When I first saw the battery-powered Photoflex TritonFlash at a pro show I was impressed as much by its power output and flexibility as its tiny size. Available in a kit that includes one of the company’s light banks along with everything—except a light stand—the setup can get you started making portraits in the studio or on location with nary an electrical outlet in sight.
Portrait photographers are constantly looking for new lighting gear that will make their lives easier and produce great results. And while flash photography has been the studio standard for many years, it’s always been more difficult to previsualize the final effect since the image you see using the modeling lights is not always the same you see once the flash fires. The instant feedback of digital cameras has lessened that worry some, but you can still be in for some surprises. The new breed of LED lights eliminates most of these concerns with true WYSIWYG lighting, and with that in mind I was eager to check out F&V’s new K4000 LED Studio Panel to see how it could be used in my work.
Pro shows are a great time to catch up on the latest in lighting gear and trends, so we asked Joe Farace, who does lighting equipment tests for us here at Shutterbug (type Joe’s name in the Search box at www.shutterbug.com to see the wide range of gear he’s tested) to roam the floor at the WPPI show to see what’s hot. His report covers new equipment that caught his eye there but, while there’s plenty to read about, this is not intended to be a full report on what’s new in the category. Some of these products will be covered in future issues, with promised updates from Joe. Also, the show was a few months back, so most, if not all the gear, you read about here is available now. Check our web page news for new products and developments, and follow our in-depth lighting test reports that appear regularly in Shutterbug.—Editor
Oct 22, 2013
Published: Sep 01, 2013
Whether you are new to Off-Camera Flash (OCF) or not, you might want to check out one of the most versatile systems on the market for OCF, Rogue FlashBenders, manufactured by ExpoImaging. The Rogue system is based on a pliable flat panel reflector that you bend as needed to modify your light when used in conjunction with speedlights. It is versatile, stores flat in your camera bag, and has a diffusion panel that installs over the modifier to turn it into a portable softbox.
In this test, Joe Farace tackles a higher-end LED light source that he adapted to still photography work. In it you will find technical sidebars outlining how we will test LEDs for the still photographer in the future. We offer this somewhat tech-heavy review as both a close look at this unit and a primer on LED output and LED lighting, which, as Joe states, will become increasing important, and prevalent, in studio and location work for the still shooter.—Editor
This year has seen many new introductions in lighting gear for all photographers. Auxiliary and accessory lighting can make a big difference in your work. Here, reporter Jack Neubart gives us a sampling of products he found at trade shows that caught his eye. For more information on the companies whose products he mentions we encourage you to explore their websites to discover their full offerings in this category plus check www.shutterbug.com for lighting gear tests. We’ve provided a full list of contact information at the end of the article.—Editor
Mary and I have fond memories of using early generation Bowens monolights; they were our first really “good” lighting system when we set up our studio in 1982. We loved shooting with those big, black, paint-can-shaped 800B monolights because they were inexpensive, dependable, and powerful. From what I can tell from my tests of their two-light Gemini 400Rx Kit that continues to be the case.
“Look Ma, no cords!” That’s right; the Priolite does not have a power cord. It is run strictly off battery power. Each unit has its own interchangeable and removable battery, plus a built-in receiver to work with a Priolite transmitter. And, unlike most monolights, it has a usable modeling light even on battery power.
The Phottix Odin is a radio frequency-controlled system, or simply radio remote. The basic package includes two units: a transmitter and a receiver. Additional receivers are optional. You only need one transmitter to sit in the camera’s hot shoe and trigger compatible i-TTL strobes, but you need a receiver for each off-camera flash. And recently, Phottix introduced a new combo pack that includes one additional receiver—perfect for my two-speedlight setups. The unit tested here is for Nikon and I worked with my Nikon SB-900 speedlights.
LEDs may represent the future of studio lighting but a number of the currently available options come with a caveat or two for the new professional or aspiring pro. Some LED solutions are affordable but may be too physically small for efficient use in a studio, or they may be large enough but too expensive for the shooter who just wants to dip their toes into the LED waters. Measuring 14x7.5x2.75” and costing less than $200, Flashpoint’s 500C LED Light appears to be a good solution for the LED newbie who wants to see what all the fuss is about.
The Nissin MF18 fully supports Nikon’s i-TTL autoexposure as well as Canon’s E-TTL system. I tested with the Nikon 60mm Micro, but also had success with a zoom, namely the Tamron 70-300mm with a Marumi DHG Achromat Macro (plus-diopter) lens attached, both on my Nikon D300. Much of my close-up work with the MF18 involved Manual shooting mode set on the camera for tighter exposure control, and manual focus.
The important characteristics of any studio lighting system are the quantity, quality, and color of the light they produce. Other factors such as recycle time, type of output control, build quality, and the ability to accept accessories may be crucial, but for many of us the most essential element is price. I was impressed by previous Flashpoint monolights (April, 2012, issue of Shutterbug) because they’re rugged, dependable, and significantly, for the advanced amateur and aspiring pro, inexpensive. Now Flashpoint has introduced a new family of monolights—the DG series—that builds upon all of the positive aspects of previous models and takes them in a new direction.
Speedotron’s power pack and head systems are the studio lighting world’s equivalent of the American muscle car. They’re powerful, made in the U.S.A., and ruggedly built to take hard use. Since its beginnings the company has offered two lines of lighting systems for photographers with different requirements. The premium-priced Black Line is intended for commercial shooters, while Brown Line products are aimed at portrait photographers, yet when used normally both have similar quality, reliability, and longevity.
Like most photographers, I’m always trying to see just how versatile I can make my dedicated speedlights. In my case that would be Nikon SB-800 Speedlights. And when I really want to create a unique look I’ll sometimes use off-camera flash so I can vary the exposure on my subject in relation to the overall scene. That usually involves me adding light to my subject to either match or overpower the ambient light. When I do that I like to have a little more control over the quantity and quality of the light than what I’d have if I just aimed my flash at my subject with no modification.
Roger Hicks’s “Pro Lighting Report” is part of our continuing series of reports from the photokina show. With a giant hall filled with lighting products, Roger reports here on what caught his eye and what he saw as the key trends at the show. We will continue with new lighting product reports in coming issues, with a special report coming out of the WPPI show held in March, and will catch up on more new products not mentioned here then. We consider lighting a key issue for all photographers and will have more tests ahead throughout the year.—Editor