Bowens có thực sự trở lại? Có, và nó được sản xuất bởi Godox

Đối với những người trong số các bạn chưa biết, cách đây vài tuần, nhà bán lẻ nhiếp ảnh trực tuyến WEX của Anh đã lặng lẽ thông báo rằng Bowens sẽ quay trở lại và đối với nhiều người, bao gồm cả tôi, đây là một bất ngờ lớn.

Vào cuối tháng 1 năm 2019, nhà bán lẻ nhiếp ảnh trực tuyến thông báo ‘Bowens đã trở lại’

Tại sao nó lại ngạc nhiên như vậy?

Thật đáng ngạc nhiên vì vào tháng 7 năm 2017, Bowens bắt đầu thanh lý và không ai nghe thấy tiếng gọi trộm nào từ họ kể từ đó, nên dễ hiểu là tất cả chúng tôi đều nghĩ rằng đó là lần cuối cùng chúng tôi nghe nói về họ. Nhưng không nghe thấy gì trong gần hai năm và sau đó nhìn thấy tuyên bố ‘Bowens is Back’ từ một nhà bán lẻ nhiếp ảnh trực tuyến của tất cả mọi người chắc chắn là kỳ lạ.

Nhưng sự thật có đúng như vậy không? Bowens, một trong những nhà sản xuất ánh sáng studio lâu đời nhất, có thực sự trở lại?

Trước khi tôi đi vào chi tiết về sự hồi sinh của họ, hãy để tôi nhanh chóng cập nhật cho một số bạn về cách chúng tôi đến đây, tại sao tôi thậm chí đang nói về nó và cách một số công ty này được kết nối với nhau.

Bowens là một công ty được thành lập vào năm 1923 và đến những năm 1950, nó là một trong những công ty lớn nhất thuộc loại này ở Châu Âu. Công ty đã đạt được thành công lớn trong nhiều năm và nổi tiếng với việc sản xuất các đầu chiếu sáng studio cực kỳ đáng tin cậy và bền bỉ, là vật dụng của nhiều studio bận rộn.

Bowens cũng đã phát triển thứ mà hiện nay là loại gắn kết phụ kiện chiếu sáng được sử dụng phổ biến nhất trên thế giới được gọi là ‘phụ kiện S-Fit’. Phương pháp đính kèm này tạo ra vô số bản sao dẫn đến kết quả cuối cùng là đầu Bowens có hàng nghìn phần đính kèm ánh sáng khả thi từ khắp các góc của địa cầu. Theo tôi, sự gia tăng ngoài ý muốn này là một trong những lý do dẫn đến thành công của Bowens ngay từ đầu vì nhiều nhà sản xuất bên thứ ba đã sản xuất các bộ điều chỉnh rất hiệu quả về chi phí cho các máy chiếu studio của họ và cuối cùng là người dùng của nó.

But unfortunately, I also think this proliferation of the S-Fit was ultimately one of the causes of their downfall. Before long, competitively priced Chinese strobe companies like Godox began manufacturing S-Fit strobes that were good enough for all to use and at a price point to see them sideline the bigger Bowens.

Bowens was certainly struggling and in June 2016, the German investment company AURELIUS bought Bowens. The following year, in July 2017, Bowens went into liquidation and AURELIUS closed it down completely shortly thereafter. We’ve heard nothing from them until now.

So Where Does WEX Photographic Fit Into All of This?

As I mentioned previously, the German investment company AURELIUS bought the Bowens brand back in 2016, but they also acquired Calumet as well as WEX Photographic. (To my international friends, WEX Photographic is (now) our largest online photographic retailer here in the U.K.)

In July 2017, AURELIUS then announced that they were ‘merging’ Calumet into WEX to ‘offer an improved experience and wider range of products to photographers across the U.K.’ And once more, we never heard from them again.

Calumet announcers its merge with WEX Photographic back in July 2017.

So to recap; AURELIUS bought Calumet, WEX Photographic, and Bowens. AURELIUS then merged Calumet into WEX and closed Bowens. So what we’re left with is not only WEX being the last man standing but also the public face of AURELIUS and it’s photographic assets. The importance of this will be more evident as we find out about the future of the Bowens brand.

Before Bowens went into liquidation in 2017, I was part of their Pro Team whereupon I provided training for their customers and retailers. I currently have no affiliation with Bowens now though.

Why Do You Care, Jake?

Just to be clear, I currently have no affiliation with Bowens, WEX, or any of these other companies in question and I am writing and sharing this due to my own personal curiosity and interest, nothing more.

In the past, I was a major part of Team Bowens which essentially means I would test their new products, write articles for them and provide training to the public as well as their distributors around the globe. But that affiliation abruptly ended when Bowens went into liquidation in 2017. I know there was a lot of anger at the time from employees both here and in China regarding the abrupt Bowens closure, but I can only say that I received all the money I was owed for the work I provided for them, therefore I can’t comment on that. My point here is that I have no ill will towards them.

As a part of Team Bowens, I did receive the new Bowens XMT strobes to test and use. As it stands today, I still use all Bowens heads for my day to day commercial work as well as my workshops and training. Since Bowens’ closure in 2017, I have been contacted by several lighting companies to use their products and although money is always a factor, I still choose to use my old Bowens heads as I love using them.

I felt it important to make that stipulation and although I have no official affiliation with Bowens I still have contacts not only with them but their old distributors as well. But upon reading in my emails that ‘Bowens was Back’, I did begin to try and reach out to old contacts to learn more. After several bounce-backs and dead ends, I did manage to speak to Matt Devine (head of content) over at WEX Photographic.

I explained to Matt that I was part of the old Bowens pro-team and I mentioned that I still use my Bowens heads to this day and if he had any knowledge he’d like to share with me with regards to the ‘Bowens is Back’ news then I’d gladly love to pass it along to you guys here.

WEX Photographic’s Response to the ‘Bowens is Back’ Statement

Me: Is the Bowens brand back for good?

Wex: Yes, the Bowens brand is back as an own-brand professional offering within the Wex Photo Video portfolio. There is a full line of lights, flash, triggers, and accessories planned for release.

We are able to sell these products at a more affordable price than competitor brands because we are sourcing them directly – the lower price does not signify a drop in quality.

Is the Bowens brand now owned by Wex Photo Video?

Bowens is owned by the same group that owns Wex; so, effectively, yes.

Will there be any new products or are we just selling through old stock?

Yes, there is a rolling program of new products in development, alongside continuous improvements to existing models.

Will the new products be made by the same manufacturer as before?

The products are being made to the previous Bowens specifications by the Godox factory. Note that Godox was previously involved with the manufacture of Bowens products prior to the closure, but the Bowens factory was separate to the Godox production line.

It’s important to note that these are not just rebadged Godox products – Godox is the trusted manufacturer that has been selected to produce the products to the high Bowens specifications required.

What is the involvement of Godox?

Godox is the chosen production partner but the new gear will be produced to the pre-existing Bowens specifications.

Is this XMT500 the same model as per the previous release?

Yes, this product is the same as the previous model on sale before Bowens went into liquidation

Will all Bowens products come with a two-year warranty?

Yes, all Bowens products come with a full two-year Fixation-approved warranty.

Takeaway Points

So first and foremost, I was never expecting to hear Bowens come back in any capacity and secondly, I was certainly not expecting WEX to be so open and upfront with its intentions of where it wants to take the brand now.

AURELIUS owns WEX so essentially WEX owns Bowens. This means that Bowens is simply an own-brand product of WEX. They are not buying Bowens heads and redistributing them, meaning they aren’t marking up the products price to sell them on and this means they have the largest margin to play with when it comes to selling the products.

For example, they have to buy other photographic lighting heads like Profoto and then mark up the price to resell them. Whereas this is not the case with their new Bowens own brand.

Personally, I see this to mean that we’ll likely continue to get the same excellent Bowens heads at a crazy-good price. Take a look at my quick comparison right here of some of the heads on the market right now.

Here in the U.K., our Godox heads are rebranded under the Pixapro name so the head being compared here is essentially the well known Godox Citi 400. It’s a great head and for a 400w head, it comes with a lot of features for that price. The Bowens XMT is a 500w head priced at only a little more through WEX. Of course, to keep everything in perspective, I’ve also included the Profoto 500w battery head here too. At nearly a £1,000 (~$1,300) more, you’re hoping to get a lot more light for your money.

New Bowens Products

New products?! This was one of the most surprising statements to me and in reality, it could mean anything from new Bowens strobes or new Bowens mugs and mouse-mats. Time will tell us how much they want to invest in this but if nothing else, it does speak very loudly to their commitment about the new Bowens revival sticking around for a while at least. Which is good news for all us current Bowens owners.

Godox Manufacturing

Another thing I was surprised about was WEX’s openness about Godox. To those that don’t know, prior to Bowens closing, Godox actually made the Bowens heads for many years. We as Team Bowens weren’t supposed to talk about it at the time but we also knew it was no secret. Here WEX openly says that Godox will be making the new batch of Bowens lights from the Godox factory.

There’s one piece of info to take note of here and although seemingly innocuous, time will tell if it’s important.

‘Godox was previously involved with the manufacture of Bowens products prior to the closure, but the Bowens factory was separate to the Godox production line.’

‘Godox is the chosen production partner but the new gear will be produced to the pre-existing Bowens specifications.’

I was aware of this back when Bowens was still functioning, but essentially Bowens owned its own factory in China, inside it was run by Godox but it had Bowens employees and they were beholden to Bowens rules of quality assurance.

Why is this important? Well, I’ve used both the Godox Citi and the Bowens XMT and I personally found the XMT to be far more consistent, color accurate and had fewer misfires when compared to my time with the Godox Citi…. even though they were supposed to be made by the same people. Of course, this is a sample test of one light compared to another and I could just have had a less than perfect Citi head.

So what’s changed now? Well, WEX state here that the new Bowens XMT heads will not be made in the old Bowens factory (presumably that no longer exists) but instead the XMT specs will now be built in the Godox factory. It’s a small difference and it could mean nothing at all. But time will tell if the more consistent XMT head was due to its specifications or a slightly tighter quality assurance in the older Bowens factory.

Peace of Mind

Lastly, WEX very sensibly mentions the warranty of all of its new heads. All Bowens heads sold through WEX will come with a 2-year warranty. This is phenomenal news and to be honest they needed to have that in place before anybody was going to risk getting back into bed with Bowens. In fairness to WEX, it was never really officially announced and promoted, but they’ve been providing repairs and parts for the Bowens heads since Bowens closed its doors nearly two years ago. I for one am very happy to see this 2-year warranty being so openly pushed, as again it speaks volumes as to WEX’s intentions with the Bowens brand moving forward.

I’ve used and promoted the Bowens products for many years. To hear they are coming back in some form could be great news for many of us who loved exceptional quality lights at a reasonable price.

Closing Comments

For me personally, I see this ‘Bowens is Back’ as excellent news. I’ve used Bowens heads commercially for nearly two decades and I’ve had no reason to complain or question their products. Bottom line; their heads have been utter workhorses that far exceeded any rational person’s expectations of engineering.

Years ago I worked in a very busy studio that probably saw 1000 photo shoots a year go through its doors. Each of those shoots involved around 150-300 photos and every single one of those photos needed a flash. So if we say every shoot was around 200 shots on average, that studio took 200,000 flash photos a year. The studio had 5 Bowens flash heads and whilst I worked there nearly 7 years I don’t even recall replacing the flash tubes…. and the Bowens heads were there before I got there!

So at nearly 1.5 million flashes a piece, I don’t think anybody could argue their expectations versus the reality from 7,000,000 flashes being fired through those things. Utterly incredible pieces of kit in my opinion.

Granted Bowens has seen a huge amount of change in recent years and they certainly have an awful lot to live up to in my mind. But if we can get back to anywhere near that level of excellence again, their products will be a force to be reckoned with on the market today. No, I’m not sponsored or paid to say this in any way but I certainly wish them every success in this new chapter.

About the author: Jake Hicks is an editorial and fashion photographer based in Reading, UK. He specializes in keeping the skill in the camera and not just on the screen. If you’d like to learn more about his incredibly popular gelled lighting and post-pro techniques, visit this link for more info. You can find more of his work and writing on his website, Facebook, 500px, Instagram, Twitter, and Flickr. This article was also published here.