7 Hot Lighting Accessories for Photography
AUGUST 21, 2012
By Theano Nikitas
A far cry from the pyrotechnics that photographers first used to illuminate their subjects, today’s lighting tools are more sophisticated and portable, far less dangerous, and don’t produce smoke and dust when triggered. While we leave the cans of flash powder behind, here are some of the latest lighting accessories that can serve you well in a variety of situations.
ExpoImaging Rogue 3-in-1 Honeycomb Grid and Rogue Gels
Sometimes a product seems so simple you have to wonder about how—or if—it’s going to work as promised. But time and again, from its Flashbender reflectors and light modifiers and now to its Rogue 3-in-1 Honeycomb Grid, ExpoImaging has proved simplicity and effectiveness are not necessarily mutually exclusive.
Designed to create a soft spotlight or hair light from a shoe-mounted flash, the device comes with two honeycomb grids that can be used individually for a 25-degree or 45-degree spot (each is marked for easy identification), or stacked for a 16-degree spotlight. Constructed of sturdy plastic, the grids fit neatly into a bezel and are then placed securely onto the flash with the bundled 3.5-inch high, adjustable mounting strap that wraps around the flash head. Alternatively, the grid/bezel can be used with a snooted, small FlashBender (optional) that you can make a little more secure by attaching the Grid with the supplied mounting strap.
I tested the Grid on a Nikon SB-900 and SB-800. Even without the included Quick Start Guide, it was easy to figure out how to attach the strap and the grids. A combination of Velcro, elastic and snaps held the strap in place on both flash units and two side elastic loops attached to the bezel to hold it in position; no need to glue anything to the flash body. The elastic loops slipped off once or twice while pulling the flash out of my camera bag (the Grid and strap can also be stored in the supplied pouch), but it took less than a second to re-attach them.
ExpoImaging also offers a set of 20 pre-cut filters that fit perfectly between the bevel and the Grid for color correction or lighting effects. The gels also come with a small carrying case and labeled dividers so you can quickly find the gel you want (each gel is labeled as well).
With or without the optional gel kit, the Grid produces a beautiful circle of light with a lovely fall off that I found worked perfectly for portraits but is just as effective for many other types of shots (including macro). And it’s priced right, too. While you’re at it, you might want to pick up one of the Grid kits that include a couple of FlashBenders as well.
Prices: Rogue 3-in-1 Honeycomb Grid, $49.95; Rogue Grid Gels Lighting Filters for Rogue Grid, $27.95; Kits with Grid, FlashBenders and Gels, starting at $149.95
This year’s WPPI had an inventive bit of lighting gear: the Rotolight. This British import is now being distributed in the U.S. and is great for still and video lighting. It sports 48 LEDs in a ringlight configuration, which mounts off-camera via a 1/4-20 thread (or optional stand), on a hot shoe or around a shotgun microphone.
While it looks a little sci-fi, the Rotolight’s pretty practical. With its 110-degree beam angle, the Rotolight produces a soft, naturally diffused swath of light to about four meters and can be dimmed by about 1.5 stops. The light has a rubber coating to prevent reflections and acoustic effects.
Various kits are available including the basic Stealth Edition, which comes with a single light and three CTO and three ND circular filters. (The filters fit conveniently in the back of the light.)
The Creative Color Kit V2 comes with the light, a stand, ten Lee filters, and a belt pouch that holds up to two Rotolights, stands, filters, up to six AA batteries, an iPhone and other accessories. The Interview Kit comes with two Rotolights, two filter holders, a ten-piece Lee Filter kit with eight color FX filters (sidelight, backlight, kicker or top light) and two cosmetic filters (one for light skintones; the other for dark skintones), and a belt pouch.
The light is powered by three AA batteries, which last up to about four hours (so it might be a good idea to get a set of rechargeables for the best battery life). It’s lightweight—less than five ounces with batteries—and, at only 5.3 inches in diameter, highly portable. The kits offer the most options but even the Rotolight’s basic configuration offers versatility on its own.
Prices: Rotolight Stealth Edition, $130; Rotolight Creative Color Kit, $200; Rotolight RL48 Interview Kit V2, $350; Belt Pouch, $30
If you’ve ever wanted to wield a light saber, now’s your chance, except the ICE Light is much more practical than Luke’s weapon of choice—at least for photographers.
Like the GL-1, the ICE Light was previewed at WPPI. Designed by wedding photographer Jerry Ghionis and manufactured by Westcott, the ICE Light not only looks cool but is quite functional, particularly when you need a highly portable lighting source (it weighs 1.3 pounds, and measures about 20.25 inches long and 1.75 inches in circumference).
It can be used handheld or, with its standard 1/4-20 threads at either end, attached to light stands or tripods. Although gels can be attached with the included clips, the device is balanced for daylight and, using an LED array that’s rated for more than 50,000 hours, the ICE Light produces soft illumination that’s appropriate for a wide range of shooting conditions and subjects, both still and video. Rather than just a naked bulb, the light is covered at the bottom, providing a grip, and along the back length, so the light is more directional.
Built-in batteries last about an hour at full power and take about 2.5 hours to charge. But plug the device into any outlet (it’s multi-voltage, so the light travels well overseas) to power it up and batteries will be charged at the same time.
The ICE Light comes with a carrying case, shoulder strap and belt loop, power cord/charger and two gel clips. At press time, a kit was in the works that includes a mini flexible tripod, a “tilter” bracket for light stand mounting, a dual connector for linking up multiple lights, removable barn doors and a gel pack.
We don’t have an ETA or a price for the kit, though, so keep checking the ICE Light Web site for updates. We think you’ll be seeing photographers brandishing these lights all over town whether or not the force is with them.
Also revealed at WPPI this past February, the GL-1 (also known as the Gunlight) is the brainchild of photographers Brian Marcus and John Solano. Produced by Lowel, this handheld light delivers a huge amount of control. It’s called a Gunlight because, although it looks a little bit like a small desk lamp, you hold it like a gun and it’s operated by a trigger mechanism.
During an interview with Marcus, we talked about the GL-1, which the photographer has been using extensively to light paint in his wedding photography. One of the benefits of using the GL-1 is that his assistant doesn’t have to run from table to table at a wedding reception to illuminate each table setting. Instead, the assistant can stand in one place and direct the light to distances of up to 30 feet.
But the GL-1 offers more than just a long reach and savings on the assistant’s shoe leather. Its tungsten LED output (we imagine there will be color correction and color effects gels available at some point) can be controlled in several different ways. Not only can the light be dimmed, it can be focused as well.
Need a spot? No problem. Flood? No problem there either. More importantly, light is projected evenly and there are no hot spots. The GL-1 is battery powered and features a quick-swap battery pack.
We don’t have detailed specs at this point or a fixed price, though the Web site estimates the cost at “under $800.”
PocketWizard Plus III
With more tricks up its sleeves than a roomful of magicians, the latest PocketWizard, the Plus III, might just be a photographer’s best friend. That is, if the photographer in question needs a multi-purpose, highly functional device to trigger remote flashes and cameras that’s affordably priced at $30 less than its predecessor.
Granted, the Plus III isn’t as sophisticated as the PocketWizard MultiMAX, but it does offer the same generous 32-channel spread. And it’s a definite leap forward from the Plus II.
A more streamlined design, internal antenna, an LCD panel and soft-touch keys are the most noticeable physical changes. The Plus III mounts with the control panel on the side and while I’m not convinced that’s a good thing since the control panel isn’t facing the photographer, there is less bulk blocking your over-the-camera view.
I loved the convenience of the illuminated LCD. Even though it’s keep-your-reading-glasses-on small at one inch, and I’d like the light to stay on a little longer to check settings, the text and icons are clear and there’s a useful battery charge indicator for its two AA batteries. (The Plus III can also be powered by USB but AA alkalines should last for about 50 hours.)
Once you recognize the different mode abbreviations, the Plus III is extremely easy to use. Press and hold the Mode button for about two seconds to start it up, then continue pressing the Mode button through six options: TxRx (transmit and receive); Tx only; Rx only; HSR (High Speed Receive, which triggers flash and cameras up to about 14.5 frames-per-second vs. the Plus II’s 12); LR (Long Range but with a drop in sync speed); and RP (Repeater). Up and down arrow buttons cycle through channels while A, B, C and D buttons turn individual zones (channels 17 through 32 are quad zone triggering channels) on and off.
You’ll need an optional PocketWizard ACC cable to make use of the center Test button for remote cameras. This button simulates the shutter’s half-press (it wakes up the camera and activates AF and metering). Press fully to capture a shot.
Although compatible with all other PocketWizards (and devices that support PW), you’ll have to use Standard channels for the Flex and Mini since the Plus III doesn’t support TTL. But that’s a minor point. Perhaps the best endorsement I can give the Plus III is that I’m adding two of them to my gear bag. They’ll make great companions to my older Plus devices.
$139 (includes two cables, an adapter, lanyard, quick start guide and reference sticker)
Sekonic L-308DC DigiCineMate Meter
When was the last time you used a light meter? Or even saw someone using a light meter? Probably not in a while but the Sekonic L-308DC DigiCineMate Meter might change your mind, especially if you’re shooting both stills and video.
This three-in-one meter offers specialized settings for still images (PHOTO Mode); DSLR and video cameras that use frame rate and shutter speed (HD_CINE Mode); and video cameras that capture motion using frame rate and shutter angles (CINE Mode). For the CINE mode, the meter is set at the standard 180-degree shutter angle but can be adjusted. Custom options are also available, including the ability to use EV (exposure compensation) to better match your camera(s).
In addition to the trio of modes, the meter also allows for incidence and reflective metering by simply switching the position of the Lumisphere. A small disc (Lumidisc) can be mounted on the meter to take readings off of flat art and green screens, and when measuring by lux or foot-candle. A sync port is available for metering cordless flashes, too. Overall, this lightweight, pocket-sized meter is easy to use but be sure to look through the manual for operating tips since some functions aren’t obvious.
Sekonic recently designed an orange skin for the meter, which is free when you purchase and register the unit (at least at press time). The meter comes with an AA battery, lanyard, carrying pouch, Lumidisc and mini-pouch, printed manual and a quickstart guide. From what we’ve seen, the meter is accurate and a really handy tool for video light readings, especially from DSLRs. It’s been around for a little while and it’s not cheap, but you’d be hard-pressed to find a meter that does everything the DigiCineMate can do at the same price.
Just as we were going to press, Quantum announced the CoPilot, a wireless triggering system for three groups of radio-controlled Qflash, TRIOS, QF5d-Rs and (with a Quantum FreeXwire receiver) non-Quantum flashes. We’ve only seen photos of the shoe-mounted device but it looks really interesting.