Super Wide: Cambo’s WRE-CA Adapter for Canon Lenses

Posted in General, Landscapes, Nature & Wildlife with tags , , , , , , , , on March 17, 2017 by kendoophotography
1 Queens Bath

Queen’s Bath, Kauai, Hawaii. Cambo WRS 1600, Phase IQ3 100, Cambo WRE-CA, Canon 17mm TS-E

The Phase One XF mated to the IQ3 100MP digital back is an incredible camera system. But when traveling or photographing landscapes, I much prefer using a technical camera. The Cambo WRS 1600 simply provides me with more photographic enjoyment and satisfaction. The Cambo allows full movements with tilt, swing, shift, rise and fall. The new WRS 1600 allows the user to select landscape or portrait orientation without removing the digital back.  It is also lighter and smaller than a Phase XF, which makes using a technical camera much easier for traveling and hiking.

A week before traveling to Hawaii to meet up with Don Libby of Iron Creek Photography, Cambo asked me if I would be interested in trying the then soon to be released Cambo WRE-CA lens adapter with a Canon 17mm TS-E on my Cambo WRS 1600 and Phase One IQ3 100 medium format digital back.  Absolutely, I replied!

2 Cambo 1600 with WRE-CA

Cambo WRS 1600 fitted with WRE-CA lens adapter with Canon 17mm TS-E

Cambo’s new WRE-CA adapter allows the Cambo technical cameras to use Canon EF lenses, and of particular note, the Canon 17mm TS-E. The “W” in the Cambo WRS series stands for “wide.” But when using the WRE-CA adapter with Canon’s 17mm TS-E, wide now becomes “super wide.” And I emphasize super wide. The Canon 17mm TS-E has a 62mm image circle, which just covers the large, full-frame medium format sensor of the Phase One IQ3 100. Available movements are minimal, but with a field of view this wide, there is usually plenty of room for cropping any vignetting resulting from using slight movements. Did I mention super wide angle?

2A WRE-CA composite

Cambo WRE-CA. A small lithium battery power bank with micro-USB cord is used to recharge the battery inside of the adapter. I added a Canon body cap to protect the electronic contacts on the adapter during travel.

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Top view of the WRE-CA adapter.

The Cambo WRE-CA attaches to the Cambo technical camera, allowing Canon EF mount lenses to be used. The real limitation is the image circle of the lens used, and of interest, is using lenses that provide a unique perspective. The Canon 17mm TS-E shines in this regard.  The adapter is easy to use as can be expected. Once turned on, adjusting the dial on the right side sets the desired aperture on the lens, which is displayed on a small screen. If the screen were to provide any functions beyond displaying the aperture and focal length of the lens, I would want a bigger and/or brighter screen. Of minor note, I would also prefer if the adapter when turned on would default to the last f/stop setting used.

The Cambo WRE-CA was designed specifically to be used with the electronic shutter available only at this time on the Phase One IQ3 series 100 megapixel digital back.  I do hope that Phase One sees fit to extend the electronic shutter feature set by firmware update to its IQ1 series 100 megapixel digital backs as well.  The electronic shutter avoids vibrations but does require familiarization, particularly with regard to moving objects in the scene. Moving water does not seem to be an issue, but other moving objects, depending on their prominence in the scene, can become skewed by the electronic shutter. Setting a faster shutter speed can help, but sometimes not as much as is expected.

4 setting up bts

Setting up the Cambo WRS 1500, WRE-CA, and Canon 17mm TSE

5 Albizia Tree crop

Albizia Invasion. Kauai, HI. A “crop” of the Albizia tree to make it a little more prominent in the frame.

There is nothing quite like the angle of view provided by the Canon 17mm TS-E on a full frame medium format digital sensor. It is incredibly wide.  Any issues that I had in Hawaii with this ultra-wide system were relatively minor and can be simply attributed to user-error and familiarizing myself with the Canon 17mm TS-E.  It may have been this particular lens that I was using but the infinity marker on the lens barrel was definitely “inaccurate” and not to be trusted. Fortunately, live view on the Phase One IQ3 100 made it extremely easy to manually focus. Lens flare can be an issue and is something to be aware of when photographing landscapes. Simply replacing the lens cap made taking a dark frame relatively easy, except when using filters.

6 Waimea Valley

WonderPana filter system on the Canon 17mm TS-E. 2-stop graduated filter.

7 Waimea Valley

Waimea Canyon, Kauai, Hawaii.  Cambo WRS 1600, WRE-CA adapter, Canon 17mm TS-E, WonderPana filter system with two-stop filter.

7A Cambo with WonderPana Filters

Behind the Scenes with the Cambo WRS 1600, WRE-CA Adapter, Canon 17mm TS-E with WonderPana filter system

8 WonderPana

Fotodiox WonderPana 66 FreeArc filter system for the Canon 17mm TS-E.

I chose to use the WonderPana 66 FreeArc filter system for the Canon 17mm TS-E. The filter system uses 145mm screw-in neutral density filters and 6.6” x 8.5” graduated filters. These filters are big. For Hawaii, my kit included a 4-stop and 10 stop ND filter and a 2-stop soft grad. My back pack was full of filters as I also carried along the new Wine Country Camera filter system for my Rodenstock HR40 and HR70 lenses.  To take a dark frame when using filters on the Canon 17mm TS-E, I found it easiest to simply remove the entire WonderPana filter assembly and attach the Canon lens cap.

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Turtle Bay Edamame. Focus on the Canon 17mm TS-E was set about one-foot away from the Edamame.

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The field of view on the Canon 17mm TSE on the Cambo and IQ3 100 is incredibly wide.  I took several images with the Cambo WRS 1600 in the same locked position, changing only between the Canon 17mm TSE and the Rodenstock HR40mm.

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Turtle Bay. Original capture. Cambo WRS 1600 WRE-CA and Canon 17mm TS-E

12 B&W Crop

Turtle Bay. B&W crop. Cambo WRS 1600, Cambo WRE-CA and Canon 17mm TS-E

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Old Episcopal Church, Oahu, Hawaii. Cambo WRS 1600, Cambo WRE-CA and Canon 17mm TS-E

13A Behind the Scenes

Behind the Scenes

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Japanese Temple. Oahu, Hawaii. Cambo WRS 1600, Cambo WRE-CA, Canon 17mm TS-E, Phase One IQ3 100

The cost of the Cambo WRE-CA lens adapter is approximately $1449 and can be purchased from Capture Integration in Atlanta, GA.  A Canon 17mm TS-E is approximately $2,150. This super wide-angle option is about $6,000 less than a Rodenstock HR32 with center filter, which is a much larger and fragile lens.

15 Carmel Mission bts

Behind the scenes at the Carmel Mission Basilica

16 Carmel Mission Basilica Field of View

Comparing the field of view with the Canon 17mm TS-E and the Rodenstock HR40mm.

18 Carmel Mission Kitchen bts

Behind the scenes. The Carmel Mission kitchen illustrates a really tight image space.

17 Carmel Mission kitchen

Cambo WRS 1600, Cambo WRE-CA, Canon 17mm TS-E, Phase One IQ3 100

The advantage of using the Cambo WRE-CA is that it allows the use of Canon EF mount lenses, bringing distinct views or unusual qualities to the Cambo line of technical cameras.  Photographer and www.GetDPI.com family member, Jawad Malik (see, www.untroubledland.com), has already adapted a Leica R 180mm f/2.8 APO lens to Canon EF mount for use with the Cambo WRE-CA. Jawad reports that the performance of the Leica R 180mm f/2.8 APO is excellent.  Jawad also tried the Leica 280mm f/4 on the Cambo with the Cambo WRE-CA, but the image circle of the lens is slightly too small to cover a full frame medium format sensor, but would probably be excellent on smaller medium format sensor cameras using Cambo’s other lens adapters.  Again, the image circle of the chosen lens is the limitation.  The Canon 17mm TS-E provides a very distinct wide angle of view. Objectionable distortion appears to be easily addressed by programs such as IMADIO fisheye lens plug-in for Photoshop.  Adding the Canon 17mm TS-E to the lens profiles in Capture One Pro 10 would also be a welcome addition.

Kudos to Cambo for their ingenuity and craftsmanship in adding both flexibility and features to their technical cameras.  The Cambo WRE-CA lens adapter is on my shopping list. I am told that we should have the Cambo WRE-CA at the Capture Integration (Pigs) workshop (aka Don & Ken’s Anti-Workshop) in Bluff, Utah this April 2017.  See you there!

Ken Doo, March 2017

You can see some of my landscape photography at www.houseoflandscapes.com

My fine art printing website is www.carmelfineartprinting.com

Specializing in Wall Portraiture at www.kendoophotography.com

 

Capture Integration in Carmel (Pigs) goes to Bluff, UT in April 2017

Posted in Uncategorized on December 25, 2016 by kendoophotography

Medium format digital! This is our 8th  year…and we’re on the road this year!

Come on a week long journey with Phase One and Capture Integration to Bluff Utah for Don and Ken’s Anti-workshop. This unique learning opportunity brings you to shoot the beautiful landscape of southwest Utah.

Expect to be mesmerized with the natural beauty which engulfs this region of southwest Utah. With Bluff as your home base, your week will be packed with photography trips to Monument Valley, Valley of the Gods, Hovenweep National Monument, and Gooseneck State Park among others. There will also be an evening session photographing the Milky Way. Join us for this memorable experience.

This intimate program has limited seating and only has a few spots left. Reserve your spot today!  See, https://captureintegration.com/don-kens-anti-workshop-2017/

 

2016 Carmel Water Polo Heads to Championship Finals Against Soquel

Posted in Uncategorized on October 29, 2016 by kendoophotography

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Red 13 trumps White 13. CHS Water Polo’s Kevan Auger scores in the semi-final round against Santa Cruz on October 27, 2016.  ©2016 Ken Doo Photography

The Carmel High School Boys Varsity Water Polo Team advances to the finals in the league championship against Soquel High School. The game will be played on Saturday, October 29, 2016 at Aptos High School.

This season has been compact and has gone by quickly. I have been extremely busy and have not been able to post as usual during the water polo season to share some of the game highlights. This is my eighth year and my last season with Carmel water polo. I also recently resigned as the Legacy Water Polo Board President, but will remain involved and supportive of water polo and swimming on the central coast.

Game photos are available for viewing and purchase at www.kendoophotography.instaproofs.com   Special thanks to Ande Parker, Anthony Cosentino and Judith Lawrence for photographing the CHS Frosh and Junior Varsity water polo games.  The growth and change from Freshman to Senior is quick and dramatic, and these photos capture those moments and provide great memories for the future. Water polo print sales help support the CHS Water Polo program.

See you at the pool!  Ken

Behind the Scenes with the AMG GTS Lurking in the Shadows

Posted in Uncategorized on July 30, 2016 by kendoophotography

AMG Web2©2016 Ken Doo Photography. Lurking in the Shadows. AMG GTS. Phase One IQ3 100MP, Schneider 40-80LS.

The 2016 Pebble Beach Concours is next month. And with all the excitement over car week on the California central coast, I thought it might be fun to share photographing the Mercedes Benz AMG GTS. The AMG GTS is not a well-known vehicle compared to the likes of the Porsche 911 and other similar sports cars. With that in mind, I wanted to create an image of the AMG GTS with a bit of mystery and not revealing much about the vehicle. It would have been much easier to accomplish this image in a warehouse suitable for large scale photography. Instead, I built the set using several widths of seamless paper to create a dark background sweep. The slant of the asphalt added a bit more challenge in setting up the lights. Strip banks were set up on both sides of the vehicle. A smaller strip light in the rear added back lighting. Another studio light was focused on the seamless backdrop using a 40-degree grid and gelled blue. I placed a fog machine behind the vehicle, and we were ready to shoot.

BTS AMG webBehind the scenes—building the set.

I photographed the AMG GTS using a Phase One XF camera, Phase One IQ3 100 medium format digital back, and Schneider 40-80mm LS lens. This was a short but fun shoot. Only about a dozen or so quick frames were taken, with the resulting image shown above. I wanted to do a lot more including using the Cambo WRS technical camera but ran out of time. I also wanted to take more “behind-the-scenes” photos, but we became pushed for time and it was a bit dark out—as in pitch black!  The final layout is a poster-print sized 24″ x 32″ on metallic paper.

Next project will show the AMG GTS in the open and out of the shadows!  Ken

IR Flash with Profoto’s B1 and B2: Expanding Approaches in Infra-Red Photography in Landscapes and Portraiture

Posted in Uncategorized on July 10, 2016 by kendoophotography
Yosemite Valley View IR Pano. Sony A7r converted to full spectrum; 720nm filter

Yosemite Valley View IR Pano. Sony A7r converted to full spectrum; 720nm filter

There have been more technological changes in photography in the last ten years than the past one hundred years combined. The advent of digital photography with high resolution sensors, coupled with the use of Adobe Photoshop or similar software has quickly replaced film in mainstream photography. The use of Photoshop, however, has not been able to successfully replicate infra-red photography, primarily because IR photography involves the capture of images within certain wavelengths of light.

IR False Color Power plant

IR False Color using a Sony A7r converted to full spectrum.

I do not find Photoshop IR actions or other manipulated images portending to be IR images to be effective nor very realistic.  IR photography has always been peculiar requiring more care. With film I remember having to change film backs fumbling in complete darkness. Focus was set on lenses manually, turning the focus ring just slightly off center from where images otherwise would be sharp with normal film. The peculiarities came with rewards, however, with stunning B&W imagery or for forensic photographic investigations.

IR Bridal Portrait. Panasonic GF1 IR converted to 715nm

IR Bridal Portrait. Panasonic GF1 IR converted to 715nm

Whereas a normal digital camera and Photoshop fall short in creating the “infra-red-look,” all is not lost. Converting a digital camera sensor to infra-red is a fairly painless process and the use of live-view has made photographing infra red images much easier than in the days of IR film.

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Carmel Mission. Panasonic GF1 converted to 715nm. ©Ken Doo

Digital cameras can be converted to capture images in a variety of different IR wavelengths, including a full spectrum conversion allowing the user to change the wavelength of image capture by using different IR filters on the lens. It’s no secret that IR converted cameras can produce gorgeous B&W and false-color imagery. It provides yet another creative outlet for photographers and their art.LSchart larger

For a more detailed description of the different types of IR conversions, resources may be found at Precision Camera, Life Pixel, and Kolari Vision. This article is not intended as a detailed primer on digital IR photography, but rather a brief overview of the use of digital IR cameras in landscape and portraiture, and the use of IR flash with the Profoto B1 and B2 flash systems.

Infra-red filters on strobes can be effectively used to enhance IR photography by subtly adding light within a specified wavelength for a particular wavelength of IR capture. An unfiltered flash would otherwise ruin the infra-red capture. The applications for IR flash extend beyond forensic and crime scene photography, including landscape and even portraiture.11 One of the easiest methods of adding an IR flash system is with the Quantum Q-flash system. The Qflash is a relatively robust and portable strobe system consisting of a barebulb strobe and external battery pack. Users need only add the QF-80 IR filter holder to their Qflash and screw in the desired 67mm IR filter into the holder. Unfortunately, Quantum has discontinued production of the QF-80, making this IR filter holder difficult to obtain, even on the used market. On occasion, Quantum may make QF-80 available for purchase. See, qtm.com . Older Qflash systems such as the Qflash T2 are inexpensive and are ideal, as manual controls are all that are really needed in this application. Additional Qflash reflectors are available and with a little ingenuity can also be converted in a QF-80-type filter holder.

Recently, Profoto released its lithium battery powered B1, which is a 500WS strobe. Profoto quickly followed up with its B2, a smaller and more portable 250WS pack system. I have found that these portable studio lights from Profoto are ideal IR flash systems. The Profoto lights are much more powerful than the Quantum Qflash systems and the IR filter adapter is relatively easy to make, while still looking very clean cosmetically.6

Here, the Profoto protective transport cap for the B1 and B2 serve as the foundation for our infra-red filter holders. Additional protective transport caps are easily obtained from dealers such as B&H Photo for a nominal investment. The Xume filter system is used to make swapping filters quick and easy on both the B1 and B2, and on my full spectrum Sony A7r. The inside diameter of the Xume filter holder is used to cut an opening in the Profoto transport cap. For this application, I chose to use 82mm filters. The Xume filter holder is then glued onto the transport cap. Xume filter adapters are attached to each of my IR filters. The rare earth magnets make it extremely fast to attach or change filters on the B1, B2, and my camera. I can now easily match up the IR wavelength on my B1 and B2 with the wavelength I am using on my camera simply by using the same infra-red filters on both.7

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Sony A7r converted to wide spectrum. Affixing different filters on the lens adapts camera capture to a particular IR wavelength. Using a hot mirror filter (seen here) allows the camera to capture “normal” photographic images.  Using an expodisc to take a “controlled frame” after changing infra-red filters helps to correctly white balance the respective IR capatures.

I have chosen to use 590nm, 720nm, and 850nm filters on my wide spectrum Sony A7r. I keep a second set of these same filters in a filter pouch for use on my Profoto B1 or B2 flash systems. The filter holder and filters take up a nominal amount of space their respective Profoto lighting cases.  The improvements in infra-red capture are subtle and I like the flexibility of using an IR flash system when desired. In the following images you can see the difference in IR images captured both with and without the Profoto B2 flash using matching IR filters.10

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Yosemite Valley View IR Pano. Sony A7r converted to full spectrum; 720nm filter

I particularly like using the Profoto B2 because it is light and small compared to the larger Profoto B1. The artistic applications of IR flash can extend into longer exposures and infra-red light painting as well. Both of the following images were photographed using longer exposures with multiple “pops” from the Profoto B2 with IR filter. In both images I ran through the subject frame and manually discharged the B2 flash numerous times. In the second image taken at Alcatraz at night, you can see some light leakage from the B2, which I did not noticed until I was post processing the images in Capture One Pro. For this type of photography (light-painting), the Profoto B2 must be shielded on the sides of the filter holder and rear of the light head with either cloth or gaffers tape to prevent light leakage. The Profoto B1 does not appear to exhibit this type of light leakage.

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San Francisco at night. Infra-red light painting with the Profoto B2.

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Alcatraz at Night with Capture Integration in Carmel 2016. Infra-red light painting with the Profoto B2. The small disks of white light are light leaks emanating from the rear of the B2 light head. A bit of cloth or gaffers tape on the B2 head would easily solve that!

I like to add a few IR captures during engagement sessions and at weddings. The Profoto B2 is extremely portable and fast. I like how IR flash adds a bit of pop to an image and helps to keep the highlights from getting muddy.

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Engagement portrait session. ©2015 Ken Doo Photography

There are some images that simply cannot be easily replicated without an infra-red camera. Utilizing an infra-red flash system in IR photography feeds the creative soul and helps to fulfill that artistic vision.  You can see some of my IR images at my landscape website, www.houseoflandscapes.com or at www.kendoophotography.com

Fine art printing is at www.carmelfineartprinting.com

Ken Doo

The SMDV Alpha Speedbox: Lighting on the Go

Posted in General with tags , , , , , , , , , , on January 24, 2016 by kendoophotography
SMDV Alpha Speedbox with adapters for Profoto, Bowens, Elinchrom, and Balcar.

SMDV Alpha Speedbox with speedring adapters for Profoto, Bowens, Elinchrom, and Balcar.

Introduction

Technology and development is fast paced in the world of digital photography. Every year (or every other year) manufacturers introduce dozens of new innovative tools and equipment at large photography shows such as Photokina in Germany or Photoplus in New York. Innovation may be large or small, but if a new product can actually make my job as a professional photographer easier, that is what makes it a worthwhile investment to me.  The SMDV Alpha Speedbox is one of those innovative worthwhile investments that has found a place in my studio, and especially when working on location.  When surrounded by announcements of the latest fast lenses and 100 megapixel medium format digital backs, it may be difficult to get excited about a studio lighting modifier. But I think the SMDV Alpha Speedbox does a pretty good job here. SMDV was established by JS Kim in 2003 and is a relatively small company headquartered in Busan, South Korea. The SMDV Alpha Speedbox is not an inexpensive lighting modifier and should not be confused with cheap photography products cranked out by some Asian companies. On the contrary, the quality of materials used here is top-notch. Pricing starts at about $300 depending on mount selected and the size of the modifier. Warranty service and support is provided by SMDV USA. The US Distributor is www.legioaerium.com

36" Alpha Speedbox and 44" Alpha Speedbox shown with optional grid for more light control

36″ Alpha Speedbox and 44″ Alpha Speedbox shown with optional grid for more light control

Background

The SMDV Alpha Speedbox is a parabolic softbox designed for studio lights. It is available in 32”, 36”, 40″, and 44” sizes. In a sea of “parabolic” lighting modifiers, what makes the SMDV Alpha Speedbox standout is the quality of its feature-set in a packable lighting kit for working on location. Oh, yes—and it’s easy to use and speedy to set-up, hence its namesake.

Following my review of the KPS T5 geared ballhead, the US Distributor for the SMDV Alpha Speedbox asked if I would be interested in trying their relatively new softbox. Eh, not really I replied, but then again I had just acquired a Profoto B2 on location lighting kit from Capture Integration in Atlanta, along with a Profoto B1 and Profoto Acute2 B600 pack also for working on location. I was not impressed with Profoto’s diminutive 2’ OCF Octobox, so maybe trying some new on location lighting modifiers wasn’t such a bad idea after all. And SMDV had just added a Profoto speedring adapter for the Alpha Speedbox. Speedring adapters are also available for Bowens, Elinchrom, Broncolor, Hensel, and Balcar.

At the end of September 2015, I received two Alpha Speedboxes, Profoto speedring adapters, and accessories. No compensation was received from SMDV. I was asked to simply use the Speedboxes and provide input and a review. Unlike many reviews where a product is “used” for a scant few hours, I used the 36” and 44” Alpha Speedboxes extensively over a period of three months in a variety of situations both in studio and on location, primarily in portraiture as well as at two destination weddings.

SMDV Alpha Speedbox softcase shown inside my hardcase, along with lightstand and Profoto umbrella---ready to go.

SMDV Alpha Speedbox soft case (similar to a tripod soft case) shown inside my hard case, along with light stand and Profoto umbrella—ready to go.

Optional grid comes in its own soft case.

Optional grid comes in its own soft case.

SMDV Grid in case WEB

The Meat and Potatoes

The Alpha Speedbox is a parabolic softbox with an internal baffle and a removable outer diffuser. Once set-up, both the internal baffle and outer diffuser may be left attached to the Speedbox. Using the Profoto adapter ring adds several inches to the length of the modifier when folded.  The 36″ Speedbox (with Profoto adapter) is about 28-inches in length when folded; the 44″ speedbox slightly longer of course. The diameter of the Alpha Speedbox when folded is just under 8-inches. The entire kit is easily packed into its included “to-go” zippered soft case, which is similar to a tripod case with handles and shoulder strap. The grid comes with its own protective soft case. An available cloth honeycomb grid is easily attached for further light control. I was very surprised when I first handled the grid. It is a slightly heavier material and its quality is surprisingly better than grids I have seen from Profoto. The grid attaches easily to the outside of the Alpha Speedbox with velcro tabs.  The optional grid is expensive, starting at approximately $150-$190, but the quality is also apparent. The grid is a special order item that is hand-made in Korea. I am told that an optional deflector plate will also soon be available providing lighting similar to a beauty dish.

The Alpha Speedbox, “Alpha” referring to its aluminum construction and metal speedring, is a twelve-sided dodecagon shaped softbox, as opposed to a more popular six or eight-sided octobox. The dodecagon shape is more circular and lends itself to better catch-lights. The ribs are metal and workmanship and quality of materials is excellent. The reflective material is held taut by the unique engineering of the modifier. The modifier is quickly deployed in about thirty seconds—not minutes—simply by pulling each steel rib upwards until it clicks into place. I have found that by skipping every other one and then rotating the modifier until each rib is locked into place is the fastest method to deploy this modifier. There is no fumbling with color-coded ribs into speed ring slots or struggling to set-up a large softbox. Ease and speed of set-up is particularly important for photographers who often work alone or without the luxury of assistants. Few other lighting modifiers offer both the speed and ease of set-up as the SMDV Alpha Speedbox, and certainly not with the same level of light control and available accessories.  All this—in an easy to pack along, lighting kit.  Putting the modifier away is even faster: simply squeeze the six tab locks together and the modifier instantly collapses down ready to put into its case.

SMDV Alpha Speedbox with Profoto Speedring Adapter

SMDV Alpha Speedbox with Profoto Speedring Adapter. The band attachments are now even stronger with a new reinforced rubber.

So, how is the SMDV Alpha Speedbox as a portrait lighting modifier on location?  Put it this way, if given the choice, the SMDV Alpha Speedbox 90 (36″) is my first choice. I had a hard time deciding whether to purchase the SMDV Alpha 36″ or 44″ Speedbox or both. In the end I opted for the SMDV Alpha Speedbox 90 (36″). It is a nice size yet still easily maneuverable on location.  For a destination wedding in Sedona, Arizona, I chose to use the SMDV Alpha Speedbox 90 (36″) paired with Profoto’s more portable B2 lighting kit.  Special thanks to Don Libby of IronCreekPhotography in Tucson, AZ for providing the short video clip.

https://youtu.be/V5eqIuWHgp0

Engagement Session in Sedona, AZ. Phase XF with IQ180, Phase SK 75-150mm LS; SMDV Alpha Speedbox with Profoto B2

Engagement Session in Sedona, AZ. Phase XF with IQ180, Phase SK 75-150mm LS; SMDV Alpha Speedbox with Profoto B2

SMDV Alpha Speedbox with grid, Profoto B2

Profoto B2 and SMDV Alpha Speedbox with optional grid.

As a portrait photographer, I often work alone. Being able to set up quickly is a value that I place a great premium. For individuals, couples, or even small groupings, the SMDV Alpha Speedboxes are an excellent choice. I like the flexibility that the Alpha Speedboxes offer with removable diffusion panels, grids, and soon a deflector plate. Its parabolic shape makes it easy to feather the light when needed, and its flexible design makes it easy to change the quality of light from a diffused source to a more distinct light.

SMDV Alpha Speedbox with grid

SMDV Alpha Speedbox with grid

Packing “light and tight” is a necessity to fly across the country for a destination wedding. Setting up quickly for portraits after the wedding ceremony and racing the setting sun can be a challenge.  The SMDV Alpha Speedbox with Profoto B2 lights excels easily at both. The design of the Alpha Speedbox and its flexibility as a modifier make it an easy choice to take on location.

Parents Portrait with the SMDV Alpha Speedbox 90 (36") at a destination wedding. Canon 5Ds and Profoto B2

Parents Portrait with the SMDV Alpha Speedbox 90 (36″) at a destination wedding. Canon 5Ds and Profoto B2

What It’s Not

The SMDV Alpha Speedbox is not a knock-off. The SMDV Alpha Speedbox is not cheaply made.  And the SMDV Alpha Speedbox is not at all like Adorama’s Glow Parapop modifier. During the course of my review, another photographer pointed out to me the Adorama Glow Parapop as having similar features. I was intrigued, so I bought Adorama’s Glow Parapop 38-inch modifier, a bundled Glow Parapop kit with a Balcar mount for Paul Buff’s Alien Bees or Einstein monolights, to compare.  Apparently some parts were licensed by SMDV to Rimelite who in turn sold them to Adorama for their Glow series. The Adorama marketing description made the two modifiers seem strikingly very similar. But once in hand, it is abundantly clear that there is no comparison. It is not even close.  The reflective materials and the diffusion panel materials are markedly different. The quality of materials and design of the SMDV Alpha Speedbox are clearly superior.

Not comparable in shape, quality of materials, or light output.

Not comparable in shape, quality of materials, or light output.

The SMDV Alpha Speedbox was designed with studio lights in mind. The speedring and adapters are made of aluminum to handle heat generated by modeling lamps. The ribs on the SMDV Alpha Speedbox are made of steel. The ribs on the Parapop are fiberglass. The Parapop is advertised by Adorama and recommended by them for use with studio lights, but to do so I think is irresponsible. The provided Balcar adapter is held in place by some really tiny screws, into the plastic Parapop base.  Really tiny screws. Plastic base. Really inappropriate. It is a disaster waiting to happen—and it did.

Tiny screws shown with the Balcar adapter. Trouble waiting to happen...

Tiny screws shown with the Balcar adapter. Trouble waiting to happen…

Within minutes of attaching the Glow Parapop to the Einstein monolight, the Parapop came crashing down on the studio floor. The heat from the Einstein modeling lamp had expanded the plastic screw mounts, and the tiny screws holding the Balcar mount adapter in place slipped out! Both the plastic mount and Balcar adapter remained very hot for quite some time.  Luckily no damage was caused to the Einstein monolight tube.  The Glow Parapop is not designed for studio light use (as was marketed). Obviously I was not able to do further studio testing of the Parapop. But frankly, in light of the glaring differences in materials used, there is no legitimate comparison to the SMDV Alpha Speedboxes to begin with. I found the two release tabs on the Parapop plastic base were very difficult to squeeze and close the fiberglass tines on the modifier.  In contrast, the SMDV Alpha Speedbox uses metal rods which easily collapse down when released. The six pairs of tab locks on the Alpha Speedbox provide added strength and tautness to the modifier. Oh, and by the way, the Glow Parapop “38-inch modifier” is not 38-inches—it really is only 36-inches.  SMDV does make a different line of modifiers for speedlite use, but even those are made with steel ribs and the same high quality diffusion material that is used on the Alpha Speedboxes. Note the differences in diffusion panels and light quality in the image shown above between the SMDV Alpha Speedbox and the Parapop.

Inner baffle differences in both size and quality of materials used. The SMDV diffusion panel is markedly better.

Inner baffle differences in both size and quality of materials used. The SMDV diffusion panel is markedly better.

Note the differences in reflective materials and tautness of the modifier

Note the differences in reflective materials and tautness of the modifier

Conclusion

The SMDV Alpha Speedbox is an excellent lighting modifier. It is easy to use, truly quick to set up, and fast to break down. SMDV has put together a nice on location lighting kit in a single bag.  I am able to pack the SMDV Alpha Speedbox in its softcase, SMDV grid, a light stand, and a Profoto shallow medium umbrella (for those bigger group portraits) in my own hard case for additional protection when traveling. The hard case that I use is a US Art Supply 10-inch drafting tube that telescopes from 36 to 59-inches.  One of the things that I like about small companies like SMDV is that they are responsive and focused on providing high quality photographic gear for professionals.  The owner of SMDV, JS Kim, was also a professional photographer and seems to have a good understanding of photographer’s concerns.  The quality of materials and workmanship on the SMDV Alpha Speedbox is excellent and makes the investment in this lighting modifier worthwhile. I look forward to trying the optional deflector plate that will be available shortly.  I am also told that SMDV is working on Alpha Speedbox Stripboxes too.

SMDV Alpha Speedbox

SMDV Alpha Speedbox: Professional lighting modifier to go

After using the SMDV Alpha Speedbox on dozens of individual portraits, engagement sessions, and travelling with it for two destination weddings, I’m glad to have the SMDV Alpha Speedbox as part of my lighting arsenal.  For professional photographers that work frequently on location, the SMDV Alpha Speedbox is a great lighting modifier to-go kit.  You can obtain more information or order the SMDV Alpha Speedbox online from the US distributor of SMDV products,  www.legioaerium.com

Ken Doo, www.kendoophotography.com

Ken Doo has been a professional portrait photographer for fifteen years, with a boutique studio in Carmel, California. He and co-conspirator Don Libby lead the Capture Integration in Carmel medium format digital “not a workshop-workshop” sometimes affectionately referred to simply as, “Pigs.”  Ken is also a fine art printer for artists and photographers, and recently launched his fine art printing website, www.carmelfineartprinting.com  He enjoys long walks along the beach, holding hands, meaningful conversation, and sarcastic humor.

 

New Year New Approaches

Posted in Events, General, Landscapes, Nature & Wildlife, Portraiture, Weddings and Bridal with tags , , , , , , , , , on January 1, 2016 by kendoophotography
Me and my boys with  Grandma in studio.

Me and my boys with Grandma in studio. Phase XF, IQ180, Schneider 40-80mm LS.

The New Year holiday is often a time of introspection and promises of resolutions for the near future. When in reality it is something that everyone should be doing throughout the year. I am constantly gauging for myself what works and what may be improved. 2015 was a very busy and good year, but also one filled with the stresses of how to handle and protect a loved one afflicted with dementia. It hasn’t been easy. But we’ve also been very fortunate to have the resources and discipline to do what is both best and necessary. We have moved my mom from the Bay area to Monterey, making it much easier to spend time with her. It was definitely the right decision and just in time for the new year. There won’t be broken commitments to the latest fad diet or unused gym memberships–that’s never been a problem for our family! 2016 will be a reaffirmation of family and the things that are important to me in life. Professionally, I have decided to remain focused on fine portraiture, commercial photography, and fine art printing for artists and photographers. I will no longer do corporate event work. I will limit the studio to one wedding per year (yup, only one).  And yes, that means taking more time to travel for landscape photography.  2016 is going to be a great year.  kmd.