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Review: Photogenic Fresnel Lighting Modifier

by Chris Gampat on 03/15/2012

Photogenic announced a Fresnel lighting modifier a while back. Fresnel modifiers date back to the days of lighthouses: indeed the giant towers would take existing light and use a Fresnel glass to focus the beam of light out onto a specific spot. That’s how the idea of spotlights came about.

Fast forward to modern day and they’ve been modified for commercial photographic use: complete with barn doors that could also prove very useful to videographers. But just how useful is this thick piece of glass?

Gear Used

Olympus EP2 with 17mm f2.8

Photogenic CL500 (see review here)

Photogenic Fresnel Lighting Modifier

Photogenic Light Stand

Tech Specs

Product information borrowed from B&H Photo’s Listing of the item.

  • Conical Reflector with Glass Lens
  • Vented, Deep Conical Reflector
  • Satin-anodized Reflector Surface
  • 20° Coverage (w/o the Lens Inserted)
  • 2-blade Barn Door Mounting Attachment
  • Removable Fresnel Glass
  • Made in the USA

Ergonomics

Mounting the attachment onto the CL500, I’m going to admit, wasn’t the easiest task when it comes to the unit they sent me. However, I had another one laying around: and it was much easier to slip it into that one. Perhaps that’s an issue that the company needs to look into when they ship units.

At the head of the reflector is this extremely thick and grooved piece of glass that will focus the light from your unit (usually a tungsten light, as they’re the only ones really strong enough.) Attaching the glass unit to the conical reflector is fairly simple if you just pay attention to the attachment locks.

The barn doors also close up fully to protect the glass during transportation.

They’re also quite flexible too when it comes to controlling the light: as are other barn doors. If you’ve ever worked with thee on a set (as I did in cinematography school) you’ll know that they can help to make your light a ton more directional. Fresnel modifiers already try to project your light into one area.

Here’s an example of the doors being closed a bit to therefore project the light more.

Additionally, the doors can be adjusted to move up and down or left and right (but only one direction at a time.)

Ease of Use

For the most part, using the constant light and modifer is very straight forward. Like any constant light, you’ll just need to adjust it accordingly to get the light output you want. In this case, since the light output cannot be dialed up or down, you’ll need to physically move the item back, forth, up and down.

Sample Images

The Fresnel light can cast very hard shadows if that is the desired effect. To do this, you’ll need to position it a bit further away and really focus the light using the barn doors.

Before I go on, I’d like to note that the images in this section are highly unedited.

This effect is one that I’d probably use more for portraiture vs product photography. However, that’s just my personal two cents. Before I continue, the product above is the Olympus Pen Premium Case.

To really get the best use of this item, I recommend placing it no further than three feet away from your subject. That way, the light becomes much softer. However, the point of a fresnel is usually to get hard light. To be honest, while this is possible, I don’t feel that the light I was using was powerful enough.

Before I began reviewing this item, I looked around Flickr for some ideas of what to work with and eventually concluded that I should try some random items around my house. For most people that would go for this item, you’ll be able to have as much fun with this item as I did. However, just keep in mind that you’ll need to keep it close to your subject for soft light. Also keep in mind that the modifier heats up very quickly.

That should be a concern when photographing people.

Here are two more sample images:

Conclusions

I’m on the fence about this item; but that’s due to a personal standpoint. For my work, I need more powerful lighting setups (and therefore often use strobes.) But this item can be easily used for a studio: whether they shoot products or people. It is portable and built quite well. With that said, you should be very careful about how you mount the glass onto the conical reflector and then mount that onto your light’s head.

The Fresnel light modifier does everything it is advertised of doing and does it quite well at an affordable price. However, it isn’t for me: I’m personally a bit too advanced. I recommend it to anyone just getting into lighting who wants to be experimental and for videographers who are filming interviews.

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