, are regularly perceived as "good enough", and for the casual user, they might be. That I wouldn't got there is immaterial because for some buyers the solution fits the need.
I am sad to see another great company fade away. Our industry continues to change, and trends to increasing focus on price and much less on quality, given an overall western attitude of acceptable disposal. It's a sad fact, and I offer the example of Apple producing expensive kit that cannot be upgraded, is difficult to repair and is line replaced in a year if not in months. The old stuff goes to landfill, or gets stuffed in a drawer. For those who buy cheap and hope, I sincerely hope that your disposable kit does not let you down at a critical time.
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I'm Ross Chevalier, thanks for reading, and until next time, peace.