Saturday, July 19, 2008

My 101st Blog Post: Inexpensive Lighting gear

For my 101st blog post, I figured I'd make it a potpurri, from the French word. A mixed bag of things. First off, I've got to say,I've started looking into eBay as a way to find new,different products,at lowball prices. Oh,it takes a while--the good deals are not always easy things to get. And there are a lot of listings to wade through. I've purchased some stuff very affordably,and have to pass along some of these items to people who are looking for "value" items. Here are a few things I have purchased for use with my JTL 300 monolight. These items may or may not be adaptable to all flash heads or all monolights. However,many of the following types of light modifiers have a "universal mount" which is a generic way of saying a one-size-fits-all or generic type of mount that will allow you to mount various flash units to the rear,using either two adjustable bolts, or three bolts, or four adjustable bolts, or two "arms" forming a type of V,with two adjusting screws that tension the device on--you get the idea....a universal or generic adapting system that fits reflectors within a specific range of diameters, like 5 inch to 7 inch, or 6.5 to 7.5 inches.

Here are a few things I have purchased for use with my JTL 300 monolight. These items may adapt to other brands of monolights and flash heads with DIY modification,or by bolting two speed rings together,etc. Similar items are also available from other eBay stores besides the ones referred to here,so look around on EBay.

Softbox w Beehive Eggcrate 60cm 4 Studio Flash Soft Box from OEC Camera in League City, Texas. This item actually works pretty darned well,although its metal speed ring fits my already filed-out JTIL monolight a bit tightly,and I found initial assembly of this softbox difficult. Its speedring is beautifully made, but this box uses very short,stiff support rods,and I found the speedring with its pivoting support arm receptacles overly-engineered,and this unit's rotating,lockable speedring added a LOT of weight compared with the other softbox's similar but more traditional and more-simply engineered rotating speedring design. In terms of adding directionality to the light, the eggcrate works wonders,and also cuts the light's output down quite a bit, which is a welcome thing to me. For the amount of money spent, this is a very,very good deal for a 24 inch softbox with eggcrate. It has a highly silvered interior fabric,a removable internal diffusing baffle,a velcro-on recessed front,and a velcro-in eggcrate attachment.

The first thing I shot with this was a quickie demo of how a Nikon to Canon adapter works. The eggcrate takes off a LOT of the spread of the box,and makes the light lower in output by a significant amount.

$24.95 plus about ten bucks shipping. An incredibly worthwhile twenty five buck type of product. Just an incredibly nice little softbox with a difuser inside, a recessed face, AND a well-fitted eggcrate,this is simply a must-have accessory for the JTL 300 monolight user.

This $48.75 item is a 24 inch square softbox,paired with a universal 4-door all-metal barndoor that adapts to many different brands of lights with 6.5 to 7.5 inch reflectors,and which includes a roughly 20 degree honeycomb mounted on a square,and three colored filters which are also square metal mounted,plus a frosted diffuser in a metal frame. So you get a 4-door barndoor set, with a sturdy metal honeycomb grid, a diffuser,and a red-yellow-blue gel on metal square frames, PLUS a snoot with red,green,blue,and yellow small-diameter filters for the snoot, and a small diameter honeycomb grid that fits the small end of the snoot. Shipping was around $11.50,and it came with a metal speed ring that fit my JTL monolight PERFECTLY! I took a few shots of Spencer standing on the cedar chest and siting in the brown chair wearing a new pair of blue shorts,using the JTL monolight,and the lightweight, 24-inch square softbox worked well.

The 4-way barndoors attach using a wire and dual-bolt system that alloww different brands and sizes of reflectors to be fitted to the 4-door barndoor set. On the front of the bardoor frame is a set of three steel hooks or clasps,which secure the grid,or a filter holder,or the diffuser,or all three things on the front of the barndoor's frame. This inexpensive 4-way barndoor unit fits Speedotron 7 inch reflectors very,very well,and although the grid is a bit coarser than I would like for much use, it DOES function reasonably well as a background grid. The 4-way barndoor frame unit does NOT fit the 8.5 inch M90 unit's reflector,but could be gaffer taped into place to make an emergency barn door. The honeycomb in its metal mount frame could however,easily be taped over the 8.5 inch M90's reflector,and that would work okay. In terms of affordable,adaptable stuff to spiff up two or three monolights, this kit could hardly be better. A 24 inch square softbox with a metal speed ring, a snoot with filters and a grid, and then a 4-way barndoor set with a diffuser,a honeycomb grid,and three colored filters on metal frames,for under fifty bucks? A very good value,and priced very fairly.

Another item I bought was a 16 inch beauty dish for $31.95. The most annoying thing about this product was that it did NOT FIT and WOULD NOT MOUNT to my JTL Versalight 300. The dimensions on the three mounting lugs were simply not accurate enough for it to fit,so I removed the mounting faceplace from the light unit,and filed out all three lug receiving apertures, enough so that the beauty dish would fit on-and very tightly at that. The lugs appear to be folded sheet steel rectangles,and I fear that they are hollow inside,and even though they need to have some metal filed off of their tops to get into line with the Bowens 3-lug specification, I'm a bit worried to do that. As it stands, the reflector fits on VERY snugly,and it is difficult to remove. If I were going to use the JTL 300 on a daily basis and wished to interchange light modifiers with any type of regularity, I would not be satisfied with the fit,since as I said, this reflector's 3-lug pattern is simply NOT up to specification. However, once it is on,it stays on,and this beauty dish is a very nice light modifier that could easily be left on all the time. All other accessories I own in Bowens 3-lug fit okay to great, but on this reflector each of the lugs are too wide AND the total outside diameter of the lugs is too large by maybe .0125 inches.

Performance-wise, I liked what I saw from this all-metal beauty dish + white nylon diffuser sock when I shot it to make some informal portraits of my wife and son. Its light is soft,since it is diffused first by the baffle,and NO direct light hits the subject from the flashtube,and then that light is diffused by the white nylon fabric. This means that the light is doubly diffused. Since the JTL has a heavily-frosted flashtube shroud (unlike Speedo,which has clear Pyrex shrouds over its flashtubes) and a heavily frosted,large modeling lamp, all of the light leaving the JTL is diffused a 'bit' more than on Speedotron heads and this type of baffled reflector maximizes softening. I made all tests with the supplied nylon diffuser sock. This beauty dish + diffuser creates s nice,white,perfectly round catchlight in the eye. This reflector's output produces deeper,blacker shadows than an umbrella does,and has just a small bit of specularity on human skin. Overall, I think it's a very,very valuable reflector addition to a small monolight such as the like the JTL 300,and I found it easy to aim,easy to lock,and easy to balance on the 300,which allows the photographer to slide the main body of the flash unit forward or back on its dovetailed mounting rail,to balance particularly front-heavy reflectors/modifiers. As an inexpensive beauty dish, I thought this thing was well,well worth the $31.95 price. The fact that it required me to file out all 3 holes on my JTL 300's mounting ring was disappointing,and I just have to say it--the machinist who designed this was flat out OFF, flat out WRONG,on the exact dimensions of the 3-lug Bowens-style mounting ring that is integrated onto this reflector. When you need to take a mill bastard file to your light unit, you know the ACCESSORY'S dimensions are off. And even now,it fits on VERY tightly. I am strongly considering fitting the rear of this with a wooden block and a Speedotron Universal Mounting Plate to adapt it to 102 and M11 light heads.

Despite the poor fit the beauty dish displayed in the Bowens 3 and 7/8 inch 3-lug mount, the light output this thing gives with its supplied white nylon,elastic diffusion sock is pretty good,and I could see JTL 300's being used with this dish and diffuser combo for old-fashioned portrait lighting with good results. I have no problems with the quality of the light or the design or the price point--it's simply that the mounting lugs are too wide AND too large in diameter,compared with four other 3-lug products I own so. I do think this is a candidate for adapting to Speedotron 102 light heads, by way of a $14 Speedotron universal mounting collar simply being bolted onto the reverse of this reflector,and the flashtube of a Speedo unit doing the work instead of the diminutive little JTL's tube. For the money,this is a very,very good product in terms of light quality and construction, but the fit was UN-USABLE on JTL right out of the package,and required modification to my monolight itself. The modifications I made with the file however, did not make the monolight unusable with other 3-lug accessories,so that's a good thing.

For Alien Bee users, check out the 22-inch beauty dish and diffusion sock combo here
This 43-inch white umbrella has a black back,and costs only $13.95. It is a pretty good reflecting umbrella,and the design and construction is worth the money. I would say buy a pair of these,and get combined shipping. This is the type of umbrella I prefer for use with a Speedotron head-an umbrella large enough to diffuse the light quite a bit,and one which helps to control spill. I have very,very little use for shoot-thru umbrellas anymore,and this reflecting umbrella is the type that I have come to prefer. Its relatively large diameter makes it softer than a smaller umbrella,but not so HUGE that it is impossible to work with in smaller rooms.


BELOVED said...

HEY! JTL made a Beauty Dish and will be available this coming April at Adorama and that other weird looking site. Read here

BELOVED said...

HEY! JTL made a Beauty Dish and will be available this coming April at Adorama and that other weird looking site. Read here