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Review: Impact One Light Umbrella Kit

by Chris Gampat on 03/05/2012

Impact is a brand that has been known for creating gear that is extremely capable but at a very affordable price. When the Impact One-Light Umbrella Kit was sent to me for review, I initially thought that it was one heck of a weird kit. I mean you get one lamp, a reflector for said lamp, a stand and a large shoot through umbrella plus a light bulb for a super affordable price.

But is it really worth it?

Tech Specs

Rating 500 watts, 250 watts recommended for long use
Socket (Lampholder) Edison base, ceramic socket
Reflector (Mirror) 12″ aluminum
Mounting 5/8″ stand mount
Yoke Not applicable
Cable Captive, 2-prong AC plug
Weight 15 lbs (6.8 kg)

This kit also includes a white, translucent umbrella, 500 watt bulb and air-cushioned light stand.

Gear Used

Ergonomics

There really is nothing out of the ordinary to this kit. It’s a very standard light stand with a reflector that needs to go on before the bulb gets screwed in and the umbrella goes into the umbrella slot.

That’s it. Plain and simple: perfect for a beginner.

In Use

To be very honest with you, I’m not a giant fan of constant lighting. Sure it can make shooting much easier and exposure levels more simple to predict, but it often lacks the power and punch that I feel a good, solid flash can accomplish. Plus many flashes and monolights these days have modeling lights.

The Impact one-light kit has a couple of drawbacks: the lights get hot (and bulbs probably only have around a 5 hour life span) and it’s not the easiest to set up sometimes. More often then not, I found myself ditching the reflector because it can be such a pain to put on. However, the entire package is fairly compact and very easy to carry.

In terms of lighting efficiency: shoot through umbrellas are typically meant to be shot through but can also be turned around to try to reflect light back at the subject. When this is done, the One light kit loses a ton of light efficiency. While that’s usually one of the beauty of umbrellas, it doesn’t work in this case. You’re better off with a parabolic or one that has one side black to trap the light.

In most instances, the light was probably around 3 to 4 feet away from Kathy when shooting.

Those are tungsten lights for you!

For this photo of her shoes though, the light may have been around 5 feet or so away. By slowing down the shutter speed a bit, you can soak up more ambient light at the risk of breaking the reciprocal rule of shutter speeds.

Shoot through umbrellas have a great strength in that they diffuse light similar to a softbox but it isn’t as directional. For example, in my Photogenic CL-500 review and my SB432 review the light was going in one direction and I often could tell exactly where it would hit before I turned on the light. With the Impact light and umbrella, I really couldn’t tell. In fact, the light was just seemingly going everywhere and reminded me a bit of the type of look one gets when they bounce a speedlight off of a wall: the light goes everywhere.

To be fair, I often used Fluorescent bulbs in those units, and they have silver beaded interiors to amplify light efficiency.

Unfortunately, the user gets no real catchlight effect with this kit. For that, once again go for a Parabolic umbrella.

 

For the audience that this light is targeted at (beginners), you’ll have a lot of power to work with. The light was right next to the green T-rex and yet both the monster and model were very well illuminated without the need to crank up the ISO levels.

Perhaps one of the best aspects about the light is how easy it makes post-production work. When set to auto White balance, you’ll often know exactly what you’re getting: that’s not always the case with flashes. Additionally, messing with the color levels is still quite easy to do in order to get the look that you specifically want.

Well, for the most part.

Kathy has great skin; but the light I felt warmed the tones up a bit too much and made it a bit tough to edit the red, orange and yellow levels. In order to get this cool, I needed to mess with the hues, saturation and luminance. But that was just for this session.

I’ve also used it with my flash, by the way. And I loved the way it worked out.

Conclusion

If you’re looking to get into lighting for the first time ever, the One Light kit is a good choice. The cord is extremely long (yes, you’ll need to plug into a wall) and it will teach you a lot about how light affects subject matter when moved around. The cord will also be the downfall though so you are limited by how much space you can move. If anything, the umbrella alone makes this kit worth every penny. It’s wonderful. But the stand is also quite light and can get knocked over easily. For best results, use sandbags or weigh the stand down with your camera bag.

I often tried sitting there in my room attempting to figure out a way to take the constant lighting unit off of the bracket so that I could attach my speedlites (Canon spelling) to it and have the umbrella diffuse them. Alas, I couldn’t. That would make the unit much better for long term use though.

For the more advanced user though, you’ll probably want to look elsewhere. Impact also offers their Octacools, which are amazing and I’ve used them before.

Once again though, I’m still a flash guy at the end of the day.

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