Whew it’s been a bad year! And I’m talking BAD BAD! Adorama asked me to assemble some potential joy to make your holiday shopping list easier. I’ve broken down my list into two categories. For Everyone and For Pros. Don’t get me wrong, just because my suggestions under For Pros does NOT mean the gear is just for pros! It’s just that my view is the gear either has only an occasional or specific use and/or the piece of kit is pricey to only use on rare occasions. Other than that everything I’m listing can be used by everyone.
This holiday season, you can buy now and pay over time with the Adorama Edge Credit Card. Click here for details.
OK so just like with cars or motorcycles most people feel that the more power the better! Except in photography it also means having to LUG gear or hire others to LUG gear. In the past I have combined two 600ws Flashpoint strobes with a 1200ws head. Works well so I didn’t really think I needed the 1200 Pro but…
What I came to find out is not only does it recycle quicker at full power than my two 600s, but it is a ton easier to carry around while on location! And my primary usage for this strobe would be for outdoor on location work where I’m either trying to turn day into night or using a modifier that sucks light like no one’s business; AKA a gobo projector. It’s a very well made unit that makes life much easier when more power is needed.
Yep in ‘some cases’ size does matter! And in those instances my go to modifier is the Grand Para 70” with the Bounce Rod. I tend to shoot most of my commercial imagery with a focusing rod modifier no matter the brand. I along with my clients prefer the look of focusing rod modifiers, more contrast and a softness or hard light that is unique. The 70” is not easy to assemble since the arms really tighten and stretch the fabric, which is what you want. But I find the assembly is well worth the effort.
I use this modifier for so many different purposes. It is incredibly well built and uses standard class B sized gobos. For those unfamiliar with gobos, they are ‘go between’ patterns that shape how the light is projected onto a surface. It can add incredible drama or mood to your shots.
OK right off the bat I’m going to say that this little light has made me a fanboy! Of all the strobes I own this one is my go to favorite. The construction is great, the light output wonderful and the size format is just so cool! Of course the most important part, the quality of light is amazing! The only nitpick I have with it is the included swivel mount. It gets ‘creep’ when I try to tighten it down with a modifier and not one that’s even heavy. Adorama now has a Replacement Tilt Mount request to resolve that issue. Other than that it’s great. Did I mention it’s my favorite?
Imagery created with smoke and water and lit with the 300 during COVID19
Using the optional Bowens bolt on adapter allows me to use the 300 on modifiers that normally use LED constant lights with a shallow distance to their lenses, so that’s a total win for me. Opening up different instruments designed for non-strobe use is wonderful.
It has also allowed me to use it as my go to strobe for small to medium focusing rod modifiers.
I tend to be pretty snooty about modifiers. Heck since I make my living with them I have to be! LOL Do not confuse my snootiness with only considering expensive or ‘well known’ modifiers. But once in a while an rather unknown modifier peaks my curiosity. Such was the case when I purchased the 300 Pro and saw it has a native built in Godox mount, whose mount I don’t own a single modifier. So I began looking into them and found this one. And as usual I turned the modifier to replicate my favorite light, a focusing rod quality of light. But even without using my modification the modifier not only produces great light, but is ultra-portable. So in those instances where I’m moving around on location this is the modifier I use.
One shot with a Parabolix 35D focusing rod modifier at almost 10 times the cost. The other with the Glow…which is which?! LOL
I was so fortunate to know the late Paul C Buff who mentored me on many things including hard modifiers or reflectors. He explained to me in great detail how the shape and design affects his designs for light output and to not be fooled by shape or size. So I decided to purchase one of Adorama’s Glow 70’s and test it against many other reflectors I use. And guess what? It produces the most even and high output light of any of my other reflectors other than my PCB Retro Laser modifier which is no longer available! For high wind outdoor shots this is my go to modifier.
Turning mid day sun into night is easily accomplished with a single 300 Pro and the Magnum Reflector. Both shot with a Canon 1DX II 1/3200th f2.8 ISO 160
If you own a Flashpoint eVOLV 200 and don’t own one of these kits my simple question is WHY! OMG this little kit include so many items I use all of the time. The round head’s modeling light is brighter than the built in modeling light on the Fresnel head. And while I’m on the subject I’ll include the Flashpoint eVOLV 200 TTL Modular Strobe! I actually lost count of how many of these little beauties I own. So portable and their batteries seem to last forever. AND they can be used with the new 300 Pro! The modular head design is brilliant and when combined with round head or the Flashpoint XP-200 V2 Portable 200ws Extension FlashHead it allows me incredible flexibility. The light loss of the extension head is only ½ stop. Well worth it for the many things it allows me to do.
What can that little 200ws extension head do? Well how about powering my K5600 24” Big Eye Fresnel!
Not to mention they are my studio dance strobes.
I often chuckle to myself when other photographers wonder “Why does Mark use some of those inexpensive modifiers.” Well the answer is really easy! If the quality of light it produces is delicious then it’s what I use. And in this case the EZ lock is so simple to set up and strike – comes with a grid and great diffusion materials it’s a win to me.
Adorama is running a special for the 2020 holidays on several items. Most likely because 2020 has been a sucky year! LOL. You are able to buy lights with 0% interest charged for 24 months using their Adorama Edge credit card beginning on November 2 2020, you know the day before the election!
- XPLOR 1200 PRO
- 400 PRO kit
- 300 PRO 2 light kit
- Evolv 200 Pro kit
Well I hope my little list gives you some ideas on what to purchase this holiday season. I just want to say that anyone who tells you that in order to create memorable light and mood requires expensive gear is all wet. Ask to see their body of work, not a one in a row shot. Then decide for yourself. How you use a tool is much more important than the tool you use. Of course an effective tool makes life much easier. But consider a golf club or a frying pan. Tiger can use any club and make par, and a chef can use a pan, any pan and cook way better than you or I.
And BTW no one has paid me for this post. If something isn’t good I say so and how or if I’ve improved it. If it’s good I say so too.
Happy Holiday and goodbye to 2020 forever! UGH.
UPDATE November 5 2020
Because the Saberstrip v2.0s are not available I decided to use several Cheetahstand strip boxes and their Lantern which in checking their site is no longer available. I can understand why retailers discontinue items if they don’t sell well, but it’s a shame. I now own 10% of my lighting gear I use regularly that are no longer offered by dealers; like the Saberstrip v2.0s, the K5600 Big Eye Fresnel, the PCB Retro Laser, etc. Sad…
Here are a few of the shots using this lighting.
I exclusively use Flashpoint strobes and I know in the past Cheetahstand sold Godox lights as well. My personal view is Adorama must have contracted Godox as their primary US retailer of their products which put Cheetahstand out. For my work the whole Xplor line is remarkable.
UPDATE February 11 2019
I realized I had posted some of my lighting techniques under a different blog heading about the v2.0 Saberstrip modifiers, which I consider to be a revolutionary modifier, but had not updated this post. I do so because I find the v2.0 Saberstrips to be almost invaluable for me in creating dance imagery. In some cases I have used three of them to light dancers in studio. As an overhead light on a boom arm and two on each side of the dancers as rim lights. It creates a very dramatic sculpture of their forms as they move. I have also taken to using my 10″ Fresnel to light dancers. I love the light produced by a large lens Fresnel. A hard contrasty light that is unlike any other modifier.
The following images were all created with three v2.0 Saberstrips as shown in my photo above.
The following were shot with a backlight with a cone, three v2.0 Saberstrips and the Fresnel as a fill light.
And finally two v2.0 Saberstrips and the Fresnel as a key light.
For me experimenting with light is one of the most exciting parts of dance photography. Don’t be afraid to experiment, otherwise all of your images will begin to look the same. And what fun is that?
UPDATE October 12 2017
In my review of Cheetahstand’s Quick Stripbox and Lantern I have shown my lighting setups for a different dance troupe. You can view that post here.
I was recently hired to do an annual studio dance session by one of my long time clients. I’m posting this to show how I use xPLOR, eVOLV, Cheetahstand, CononMark, etc lights and modifiers in a session. This was an all-day session lasting approximately 6.5 hours of nonstop shooting. I had charged both the Xplor and eVOLV lights to full the day before. I never even ran close to running out of battery power on any of the strobes. All of the strobes showed half full at the end of the day. My Canon 1DXII showed 25% battery life left at the end of the day to give you some reference. I was using the WFT-E6A wireless transmitting dongle on my camera to wirelessly tether my rig to my iPad so the client could view the images as they happened. Using the transmitter uses more battery life than without.
There seems to be quite a bit of ‘talk’ that certain brands of modifiers/lights/etc. must be used in order to ‘be a pro.’ Nonsense. How one uses gear, how one engages with the talent and how one uses their imagination are the most important part of imagery to my clients. So I post this in hopes that it will help other shooters who are interested in multi light set ups, but not hung up on brand names or scientific theories about what makes a true parabola or other talking points. When people ask me what is the one thing I would have for gear over everything else, I always say your imagination. Years ago I was blessed to be able to spend time with Annie Leibovitz and I asked her “How do I shoot more like you?” Her response? “Don’t shoot like me Mark, shoot like you. It’s the only way to develop your own style.”
Some of my final images.
Update September 28 2020
Before explaining my testing I want to state that I liked the pack/head combination of this 1200 Pro R2 much more than I ever imagined. I have not used a pack/head system extensively in my professional photography career so this was the first time using one. So here goes….
My personal experience is NOTHING can suck more power out of a strobe than using it outdoors through a gobo. NOTHING. So to compare the 1200 to the Portable 1200ws Extension Head For The XPLOR 600 I normally use with my Aputure Spotlight mount this is how the scene looks in natural light. Midday in September in the SF Bay Area on an overcast day. The 1200 Pro is set to full power, 1:1 and the lens on my Aputure Spotlight is the 36 degree model. It is 23 feet from the fence behind my Cake Kalk& electric motorcycle and I’m using a Rosco Construction steel gobo.
Here are the shots from this setup.
It takes an incredible amount of power to cast shadows like this outside in mid day. So much so that the very bright modeling light of the 1200 Pro is not bright enough to illuminate the pattern for me to align it to Katie or the bike. So I had to shoot and adjust the angle/focus of the modifier in order to get the angle I wanted for the shot. It is here I will say that I prefer the 1200 Pro over using my 2 separate 600 combined. The reason? It’s SO MUCH EASIER to lug one power source (meaning the pack) rather than 2 separate 600s. The power difference is insignificant too.
The rest of the shots were created using a Glow Grand ParaBox Pro Softbox (70″) with focusing rod.
For these two images I placed the talent in front of the Para which was facing me. A Sunbounce Mini white reflector was used to reflect light and dimension back onto their faces. Power on the 1200 Pro was set at 1/8 power with the modifier fully flooded.
Next a more ‘traditional’ use of the 1200 pro and modifier. I placed the strobe in a mid focused position to create this portrait of Alex. Power was 1/32nd for his shot.
To show the scale of the modifier/strobe combo I created these shots.
And now we move to a much more conventional use of the strobe/modifier.
In summary I will simply say that the Flashpoint 1200 Pro R2 is a remarkable tool, remarkable. Even at 1:1 power the recycling time is one second or less. And at 1/2 power or less it’s almost instantaneous. Having this much power in such a lightweight and easily portable unit is a godsend for my work. Fitting in with the rest of the Flashpoint/Godox eco system makes it a tool I plan to keep in my arsenal for use when it’s the right tool for the right job. I have several upcoming sessions where I plan to use it extensively.
Update August 30 2020
I have been able to test this strobe with actual humans during COVID. Keeping socially distanced is easy with a 1200 ws strobe. At this point in my tests I have not used full 1:1 power so I cannot say how quickly it recycles. I will say that at 1/2 power it is damn near instantaneous. And at 1/4 or lower it IS instantaneous.
In this image the Elinchrom 69″ with focusing rod is completely flooded and I am standing directly in front of the modifier. In a fully flooded position with a modifier this large sucks a lot of power from a strobe. In essence is creates a huge ring light. Not a problem with the 1200.
Update August 26 2020
So I decided to use my new electric motorcycle a Cake Kalk& to test the use of the 1200 with one of my favorite large modifiers, an Elinchrom 69″ Rotalux Octa. I have modified the Octa to accept a focusing rod which is my preferred quality of light for almost all of my client work.
In the picture below the focusing rod is in fully focused position. I decided not to use this position since it did not offer me the coverage or quality of light I was after.
Here you can see how I’ve mounted the pack to the light stand as a counterweight to the modifier. You will notice that the octa is not facing the rack of cables.
And here is Sofia. The 1200/69″ octa is camera left with the octa facing so that the light is bounced off of the right side of the octa. This allows me to control light spill. The 1200 EASILY fills the large octa and I was shooting at ISO100 1/125th f4.5 with my Pentax 645Z with the 1200 at 1/32nd power.
Original Post August 24 2020
The Flashpoint XPLOR Power 1200 Pro R2 is Adorama’s first Flashpoint pack and head system. In the past their strobes have been all in one units more commonly known as monolights. They have offered Flashpoint Portable 1200ws Extension Head For The XPLOR 600 that combines two Xplor 600s into one 1200 system. I own two and use them when my work calls for a 1200 ws head. Since we are in the midst of COVID19 as I assemble this post, I have been unable to schedule any ‘human’ sessions, but have one coming up in late September. I had scheduled dance sessions in July, but with the shelter in place orders in CA, I had to cancel them. Until then I have the opportunity to assess the physical aspects of this strobe and compare it to the 1200 extension head I have been using. So for right now I will cover some of the physical aspect of this pack/head system.
I’ve never owned a pack/head system and used monolights for my entire professional career. I find monolights so convenient especially now that they are battery powered. The Flashpoint XPLOR and Godox lines have such a robust triggering ecosystem that ties so many of their products all together. I do like the convenience and option of using two Flashpoint 600 heads in combination to create a 1200 ws unit or to just use them separately. The down side of that combination is traveling on location. It’s both a blessing and a curse. If I only need to lug one 600 to a part of the location I can. But lugging two is just not fun, I hate lugging.
Here are the physical statistics of the 1200 Pro 2 and the 1200 Extension Head
- Extension Head Cord length 9 feet
- 1200 Pro 2 Cord length 11 feet
- Difference 1200 Pro’s cord is 2 feet longer
- Weight of 2 Flashpoint Monolight 600s (non pro version) without bulbs: 11.6 Pounds
- Weight of 1200 Pro 2 12.8 Pounds
- Difference 1200 Pro is 1.2 Pounds heavier
On the YouTube videos I’ve seen about the new 1200 Pro most people were hoping or wondering how to attach the pack to a light stand. I fabricated a mount to use to attach them to a light stand. It’s been one of my most popular post to date. So many people say I should make and sell them. Naw, not my thing. Here is a photo of my 1200 extension head set up.
I wanted to see how this would secure the pack to both a C Stand and a regular light stand.
First the C Stand
Placing the 1200 Pro’s pack just above the ground between the shorter legs of the C Stand prevents it from swinging right and left.
By positioning the J hook on the opposite side of the 1200’s pack I create tension on the strap to hold the pack securely against the C Stand’s two legs. In this configuration it also is low and opposite of the long leg of the base which counterbalances a large heavy modifier very well.
Next the regular light stand. Keep in mind this is NOT some cheap flimsy light stand.
Here you will notice that I rest the rubber base of the 1200 Pro on the cross bars of the light stand.
The strap goes through the handle of the 1200 Pro
And like with the C Stand I have the J hook on the opposite side of the 1200’s pack so I can create tension to keep the pack snugly against the light stand’s center pole. This can be accomplished by one of two ways. First by raising the clamp up on the shaft of the lightstand until the strap is tensioned. Or by looping the strap a number of times around the handle of the pack. Either way works as well as the other. It just depends on the light stand you’re using.
OK so I need to reveal that I’m a bag whore. I mean I LOVE bags, LOVE THEM. I cannot even state how many bags I have for all sorts of things. It’s not something I’m particularly proud of and although I have tried to find a 12 step bag program, I didn’t really try that hard. Well now that’s out of the way you’ll know why I’m gonna talk so much about the 1200 Pro’s bag!
This is far and away THE BEST included strobe bag I’ve ever seen. EVER. Here are the reasons why:
First off it’s a rollie. Did I mention I hate lugging? I hate lugging, but rolling is fine.
And behind that zippered panel are backpack straps built into the bag! Now don’t get me wrong, putting this on my back would not be my first choice, but when I’ve been on location humping up and down stairs, rocks, cliffs, you name it having the OPTION of turning this into a backpack is great! Especially if I have my gf put it on her back! Hahahahaha. Seriously this is a great added feature.
On one side is an elastic pocket with a nylon strap to hold a tripod. Pretty normal stuff, but still a great added detail. And then….
There is a strap configuration on the other side which I’ve never seen before. So I thought I’d try to put a C Stand into that area and it worked great! I don’t know about you, but the fewer trips I have to make back and forth to my vehicle the better. Of course the rollie bag has an extendable pull handle you can see in this shot.
The interior top flap has zipper pockets that are well made and useful.
Of course there is the proper spot for each of the strobe’s elements. Well padded and easily configurable too.
Two front pockets. Funny as the top one’s storage pouch goes UP under the Flashpoint label, I was expecting it to go down. The lower zipper’s pouch goes down as expected.
The zipper to the very right of the main compartment zipper runs the full length and width of the bag’s front cover. It is CHOCK FULL of extra dividers for the interior. Way more than anyone even me would ever need.
One more bag which holds the 1200 Pro’s battery pack. Very cool that it has vents on both sides, a clear panel to see your settings and D rings on either side to carry it over your shoulder if needed.
OK enough about the bags already, here are the most important parts of the 1200 Pro. The battery pack and the head. For anyone familiar with Flashpoint strobes the controls are the same and will look very familiar to you. I find this an excellent development of their ecosystem so we don’t have to relearn controls when new products are released. The 1200 Pro is no exception.
I want to bring up a user error (meaning me) event that occured. When I plugged the head into the pack I ‘thought‘ I had seated the plug well. The modeling light came on, the pack powered up, but when I tried to test flash the unit from either the test flash button on the pack or my trigger, nothing. Well in the end I had NOT fully seated the plug into the pack’s receptor completely. Total user error.
Like the 600 Pro the 1200 Pro comes with its own reflector and protective cap. As well as a stepless and smooth metal swivel mount.
The flash tube and the outer glass housing are separate units. Both fit very securely into the flash head.
The battery lever ejects a handle at which time it’s very easy to pull the battery from the pack.
Cooling fans flank both sides of the pack. The state of the battery’s charge level can be viewed on the pack or the battery itself by pressing the button on the battery.
A view of the interior of the pack and its battery terminals which connect to the battery. As you can see there are several attachment points which are different then the Flashpoint monolights.
My next process will be to test the 1200 Pro against the 1200 extension heads. And finally using them both with actual human subjects….unless I’m prevented due to COVID19 lockdowns. Stay tuned….
Update September 12 2020
I have improved my DIY vertical bracket for my Flashpoint 600 strobes when using a remote head. Here is a comparison between my first bracket and my new one. The new one uses a standard 1/4 20 and 3/8″ threaded spigot instead of a bolt. This makes it much more secure in fastening the strobe to the bracket.
My first version uses an M8 bolt so the head of the hex had to be ground down to fit inside the truss clamp opening. The new one uses a 3/8″ 26 thread pitch bolt which does not need to be ground down to fit inside the truss clamp. Less work to modify things is always better. You will have to enlarge the truss clamp hole to accommodate the 3/8″ bolt since it uses a smaller bolt that comes with the unit.
A Flashpoint 600 attached.
Here are the items you will need to build your own.
This is the most critical part. The normal 3/8″ spigot below uses a 16 pitch thread pattern and the brass elbow uses a 24 pitch thread. This allows them to be joined as one.
You’re welcome! LOL
Update August 31 2020
Although this is not specifically about my DIY holder I wanted to alert people that Flashpoint has added what I consider to be a vital change to their Pro series 600 strobes. Something as simple as an extra hole in the light stand swivel allows me to mount the strobe PARALLEL to the light stand. This is important to me when I use the remote head (which is most of the time) with the strobe. Although I’m using another DIY mounting system with a truss clamp you can now use a simple super clamp to do the same thing.
Update May 29 2018
David sent me a note (which is in the comments below) stating that the 8mm nut I specify is not the correct size. So I measured the bolt with my micrometer. I don’t want to disassemble the pin so my suggestion is for you to take your 90 degree brass fitting to any hardware store and measure the threads on one of their nut/bolt measuring stations.
What is that mount you use to place the AD600 on a boom or lightstand when using the H600 remote head?
I had this article in my review of the AD600/xPLOR600 post. But so many people contact me about the self fabricated brackets I use to mount my xPLOR/Godox 600s on lightstands, I decided to copy the article about the brackets here as a separate post. To my knowledge no one makes a bracket that runs parallel with a lightstand so you can mount your strobe on the stand’s column. If you know of one other than what I describe below, please place a comment on this page so others can buy one.
I fabricated the mount I use because I could not find anything with a 90 degree angle that would not spin on a boom no matter how tight I’d tighten it down. My first try was with my trusty Manfrotto Superclamps which are great. But due to the weight/leverage of the AD600 base it just would not stay put enough for my taste. So I decided to use a truss clamp which never spins. But I had to fabricate the mounting…. (oh and thanks for asking if you can buy them from me, but I’m a pro shooter, not a pro fabricator….)
- ADJ Products JR-CLAMP Stage
- Anderson Metals Brass Pipe Fitting, Barstock 90 Degree Elbow, 1/4″ x 1/4″ Female Pipe
- Two 8mm bolts. One 10mm long, the second 30mm long not fully threaded
- One 8mm nut
The 10mm long bolt goes inside the truss clamp. It is necessary to grind or file down two opposing sides so the head of the bolt will fit in the recessed portion of the clamp and not spin when tightened. The upright bolt is the longer 30mm one that is screwed into the other end of the brass pipe fitting which becomes your light mount. Once you have tightened the bolt into the pipe fitting you will need to cut off the head of the bolt and either grind or file it down. The 8mm nut secures it to the pipe fitting so it does not loosen from the pipe fitting. I notched the stud so the screw from the AD600 would rest in that notch as an extra measure of safety in case the screw from the AD600 loosens.
Update August 31 2020
I wanted to alert people that Flashpoint has added what I consider to be a vital change to their Pro series 600 strobes. I mentioned it in my original post below, but wanted to bring it up again. Something as simple as an extra hole in the light stand swivel allows me to mount the strobe PARALLEL to the light stand. This is important to me when I use the remote head (which is most of the time) with the strobe. Although I’m using another DIY mounting system with a truss clamp you can now use a simple super clamp to do the same thing. Also when possible I only purchase light stands that have a removable spigot at the top which allows me to have the spigot vertical (as all do) with another hole that allows a horizontal placement. Options, shooting for me is all about options.
UPDATE June 2 2018
I installed the optional rear handle onto the Pro and love it. Being able to use the handle to adjust the angle of the strobe when it’s on a stand is so welcomed. Even though I often use a focusing rod modifier I do NOT like to use the rod as a lever to angle the strobe, so I simply hold the modifier to adjust the angle. There is one issue with the item I received. In order to install the handle you must remove the four Allen head bolts and use the longer ones which are supplied. I received two hex wrenches and I originally thought that they were different sizes, but they are the same. The issue is they both are TOO LARGE to remove or install the bolts. Luckily I have a huge tool supply and had the correct size of hex key. The supplier should investigate whether I just received an anomaly pack or if they’ve spec’d the wrong hex key.
The second issue is more of an annoyance than an actual issue. After I installed the handle the Pro would not fit into the cool little case that comes with the unit. Sad, I really like that case…sigh! But more importantly even with the handle installed it still fits nicely into my Pelican Case which is the one I use for airline transport. I recommend the handle, especially when a heavy modifier is mounted to the Pro.
UPDATE April 4 2018
My client has just released the press imagery for Hunchback of Notre Dame so I am now able to share them. The session was held on location in Seattle at the Volunteer Park Water Tower which is four stories. After obtaining the required permits we had to lug all of the grip and lighting gear up four stories and I HATE LUGGING! LOL… Because the remote head was not yet available I didn’t use any focusing arms for this session. My modifiers of choice were the Elinchrom 69″ Octa and the SMDV 110cm octa. I used the 600Pro in the Eli and an xPLOR600 in the SMDV.
UPDATE March 15 2018
During recent client sessions, both of which were on location I had the opportunity to use the AD600 Pro in combination with a number of modifiers. Because the remote head for the Pro is not yet released I did not use any focusing rod modifiers. In one session whose images I cannot at this time, I used the Pro in an Elinchrom 69″ Octa with both diffusion panels installed. I did not go over 1/4 power and was shooting HSS with my Pentax 645Z. The unit performed flawlessly.
In the session I can post images below I used the Pro in a SMDV 44″ (110cm) octa with both diffusion panels installed. The interior of the theatre where I was doing these portraits was very dark so I appreciated the very bright modeling light so that I could easily obtain focus. To date I’ve found the Pro model exemplary in recycle time, modeling light and ease of use.
UPDATE: February 21 2018
Yesterday I was able to utilize the Pro during a commercial session. Here are my observations:
- The modeling light is VERY bright, as bright as my former Einstein strobes.
- IF I use the modeling light at any power that enables the fan, the battery life is much shorter than the AD600. My session was only three hours and at the end of it I had only one bar left on power. Keep in mind that I was using the modeling light at 100% during the entire session. The strobe only went to sleep after 30 minutes of non use. I will need to experiment with power control on this unit, i.e, modeling light, sleep time, etc.
- The swivel mechanism is MUCH MORE ROBUST and far easier to adjust than the AD600. I tend to adjust the position of my lights often and in incremental steps during my sessions and the ability to pivot the modifier is excellent. Not having a ratcheting mechanism makes all the difference.
- The recycling times are extraordinary. Literally no waiting for the strobe to recycle IF you’re not using 1:1 power. One second can seem like a lifetime when I’m shooting, but I seldom use 1:1 in rapid shooting. Normally in studio I’m at power levels of 1/32 to 1/2 at the most. I’m not a “spray and pray” shooter so when I say that I shoot at will, it’s when I see a gesture or expression that I want. And at those power levels it allows me to shoot at will.
- Because the unit swivels so freely I will purchase the optional handle when it’s released. Although I plan to use the Pro with focusing arm modifiers and can use those to pivot the strobe, I’d prefer to use the handle.
That’s it for now. I used the Pro with the Adorama 65″ Glow Easy Lock X-Large Deep Beaded Silver Fiberglass Umbrella. Incredible modifier which I’m finding can rival my focusing arm modifiers in some instances!
I debated waiting to write an entire review of my experience using the new Flashpoint Godox AD600Pro strobe until I had tested most of the items important to me. Because this is my high season it would take me about six months to do a soup to nuts review. So I’m opting to write my findings piecemeal meaning – as I go along. Sorry, but I felt it best to do it this way for this strobe. As I integrate the unit into my workflow I will make mental notes and add my findings to this review.
Also since I almost exclusively use focusing arm modifiers now, I probably won’t have extensive use of the Pro until the remote head is released.
Things that are immediately apparent as improvements over the Flashpoint Godox AD600 units:
- The swivel adjustment is nice and smooth now. No more ratcheting which I hated and modified on my units.
- The modeling light is B R I G H T and adjustable to the output of the strobe. Like my old Einsteins. Love that
- The swivel mount now allows you to place the unit in a vertical (parallel to the light stand) position using a SuperClamp and a stud.
- I like the power button located on the bottom of the unit rather than the side. When I pack my strobes into my Pelican cases I often worry about the units turning on due to the pressure from the foam pads. So I always detach the batteries which airlines don’t like in checked luggage. Also simply pressing the power button now turns to unit off immediately. I like that. You must hold the power button down for 2-3 seconds to power the unit up.
- The Bowens mount seems much more snug than the AD600. But that depends on the modifier too.
Some people ‘may’ feel that the build quality is ‘better’ on the Pro but I never thought the AD600 exhibited poor build quality….except for the irritating ratcheting swivel which has been completely removed as well as improved. BTW the swivel adjusting handle can be moved by pulling and re-positioning it in the event the handle is being blocked by the strobe’s body or any attachments.
I’ve had zero issues with my units, only with the early remote heads where the LED modeling lights would fail after two months. If trolls are concerned about what happens if they drop the strobe, hell any strobe….well best of luck to them.
Of course the real aspect of the Pro will be the light quality/battery life/recycle time. I’m very interested in recycle times and the Masking feature. For color consistency a separate menu choice like the Einsteins is great. But during those times my clients need absolute precise color I have never depended upon strobe color temperature, but instead the X-Rite Digital ColorChecker Passport and a recently calibrated monitor.
I have confirmed that the new Flashpoint/Godox AD600 Pro works in HSS with the Pentax 645Z as explained in this post.
In preparation for a session this week I plan on using the Pro with my 69″ Elinchrom Octa WITHOUT a focusing rod. The session calls for a Vanity Fair style of light, so I will use ultra soft lighting which the Eli 69 delivers in spades.
Further aspects and more will be forthcoming….stay tuned.
For any of you who follow my blog it should be very apparent how impressed I have been with the Saberstrip v2.0 which uses the Godox/Flashpoint 200ws strobe instead of a speed light like their SS v1.0. A few years ago I was very fortunate to test their new prototype and gave them some feedback about the unit. It was very minor and I anxiously awaited the final release. And waited, and waited, and….well you get the picture.
I used the v2.0s during many different sessions, but I found they worked so well for my studio dance imagery they became my defacto lights for dance. You can read about my impressions and experiences in my post about the Saberstrip v2.0.
Recently a visitor to my site made me aware of a similar light modifier by Strobius, their StrobiStrip 100. I also found another modifier the FOTOCREAT 3″×20″(8×50cm) Strip Flash Diffuser Softbox on Amazon. So I purchased one of each to see how they compared to the SSv2.0. Both of those units are designed to be used with speed lights, but since the 200 is close in shape and size to the end of a speed light I figured they’d fit the 200. And they do indeed.
Both the Strobistrip and the Fotocreat are very similar in materials and design. Both use a rip stop translucent fabric as diffusion material, ballistic nylon for the body and silver fabric to reflect light on the interiors. Velcro attaches the tube together as well. The Strobistrip differs as it uses a semi rigid piece of clear plastic to keep the shape of the tube consistent and I imagine more evenly reflects light throughout the tube. Because it breaks down it’s a very clever design.
I’m a firm believer that you never get something for nothing. The SSv2.0 is a remarkable modifier but it is bulky to carry since it is a solid tube. The other two are much smaller when packed down. About the size of a man’s travel bag for his toothbrush, shaving kit, etc. So trading portability for size, I assumed that the light output would not be the same. So I tested all of them.
My Testing Chart of all three Modifiers
As you can see the SSv2.0 has the most consistent and efficient use of the light. The StrobiStrip 100 was less consistent and efficient than the SSv2.0. The FOTOCREAT was all over the place in terms of its light output along the length of the tube. I returned the FOTOCREAT as it is too small for my work and the inconsistent light output along its length made it unattractive for my taste.
In examining the interior of the SSv2.0 he follows the same design as his v1.0 unit. A very cleverly placed piece of ramped reflecting material at the opposite end of the strobe’s socket must increase the light furthest from the source to make it so even.
I also feel that the StrobiStrip’s use of clear plastic to help hold the tube’s shape also adds to the interior’s reflective value helps with its light efficiency and consistency.
One of the most ingenuous design elements of the SSv2.0 is how it mounts the AD200 to the tube. He has developed what I refer to as the ‘tractor tire’ with a 3/8” peg that will fit into any standard light stand socket. The tube rotates around the tractor tire giving me the ability to easily adjust the direction of the diffusion fabric. I’m not talking about your normal x/y adjustment, but the z axis without disturbing the other two axis’s.
I have come to depend on that wonderful design feature. So when I tried to use the Flashpoint eVOLV 200 Round Flash Head attachment on my eVOLV 200 with the StrobiStrip in hopes that it would allow it to smoothly rotate around the strobe I was thrilled! There is enough Velcro to still securely attach the modifier to the strobe, but with the round head, it allows a smooth rotation around the strobe! The OEM Fresnel head does work as well, but the round head is much better to use in rotating the modifier.
In the following two images you can see that I can rotate the modifier around the strobe which is one of the features of the SSv2.0 I fell in love with.
I wanted to determine if the StrobiStrip 100 holds up to high wind as well as my SSv2.0s. Yep they do just fine. The modifier is around 5-11 up in the air on a light stand.
I will keep an eye on the StrobiStrip fabric which is wrinkled when assembled. I doubt it will pose issues in the quality of light. If so I will report back here.
I have used my SSv2.0s so much that one of the tubes has started to split, so I just used gaff tape to repair it. The other one’s diffusion fabric started to fray so I used some superglue on it. IF Saberstrip ever decides to manufacture them I will be first in line. But until or IF they do and I need more tube modifiers I’m glad to have been made aware of the StrobiStrip 100s. I keep mine built and will break them down once COVID19 is over and I have to travel for work again.
If you want to try tube modifiers with an AD200 they are the ones I recommend.
Update June 5 2020
I have found an alternative to the SSv2.0 which you can view here.
November 27 2019
I am very sad to report that I can no longer recommend the SaberStrip v2.0. I have attempted to contact Scott the owner of SaberStrip to no avail. Not even a peep. My feeling is ignoring an email or Instagram message is not acceptable or polite. A visitor to this site had written to me since he had ordered a v1.0 SS and never heard back…until he asked for a refund. That was promptly answered.
Sad since it’s a great modifier, but when something cannot be purchased it becomes vaporware. When I find an alternative I will post it to my blog.
January 13 2019
I continue to be absolutely amazed at the flexibility and versatility of the v2.0 Saberstrips. As of this writing I do know that Scott has not yet offered these for sale to the general public. The reason I continue to post my findings here is in hopes of motivating some of you to contact him to ‘hurry him along‘ in the sale of these modifiers. In addition to dance, their form factor and quality of light make them invaluable in my tool kit. Seriously – combined with the AD200 strobes I feel they are a revolution in modifiers. Here are just a few of the in studio dance imagery created using these lights.
Update November 19 2018
I continue to be so impressed how using two v2.0 Saberstrips can produce the light I so love which could only be created with a ring light. But the huge difference is since the lights are NOT attached to the camera, I can use a long lens, yet keep the lighting near the talent. This was taken with a Canon EF 85mm f1.2 lens. The versatility of these modifiers is incredible.
Not to mention my use of them in dance imagery creation.
Several of you have written to me asking when Scott will release these modifiers. I highly suggest you write to him on his website to ask. I continue to encourage him to release these modifiers.
Update October 14 2018
I recently conducted a studio dance session using three Saberstrip v2.0s combined with a Mole Richardson Fresnel spotlight I have converted to a strobe. I continue to be so amazed and impressed by the versatility and light quality of the second generation Saberstrips. As I’ve stated before I’m just scratching the surface of what can be accomplished with these remarkable lighting tools.
Each of these images were created using a combination of Fresnel/Saberstrip light modifiers.
Update September 17 2018
Yesterday I conducted an all day dance session. I found that utilizing three v2.0 Saberstrips with 3 Flashpoint AD200s produced remarkable light for studio dance. Rim lights, using two Saberstrips and one overhead light produced the exact mood I was trying to achieve. Seriously this combination is incredible for my dance work.
Update August 1 2018
I recently used the v2 Saberstrips in on location sessions in Seattle. Man I could not have done it without them! You can read about it here.
I have also completed a publicity shoot using two Saberstrips for a West Side Story publicity image as shown below.
Like most other folks and way before I began shooting as a full time pro, I had a day job. It was during this time I discovered a very unique light modifier called the SaberStrip. What was so intriguing to me is its shape and the quality of light it produces. I was a bit suspicious when I first received my Strip because it seemed like ‘just a high quality shipping tube’ with some rip stop nylon as the modifier’s cover. Also this was back in the day when I was almost exclusively using speed lights, but had two PCB Einsteins for my ‘studio work.’ And this was well before the advent of built in radio receivers in speed lights, so I had to use a pigtail cable connected to my speed light inside the tube to attach it to the Phottix Transmission receiver I was using at the time. A bit of a hassle, but it was the only thing that existed at the time, which was ‘high tech’ for that era.
Although I loved the quality of light it produced, for me the power or rather lack of power of the speed light relegated the Strip to my closet. I tried to fabricate my own ‘Strip’ for my Einsteins, but found out it was not as easy as I thought. So I basically gave up and moved on to other things.
In 2013 I decided to create a series of images about the hands of artists which included both performing as well as creating artists. Since I wanted to shoot the talent in their natural environments I found that all of my ‘normal’ modifiers would not work well due to space. In some cases I had literally 10 inches or less to place a light and modifier to light the talent! So as I was rummaging through my gear closet I happened upon my Strip that I had doomed to its lonely existence in the back of my modifier closet. Eureka! That’s the perfect tool for this job and since most of the venues I was shooting in were very small I would not need a ton of light power so my speed light would do just fine.
By happenstance the Director of the Peninsula Museum of Art saw one of my images and asked to see the rest. She then asked if I’d consider having a solo exhibit at the museum the following year. I politely told her no and when she inquired as to the reason for my decision I simply replied “I don’t think my work is good enough for a museum and I think it would be very narcissist to do that.” She simply smiled and said OK. Later one of the artist I know mentioned that he had heard I was offered a solo museum exhibit but turned it down. Werner asked me if I ever go to museum exhibits to which I responded “Why yes, I love going, why?” His response was typical Werner, direct and to the point; “Well quit being so fucking selfish and let others enjoy and be inspired by what you’ve created Mark!” I’m seldom if ever at a loss for words but I had nothing to say. So I contacted the Director and agreed to display my work which I titled “29 Hands, 15 Artists.” With the exception of one of the images, all were lit with my Strip and a speed light.
Fast forward to today, 2018 and I was made aware of SaberStrip’s v2.0 version of the Strip which accepts an eVOLV200! In March 2018 I was shipped two advanced copies of the modifiers to test to see if I could offer any feedback. Here’s what I’ve found so far:
The 200 is inserted into the bottom of the modifier through what I call the “Tractor Tire” the designer fabricated it to attach the 200. I believe his design is to offer strength to the mount. I simply like to think he liked Tonka Trucks as a kid! The knurled knob on the left in this photo is the turning knob that screws the 200 in place. The other nice design feature is you can eject the battery of the 200 without removing it from the modifier, a very thoughtful design element.
Sorry for the shitty camera phone blurry image. The red thing you see at the top of this shot indicates that the screw is NOT attached to the 200 which is a very nice feature. One of the things that I found to be a design issue, it’s very easy to over tighten the screw. There’s no need to do so because it makes it VERY difficult to unscrew the unit from the mount. I learned the hard way and had to use a screwdriver and hammer to loosen the screw.
It’s also not possible to let the eVOLV slide down into the tube because there are ribs on the interior which keeps the strobe from sliding too far into the unit. I believe he may have other plan since those interior ribs seem to be reinforcements for four exterior metal nipples. Barn door or grid accessories for the future? Perhaps.
I painted a directional arrow on the housing to indicate which direction to loosen the mounting screw.
What the interior looks like in the v2.0 Strip. You can see the reinforcing supports which prevent the eVOLV from sliding too far into the tube.
Although most people will not have to do this, I ground down the mounting peg that is cast into the housing. This allows me to easily insert the peg into female mounts I use to place the modifier in either a vertical or horizontal position. Although the v2.0 Strip works extremely well in stands which offer the mounting peg to be in a vertical or horizontal position, not all light stands offer that option. When I travel to other cities I often have to rent stands and not all rental houses have adjustable spigot locations on their stands.
This is why I needed to shave down the diameter of the molded peg. It would not fit as cast. I find these female spigots invaluable in my gear bag.
I plan to use these to mimic a ‘ring light’ because I can now leave the modifier and strobe very close to the talent and back away to shoot with a long lens. Not possible with traditional ring lights. Also since the eVOLVS have modeling lights in the Fresnel head I now have a modeling light in this configuration. Sure, not brightest modeling light, but way better than none.
Canon 1DXII EF135 lens ISO 100 both AD200s set at 1/8 power. 1/5000th f2.0
In those instances where I want to place the v2.0 Strip close to the ground I will simply use a Godox S bracket as a base. This configuration will be perfect for dance shoots as fill lights or anytime you wish to place the units very low onto a flat surface.
|SaberStrip v1.0||SaberStrip v2.0||w/2 eVOLVS and SS|
|Light||Flashpoint Zoom R2||Evolv200|
|Flash weight||17 oz||31 oz|
|Distance to Sekonic||5 feet||5 feet|
|Time to Recycle||6.8 sec||1.57 sec|
|Length of fabric||29″||29″|
|Width of fabric||2.25″||2.25″|
|Length of modifier||38.5″||34.75″|
|Diameter of modifier||3.5″||3.5″|
|Saberstrip Weight||19 oz||27 oz|
For me the most significant stats are the recycle time and power. It’s the very reason I stopped using my original speed light Strip, it just lacked power. And in my work a one second delay feels like 12 years. Human expressions change in a nanosecond and invariably it’s the money shot I wanted, but missed because the strobe was recycling. Two full stops and five seconds faster in recycle time makes this modifier an incredible tool.
The ‘tube’ freely rotates around the mount so it can easily and conveniently turn the fabric to any position needed. There’s also a very small 1/4 inch 20 screw hole in the ‘tractor tire’ housing. I’m not sure why the guy put one there but it’s damn convenient. I plan to place a female mounting stud in there so I can either mount the Strip with the built in male stud or a female one. It should be noted that if you place a long ¼ 20 screw into that hole it will stop the free rotation of the tube. So IF you are the anal type and want to lock down the tube’s rotation you can do that with this screw hole.
This coming weekend I have three personal project shoots and I plan to test the light quality and applications in those sessions. I’m not sure how many times the Strip v2.0 will be my key light, but now that the recycle times and the power available through this meets my needs I’m sure it will always be in my bag.
Having a stand, a strobe and a modifier all in one easy to transport package is great for run and gun shooting, especially outside in moderate to high wind. My preferred stand for these is the Neewer Light Stand, 114 inches/290 centimeters Stainless Steel Heavy Duty with 1/4-inch to 3/8-inch Universal Adapter. It has a removable spigot that can be configured for either a vertical or horizontal female mount which is perfect for the new Strips. They are well made, strong and inexpensive.
The number of ways to mount the Strip seems endless. My current favorite grip mount for the Strip is the Matthews Mini Grip Head. I modified it by drilling out one of the holes to 9/16th of an inch which fits the Strip’s 5/8th inch stud.
What I like:
- High quality Construction
- Built in male mounting stud
- Ability to rotate the modifier around two axis
- Accepts the Evolv200
- Well balanced, having the strobe at the mounting end of the modifier
- Very wind resistant
- Will fit into very tight spaces
- Male stud needs to be the 5/8th inch size standard of all spigots
- Wheel that attaches the strobe needs to have directional arrows.
- Wheel needs to prevent over tightening
During the weekend of April 21st 2018 I had my first opportunity to use the v2 Sabers in studio. I wanted to determine if paring them in a horizontal way would give me the ring light type of affect. I’ve always loved the look of a ring light shot, but have been frustrated that the distance of the light to the talent is limited by the focal length of my lens. Using my ring light further away to compress the talent’s face meant that the light is also further away, causing a harsher look. But using two Strips horizontal to the ground with the ability to adjust the distance between them allows me to leave the light source close to the talent, yet move further back to use a longer focal length. Having my cake and eating it too is wonderful!
The images below show how this worked on Jessica and I’m very happy with the results. Shot with a 135mm prime lens.
The flexibility of being able to angle the pitch of the Strips and distance between them is wonderful. More control than a ring light. As a fill/rim light I have not experienced a better modifier. Reflectors make great fill or rim light modifiers, but I have always preferred strobes for that task. It allows me finer control of my fill light.
By changing the angle of the top Strip in the image of Jess with her arm above her head I am able to cast a bit of a shadow on her eyes while filling in under her eyes to prevent shadows. That flexibility allows me to create nuance shadow/highlights with the Strips.
Here I am using the Strips as a fill and rim light. All of these images are three light shots. My 10” Fresnel is the key light, a gobo modifier is used on a light to create pattern on the background and the Strip is used as a fill/rim light.
The control of the Strip as a fill light is quite lovely and can be used as subtle or as bold as you wish. Here are two more images I created using two SS’s in parallel as a ‘ring light’ but in my view with a much better result.
Oh and large groups in moderate to strong wind? I was recently at a client to cover the high school musical awards and prior to the event kids assemble outside. It’s often a fun place to get group shots before the show. The issue is always crowded sidewalks and of course crazy high school kids. I shot this image with ONE SS and one eVOLV200 at HALF POWER.
I recently visited Luna Cycle in El Segundo to do some documentary photography of the staff. In the vast majority of cases the SS were used due to their flexibility and light quality. As in my 29 Hands Exhibit I was able to use the SS to light the talent in places where it would be almost impossible to fit a modifier in the space I had available and achieve a quality of light I wanted. Below is an example of one of the shots.
My apologies as I know you won’t be able to ‘unsee’ the image that follows, but to date it illustrates the rim lighting capabilities of the Strip. During this session I was to shoot two Drag Queens. The fella on the left is 6-1 without heels and with his 4” heels it makes him 6-5! I used the Strip as a rim light and if you notice the illumination from head to toe it’s quite remarkable. Could this be accomplished with a gridded light? Of course it could. But due to the very slim shape of the Strip it allowed me to get as close to the back drape as possible keeping spill to a minimum and certainly much less than a softbox without a grid.
Outdoors with the Strip is quite good. It is ‘almost’ impervious to wind, high wind. It is more wind resistant than my go to outdoor modifier, the PCB Omni. The disadvantage is since the Strip uses the AD200 it is a full stop less powerful than the AD600 I use with the Omni or my Aputure Fresnel head. But to circumvent that disadvantage I often use two Strips as a key light when outdoors. And in those instances where I want a very large light source I use three Strips configured in a Y shape. I find it’s the equivalent to a 45” octa with 600ws of power. Ever use something that size out in moderate or high wind? And I use all three on a single stand.
My partner recently conducted a head shot session using two of the Strips. She used one as the key and the other as a rim light. It was very windy under the concrete bridge where she was shooting and the Strips barely wobbled. The light quality is excellent and easily replicated her preferred modifier, a Glow 36” Octa. But in that kind of wind, especially the gusts that occurred an octa would have been quite the handful. She does prefer the catch light of the octa, a personal preference to which many people may agree. I happen to feel that round catch lights are the default, yet in natural light a catch light is anything but round…..
As you can see the quality of light produced by the Strip is excellent. Two lights, both Strips. One as the key light the other as a rim light.
Is it the perfect modifier? Nope, but as of right now there is no perfect modifier. Just like there’s not a perfect camera, lens or person. Is it the most versatile modifier I currently own or use? YES! For me the v2 Saber Strips are revolutionary and I have not even scratched the surface of how they can be used. Thank goodness for the AD200 lights and Scott’s development to incorporate them into the Saber Strips! Scott has mentioned that the v2 versions which use the eVOLV200s will be available in late July 2018.
Update May 7 2020
For my work I have found the optimum strobe for my Parabolix 35D. The XPLOR (or Godox) 300 Pro.
UPDATE December 9 2019
The Parabolix 35D’s quality of light combined with its focusing ability is just superb. I use the optional grid system when I want to control the light spread when using another gobo instrument.
UPDATE September 20 2019
I recently utilized this very capable modifier during a dance session along with an impromptu portrait. As I’ve mentioned before the modifier is well built and most important produces excellent quality of light. I tend to not use it as much as before simply because I have fabricated my own focusing rod that accepts any Bowens modifier. And btw for those who wish to spend time arguing about whether this or that modifier is ‘truly a parabola’ be my guest. My test of light is how it performs for me in actual shoots, not in theory.
But like all of my tools, when the Parabolix is the right tool for the right job I never hesitate to utilize it.
UPDATE January 10 2018
I recently used the 35D during a publicity shoot for a symphony. The amount of control focusing rod modifiers offer is incredible. Not to mention the goddess light it produces.
UPDATE December 24 2017
How one of my clients used a publicity image created while using a Parabolix 35D.
UPDATE September 10 2017
I recently posted an article on my use of all Godox units in one session. The article includes the use of this product. You can view that post here.
UPDATED September 8 2017
My client, the 5th Avenue Theatre in Seattle, WA released the images created using the Parabolix 35D six weeks early. You can see some of these and other shots from this day in Broadway World. I used four lights using the Parabolix as key for most of the images below:
Please note that for all of the images below I have NOT done any post processing other than bringing the files into Lightroom to adjust color balance, lens correction. If you look closely you can see the gaff tape marks on the seamless which have not yet been removed for final press images.
The following images were shot with three lights. The client wanted an old school “Hollywood Glamour” look for these shots in BW. High contrast was achieved by using the 35D in its fully focused mode. The drapes were lit using eVOLV 200s using a Fresnel head.
UPDATED September 3 2017
You can view my recent dance session where I used the 35D for many of the shots to produce dramatic shadows and light.
UPDATED August 20 2017
Yesterday I conducted a test of the Parabolix 35D with focusing arm. I asked Cheyenne to be the talent since she’s so darn lovely to work with! Now if you are looking for a ‘side by side’ comparison with other modifiers using split screens, etc. quit reading and save yourself some time. I am NOT a review site. I don’t value pseudo scientific or theoretical physics. Photography is not an exact science it’s all subjective. Those who never post any actual images or a body of work have zero credibility to me. And if they do have a body of work I get to judge for myself if the quality of that work is high. If so then their opinion is of value to me. So for you photography trolls who never post shit other than H8R comments, save yourself the having to be right mentality and bail now.
I seldom if EVER use one single light. So I didn’t test the Parabolix 35D that way. Sure it may produce the thing you want to see, but again since I’m NOT a review site, but a working shooter I needed to see how it performs in my situations. In the tests I ran yesterday I want to see how the 35D compares to my CononMark 120, and my Westcott Zeppelin 59 which I use as inverted octas and have for the past year. Yep they’re all different sizes, the 35D is, well 35″, the CononMark 120 is 47″ and the Zep is 59″. I didn’t want to purchase an equivalent size to what I already have. (Yet I do have a Zep 47″….!)
I used my 59″ Zep with the inner diffusion panel only with an xPLOR600 powering their handheld remote head. As you can see in the image above I had it on a boom pointing straight down over Cheyenne. Keep in mind that the BTS shot of my BTS shoot was not necessarily where she was actually standing for the shots below. I took the shot above JUST TO GIVE YOU an idea of my configuration.
All images were shot with my Pentax 645Z. And if you look closely you will see the old USB receivers plugged into the xPLOR600s. Why? Because I just discovered how to achieve HSS with my Pentax whose native sync speed is only 1/125th of a second. Using a Cactus v6II trigger combined with the old FT-16 transmitter did the trick. If interested, I’ve written how to do it here. Most of the shots were at a shutter speed of either 1/200th or 1/250th.
Below each photograph I’ve said whether I used the Parabolix is its ‘flooded’ or ‘focused’ position. If you don’t know, flooded means the strobe head is pushed all the way out toward the front of the modifier. Focused means it’s pulled all the way into the modifier. Flooded gives you a much softer look, focused is way more contrasty. You should also know that no matter what modifier you use be it a Zeppelin, CononMark, Parabolix or other brand, you must adjust your power settings when you flood or focus the light.
The other aspect of the photos below is they have NOT been retouched, edited to final, blah blah blah. Why? Well for two reasons. Cheyenne is confident enough to allow images of her unretouched and second it is my preference to illustrate light tests. When I see ‘final test shots’ that have gone through loads of post processing I cannot actually tell how the light performs for my taste. I don’t want to see plastic skin, dodged and burnt images. I want to see how the shot came out of cam. So these were brought into Lightroom, adjusted for color and that’s it. No blemishes were removed (like she has any anyway!), no skin smoothing. None of that shit for my tests.
So my final impression of the Parabolix 35D? I like it. Do I plan to replace all of my other modifiers with them? Uh no, here’s why…
I love the construction of the unit, it’s high quality. The fabrics are spot on and the focusing rod is just as nice as the Bron Para I rented last year. Is it 2.6 times better than my CononMark 120? Not sure really. Will I keep it? Yes as I don’t have a 35″ inverse, but WILL test it against my favorite Elinchrom Rotalux Deep Octa later this month. Prior to using xPLOR/Godox strobes I was a very loyal user of Paul’s Einsteins. For me they presented the best value/performance of any brand of light. But I ended up switching ALL of my strobes over to the xPLOR/Godox brand. The amount of innovation and features they present sadly eclipsed Paul’s units after his passing. It’s no secret that I’ve always felt he was a genius and I sorely miss his innovation in lighting along with his quirky nature as a person.
But unlike my move from exclusively Einstein’s to exclusively xPLORs, I will most likely NOT make the move from CononMark/Zeppelins/Elinchroms to exclusively Parabolix. I know there are those who may feel/’prove’/argue/compare that the Parabolix is THAT MUCH BETTER and good for them. Time will tell me how much I like the modifier. I may change my mind after a year or so. Every person is different in what they look for. I tend to eat at hole in the wall places owned by families whose food is out of this world. But then again that’s just my opinion and taste. I will occasionally venture into a Michael Mina restaurant recommended by those who love the name and rave about the food. But that’s just not my thing. As long as my clients and I are thrilled with my work, that’s really all that matters to me. I’m certainly NOT dissing the Parabolix at all. It’s a fine modifier. It’s up to each person to decide for themselves. What I would recommend is to wait until a rental house has some to rent. Rent one, try it out and then decide if it’s right for yours/your client’s taste and budget.
Today I received my Parabolix 35D ‘kit’ which means I purchased their package which includes their focusing arm and strobe cage. I will be testing the light this Saturday with a model to ascertain if I plan to add this to my toolbox of modifiers. I will initially say that the construction of the unit is excellent. The 16 rods are much like those in the CononMark and Elinchrom Rotalux Deep Octa that I own. The rods are captured in the speed ring and pivot and held in place with sprung collars.
The fabric of the exterior is similar to very heavy canvas, the type I was accustomed to handling while sailing. Heavy and well made. The interior texture is much like my Elinchrom which is a pebbled texture. Once I am able to actually use this modifier I will update this post.
One of the things I noticed right away is the light pattern of the modifier when the modeling light is on. Unlike my other modifiers which include Zeppelins, Elinchroms, CononMarks and Glowpops the Parabolix fills more evenly than the others. Now the real test of the light will happen this Saturday when in actual use, but this is interesting.
The bag that is supplied with the modifier is made of the same sturdy fabric as the modifier itself. It seems very abrasion resistant which is something I appreciate given how much I transport gear on airlines. I was worried that I would not be able to fit the modifier, focusing rod and strobe cage into the bag, but they all fit. I can even fit the grid I received with the modifier into the bag as well. The bag includes an attached adjustable shoulder strap.
Hi, if you’ve stopped by to read about my latest blog post regarding a specific piece of gear, it’s best to keep moving along. Nope, this post is about all that went into a recent publicity shoot I just completed. A big part of the job is developing the look and feel for a campaign. After viewing some of Annie Leibovitz’s work, my partner and I felt using painted drops for a number of the sessions would create the feeling we wanted. After investigating the cost of hand painted drops she discovered that good ones range anywhere between $1000 to $1800 dollars for a 12×12 foot size. So..
We went to our local theatrical supply store where she purchased the fabric and then it was onto the paint store. In total, two 12x12s, three 8×6 foot drops including the paint and tools came to just over 500 bucks. She plans to use the smaller drops for her headshot business too.
We spoke to our client about the concepts and he generously allowed us to use the theatre’s Green Room to paint the drops. We needed space, but just as important a wood floor where the canvases could be stapled to the floor. His Green Room had both. Once done we showed him the mood board we assembled for the concept and it was at that point all of us became very excited. Since it is the theatre’s 80th anniversary season, he wanted something special. So we presented the following concepts for the imagery:
We also presented the idea of including behind the scenes shots of the sessions. EVERYONE including myself loves BTS imagery and film. I still get goosebumps thinking about Game of Thrones BTS film of Beyond the Wall. The client immediately approved the concept so we were off to the races. Logistics is one of the most tedious aspects of any shoot. Scheduling talent, securing the venue, preparing wardrobe, makeup, props is just part of a shoot. I’m consulted on the type of wardrobe, colors, etc. which has nothing to do with the camera or lighting gear I’m using…but…
The type of lighting instruments I plan to use really does depend on the mood, the costumes and the setting for each session. I know so many forum trolls like to pretend they are skilled in light when they argue about if a modifier is a true parabola or not. Go right ahead and argue about it, but for me and most importantly my clients, how something looks and feels is what matters. And will the imagery evoke enough emotion to initiate a sale, that’s the REAL question.
All of my publicity imagery is shot with my Pentax 645Z medium format. I do this for two reasons; first there is a feeling of medium format that I just cannot recreate with 35mm. Second clients often use the files for billboards, bus banner, etc. so file size can be a concern. In addition all strobes are Flashpoint 600s or 200s. Modifiers….well that’s a different story.
Sure I use focusing rod modifiers most of the time, but when those are not the right tools for the job at hand I often improvise. Like using a Cheetahstand Lantern with a cut up cheap umbrella fabric as a drape held with wooden clothespins to control spill. Or a 1965 Mole Richardson 412 Fresnel spotlight converted into a strobe. Some of my gear is used like the OEM intended yet with other modifier instruments; well I’ve just adapted them to my needs.
My whole point of this post is to highlight creativity, planning and imagination in developing imagery. Do what is right for you or for you and your client. Don’t be afraid to try things that work for you. Stay away from the naysayers, how many times have you seen their body of work beyond shitty ‘test shots’ anyway? Crickets? Exactly my point!
February 15 2020
My photography partner and I have been creating hand painted backdrops for ourselves. So it was a perfect time to use the incredibly bright constant LED light and then do a quick test of the strobe feature to see how the backdrop looks in an actual photo.
The lighting in the room where the backdrops were painted is awful! So having the FV150 turned up to 100% and modified through a lantern softbox was perfect!
This is the scene before using the FV150 during the daytime with the door and windows open.
Here are some quick test shots of actors and the director who just happened to be working in the theatre that day. So during a break I grabbed them for some quick shots using the strobe feature of the FV150. The modifier I used was a Glow 41″ EZ Lock Deep Umbrella. I just grabbed what was convenient before heading over to do the job. Pentax 645Z with my 45-85mm f4.5 lens.
Again the FV150’s strobe feature does not rival a normal bulb strobe. BUT the possibilities of its uses are endless and I have yet to even scratch the surface of what I can do creatively with this light. Stay tuned.
January 27 2020
Today I was able to test the FV150 on a human! LOL
Jenn was here for a headshot and I talked her into indulging me with a test of the FV in both LED and strobe mode. I used the CLAR Slim 10″ Round Bi-Color LED as a hair rim light. Key light modifier was my Parabolix 35D with the FV150 in mid focused position. Modifier was camera right 4 feet from Jenn pointed completely away from her face. This is my normal configuration when using that modifier. Camera is my Pentax 645Z.
So this was a two light shot test of constant lights. I’m NOT accustomed to using constant lights and for a time it felt a bit like well, cheating. WYSIWYG
I’m just about ready to put the FV150 into production after one more test. It’s a remarkable tool for the right job.
January 21 2020
I wanted to test several more aspects of this light. First if I can effectively use it in my focusing rod modifiers. Second to test the use of my Aputure Spotlight for gobos with the flash feature and then with the constant light feature.
Here is my initial setup. I am using the Chopstick Reflective Focusing System MKII. I have found this to be the best general focusing rod for my use. Versatile, well made and very sturdy. At 160.00 USD a very good value. For all of the following images I used one of my favorite modifiers, an Elinchrom 39″ Rotalux Deep Octabox which I use with and without the focusing rod.
Camera is the Pentax 645Z using a 45-85mm f4.5 lens.
This first shot is when the FV150 is full flooded in the modifier
The FV150 in strobe mode projects the same quality of light characteristic as my bulb strobes with a focusing rod.
Next was using my Aputure Spotlight with the FV150 alone without my Saberstrip v2.0 turned on for fill.
Set up for the strip of light shot.
Testing various gobos with the Aputure Spotlight and the FV150 set to full power in strobe mode.
Next I wanted to test using the FV150 as a strobe and compare it to using the LED constant light mode through a gobo and the Aputure.
So as I go about this and more testing I’m finding that like all things you don’t get something for nothing. I have been using battery powered and remote head conversion strobes for the past three years. Moving back to an AC only plug in system seems to be a bit of a pain. BUT the versatility of combining a powerful constant light AND a usable strobe in one light takes the sting out of an AC only light. I’d only tend to use this in studio, not because of the AC only aspect since I can use a generator or inverter out in the field. Nope it’s because the strobe is not strong enough to overpower the sun. At least in my view at this point even though I have not tested it in full sun.
One of my lighting mentors has been using constant LED lights outdoors so I will try this as well. One thing is so apparent to me right now; LED lights are the future of lighting, at least to me.
January 17 2020
Seriously?! OK so I just had to test HSS with my Canon 1DXII shooting 14 frames per second just to see the performance in HSS…..
No matter how long I kept the shutter depressed, NOT ONE MISFIRE OR SKIP in the flash mode! Holy crap. More testing needs to be done of course, but so far my mind is exploding with the new possibilities of this light. A constant LED AND strobe with this kind of performance? Holy shit man!
January 13 2020
I recently received and am testing what I consider to be a very exciting light the Flashpoint FV150 Hybrid R2 Continuous LED Light and HSS Flash (Godox FV150). Please note that this post is only my initial examination and testing of this light. Because I am in the height of my shooting season I have little time to fully test this light until later in the month. BUT I was SO INTRIGUED by its possibilities I sandwiched my initial evaluation between client sessions. For me this new instrument’s possibilities are mind bending!
Right off the bat a huge plus for this unit is its ability to natively attach to my Aputure Spotlight without my DIY adapter. For anyone who has tried to mount an AD600/400/etc. to the Aputure, you know that the bulb fouls against the inner lens of the Aputure unit. Not so with the FV150 since it is a flat LED light. SCORE! Plus I can now use the Aputure/FV150 combination in video with gobos. Excellent!
So here are my power test results:
I have several Westcott Skylux LED lights so I tested the FV150 against them. As you can see the FV150 is twice the brightness of the Skylux. For the strobe test I compared the FV150 to the Flashpoint XPLOR 600 HSS TTL Battery-Powered Monolight. It’s safe to say that the FV150 is about 25% the power of the 600. So in my testing I’d place it in the 150WS category.
There are a TON of features in this light I have not even examined. I will just say that my mind is exploding with concepts that I may be able to accomplish with this light that would have been much more difficult in the past to perform. For those that are thinking “Gosh isn’t this just a low powered, plug in strobe with a fancy modeling light?” I’d suggest you move along…..
For those who may see new possibilities, stay tuned – MUCH more to follow!
UPDATE February 11 2020
I wanted to update this post to link to the Photogenic Pattern Maker which is the very same unit that I have which was discontinued. Brooke, a visitor to my site, mentioned in a comment that HE recently purchased the item. Thanks Brooke!
UPDATE April 22 2018
I recently used this unit during a session with a Fresnel. It can be found here.
UPDATE April 18 2018
I recently tested the Flashpoint xPLOR600 Pro on location using my gobo device for an upcoming session. Because of the Pro’s excellent modeling light I was able to see exactly where the pattern falls even in bright daylight. Plus the LED modeling light does not generate enough heat to affect the plastic Fresnel lenses in the unit.
UPDATE March 25 2018
I decided to update this post even though the two gobo modifiers I use are sadly no longer available. The first unit I’m talking about is the SP Image Projector. It uses Rosco size B metal gobos. When it was available it was very inexpensive as well as very effective. I’m updating this post to say that I’ve adapted it to accept any Bowens strobe since I’ve switched from PCB Einsteins to Godox/xPLOR600 units. I also needed to have the ability to rotate the gobo holder so that I can angle the unit to suit my needs. When I was using the PCB strobes Paul’s mounting system allowed me to rotate the unit when attached to an Einstein. Not so with a Bowens mount so I simply used an older Bowens speed ring which allows me to rotate the SP Image Projector.
Apparently both of these gobo modifiers were not popular enough for each manufacturer to continue producing them. Sad. I know that there are companies who make gobo projectors for speedlights so all is not lost if you want to use one. Before I found any of these unit I converted a Leko 1000w tungsten theatrical follow spot into a strobe gobo modifier. I wrote a post about this crazy idea and will be converting it to accept a Bowens mount. Yeah it’s damn heavy, but produces the best light to date for gobo use paired with my 1200ws head. Just kinda impossible to take on an airplane! LOL!
UPDATE: August 4 2015
One of the great advantages of having a portable gobo/strobe combination is the ability to use patterns of light outside of a studio environment. Recently I wanted to create the illusion of a window on a painted concrete wall located in a parking structure. I loved the texture the wall provided so I simply took my gobo device, one Einstein strobe hooked to a Vagabond Mini Lithium battery. An incredible little combination for on location light pattern needs.
For years I have hauled around a full size stage follow spot just so I could use gobos in special photo shoot sessions. For anyone who knows me I seldom complain, it’s just how I was raised. But I will say that on a CONSISTENT basis my primary bitch is lugging gear. I hate it, I literally hate lifting, hauling and dragging gear to and from the airport, onto the car rental shuttle, into the rental counter, into the car, into the hotel, back out of the hotel into the car and then into the client’s venue. And then all of that in reverse. Get the picture? Assistants? Sure, but not on every assignment….
I am constantly searching for new ways to use light and shadow. Much of my work revolves around dance and although I’ve been happy with most of my work, I’m always thinking my next shot will be my best shot. I study lots of dance photographers, Lois Greenfield is just one of my favorites. Her creations for movement are delicious. After spending time in nature and watching movies I’ve become inspired to try to recreate some of the concepts I see in my dance imagery. So for my first concept I wanted to create a wall of light and a ceiling and floor of light. I determined that the most effective way for me to accomplish this task was to use my Aputure Spotlight and the Leko follow spot I converted into a strobe. Both use blades to shape and focus the light with or without a gobo. If you’re not familiar with blades in follow spots, just do some Google searching.
Prior to attempting my wall/floor/ceiling concept I wanted to try using the blades on the spotlight for more static poses dancers often perform. The next two images were created using the instruments above. The dancers I asked to help me understood that the shoot this time was not about them. Not about the desire for perfect feet, hands, etc. but about the light. I was blessed that they understood the intent for this shoot.
I then filled the room with haze so the light rays would be visible.
Test shots for walls and then floor ceiling of light.
And here are three of my light test shots.
So I will continue to chase new light, sometimes it works, sometimes it does not….at least not initially. But experimenting is the only way I’ve found to break out of my norm.
The trusty Bowens S Bracket. I’ve used them for ages. Bullet proof and reliable. My only gripes had been the terrible ratchet system which feels like dinosaur teeth grinding against bone. Having to cut the little rubber bumper on the top of the screw down mount to get an AD200 to fit. And the fact the pivot handle often fouls the modifier I’m using. Ugh. But other than those minor bitch points, it’s a nice device.
So when I received the Glow Griplite X S Type Bracket I didn’t really expect much for an additional three bucks. But I immediately noticed the much larger opening of the unit and the longer handle. You see in the past I had fabricated a handle for my tried and true S Bracket so that either I or an assistant could hold the thing with a strobe and modifier attached. In its OEM form the small light stand bracket was much too small to hold effectively. But the new handle on the Glow X is well made and just the right size. And the finger grips are a very welcome addition.
And as I examined it more one of the most welcomed changes is the smoothness of the pivot ratchet! It is SO MUCH MORE SMOOTH than the original. Fine adjustments can be made easily. So below I have outlined the subtle but oh so welcome changes to the new bracket.
In the following images you can see just how much larger the opening and shape of the strobe holder is compared to the older model.
I am now able to leave the Flashpoint Silicone Skin and Bumper attached to the strobe when inserting them into the new X Bracket. (Skin review coming soon.)
No way to fit it with the skin attached to the older bracket. (I’ve tried….)
In the past I’ve had to cut a portion of the older S Bracket’s upper rubber bumper mount so that it would extend just a tad to allow me to fit an AD200 into the unit.
Although the Bowens release lever on the older unit worked well, I prefer the new version. Easier on the fingers too.
The new X version has a very effective textured rubber pad on the top. Much nicer than the older model.
And here is something that in my view is a huge improvement. Because the handle on the older version was large, when I had a wide modifier on the unit the handle would foul on the modifier. Not so with the new unit. And yes I can crank it down to assure that the modifier does not move. Plus it seems to take less tension to hold in place.
So am I going to replace all of my older S Brackets….well yes, yes I am. The improvements to the new unit may ‘seem‘ small, but in my world the cost savings in time and cussing level is well worth the three buck difference. But hey everyone is different! Thanks for improving on what was already a bullet proof tool. Now it’s just even better.
November 18 2019
I have utilized my K5600 Big Eye Fresnel during a recent studio dance session. I have never used a large Fresnel as my key light for dance. But based on my prior testing I decided that the light produced by this instrument was worth the try. Thankfully the AD agreed and so I used it for dance for the very first time. I will say that unlike other modifiers, focusing rods, soft boxes, etc. a Fresnel instrument is unforgiving with moving subjects. But for the right mood, I find it to be worth the effort. No it won’t be for all of my dance sessions, but for the ones I want this delicious type light, I won’t hesitate to use it.
October 13 2019
After having converted a Mole Richardson 412 Fresnel spotlight to accept a strobe my local client base began to fall in love with the lighting style of a large Fresnel. Since spotlights were used in the 1930-40s for portraiture there is a very romantic look and feel to the imagery. My issue with the converted 412 is it is almost impossible to transport via airline. Plus I’ve invested loads of time and effort so if it were to be damaged or lost I’d be pissed! My remote clients wanted to know ‘When we get that kind of light Mark!’
I looked at a Bron Flooter, but for around 4.5k and the same transport issue I did not consider it viable for my needs. I then found the K5600 Big Eye Fresnel and for 2.2k it fit within my budget, but more importantly I could break it down for airline transport. So at first I tried to rent one, but then decided to purchase the unit. This is where my troubles began. I found that the unit is no longer manufactured by K5600 to purchase, but can be rented at several different rental houses. My preference is to purchase my equipment since I often find rental units to be poorly cared for with either missing or non functional parts. I was lucky enough to locate a used one through an exceptional retailer.
The Big Eye Fresnel was made for K5600 Joker HMI constant lights, but I ‘hoped and figured’ I could adapt it to my strobes which are the Flashpoint 600 and 200 line of lights. The Big Eye comes with three different length 5/8” spigots to accommodate their 200, 600 and 800 HMIs which vary in height. By using a few standard 5/8” adapters I found the right ones for both the 200 and 600s both using remote heads on the various length spigots supplied with the Big Eye.
My next task was to follow my normal protocol of testing the quality of light for any modifier before putting it into my normal workflow. I was fortunate to find a theatre set and a beautiful actress where I could not only test the quality of light, but the focusing characteristics of the large 24” Fresnel lens. Long story short, I could not be happier with the instrument and its conversion to strobes.
As shown in the two following images I am able to use both the AD200 and 600 strobes with their remote heads in the Big Eye.
In order to have some sort of modeling light when I use the 200s I purchased a Lume Cube Air and simply mounted it to a steel bracket I made which affixes to the AD200 remote 1/4 20 threaded hole. The Lume Cube Air comes with an embedded magnet on one side of its case. Although it’s not exactly centered when mounted on the lighting fixture, who cares! And I can control the Lume Cube from my phone via Bluetooth. Perfect for my needs.
I am able to use the AD600 remote head as well. It can be used both in the normal bulb horizontal position or in this case the vertical position. I made a little DIY reflector when I want to use it in the vertical position out of a biscuit cutter….. I just cut it in half.
I was fortunate enough to be allowed to use this set to test my Big Eye between show performances.
Please note that all of the imagery of Catherine was shot using the AD200 set between 1/32 and 1/4 power levels. There was no need for me to use my 600. All stage work lights remained on throughout the session. My Pentax 645Z was never set to HSS. All images shot at 1/125th shutter speed.
I first balanced the Aputure window gobo light….
And then the Big Eye as my key light….
First to shoot lovely Catherine with just the Big Eye….
And then using both the Big Eye and the Aputure. I wanted to determine how much focus was needed in the Big Eye so as to not overpower the gobo light from the Aputure instrument.
We then moved to the bedroom set to determine just how finely the Big Eye could be focused.
Again adding the Aputure instrument for the window with the Big Eye fully focused as my key light.
And one more of the Big Eye in mid focused position.
Finally a more traditional use of a Fresnel on the chaise lounge. Three quarters flooded.
I will simply say that I am thrilled at not only the quality of light produced by the Big Eye, but it’s construction and design. I’m actually shocked that K5600 has discontinued its production, but happy that rental houses still offer them as rentals. If you are ever in the need to rent a fantastic Fresnel, don’t hesitate to rent a K5600 Big Eye Fresnel.
I have tested and been using the Flashpoint R2 Mark II TTL Transmitter (X2T-P) for Pentax since mid September 2019 in my workflow. I have found that using the Scan feature included in the firmware with this trigger is critical to prevent misfires. Flashpoint has not released a Pro II version of their trigger for Pentax so this is the next best thing for my work. Sure it would be nice to have the same trigger configuration for all of my cameras that includes the Scan feature, but preventing misfires easily outweighs that convenience.
I should also note that I am using this trigger with AD600s, Flashpoint 600s and the Pro versions along with AD200s. All with the most current firmware. (As of Oct 2019)
I’m also a fan of the Godox Android app that mates with this Bluetooth enabled trigger. Unlike others I have NOT had issue with the app. Although I have used it sporadically in my workflow, I need to become more comfortable with its usage in a fast paced studio setting.
To date I have used the X2T-P in three client sessions. My misfire rate has been between 0.5 to 1.0% – a very welcome change from my previous experience with the R2 Pro for Pentax.
As of the date of this post the firmware version is 1.0 and I have not found any firmware update release later than 1.0 for Pentax on Adorama’s site. I will continue to update this post as I have more sessions with the R2 Mark II P and/or subsequent firmware updates.
Update October 23 2019
I have been using the R2 Pro Mark II C when using my Canon 1DX Mark II and my partner has been using the R2 Pro C. When we go to a job I use the Scan feature and we pick which channels to use. I have had less than 2% of misfires. She has experienced the same, but has had full pop flashes when her units have not been set to full power. This is still an issue that Godox and Flashpoint must address.
NOTE: I have recently been using the Flashpoint R2 Mark II TTL Transmitter (X2T-P). That post can be found here.
Update September 19 2019
OK so I needed to actually TEST my Flashpoint triggers to ascertain what is the best trigger for me to use. I had become (and still am) very concerned about the misfires I have been experiencing. So here are the triggers I tested:
I used the very same strobe for all of the tests. A Godox AD600 set to 1/16th power 10 feet from my camera. The camera was a Canon 1DX set to 1/250th of a second shutter speed, f3.2, ISO 100. My intervalometer was set to fire at one second intervals. The strobe began to overheat at approximately 400 frames so I measured my test at 400 frames. I allowed the strobe 30 minutes between trigger testing so that it could cool down.
Here are the results:
So after running this test I am still concerned. In this test all triggers failed, but under 1% out of 400 shots. It’s curious that the single pin unit is the only one that failed to fire prior to the end of the test. With all of the others I ‘may assume’ that the failure at 399/400 was due to the overheating of the strobe. In a normal real world session the power of my strobe settings varies greatly. Anywhere from 1:1 full power all the way down to 1/256th power for fill or rim lights. There are times when I am firing much less than once a second and I’m always aware if I have strobes set at full power to listen for the recycle tone before pressing my shutter again. It’s part of my protocol.
My most critical time for zero misfires is during studio dance sessions. Invariably misfires will happen when the money shot is taken when a strobe or strobes misfire. The dancer has executed their move in an exquisite way and the shot is useless due to the failure to fire. Sure they can do it over again, but my view is why? My equipment should be dependable. And if that means switching to a brand that is not as modular, but is much more dependable on site then that’s what I will do, change.
I will say that prior to running this test I used the Channel Scanner on the R2 Pro Mark II C to find the best available channels for my home…today. I say today because I feel that even in the same venue, it’s important to scan the environment for the best channel. So at this point I am awaiting a new Flashpoint R2 Mark II TTL Transmitter for Pentax Cameras (X2T-P) to test. I am hoping it performs well. Currently Adorama does not offer a R2 Pro Mark II transmitter for Pentax, nor do they offer a firmware update for the R2 Pro for the Pentax. My 645Z is my defacto studio camera so it’s one of the reasons I’ve purchased the X2T-P. It has a channel scan feature. Sure I can carry my Canon Pro Mark II to scan channels, but why? If Godox/Flashpoint want working pros to use these strobes, then give us function and dependable engineering. You’ve nailed the ecosystem but misfires just won’t cut it in my world.
I have a publicity session this weekend and hope that by scanning the channels it will yield this percentage of misfires which is much less than what I’ve found on actual location shoots.
Update September 18 2019
In preparation for an upcoming client session I needed to practice a lighting technique we conceived for the shoot. I had left my R2 Pro Mark II C transmitter on channel 12 along with the strobe from my recent client shoot this past weekend. I did NOT use the scan feature to see what were the most clear channels in my garage. I was horrified to find a 14% misfire ratio during my test set up! I was literally 8 feet away from the strobe with the transmitter set to the 0-30 meter range while using a Flashpoint Pro 600. I had never had issues like this with my 433Mhz triggers or USB receivers. I really love the innovation of the Godox/Flashpoint line of strobes and the ecosystem they have developed. But the misfire issue may result in my switching to a different brand of strobes. I need to figure this out quickly. Until I do I will religiously scan the channels and/or use my single pin transmitter. I cannot afford to miss any shots ESPECIALLY in dance.
Update September 17 2019
I had a two day dance session this weekend after updating all of my AD200s/600s and my R2Pro Mark IIC transmitter. Once I conducted a scan of the area in which I was working one of the channels the transmitter recommended was 12, so I switched everything to that channel. With the new firmware the results are much improved over my prior experience. Of course I would like a 0% failure to fire rate as I had with my PCB Einstein/CyberCommander setup. I will continue to update this post about the misfire issue.
My gut tells me that even in the same space I will need to rescan with the ProII to ascertain if the same channels are free on different days even in the same space. I have asked Adorama if I can use the channel scanner on the Pro Mark II to determine the best channel for my Flashpoint R2 Pro Pentax trigger. Once I hear back I will post my findings here. As usual stay tuned…
I have been negligent in updating my firmware for both the transmitters and strobes be they Flashpoint or Godox. I completely switched from PCB Einsteins over to the Godox/Flashpoint strobes after the passing of Paul Buff and the innovation at PCB declined after his death. His CyberCommander transmitter was tough to learn but BULLETPROOF in terms of misfires.
I won’t go into all of the gripes I had about the Flashpoint misfires simply because I had not updated my firmware. Total user laziness and error. So I decided to run some tests before and after updating my strobes and transmitters. I used the installation programs and firmware found on Adorama’s Flashpoint Firmware Download page.
Even though they have improved the software interface, it’s still no walk in the park. You should know I am a PC user, not a Mac user. The steps I found necessary to begin the process in Windows 10, their new version is:
Disable Signed Driver Enforcement (bottom of page)
Then you must select the product you are updating which then indicates which installer to download and use. There are three:
Once the installer is downloaded and installed, you select the product you wish to update with the firmware:
OK so once all was done I tried to update the firmware in my transmitter. Since the Pro II uses a USB-C cable I had no issues. But once I tried to update my non pro strobes which use USB Micro connectors I got these messages:
I THEN realized that the USB Micro cables I was using DID NOT TRANSMIT DATA but were only for charging! SHEEEET!!!! As soon as I figured out that bonehead mistake I used a proper cable and got a connection. BUT it was not without further issues….. On my first two f/w updates all went fine. But after that I would get a program hang:
It only happened after the f/w was deleted and then updated. So I simply unplugged the cable and tried my strobes, also checking their firmware version. All was fine. So after this frustration I went on to test my strobes. 600s, both non TTL and TTL along with a Pro and several AD200s…
Here was my setup for testing:
I set my intervalometer to take a shot every second. My tests were done at 1/8th and 1/16th power for all strobes. As you can see I’m only about 15 feet from the strobes. I have a router booster here along with normal consumer electronics. Since I’ve had issues on location where there’s a ton more signals this is not an acid test of if the firmware will make a difference in misfires. But it was my start of testing. On my pre firmware update testing I had NOT updated the firmware for the strobes or the triggers.
Pre Firmware Update Testing
After Firmware Updates
Next I decided to nix the 200s since I have never had a misfire with them even before updating the firmware on the triggers or the strobes…interesting. So for this test I just did a 1/16th power level. When I have time or more importantly after I use my gear on actual shoots I will report back on any improvement in misfires. But at this level I’m really please with the results.
I’m concerned that Flashpoint has not released a newer firmware version for Pentax. Since that is the camera I primarily use for client publicity sessions I’m hoping that f/w version is forthcoming. I’m currently running 1.0 which is the only one available at this time.
I’m really quite pleased of the lack of misfires for my Pentax. It only started to misfire as the strobe heated.
Although I don’t fire my camera for 200 frames at one second intervals I am a bit concerned that as the strobes heat misfires will occur. Anyway after using my strobes on actual upcoming client work I will report back here on any improvements in misfires.
I recently posted a review of my testing of the K5600 Big Eye Fresnel. That blog post can be found here.
I recently decided to buy a K-5600 Big Eye Fresnel after having fallen in love with the delicious light produced by a large Fresnel lens. I had converted a vintage 1965 Mole Richardson 412 Hollywood spotlight into a strobe, which I used for my local clients. After viewing the results I was attaining with the Mole my remote clients said “Uh Mark we want that same light for some of OUR shots. How can you make that happen?” Due to its sheer size/weight and all of the effort it took to convert it I could not transport it to my remote clients via airline.
So I began to investigate portable options which led me to the Big Eye. It’s not inexpensive listed at $2250.00 so at first I thought I would rent one. Due to the multiple hassles involved with that idea I just decided to bite the bullet and purchase one. I ordered one through Adorama and in two days received a notice that my order had been cancelled. I contacted their customer service department and they informed me that K-5600, the maker of the Big Eye no longer manufactures them. I decided to contact K-5600 and they explained that the unit was released in 2010 and met with tepid sales. So they decided to discontinue production.
I’ve rented modifiers before, Bron Para 133s, etc. But my personal preference is to own my equipment. It’s always available and I take care of my gear, something I find is not necessarily so with rentals. I began a search for a retailer or rental house on the off chance they had one in stock. Or because they were not popular enough for K-5600 to continue production, they had one they wished to sell. Peter Bradshaw of K-5600 did his best to help me find one, but to no avail. I had contacted Kayelites via their web form like I had with the other retailers who indicated they had some in stock. But like the others they did not have one on hand and would have to special order one from K-5600.
Stephen the owner of Kayelites called me and told me that in 2010 he had sold two to his customers. It was at that point he looked them up and called one of them while I waited on the line. He came back on to tell me he left a voicemail and would contact me if or when his call was returned. Two days later I received a call from Stephen that one of his customers planned to retire soon and was interested in selling his Big Eye! Holy smokes really?!! Stephen then asked the owner to send photos of the unit and forwarded them to me. He brokered the deal with a very modest handling fee and I received the unit directly from the owner. In every step of the way Stephen followed up with not only great service but a level of communication that I was accustomed to 30 years ago.
I am now the very fortunate owner of a K-5600 Big Eye Fresnel that no one, not even the manufacturer could locate for me and at approximately 700.00 less than new! My plan is to use it with both as a constant light as well as with a strobe depending on the need of the client.
Kayelites, specifically Stephen Kaye has a customer for life. Thank you Stephen and thank you for your kindness and tenacity. It’s so appreciated.
Whenever I am hired by a client to create imagery my first question is always “What is the mood you’d like me to create for this session?” Sometimes they have a mood board established, sometimes not. The reason I tend to shy away from mood boards, meaning photographs; it is human nature to get a specific shot stuck in our heads. Much like those crazy M.C. Escher drawings where there are two distinct images, but once you see one, you have a hell of a time seeing the other. And since the client wants their marketing to stand out from what has been done in the past, photocopy photography (my term) just isn’t something I’m hired to do, nor do I want to do that type of shooting.
So the stage play “Nine” is based on the 2009 movie of the same name. The client wanted a Vanity Fair look and feel to the images which would all be in black and white….my favorite color btw! Since this is a new client for publicity I did not ask questions like, “How do you want the imagery to smell, taste and sound?” Crazy imagery questions right? But imagery, much like music is just the catalyst to begin a sensory process that takes the viewer into feelings, dreams and memories of their own. It is the reason why I judge imagery by how I feel when I gaze upon the vision. A pretty picture without feeling is just a pretty picture for me.
Although I would be creating imagery of each individual character, the money shots would be of the group together, nine people in total. For anyone who has shot groups, you know very well the challenges it produces. My situation was no different. Sculpting light for a group of people takes finesse and planning.
So here are the items I chose for this session:
- Key light: Glow Grand ParaBox Pro Softbox (70″) using the Glow Grand ParaBox Zoom-In Bounce Rod
- Rim and fill lights: Saberstrip v2.0 and the Elinchrom 69″ Rotalux Octabox which I modified to use a focusing rod. Glow EZ Lock Deep Parabolic Quick Softbox (48″) with diffusion disk and inner baffle only.
- Prop and rim light: Mole Richardson 10” Fresnel Hollywood spotlight I have converted into a modern strobe.
- Bowens Universal Spot Attachment for Gobos
- All strobes used are Flashpoint 200s and 600s – a combination of pro and non pro I do not use TTL on any of them.
The Glow Grand Para 70 is a REMARKABLE modifier. It has taken me six full months to begin to understand how to effectively use this beast. Unlike other focusing rod modifiers its most compelling use is not for the faint of heart, just like the Bron 133 Para line. BUT once I began to understand the nuances of its characteristics it has become my go to modifiers for many, many sessions. In its fully flooded focusing rod position it easily covered the entire group of 9 people. And unlike normal diffused soft or octa boxes, the color punch and contrast is delicious. My client base has been convinced of focusing rod modifier results.
With a group this large and arranged in the way the client wanted, a very large fill/rim light was needed. This is where I used my Elinchrom 69” with my focusing rod fully flooded. For directional fill I used the Glow EZ with the inner disk/diffusion panel and the grid to direct the fill to where it was needed.
The ability to focus or flood the Glow Grand Para and the Elinchrom 69” is wonderful. Focusing rods replace my need to haul and lug many different sizes and types of modifiers to obtain the characteristics and feeling I am trying to achieve in light. And as I’ve stated earlier, the light they produced when used properly is just exquisite.
As just an example:
This shot of Steve was created with the Glow Grand with the rod in its fully focused position. His ‘scream’ needed to have a spotlight affect the client desired. So instead of having to change the modifier to a ‘spot’ type or apply a grid I just adjust the position of the strobe in the modifier.
In using the Eli 69” as a fill I was able to either fully flood the modifier or use more of a spotlight fill in the situation where I wanted more of a pinpoint for fill. With a group this large that is a godsend. I also used my Mole Richardson as a subtle hair light in those instances where I wanted a glow on the person or persons hair.
The Saberstrip v2.0 which uses an AD200 rather than a speed light is just as remarkable as either a key light, rim light or both. I’m still not sure where Scott is in offering these to the general public, but if and when he does BUY some! LOL I cannot speak highly enough about these unique and incredible modifiers paired with an AD200.
I often find that using gobos to project light patterns on a wall, ceiling, floor or drapes adds more texture and mood to a shot. In this case I asked the client to pick the window gobo she wanted for this mood.
I used a light amount of cold haze to soften the light and the complexion of the talent. Subtle haze is something often used in film and I love how it affects the mood of a shot as well. It adds a very cinematic feel to the shot. I use a cold hazer rather than one that heats the fluid. I find the particulate much more fine than heated haze fluid.
Update August 19 2019
I was literally shocked when I read this article on ThePhotoblogger.com. “What I’m going to propose in this article may sound absurd to some photographers, especially if you’re new to the art form….“How can I make my image look like theirs?” But they only want advice on how to do it in post-production. Here’s a controversial idea: do it in camera.”
And just one of the author’s suggestions to his audience:
- “Why not have a creative vision to begin with, and then execute it as well as possible within the camera?”
Wow just wow…incredible that this ‘may be a new concept to create things IN CAMERA TO SOME!’ WOW
Original Post March 26 2019
One of my favorite things to do is to imagine a concept and then execute it. This post is about concepts, mood and light rather than gear. Oh sure it takes gear to have my concepts go from only in my head to fruition, but if you’re looking for a gear review, it’s best to keep moving along.
I wanted to photograph Jeannette, a dear friend’s daughter who was studying ballet in two different concepts. I gave her a general idea of them; one would be as if she was dancing in a grand ballroom. The other was to appear as if I was on stage BEHIND the ballerina shooting downstage toward the audience. And finally I wanted to see if I could configure a lighting protocol where while under an umbrella I could light the ballerina’s face.
So once the concept was developed finding a venue and prop was necessary. A large warehouse along with a non-lit chandelier was needed for my grand ballroom concept. I would light the chandelier using a strobe and long throw reflector. Combining incandescent light, like a tungsten lit chandelier would be very difficult to balance with my strobes. They would overpower incandescent light no matter how low I powered down my strobes. It could be done, but why when I can light it and balance it with a strobe?
The next concept was a tad more difficult, making it appear as if I am actually on stage shooting toward the audience. Using two Fresnel heads on my strobes to appear as spotlights to create drama and spotlight shadows ‘on the stage’ was in order. And then to balance a fill light for her back was delicate to do. I also knew I wanted to add atmosphere to the shot which would add a mystic mood to the image.
And finally how can I light someone’s face under an umbrella? Ah using a simple speed light and a homemade rig to hold it under the umbrella was the answer!
What was this all for anyway? Practice! My belief is practicing the execution of concepts keeps me sharp and improves what I can offer clients and myself in creating imagery. For me it’s not about what gear I own. It’s how I use it.
Ok first off there are times I want something, but no one makes it. I tend to cuss a bit, but then figure out how to deal with the situation. Such was the case charging my AD200 batteries. You see I find I use these a lot. Accent lights, rim lights, key lights, you name it they get used in a multitude of various roles during my sessions. And I almost always travel with them to client sessions. Which means I HAVE TO REMEMBER TO BRING ALL OF THE CHARGERS. UGH!
Sure they’re small so packing them is not too big of a deal. But since I have five of these remarkable little strobes AND round heads AND barn doors, AND AND AND, I have a list JUST FOR the 200s! I have a drone I use for some jobs and although DJI is really cool by including this little hub that charges the batteries in succession, I needed one that would charge three batteries all at once along with my controller. So I ended up finding one.
I also got frustrated charging AA and AAA batteries. Sure I had the kind that charge four at a time. But some of them would only charge in pairs. And then I had to buy ones for AA versus AAA! UGH. But I found charging heaven with this unit:
16 slots for either AA or AAA or in combination or alone! YAY…. And then I wondered if ANYONE would produce something like this for the AD200 batteries…
So when I got my MB-6 I initially thought “This is too good to be true.” Rather than having five different chargers, five different power cords, now I only have ONE unit and ONE power cord to pack to charge all the batteries! And even one more spot for when I order another 200!
One thing I worried a bit about is if this charger would charge my batteries as fast as the individual OEM single charger. So I tested it. Four drained batteries, two in their OEM chargers and two in the MB-6. And guess what? It charges just as fast as the OEM! Now I have yet to try it with six batteries, but I’m pretty sure it will perform the same. And if not, I’ll post what I find here.
Here’s my protocol:
- Charge all of my strobe, camera, transmitter batteries the night before a shoot
- Pack all of my charging gear into one bag
- Pack all LiOn batteries and bulbs into my carry on luggage
- Once the first day’s session is complete, all batteries go into chargers
- Next morning all batteries go back into their respective units
What having the MB-6 now means is instead of having to use five plug outlets I only need ONE! And instead of having to remember to bring five chargers I only need….wait for it…ONE!
Some may be put off by having to spend 170.00 for a multiple battery charger. For the shooter using one or two of the AD200s only occasionally I believe it would be overkill. But for anyone who is actually making money (meaning profit) shooting, then the value of having gear that saves time and hassle is invaluable. I’m not a pro baker, but I purchased a KitchenAid mixer because it will last me a lifetime and makes my paltry baking much more enjoyable. Everyone needs to decide for themselves what they value.
As time goes on I’ll report more about my experience with this device.