Everywhere you turn in Las
Vegas, there are lights flashing, or should we say, flashy lights? And
while the Las Vegas Convention Center was not awash in the bright, showy
lights of the Strip, still the lights of photography shone in their own
small way. As did tripods and tripod heads, camera/flash brackets, and
some neat little digicam pods.
Flat-Panel And Linear
While small in numbers, these were by far the most engaging lights at
the show. My first introduction to the genre of flat-panel lights was
a small Novoflex unit (from HP Marketing) some time back, a light that
I applied to macro photography. Now several other manufacturers have come
to my attention here in Vegas, with several units large enough for studio
applications and others small enough for field use. Essentially, these
lights produce a very uniform wash of light across the entire subject
area, acting as a softbox in one sense, without the need to add accessories
that may shift color balance and which are certain to reduce effective
output. The larger studio units qualify for lighting large groups of people
and may even find applications in automotive photography, with a laundry
list of possibilities in between. A separate category of flat-panel lights
is even finding use with digital capture.
Sunpak's digitFLASH is a flat-panel studio flash light source, from
ToCAD America. The digitFLASH, available in 500 and 1000 ws models, provides
uniform shadow-free lighting in a package that measures less than 3"
in depth, featuring stepless power-ratio control and flicker-free cold-light
modeling lamps, plus a built-in slave--all in a user-friendly design.
Their cyberFLASH is a compact version of the digitFLASH (available in
a continuous-light model for digital, as the cyber-LITE).
Remarkably, Interfit (Paterson Photographic) has a series of flat-panel
lights with very similar monikers. The cyberFLASH offers 300 ws of power,
with 5400K long-life linear flash tubes behind a flat diffuser and flicker-free
5000K modeling lamp, with 2.8 sec recycling to full power. Slave sensors
are built-in. The digitFLASH is considerably more powerful and larger,
measuring 18.5x19.5x2.6" to serve as an even softer light source,
and available in 500 and 1000 ws models.
Photogenic's Linear Light ($439), while not in the flat-panel genre,
is still interesting. It attaches to the PowerLight 2500DR head, as an
optional replacement for the standard flash tube/reflector and consists
of a long, linear flash tube positioned against an open/rectangular reflector.
Facing the subject sideways, this head throws out a wide-area light that
spreads very evenly across a generous expanse, without any hot spots.
Studio & Location
In this category we've included AC power pack systems, DC power-pack
systems, AC and AC/DC monolights, and high-intensity, battery-pack-powered
strobes. As you can see, this category continues to grow. (The model number
generally represents output in watt seconds or joules.)
Power-pack systems are at the heart of the commercial photographer's
studio and often go on location as well. Novatron introduced the D1000
Power Pack, which is the first of a new line of computer-controlled, digital
readout flash systems. The fan-cooled D1000 has a maximum output power
of 1000 ws over a four-f/stop range, in 1/10-stop increments, and supports
250w modeling lamps with separate circuit breakers.
Bogen focused on two new power packs: the Digital 1200 RX and 2400 RX,
which are compatible with fan-cooled Digital S and SE heads or high-speed
A heads for digital, fashion, and other applications, including multi-shot
imaging and QuickTime VR sequences. These packs offer digital control.
Monolights are a portrait photographer's dream, being self-contained
and often fairly compact and portable, without the encumbrance of a heavy
pack and otherwise practically as versatile, and these lights pervaded
the show at every turn. Continuing with Elinchrom, we have the new Style
RX-series. Available in 300, 600, and 1200 ws configurations, these monolights
optionally offer full digital control by two-way remote and centralized
control via computer. Each unit is fan cooled and offers variable power
(1200 to 9 ws on the 1200RX), rapid recycling, flash duration down to
1/2850 on the 300 RX (1/1450 on the 1200 RX), and a very stylish translucent
shell and lightweight design.
JTL showcased the Mobilight 110, 200, and 300, each with JTL Battery Pack,
which takes these self-contained studio strobes to a new level of usability
and convenience. Out of curiosity, I asked JTL what their products offered
that gave them a competitive edge.
They pointed to the detachable diffuser, which unlike others, is open-ended,
making it easy for you to replace flash tubes without removing the diffuser.
Also the head mounting system on many units permits you to shift balance
to accommodate front mounted accessories, notably bulky softboxes.
the release of the SPDCBP DC Battery Pack from SP Studio Systems. This
rechargeable battery pack (charger included) is primarily designed for
the LancerLight AC/DC flashes. A 160 ws unit will get approximately 200
pops on a single charge.
Photo Control Corporation announced the Norman ML600 Monolight ($529),
which features digitally displayed power settings in either f/stops or
watt seconds, in 1/10-stop increments from 600 to 18 ws, with proportional
250w modeling lamp.
new Platinum and Platinum Plus monolights feature a quiet, slim-line design
with stepless power-ratio control, down to 1/32, with matching modeling
lamp. Models available with output ranging from 150 to 1000 ws, each with
umbrella reflector, flash tube, modeling lamp, sync, and AC power cords.
Photogenic drew my attention to a new series of StudioMax II monolights.
This series of self-contained strobes consists of two AC/DC and two strictly
AC models (the "B" designating AC/DC): AD320B ($349), AK160B
($289), AD320 ($259), and AK160 ($199). They each accept all Photogenic
accessories and offer a continuously adjustable six-f/stop range, built-in
photo-slave, recycle times from 0.4 to 3 sec on full, and flash duration
from 1/4300 to 1/125, with a user-replaceable flash tube, and 40w modeling
Distributed in the US by Performing
Light, Hensel introduced a new and improved battery-powered Porty, the
Porty Premium, with up to 250 flashes at full power (1200 ws) and a recycle
time of 2.4 sec. The pack features two head connectors, asymmetrical distribution,
and 6.5-f/stop range in 1/10-step increments.
Quantum showcased the upgraded Qflash T2D and X2D Digital battery-driven
strobes, which provide dedication to the latest digital and film cameras
using Quantum's new QTTL dedicated adapters. Qflash T2 and X2 models
can be upgraded. This company announced that the upgraded Qflash is the
only portable studio-quality flash that is fully dedicated for the Kodak
DCS Pro 14n. QTTL adapters ($140) are available for cameras from Canon,
Nikon, Fuji, Contax, and Mamiya.
Lumedyne is now shipping the
Basic Power Packs and Deluxe Power Packs (both available in 200 and 400
ws versions). Prices start at $720 and $870, respectively, for the 200
ws models. Albums Inc. came on the scene with a full range of monolights,
from 300 to 900 ws, each infinitely variable, with built-in slave, fan
cooled, and removable flash tube and modeling lamp. They also offer tripods
and other studio accessories.
Shoe Mounts, Digital
Strobes/Slaves & Macro Lights
I had to look far and wide, only to find a smattering of lights under
this category. Still, what I did find proved interesting.
Metz showed off two new electronic flash units and an SCA-3402 module,
all of which are designed to work with Nikon D-series digital SLRs, including
the D1, D1H, D1X, and D100. The Metz 54 MZ-4N ($500) has a
built-in sub/fill flash and is compatible with Nikon's propriety
3D matrix flash metering mode, and features auto zoom and a GN of 177
(ft). The Metz Mecablitz 44 AF-4N ($240) shares the Nikon compatibility,
and carries a GN of 144.
THK introduced us to the new
addition to the fold: Nissin flashes, featuring the PZ400 autofocus dedicated
system and the 301Z, a basic two-stop auto-sensor flash. They also showed
a variety of camera-dedicated flash units and compact digital slaves.
And speaking of digital slaves, I looked for more and found them. Why
use one? These very compact strobes are designed to work with your compact
digital camera, providing that extra oomph, being triggered by the built-in
flash. Dot-Line Corp. has a new Digital Slave Flash ($39.95), with three
adjustment positions that change the internal reflector for 360, 180,
or 45Þ, with another setting to accommodate the camera's built-in
The Vivitar DF 200 digital flash ($109.95) offers the power and versatility
of a 35mm type flash unit with an intelligent circuitry that learns from
your camera's flash characteristics, with four selectable power
levels and power zoom, swivel, and bounce; with a 92 GN. Mini flex pod
and shoe mount included.
OmegaSatter, which now distributes
Wein, debuted an extensive line of Wein Digital Smart Slaves, designed
to trigger any existing flash unit or units cordlessly with any digital
camera in complete synchronization, ignoring the pre-flash, up to 3000
ft away. They are available in all popular flash terminal configurations
including PC, hot shoe, household, and mono-plug designs.
As for OEM-dedicated units, the only one that debuted came from Sony,
and with little fanfare. The HVL-F32X was designed to extend the capabilities
of the MVC-CD500 CD-based digicam via the dedicated terminal.
Now we turn to some of the more esoteric designs. The Sunpak e-FLASH (ToCAD
America) is an on-camera flat-panel light, designed for today's
popular compact digital cameras. The e-FLASH delivers soft, even illumination
as a main light or slave flash (via built-in slave sensor). An innovative
new flash-grip system allows one or two e-FLASH units to be mounted to
a camera, with a single flash option of side or above camera positioning.
Interfit (Paterson Photographic) offers its own eFLASH, which has a GN
rating of 12 and a full range of accessories. It can be used on or off-camera
and is promoted as ideal for macro and nature photography. And Argraph
extended the Samigon Halo-Light's reach to digital cameras, with
a special articulated-arm bracket. The Halo-Light is a compact, daylight-balanced
fluorescent ringlight for macro photography.
Digital Studio Lighting:
Studio lighting for digital capture has garnered a place all its own this
year, whether it involves tungsten or fluorescent light sources. A few
more flat-panel lights were found in this grouping, as well as some "studios
in a box"--all of which are eminently suitable for small product
photography, with flat panels reaching over into digital portraiture.
I also came across some hot lights that would be equally at home in a
We begin with fluorescent light sources. Interfit's cyberLITE and
digitLITE (Paterson Photographic) are flat-panel lights with color-corrected
(5600K) fluorescent tubes, featuring flicker-free, noiseless operation
and a uniform light edge to edge. They are compact and easily carried.
Accessories include four-leaf barn door, color filter set, Fresnel filter,
and soft case. Illumination surface, respectively, on the cyberLITE and
digitLITE is 11.5x9.75" and 13.5x17.5".
ToCAD America/Sunpak's counterpart, by similar names, is the digitLITE,
which provides even, shadow-free continuous lighting for digital photography,
in an equally slim package. The 5600Þ cold light features stepless
dimmer control and noiseless flicker-free operation, with the built-in
mount and swivel allowing fast light stand setup and adjustment.
Moving on to halogen and photoflood lighting, a handful of products caught
my eye. From JTL comes the Everlight Kit (under $599). This kit consists
of three each of the following: ultra-quiet 500w/3200K
self-focused halogen quartz bulbs, heat-resistant softboxes with connectors
(softboxes feature a wide frame edge to easily allow you to install accessories,
such as louvers, and are silver surfaced internally), and 7 ft heavy-duty
air-cushioned light stands. They all fit into a foam-padded carrying case
for storage and transport and set up in minutes.
Also from Paterson Photographic is the Interfit 1300w quartz-halogen fan-cooled
head. The glass opal safety dome produces a soft, even light from the
twin halogen lamps, which can be independently switched, allowing half-power
From Dot-Line Corp. we have a Two-Light Photoflood Kit ($149), which includes
two heads, two 7-foot light stands, and 10" reflectors. It has a
ceramic base that works with 500w lamps. We're told that people
are using this to light products for eBay sales. Also new is a 250w quartz-halogen
lamp ($11) that screws into a standard photoflood base, providing 100
hours of illumination at 3200K, at a fairly low heat level.
APV showed its BAREBulb Kits,
with two or three lighting units. Each kit comes with the requisite number
of digital BAREBulbs, umbrella lamp sockets, 24" silver umbrellas,
and 7 ft black light stands, all fitting into a carry bag for a total
weight of 9 and 10 lbs, respectively.
Finally, a category that is to small-product digital capture what a monolight
is to portrait lighting: the studio in a box. Very simply, these self-contained
units generally employ a daylight-balanced fluorescent light source, or
possibly halogen, and often look like a box (fully enclosed, with an aperture
for the camera lens) or may be open-sided with an open front panel for
the camera, much like a glorified sweep table--and may feature a
sweeping backdrop. There may be only two lights or a full array. These
self-contained studios can be fairly small or considerably large, with
prices ranging from several hundred to several thousand dollars.
Most of these studios in a box were designed for digital capture in particular
but also lend themselves to film photography with any 35mm SLR. When film
is used, regardless of the lighting, the user should use a color temperature
meter and do color balance tests first, and filter as necessary.
The Box, from MK Digital Direct, is a full-fledged studio in a box, with
its motorized platform and surround-light design. It is ideal for photographing
gems and jewelry and other highly reflective items. Coloreal's Photo
Box ($1200) is a much simpler system, with symmetrical lamps for uniform
lighting. Their Coloreal eBox ($2995) comes with digicam and an array
of profiling tools. Litestage offers three models starting at $1104.95
in a pod-like configuration, with three 250w tungsten lamps in the basic
unit (plus slave-flash option).
Much simpler in design is the Samigon Internet Photo Studio (from Argraph),
consisting of two key sections/light units, one above and one underneath,
with each unit housing an adjustable 5000K daylight-balanced fluorescent
bulb. Two clips hold a variety of background materials sweep-fashion.
Smith-Victor showed off their Digital Desktop Studio Kit ($649). It consists
of an opaque base module, a clear module, two light arms, two 250w quarts
lamps, and two dimmers. The 24"-wide Plexiglas sheets are rigid
enough to hold objects without sagging. For much larger products, JUST
Normlicht offers the Studio Light System 5000, equipped with three 5000K
fluorescent lamps that are variably adjustable on mobile support arms.
The studio surface is equipped with dimmable lighting. Backdrop included.
Those Ubiquitous Three-Legged
While I saw plenty of leggy supermodels--I mean, tripods--full-size
and compact, I didn't have enough time to judge which ones had a
leg up on the competition. What I did see impressed me nonetheless. Here's
ToCAD America unveiled a number of new products in the Sunpak line, among
them the FieldMaster ($99.95) field tripod. Gitzo (Bogen) introduced four
Mountaineer Geared Tripods. THK displayed Slik tripods, including several
new carbon-fiber models and a series of compact tripods for the digital
market. Smith-Victor showed off a number of new tripods, with the 920
featuring a three-way pan-and-tilt head ($52.95). Paterson Photographic
highlighted the Benbo with remanufactured ball heads, along with Bilora
tripods, now in their distribution chain. Vanguard was calling attention
to their own new tripods, particularly the Square Series. Not to be outdone,
Hakuba-Velbon added the Ultra MAXi to its family of travel tripods, along
with new carbon-fiber professional models (HG-503MX and HG-504MX). One
Source Network introduced Fancier/Weifeng tripods. HP Marketing took to
the woods with the Berlebach ash wood designs. Staying with this theme,
KB Systems announced additions to their backpack line, the KBBP Mini Set--all
Tripod manufacturers were on the ball, with new ball heads announced by
Bogen for Gitzo and Manfrotto. Rolling along, OmegaSatter introduced German-manufactured
FLM ball heads to the US market. And ToCAD America did not stand idly
by, introducing a new Sunpak Medium Ball Head ($69.95). Heading in a different
direction, HP Marketing featured the Novoflex Q-Base quick release, to
fit Arca-type plates, along with a series of nine Q-Plates to accommodate
Attack Of The Tiny
What were once simply tabletop tripods have now been rejuvenated under
the moniker of digital mini-pods, with new ones expressly designed for
this purpose appearing at every turn. The same could be said for camera/flash
brackets in the smaller sizes, with mini digital brackets leaving an indelible
mark as well.
Hakuba-Velbon division of ToCAD America showed off the Flat Pod--a
very neat-looking, slim, flat tabletop tripod, while ToCAD America itself
introduced the Sunpak Compact DXL, with Brandess-Kalt-Aetna (BKA) introducing
the Mini Digital Folding Bracket by Stratos, and Pedco UltraProducts division
of BKA focusing our attention on the neat-looking UltraPod mini and UltraPod
digital, both with touch-fastener strap to attach either to a nearby tripod.
Joy Innovations had one of the most innovative products: a portable, lightweight
tabletop tripod with automatic timer for use with single-use cameras--yes,
your single-use now has a self-timer, thanks to this gizmo. Perhaps most
elaborate is the combo from APV: BK-2, more of a full-size camera/flash
bracket, with DS-1 flash trigger for your digital camera, with slave-syncing
smart enough to resist a pre-flash.
Pro 4 Imaging showcased the JustRight bracket ($179), which accepts a
square-format camera, or with appropriate rotator (for $279), a 35mm or
645 for vertical and horizontal compositions, so that the flash is always
above the camera. It features a quick-release plate, and legs so that
you can set it down conveniently on a flat surface.
Photo Control Corporation introduced a new Lindahl rotating camera bracket
for the Kodak DCS Pro 14n digital camera. The bracket will easily change
the position of the camera from vertical to horizontal while the lens
rotates on axis. A flash bracket is also available for the system to maintain
the flash head centered over the lens.