Tuesday, March 24, 2015

A giant in photographic gear innovation and invention has died: Paul C. Buff

Paul C. Buff - Image courtesy of Paul C. Buff Inc.Paul C. Buff, one of photography's greatest inventors and innovators passed away this week at the age of 78.

He lived through the depression era where his philosophy of life was formed. For decades Buff, an American, had been one of photography's most amazing lighting innovators, not only for photographers, but for filmmakers and videographers alike. Buff formed his company, Paul C. Buff, Inc. in 1980 as a research company.

Buff was a long time inventor and engineer. Some called him a visionary inventor. Prior to entering the photography lighting design and manufacturing world, he had been an audio recording studio owner, with many gold records. That business evolved into designing and manufacturing professional audio equipment. To this day Buff still remains widely recognized in the audio community for his savvy, innovation and success, especially with his high quality computerized recording console technologies. He worked with such music industry luminaries as Frank Zappa, Ray Dolby, The Beatles, Carol King and many others in the field.

It wasn't until 1980, that Buff turned his attention to photography, specifically studio lighting. In interviews over the years Buff said wanted to make quality studio lighting equipment more widely available and affordable, as well as efficient, portable and accurate. It didn't take long for that to occur.

In 1981, he introduced his $139.95 White Lightning 130 as a super simple but fully featured studio flash with accuracy and efficiency, well beyond existing studio lighting which was selling at more than 10 times the White Lightning's price. Throughout the 1980's his products radically altered the studio lighting sector of the photgraphy industry.
Buff was truly a game changer as one of the country's most innovative inventors first in the music industry and later in the photography industry.
In the 1990s, Buff worked to create a battery powered AC studio flash system which could be easily used for location work, and have them radio remote controlled instead of via the mass of wires competitor units used in those days. The Vagabond and Radio Remote One products were the fruit of his work in those years.

By 2000, he launched, a separate company AlienBees, with a highly affordable series of studio lights and accessories, but later merged it into the Paul C. Buff corporation. Soon the Buff company's percentage of the US studio flash market grew to an estimated 60%.

In recent years, his company's innovations continued. The core of Buff's new technology is contained in the Einstein, CyberSync and Cyber Commander products, and the amazing Vagabond Mini Lithium portable power system, plus the PLM systems.

Photography has lost a giant. Hopefully the company is strong enough and has new visionaries to continue the Buff technological innovation traditions to move the company forward in the photography industry, despite the passing of its founder. It would be a shame if they fell by the wayside, rather than take their legacy further and further into the 21st century and beyond.

1 comment:

James-Chicago said...

I had no idea he passed away. I have AlienBees lighting. It's fantastic. Thanks for the article.

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