UPDATE: November 21 2017
Another photographer contacted me via this post to ask me about the CononMark. He sent me photos of his unit and I can confirm that it is ‘backwards’ meaning the focusing rod is in the wrong direction. He also stated that some of his rods are not screwed all the way in so it makes it difficult to assemble the unit. I suggested he return it for a replacement or refund.
UPDATE October 2 2017
I have written a post about a dance session I conducted that uses these items. You can view that post here.
UPDATE August 21 2017
I have been using the CononMark 120 for a little over a year now in many of my commercial shoots. I have been very pleased with the light it produces along with its durability. Keep in mind that I don’t leave any of my modifiers constantly assembled since I travel TO client shoots in different states and either haul or rent gear. The one small gripe I have with the CononMark is the rod ends which go into the actual modifier can come out of their pockets so I have to check when assembling if all are in place. Other manufacturers like Cheetahstand, Parabolix and Westcott have a better rod retention systems. I have recently written my thoughts about the Parabolix 35D where I also speak about the CononMark. You will read loads of forums about whether a modifier is actually ‘parabolic’ in shape. I would advise you NOT to place an undo amount of credibility on the theory of a modifier being an exact parabola. The shape of any modifier does have an influence on the light BUT there are TONS of other factors that come into play. Distance from talent, tension of the fabric, texture of the fabric, depth of the strobe in the modifier, on and on and on and on. What you will find is almost all of the trolls touting the EXACT nature of a modifier’s parabolic shape seldom and more often NEVER display their work. How can anyone decide if any tool is correct for their own uses based solely on theory? Photography is totally subjective. When you buy a car listed at 240 horsepower, do you take it to an independent dyno lab to have it actually measure the output at the rear wheels for horsepower? Does it really matter that much or does it simply stroke your ego to say “My car has 240 HP!” And even if it DOES have 240 HP that doesn’t mean shit unless you know how to drive and USE that power.
My point is if possible rent or borrow gear you’re thinking about buying. Try it, see how it works for YOU and YOUR client base. What works for me may not work for you and vice versa. But one thing is certain, those who simply spew out statistics and theoretical bull shit are never going to help anyone other than their own need to ‘be right.’ They are the ones who carry a print out of a Histogram instead of the photo to show “How they achieved a perfect histogram in the photo.”
Here are two images taken with the CononMark as the key light.
You can see some of the results from a recent studio dance session using the CononMark here.
CononMark was used as the key light in this studio ballet session. Strobe was the Godox AD600 using a H600 remote head.
I have long loved the light produced by indirect parabolic reflectors. My first foray into these modifiers was using PCB’s PLM series of umbrellas. I liked the specular yet soft light they produced. The one issue that I could not control to my satisfaction was the spill produced by Paul’s PLMs. Later I moved to the Elinchrom Deep Rotalux octabank, their 39″ model. And finally I began using Westcott’s Zeppelin line, their 47 and 59″ sixteen rod octabanks with their Mounting Arm which allowed me to adjust the light at varying places within their modifiers.
What these modifiers produce is a very specular light while remaining soft. Contrast is much better than soft boxes yet they have the characteristics of soft light. I investigated Broncolor’s Para line and with a retail price of around 4600.00 for the small Para 88 I found them too expensive for my current client base. A photographer whose light I admire, Joey Lawrence recently switched from Elinchrom to Bron Paras and the subtle differences are stunning. Oh rest assured it’s NOT just the modifier, Joey is what I consider to be a true master of light.
So when I learned that a Chinese firm was producing an indirect modifier similar to the Bron Para I was intrigued. At a retail price of 368.00 USD including shipping it is not an inexpensive modifier, but compared to a 47″ Zeppelin or the Bron Para 133 it’s a bargain. They advertise the unit at 10 pounds which is light compared to the other units. Because 60% of my work involves travel, weight is always an issue. Shipping or checking gear can get expensive so weight is one of my concerns when I lug gear for business.
This review will be broken down into two sections. The first are my observations about the physical aspects of the unit. At this time there is very little to no information about these modifiers on line so I wanted to give you some idea of the build quality.
The real acid test will be using the modifier first in a test and then if it satisfies my lighting tastes, in my commercial work. For this initial review I am covering the physical makeup of the 120cm unit. Over the next three weeks I am booked with commercial work and I never use a new modifier until I have tested it beforehand. It’s just my workflow. So in between assignments or after I will be able to test the light qualities of the unit.
The modifier itself is configured to use 16 rods which enter into an Elinchrom style speed ring. I believe the rods are made of fiberglass and are of good quality and are very flexible. It is 120cm in diameter and 90cm in length when assembled. I find that it is slightly deeper than my Westcott 47″ Zeppelin. My initial concern was in assembling the modifier. Since it uses an Elinchrom speed ring which has pivoting/hinged rods captured into the ring I was concerned that it would be very difficult to open each rod. My 39″ Rotalux requires me to get ‘inside’ the octa bank to spread each rod. My partner often teases me that I look like a dog with one of those ‘cones of shame’ on them as I assemble the Rotalux. FORTUNATELY unlike the Rotalux which does NOT have any openings around the speed ring the CononMark has plenty. So what I found is by keeping the modifier material open around the speed ring, assembly is as simple as just putting tension on each rod so they snap into each hinge. I have a pattern I learned using the Rotalux to put one in and then the opposite rod. Moving to the one 90 degrees and then the one across. Once I have a ‘square’ of rods inserted there is enough tension on the modifier and ring to make the rest simple to install.
The reflective material inside of the modifier is smooth, much like the Zeppelin line which is opposite of the Elinchrom Rotalux which is pebbled. The black exterior is a rip stop nylon type of fabric, but thicker. The Velcro pockets which hold the ends of the rods are nicely sewn. Two diffusers come with the unit. The inner diffuser is secured by individual Velcro tabs and the outer is held by a traditional Velcro rim at the edge of the modifier. I have no plans to use the included diffusers so I didn’t install them.
The Velcro at the rim of the modifier is about 1.75 inches in width which is quite nice. Longevity of the unit remains to be seen, but I don’t see any immediate issues.
The rod which holds your light is made out of stout aluminum tubing. I would say the rod’s diameter is about 1.75 inches and very well made. One end is open and has a very small knurled plastic capped screw which I believe is there to keep the rod from sliding all the way through the rod’s housing.
The portion of the rod which holds the Bowen’s mount is well done. They have machined a tapped fitting which is held on the end of the rod with another screw that is countersunk. Then there are three rods which hold the Bowen’s S mount. It is held onto the rod with a single metric screw which screws into the aforementioned tapped fitting. Very clean and secure. A real benefit of this type of configuration is I am able to use a PCB on axis umbrella mount to hold an Einstein strobe onto the unit. More on this later.
The proprietary swivel and rod holder are perhaps the most ingenious parts of this unit. It is machined from what appears to be a single piece of aluminum. The rod travels through a housing and the housing is attached to the speed ring via a 3/16th inch piece of aluminum. The angle adjustment lever is both good and fair. I love swivels that are secure and prefer those that are not the ratchet type, but offer smooth adjustment. I disassembled the unit and found a very clever design. About 1/4 of the holding mechanism contains a ratchet and the remaining part is smooth. What this offers is a secure when tightened grip, but during adjustments the motion is very smooth. The ratchet handle is only one of my two concerns. It does allow you to pull out to adjust the placement of the lever, but it seems less than robust. I was surprised to find an extra handle in the package, so perhaps CononMK is aware of this potential shortcoming. I plan to switch it to an extra lever I own which is much more robust.
The only other concern I have is with the fastener which locks the rod into place. It is a steel screw which simply tightens down onto the rod through a threaded tapped hole in the adjusting collar. Placing enough pressure on the screw marks the aluminum rod. Over time this may begin to be an issue. A solution would be for CononMK to use a tension piece much like on light stands. A curved steel piece at the end of the screw would prevent any marking on the rod. I plan to fabricate my own.
A very big advantage of this modifier is due to the shape. With my Zeppelins the ability to angle the units downward is limited due to their shape. The 120cm CononMark can angle downward much further than either of those units due to its shape and the design of the swivel.
The weight of the unit including all parts is 9.12 pounds which is excellent. By contrast when I take my 47″ Zeppelin, the Mounting Arm rod, the speed ring on the end of the rod and the WAY heavy yoked swivel it weighs a total of 13 pounds! A 3.9 pound savings is significant in my world.
One of the things I really appreciated about the seller in China is their level of communication. Proactive and timely the level of communication I have received from them would be the envy of many domestic companies. This experience along with the quality of the item is very encouraging to me. If interested here is a link to his eBay site. With only four feedback listings it would be very easy to dismiss them as a seller, however my experience with them has been excellent.s
The physical part of the modifier is important to me, but NOT NEARLY as important as the type of light it produces. That part will be forthcoming….stay tuned.