Bright Lights, New Accessories
by Theano Nikitas
Photo Courtesy of LastoLite
January 25, 2013 —
The days of lighting up a scene with the pyrotechnics of flash lamps are long gone. Today’s lighting tools are much more sophisticated, portable, far less dangerous and don’t produce smoke and dust when triggered. While we can now leave the cans of flash powder behind, there are plenty of products and accessories that provide practical—and creative—solutions to enhance your lighting toolbox. We’ve put together some suggestions for lighting accessories that range from products that don’t cost more than a couple of lattes, to those that will have you reaching deep into your pockets.
Sometimes the simplest solutions are the best. Or, like Adorama’s Strobo-Socks, they are—at the very least—extremely affordable while getting the job done. These little nylon fabric diffusers are designed for battery-powered flash units (it’s best not to use them for continuous light sources/modeling lights, though). An elasticized opening fits over smaller flashes and, according to Adorama, up to 5-inch reflectors of lighting systems from Quantum and Sunpak, among others.
A two-pack costs less than $9 and they’re highly portable—just fold them up and put them in your pocket. The Strobo-Socks are washable, too, but be sure to air-dry them. You get the picture: avoid heat from continuous light and automatic dryers.
Still, they are very convenient and only cut down light by 1 stop. If you need to soften the light more than that, particularly for macro photography, just double ‘em up. This highly portable diffuser will keep your gear bag light and is a no-brainer to use. Be sure to head over to the Adorama site to check out its other affordable FlashPoint lighting gear.
Price: $8.95 (two-pack).
broncolor (Hasselblad Bron) Move 1200L
broncolor has several portable battery-powered packs, but the new Move 1200L weighs a mere 13.7 pounds and measures a compact 8.3 x 6.7 x 9 inches, so it won’t weigh you down or take up a lot of room when you’re moving from one location to another.
The pack comes with a rechargeable plug-in lithium battery and charger, with about 4,000 recharging cycles, and takes only 0.02-1.9 seconds to recharge (faster recharging—0.02-0.9 seconds—is available in Speed Mode). You’ll get about 170 flashes per charge at 1200 w/s (230 in Eco-Mode) and a whopping 50,000 at 4 w/s. The Move is equipped with two lamp outlets and can support up to a 200-watt modeling light. A modeling light timer is also available.
With flash durations as fast as 1/20,000 second, the Move will certainly meet or exceed your high-speed shooting needs. But it’s not just for flash; the Move also has a continuous lighting mode for video, too, so you’re prepared no matter what you’re shooting. And keep an eye out for nice little touches such as an illuminated silicone keyboard.
If you’re in the market for a lightweight parabolic reflector, consider the broncolor Para 88FB—it weighs only 6 pounds.
Price: Move 1200L, $4,995 (battery and charger); $6,595 (one-head kit); $7,995 (two-head kit)
broncolor Para 88FB, $2,317 (without adapter); $4,056 (with adapter).
Chimera Octa 2 Beauty Dish
Aside from producing beautiful light, versatility is among the Chimera Octa 2 Beauty Dish’s selling points. The collapsible Beauty Dish is not only portable, but can also be used on studio strobes or flash units, so you’re covered regardless of the type of lights you’re using. Studio strobes work with the standard OctaPlus Speed Ring that matches the strobe’s brand, while the Beauty Dish/camera flash connection is made via the Adjustable Versa Flash Bracket.
The poles of this modifier’s 24-inch diameter are on the outside of the main body, leaving the white interior smooth and uncluttered as the light from the fabric bounce-back disc (which gets suspended on the center of the modifier), reflects back into the umbrella’s interior. It’s bundled with a diffusion screen that, when attached, essentially turns the Octa 2 into a two-foot lightbank.
It’s ideal for location shooting, but even if most of your work is studio-based, the Octa 2 Beauty Dish is a great choice for spaces with limited storage capacity. Keep your eyes peeled—Chimera is releasing a 30-inch version soon; the larger Beauty Dish should be available at the end of January.
The Octa 2 Beauty Dish comes with the fabric body, support poles, bounce- back disc and the OctaPlus front diffusion screen. Other accessories are optional, and can be purchased à la carte or in a kit.
Price: Octa 2 Beauty Dish, $230 (street); Adjustable Versa Flash Bracket, $140; OctaPlus Speed Ring, $75-150, depending on strobe brand; OB2 Pro Kit (includes Versa OctaPlus Speed Ring), $307 (street)
Lastolite Strobo Gobo
One of the latest additions to Lastolite’s innovative Strobo system is what the company is calling “Strobo Gobo.” As the name implies, this accessory allows you to simply and easily project background patterns via an off-camera flash.
You’ll need a bracket like the Strobo Direct to Flashgun or Strobo Ezybox Hotshoe bracket to attach the Strobo Gobo, which comes with a removable lens for de-focusing. Two gobo discs are included in the bundle. Additional gobos are available in 3-packs, and the holder is also compatible with traditional B-size (86mm) gobos. Simply snap the accessory onto the mounting plate, slide in a gobo disc—and a colored gel, if you’d like—and you’re good to go, changing backgrounds in just a few seconds.
Strobo is a very cool system with a number of different options, including grids, gels, barn doors and a new collapsible snoot. At press time, expected shipping for the Strobo Gobo and the collapsible snoot was December or January, so by the time you read this, the products may be available. We’re especially interested in the Strobo Gobo since it’s a “no-muss, no-fuss,” (but effective)method of creating interesting backgrounds. If you’re curious about either or both products, visit the Lastolite site to see videos of the products in action and to check out the various bracket kits and accessories.
Price: Strobo Gobo, $126; Gobo 3-pack, $60; Strobo Collapsible Snoot, $45; Strobo Direct to Flashgun Bracket, $45; Strobo Kit-Direct to Flashgun, $180; Strobo Kit for EZbox Hotshoe, $180
Litepanels Sola ENG Flight Kit
Traveling with gear—particularly lighting—can be problematic, but Litepanels has put together the Sola ENG Flight Kit to make it easy to pack up and go (and it meets FAA carry-on standards). This LED Fresnel lighting kit includes three each of the following components: Sola ENG Fresnel fixtures, 3-gel kits, ball-head shoe mounts, TVMP adapters, ¼-20 adapter kits, barn doors, power supplies and cords, 2-pin D-Tap cables and nano stands. One soft box is also included, and the gear can be stored or transported in the kit’s Pelican case with a custom foam interior. Fully loaded, the case weighs about 30 pounds, and while you’ll have to check with size/weight restrictions for little puddle-jumper flights, the kit is designed to fit into the overhead bin on commercial planes. And, there’s no worries if you’re running to catch your flight—the Pelican case comes with a retractable extension handle and wheels.
The Sola ENG requires only 30 watts of power and can be run off of batteries or A/C to produce fully dimmable and focusable daylight-balanced light, so you’ll be covered on location. For individual kit components and other Litepanels products, visit the website.
Price: Sola ENG Flight Kit, $2,700 (street)
Polaroid Collapsible Reflectors and Sand Bag
This isn’t the same Polaroid we remember from its SX-70 days. Still in the photography market, it now offers a variety of products, including LED lights as well as a range of accessories at very affordable prices.
For example, a 5-in-1 set of collapsible circular reflectors costs about $18 for the 22-inch version, which is perfect for photographers on a budget (and who isn’t on a budget these days?). Available in 22-, 32- and 42-inch models, you’ll get gold, silver, black and white, and translucent options that fold into a disc about 1/3 of its original size. You’ll even get a protective case for storing and transporting.
The other cool item that caught our eye is Polaroid’s red-and-black striped saddle sandbag that is also quite affordable at around $14. The water-resistant fabric bag measures 10 x 20 inches, so it can be easily draped over lightstand legs. You’ll have to fill it yourself, but it’s double-zippered so the filling (beans, rice or even sand) won’t escape. The bag is also equipped with a sturdy hand strap.
While it might seem strange to go to Polaroid for lighting, tripods, lenses and accessories, you might be surprised by what you find.
Price: 5-in-1 Collapsible Reflectors, $18 (22-inch); Saddle Sand Bag, $14
Profoto recently released a new line of softboxes that offers so many options, it’s likely you’ll need more than one. The softboxes come in 12 sizes and four designs: rectangular, square, octagonal and strip. The recessed front (hence, the RF name) not only minimizes stray light, but is also ideal for utilizing Profoto’s optional Softgrid. Of course, other modifiers are available, including a Flat Front Diffuser and StripMask.
Compatible via speedring adapters, the RF1 softboxes can be used with more than two dozen different brands of flash. Color-coded speedrings and Velcro attachments make set-up and tear-down easy. What’s really impressive—and was news to me—is that the heat-resistant RFi softboxes are hand-sewn with reinforced seam lines, edges and corner pockets. Sounds like these softboxes will last a long time, even with daily use.
Sekonic L-478D/DR Litemaster Pro
While light meters may not currently be an essential part of your gear bag, you might want to consider one after seeing the Sekonic L-478D/DR (the DR model incorporates PocketWizard wireless radio technology for in-meter triggering and power control of select studio flashes). Keeping up with today’s ubiquitous touchscreen technology, the L478D/DR are the world’s first touchscreen light meters.
A 2.7-inch LCD display is easy to read and operates by simple tap and swipe gestures. You’ll find tons of information on the screen and, with the DR model, you can adjust flash power for Nikon and Canon speedlights, various studio lights including Elinchrom and Einstein, and any flash compatible with the ControlTL system. The meters can be calibrated to each of your cameras using free DTS software and Sekonic or X-Rite targets.
There’s no lack of features in these lightmeters. Both models also have cine modes, including a host of special HD cine features for photographers shooting video with DSLRs. The Sekonic L-478D/DR is definitely worth a serious look.
Price: Sekonic L-478D/DR $389/$469 (street)
The SpinLight 360 booth at PhotoPlus Expo last October was quite busy as photographers gathered to check out this new (to me, at least) lighting product. It is, essentially, a portable and modular light modifier kit that will fit most flashes from a variety of manufacturers including Nikon, Canon, Sony and Metz (and speedlights of similar sizes).
The Original SpinLight 360 has been discontinued since the ring that holds the modifier was redesigned to incorporate a gel system. Now, the high-end model—the Extreme kit—not only accommodates gels (with three clear gel disks, full and half CTO gels included), but comes with a snoot, half dome, white and clear full domes, a Velcro attachment and four bounce cards—two white, two black, each in 6-inch and 4-inch sizes. The cards, which seem to be made from heavyweight paper/cardboard but are well-finished, bend just enough to slide into the outer ring of the device.
A more modest kit, the Event, is also available with fewer components. You’ll get the Velcro attachment, a clear full dome, one 4-inch black and one 4-inch white bounce card, three clear gel disks, one full and one half CTO gel.
The SpinLight is versatile, and, considering the price, you get a lot of options for a little bit of cash.
Price: SpinLight 360 Extreme, $160; SpinLight 360 Event, $119
Theano Nikitas, a full-time freelance writer and photographer, has been writing about photography for the past 18 years. Her digital imaging reviews, features, “How- To” articles and images have appeared in American Photo, CNET.com, DigitalCameraReview.com, DPReview.com, Imaging-Resource.com, Macworld, PC World, Photo District News and Popular Photography/ PopPhoto.com. Although she loves digital, Theano still has a darkroom and a fridge filled with film thanks to her long-time passion for alternative processes and toy cameras.
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