continuous lighting benefits:

1. Zero-recycle time permits continuous, high-speed shooting at maximum FPS.
2. No sync cords, optical, or RF triggers required.
3. Allows you to shoot at higher-than x-sync shutter speeds with no HSS/FP-associated loss (providing you have enough output).

fluorescent lighting: a less-pricey alternative to KinoFlos

Both Litepanel 1′ x 1′ LEDs, and KinoFlo DivaLites (fluorescent) put out inherently soft light, but are very expensive. While Divas are fairly bright, they’re still going to have far less output than even the wimpiest studio strobe, or even a Speedlight. But if you’re interested, I found another manufacturer, Flolight, who makes Litepanel- and KinoFlo-type lighting instruments at much lower prices:

Newer, 55-Watt, bi-axial fluorescent lamps are what are used by KinoFlo DivaLites, and are also used in the Flolight fluorescent units. Also, unlike KinoFlo, Flolight includes the bulbs (specify color temperature when ordering) in the price of the light. A unit very similar to the KinoFlo Diva 200 sells for only $179 from Flolight:

In comparison, the KinoFlo Diva 200, sells for close to $900. I’m planning on buying a few of these Flolights myself. Again, the fluorescent units are inherently soft sources; however, to obtain slightly more diffuse light from the same source, you can use a plastic diffuser which wraps onto the light like a diaper–KinoFlo calls this a “Flozier,” and the the one for the Diva 200 would probably fit the unit linked above (you could buy a Flozier from KinoFlo for your Flolight, or just clip on some 250 or 216 diffusion gel, or similar, to diffuse your source).

fluorescent softboxes:

Another option is the line of Westcott Spiderlite CFL softboxes:

A bit pricey for what they are, plus, the bulbs are priced separately, and are also kind of expensive. But, these are kind of cool because they can accommodate most any manufacturer’s traditional softboxes (meaning you have the option to use ones which accomodate fabric eggcrates). Also, the Spiderlites have the additional benefit of having the speedring built-in (again, output will be fairly low when compared with conventional strobes).

The Spiderlites actually look pretty cool–I’m getting one myself. I’ve looked at a number of CFL softboxes at my local dealer, and the quality of light is very soft. While output is low compared with strobes, there’s zero recycle time, so you can fire off frames at max FPS–kinda fun!

Overall, the Westcott Spiderlite looks like one of the best products in its class. It’s a little pricey once you add the bulbs, plus you also need to buy a softbox for it (at least you don’t have to spring for a speedring–it’s already built-in). But it’s a very cool product. A similar-output tool from KinoFlo or LitePanel would be two to three times the price. I’m buying one, if not two of these for night-exterior, location shooting, and I’ll be powering them with Vagabond Mini Lithium inverter/batteries from Paul C. Buff (a U.S.-based lighting manufacturer).

shooting kids with CFL softboxes:

A caveat . . . children move a lot. Shutter speeds need to be at 1/500th or better for the feistier ones. CFL output is far lower compared with strobes. You may need to shoot near wide-open at moderately high ISOs, and/or have your source extremely close to your subjects, perhaps no more than 1.5m away. I can’t say for sure without having the light and performing some tests myself. Maybe you could demo a similar product at a nearby photo dealer before you decide. Many dealers carry CFL “starter kits” which tend to be woefully under-lamped. The Westcott is lamped with five 85W CFLs, which is quite a bit more than a 50W starter kit’s light.