Profoto recently launched their new line of softboxes called RFi (which stands for: Recessed Front – Improved) and they are compatible with almost every major manufacturer. They also come in 12 different sizes and four separate models: rectangular, square, octagonal and strip. Profoto has designed these new boxes with a recessed front which allow the photographer to better control their light output and use additional accessories such as grids, diffusers, and strip masks. I’ve had a chance to spend some time with two of the new RFi softboxes and the D1 monoblocs, the following is a summary of my first experiences.
When we first got our hands on the Sony HVL-F60M, we had some mixed feelings but overall felt that it was fairly solid. Then in California we tested many of them out at once and through light modifiers (strobist style). That’s when we started to become a bit more convinced.
During our recent A99 review, Sony sent us one of the flashes to test. Granted, that greatly limits what we were able to do to rest the potential. With that said, despite a couple of easily fixable flaws, the Sony HVL-F60M represents what companies should be thinking about in terms of design and usability for their flash system.
Lighting intimidates every person getting into photography. It is a whole other skill to be learned but once you get into it, it can become addicting because of all the creative possibilities you open yourself up to. Relying on natural light can be great if you can get the right light. But as artists, we can always create our own. And to shape the light to get exactly the look that we want, we need modifiers. It is best to imagine light as a stream coming out of a hose. If you change the shape of the head and the direction, the stream itself also changes accordingly.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at a bunch of light modifiers we recommend. For more, we recommend that you check out the Lighting Section of our Reviews Index.
Impact is a brand that is relatively new to the photo industry, but has created some very interesting products since its inception. One of which, the Impact LiteTrek, is used by many photographers such as Kevin Kabuto. In fact, I did an entire shoot with one as well. When the company offered me a chance to test out its 60 inch convertible umbrella, I was a bit intrigued. Convertible Umbrellas are unique in that they offer all the functionality of a normal umbrella with reflective properties, but they can be converted into a shoot through umbrella with direct diffusion properties similar to a softbox as well. As with all light sources, larger units give off softer light in relation to the size of the subject.
And the 60 Inch Convertible Umbrella from Impact did not disappoint and has perhaps become my favorite light modifier to date.
At Photo Plus 2012, the crew over at F-Stoppers and famous headshot photographer Peter Hurley threw a large party. At one point, Peter told me about a prototype constant LED light that he’s working on to get the results that he wants. Peter’s story sounded like those of many photographers and creatives that were sick of not getting what they want; and so pursued their own route (story of my life, and the creation of this site.) The light I saw is a Pre-Alpha configuration and may have a dimming switch. But this single light was able to illuminate an entire room in Hurley’s studio. And holy crap was it beautiful.
Here are some sample images shot with the light illuminating subjects like myself, photographer Zack Arias, Eye-Fi creator Ziv Gillat, and more. All images were shot with the Fujifilm X Pro 1 in aperture priority, auto white balance, and with no editing except for sharpening in post. If I were to do professional work with this light, I obviously would have also done manual white balancing and other tweaks in post-production.
The Photogenic ION, scheduled to be on shelves in January, is a battery pack for anyone that needs portability as well as the power of studio strobes.
It’s no surprise there has been a surge in portable lighting options well. The new Lowel GL-1 is a portable light that can be used for many different scenarios. We were able to take a quick look at oddly designed light at Photo Plus 2012.
In my search for a way to pop my Canon 580EXII flash remotely, I came across several different options ranging from the popular yet pricey Pocket Wizard to the hilariously named CowboyStudio triggers. At only around $22 and change it seemed to good to be true: After all, a single pair of Pocket Wizards will set you back $300. Could these El Cheapo triggers from Dallas get the job done at a fraction of the price?
After I moved entirely to micro four thirds with the OM-D E-M5 a few months ago, I was really curious to see how this camera could perform in a wide variety of situations. I’m primarily a street photographer, with a focus on shooting portraits in natural light, but Photogenic was kind enough to loan me one of their fantastic studio lighting kits to try out some studio shooting with this little powerhouse of a camera with one of my very favorite lenses.
The Impact Quikbox was designed for speedlight (or speedlite) flashes and has an emphasis on being quick and versatile. Simple to set up, the Quikbox also comes with a bracket for your flash and if you wish, a stand. I’ve been testing the 24 x 24 version for a while now, and I believe the softbox has its strengths and weaknesses. When I began the review, the Photogenic 2432 softbox was my favorite when used with the Chimera speedring for speedlights.
Has the Quikbox dethroned it?
So you’ve decided you want to take the next step and upgrade to some nice studio strobes to take your photography to the next level. There are some great options out there: Profoto, Broncolor, etc.
Wait, what do you mean you don’t have $4000 for a pack and two heads?
Enter Paul C. Buff’s line of Alien Bee flashes, which have long enjoyed cult status among enthusiasts and professionals alike for their insane price-to-performance ratio. Their mid-level offering is the B800 which at a price point of $279.95 delivers a max 320 watt/seconds of light. That is fully sufficient for most basic product shots or indoor portraits. Note: These can only be bought straight from the manufacturer.
Since the decline of Polaroid film, the company has tried to restructure itself to focus on other photography accessories. Announced earlier this year, the Polaroid PL160 seemed like an extremely promising flash for a very affordable price point. Amongst the features are full TTL metering with Canon DSLRs, manual control, and an LED light to be used as both a modeling light or for video. Seems pretty good, right? I mean, what could possibly be wrong with that?
The answer: it depends on how advanced a flash user you are.
The Sony HVL-F60M flash is an interesting one in the pure way it was designed. Sony creates and has always created their flashes in a different way from Canon and Nikon. The head swivels in a much more unique way and this new flash announced just today includes a new interface and a new LED light that is super useful in case a deer happens to walk onto the set of your photoshoot.
Switronix’s TorchLED Bolt is one incredibly bright light. I had sometime to use this light. For the size, it outputs a surprising amount of light. Did I mention it was bright? In my time with this unit we were able to come up with a few ways to showcase it’s raw energy. So take a deeper look into what this light has to offer.
The Vivitar brand name has often been maligned with products that aren’t the highest of quality, or with those random film camera commercials you see targeted towards older, less tech savvy folk. However, for many years (and even still today) there are many that use one flash in particular: the Vivitar 285HV. As a full manual flash, it is also perhaps one of the best and easiest to use manual flashes available considering it’s very analog functionality.
The Yongnuo 560 EX II speedlite wasn’t announced too long ago, as so is a relatively new speedlite flash. The company is known for making excellent flashes at a super affordable price that makes them attractive to various photographers: including Todd Owyoung.
As a proud owner of Canon’s current flashes, this little light intrigued me; so I actually went out and purchased it. And after various shoots with it, it is perhaps the one flash that I can recommend to the both the amateur and experienced group of users: but not the middle ground of strobists.
One of the most important things I have learned when it comes to using a flash is getting it off the camera. There is a good reason for that: it allows for more control over where I place the light. A very important tool for this is a wireless flash trigger. I tested out the Hahnel Combi TF Remote Control & Flash Trigger for Nikon DSLRs and, for the most part, I like it. It is a question of value really. If you can manage without a typical name brand like PocketWizard, you will find this interesting.
Yongnuo, a company out of Hong Kong, has become well known for making pretty darn good speedlight alternatives to Canon or Nikon. They’re generally several hundred dollars less expensive, and often just as good. They recently announced a couple new models, and I immediately ordered the very one I’ve been waiting for them to make: the YN468-II for Nikon.
Like many of you, I use on-camera flashes. In fact, I love them. If I don’t want to carry a giant monolight out, a speedlite (or speedlight for you Nikon users) can get the trick done with some use of the inverse square law and some smarts. I currently own the Photogenic SB2432 softbox that I absolutely adore. Adapting it required a bit of some trickery. But by using the Chimera Octa Speedring with on-camera flash adapter, I can actually use nearly any softbox there is with the exception of Westcott’s.
But is it really everything I need?
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?