The Astron Systems Orbiculight
It doesn't take long
to tell whether most photo-related equipment was designed by a "design
team," or by a photographer. The "team" product usually
looks slick, but five minutes into an in-depth examination you've
most likely chalked up several "Well, where's the so-and-so;
I can't believe they left that out," plus at least one "Why'd
they put that here; it feels stupid." That's the mark of
gear that the designers never have to earn a living with. On the other
hand, a photographer-designed item often elicits an "Oh, yeah!
It's about time somebody did this!" Properly constructed,
innovative, genuinely useful equipment is always a standout in the usual
sea of mediocrity.
The design goal was to build
a self-contained product lighting system, combining the attributes of
a typical product table with the advantages of "tent" lighting,
but advancing the evolution of these two general principles by a quantum
leap. By greatly reducing the amount of time and physical effort required
to arrange the lights for a product shot, productivity is very significantly
increased. Doing away with the need to be constantly adjusting lights
and stands speeds the process dramatically, while eliminating the jumble
of cords and light stand legs is a safety plus in a darkened studio.
The Orbiculight consists of a chassis, power cabinet, a bed with a sweep backdrop, and a half-cylinder light dome. Construction is of heavy gauge steel, powder coated in an abrasion-resistant matte black finish. The chassis features wheels for easy, one-man mobility. While traditional product tables use 1/8" translucent Lucite or Plexiglas as a base, thereby severely limiting the weight of objects they can support, the base of the Orbiculight is 3/4" clear Plexiglas; if you can lift it (up to 500 lbs), you can shoot it. A thin sheet of white diffusion material overlays the clear Plexi, and continues upward to form the cove background. The front of the bed can be lowered 30° via gas springs and locking struts, allowing high-angle shots (gravity permitting) without having to climb a stepladder. For larger objects and/or lighting flexibility, the light dome can be raised at the front. The rear cove can also be independently tilted forward by 30°.
As impressive as its mechanics
are, it's the lighting system that really lets the Orbiculight strut
its stuff. It utilizes 32 broad-spectrum, flicker-free fluorescent tubes,
with a 5000K color temperature (CRI 85) and a lamp life of 30,000 hours.
The tubes are mounted in pairs, each dimmable from 5-100 percent. The
efficient design uses only 1024w to produce a light level of 90,000 lumens,
on a single 120v AC, 15amp circuit. Photogra-phers who shoot temperature-sensitive
subjects will appreciate the nearly total absence of heat from the lamps.
The system was specifically designed for use with digital cameras, but
is equally applicable for film use. Those who favor tungsten-balanced
films can order it with 3200K tubes.
As previously mentioned, the
Orbiculight was developed spe-cifically for use with digital im-aging
systems, and the combination is a marriage made in heaven. Just think
of it: total lighting control; little required shooting space; minimal
physical effort; the ability to ascertain that the shot is exactly as
envisioned, without having to leave a setup in place until the film gets
back from the lab (no more lab) or going through a small fortune in Polaroid
proofs; exact control of color balance and contrast; all the creative/corrective
possibilities afforded by software such as Photoshop and Live Picture;
the opportunity to try different digital effects, simply deleting any
that aren't to your satisfaction (in the darkroom you'd have
to make a new print each time, and that's brashly assuming you could
duplicate the effects by traditional means); and the elimination of darkroom
chemistry helps keep the EPA and municipal watchdogs off your back. What
more could a harried commercial photographer ask?