Archive for the Portraiture Category

The SMDV BRiHT 360 Portable Lighting System

Posted in General, Portraiture, Weddings and Bridal with tags , , , , , , on June 4, 2017 by kendoophotography
Ivy Jane

Ivey. ©2017 Ken Doo Photography.  SMDV BRiHT 360 with SMDV Speedbox 85, Phase One XF, Phase One IQ3 100, Schneider 150mm LS

Photographing portraits on location or working at a wedding with a tight schedule poses special challenges for photographers. Working in a controlled studio environment can be relatively easy whereas working on location often means working with a degree of uncertainty, which may include an abrasive wedding coordinator, dimly lit venues, and rapidly changing weather conditions.  Natural light is very limiting and using studio lighting on location is often necessary to produce dramatic lighting, overpower the sun, or simply to get the shot inside a dark reception hall. Mastering studio strobes on location often differentiates novices from more established professionals.  For the busy on-location or wedding photographer, a good, reliable lighting system is indispensable. Portability and ease of use are arguably the most important features for an on-location lighting system, and in this regard, the SMDV BRiHT 360 strobe excels.

IMG_0222 Ken bts in studio BRiHT 360 and Speedbox 85

Behind the scenes. Testing in studio with the SMDV BRiHT 360 and SMDV Speedbox 85.

I recently had the opportunity to test the newly released SMDV BRiHT 360 strobe. I am familiar with SMDV since I had reviewed their excellent SMDV Alpha Speedbox over a year ago, and use it with my Profoto studio lighting system.  The BRiHT 360 enters the highly competitive lower priced lighting market—at least lower in price compared to offerings from Profoto, Broncolor, and other well-established photographic lighting companies. This new competitive arena is crowded with relatively new brands such as the popular Godox, Flashpoint, Paul Buff Alien Bees and Einsteins, Jinbei, and seemingly dozens of other newly hatched companies eager to join the fray. The challenge should not be to find a portable studio strobe at the lowest price point. The goal is to select a flash unit that offers quality, reliability, portability and ease of use at a moderate price point.

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Small, portable, complete lighting kit in a small carry case.

The SMDV BRiHT 360 comes packaged in a nice zippered case with padded dividers, not much bigger than an insulated lunch bag. Inside is ample room in the case for the strobe, handle, two batteries, 5-inch reflector, and Flashwave5 2.4 Ghz transmitter (Canon or Nikon). The lid has additional pockets for extra transmitter batteries (AAA), the manual and 5-inch reflector grid, gels, and diffusion sock. In the case image above you can see an Arca Swiss compatible quick release attached to the handle. An Arca Swiss compatible plate is affixed to the bottom of the BRiHT 360. This allows for extremely fast set-up and break down of the lighting system. Additionally, it also enables the BRiHT 360 to be mounted alternatively onto a tripod with an AS quick release clamp. Pretty nifty. An umbrella holder is built into the light handle.

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The SMDV BRiHT 360 is quite small compared to the larger and heavier 500ws Profoto B1 and 250ws Profoto B2.

This light is on the small side and with its attached handle and battery, weighs only about 3 pounds. Despite its small size the SMDV BRiHT provides 360 watt seconds of lighting power, less than the Profoto B1’s 500 ws, but more than the Profoto B2’s 250 ws.  The SMDV BRiHT 360 is situated between B2 and B1 in output, but its form factor is closer to the B1 with its attached lithium battery and cordless operation—but at half the weight!  Build quality is excellent particularly at its price point of approximately $700 for a complete kit (strobe, battery, charger, 5-inch reflector, and Flashwave5 transmitter), which is about 1/3 the price for the Profoto B1 or Profoto B2.  The bare bulb flash tube is user replaceable.

I enjoy working with my Profoto lights, and am fully invested in Profoto and have no intention of changing my lighting systems. I am also fully aware of weaknesses in the Profoto B1/B1x, which is primarily its weight, tipping the scales at just over six pounds. The B1 is cordless and easy to use, but when placed on a light stand with a modifier, it can be easily blown over in the wind. Heavy light stands and sand bags are the norm when using the B1, which in turn takes away from its touted portability.

The SMDV BRiHT 360 weighs less than the Profoto B2 pack and head, yet retains the ease of cordless operation similar to the Profoto B1. Its small form factor and light weight means the BRiHT 360 can more easily be used with smaller (lighter) light stands and be easily weighted down if necessary by a photographer’s backpack and a bungee cord. I found the SMDV BRiHT 360 to be fast and easy to use. It is small enough to be easily portable, yet with enough power for individual and group wedding portraits. I could easily set up one or two of the BRiHT 360 strobes on light stands to remotely light a wedding reception dance floor, using my Canon speedlite for fill, and without worrying about the lights crashing down on the party. If I were still shooting weddings, I would seriously consider the SMDV BRiHT 360. Its small size, light weight, and balance of power make it ideal for weddings. Its smaller cordless form factor makes it a better choice when mounted high up on a light stand over a reception dance floor than other larger, heavier studio monolights such as the Profoto B1 or Godox AD600.

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SMDV Flashwave 5 transmitter.

I was particularly impressed by the SMDV Flashwave5 transmitter.  The SMDV BRiHT 360 offers easy wireless control through the Flashwave5 transmitter. Power output is easily adjusted in manual mode by pressing the minus (-) or the plus (+) buttons. High speed sync (HSS) is available as well as shooting with through the lens metering or TTL. I found that the implementation of TTL by SMDV to be exceptionally easy and actually better than the Profoto Air TTL. TTL adjustments on the SMDV BRiHT is made by pressing the (+) or (-) buttons, which adjusts exposure compensation. This is more intuitive than adjusting exposure compensation on the camera body itself.  Channels and groups are easy to adjust on the SMDV Flashwave5. The transmitter is triggered by the camera hot shoe. It uses standard AAA batteries.

SMDV TeleReflector

SMDV 7-inch tele-reflector next to the Profoto Zoom II and the Profoto Magnum reflectors.

The SMDV BRiHT 360 has its own proprietary mount, similar to Bowens-style mount, but in miniature.  The included 5-inch metal reflector is similar to that used on the Quantum Q-flash. Aftermarket grids and gels are available for the 5-inch reflector. I found the optional tele-reflector to be much more useful as a modifier, particularly when used with 7” grids or a diffusion sock.  I was surprised to find that the quality of the SMDV metal reflectors was on par with my Profoto metal reflectors, using a similar gauge of metal.  The reflectors are not thin and cheap like the standard Alien Bee/Einstein reflectors. I especially liked working with the SMDV Speedbox 85 with the BRiHT 360.  The SMDV proprietary mount on the Speedbox 85 is much lighter than the SMDV Alpha Speedbox used with my Profoto lighting. The SMDV BRiHT 360’s lightweight and small form factor make it particularly effective when working on location and I foresee a formidable lighting tool for wedding photographers. An optional SMDV mount adapter allows the BRiHT 360 to use any Bowens mount modifier.

The SMDV BRiHT 360 strobe is a high-quality lighting option considering its price point.  However, I also know that the market is replete with many different lighting options at this level, and I admittedly am not familiar with Godox/Flashpoint and the many others. Consequently, I thought it would be interesting to invite other photographers with different lighting experience levels to give their impressions of the SMDV BRiHT 360.  No compensation was provided by SMDV.  I didn’t even ask SMDV for their permission to invite other photographers to participate. I just thought it would be interesting to see if other photographers found the SMDV BRiHT 360 easy to use or not.  I invited Monterey photographer Lucas Huey and Carmel photographer Brandalyn Rexeen to try the SMDV BRiHT 360. We shared use of the SMDV BRiHT 360 lights and Flashwave5 transmitter extensively over approximately four months. I hope that the experiences of other photographers with different approaches is a valuable collective review and users report useful to other photographers interested in a portable lighting solution. Their reviews follow.

I have been a full-time professional photographer for over seventeen years. I consider myself “semi-retired” concentrating mostly on portrait work and fine art printing for other photographers and artists. My conclusion in a nutshell is that the SMDV BRiHT 360 is an excellent studio lighting option for on location work. It is small, portable and easy to use. Its size and light weight make it a particularly good choice for wedding photographers.  The SMDV BRiHT 360 is distributed in the U.S. by www.legiophoto.com

Ken Doo

www.kendoophotography.com

www.carmelfineartprinting.com

 

User’s Report:  The SMDV BRiHT 360 Strobe

By Lucas Huey

Growing up I spent a lot of time at my Grandparent’s house.  My father was a farmer, and during the various picking seasons, my mother, brother, and I would go visit relatives in San Diego. My Grandfather loved photography and maintained a working darkroom along with a plethora of 35mm to 4×5 view cameras. As I spent more time with my grandfather, my interest in photography grew.  I learned how to develop and print in the darkroom and use various formats of cameras. My interest in photography continued through my youth and I continued my photographic training with courses in college. I graduated with a BFA in Graphic Design with a minor in photography.

I moved to the central coast of California in 2005.  I am a portrait, wedding, automotive, and landscape photographer located in Monterey, California.  I use studio strobes for most of my work. Currently, I use the Paul Buff Einstein with Cyber Commander transmitter and the Flashpoint Xplor 600 (Godox AD600) with R2 4 zone TTL transmitter. Recently, another local photographer, Ken Doo, asked if I would like to try the new SMDV BriHT 360 strobes.

Senior Portrait

Senior Portrait. SMDV BRiHT 360, Canon 5D III. ©2017 Lucas Huey Photography

While testing these lights I used them in a variety of situations including senior portraits, commercial, and an engagement session. My initial impressions of the BRiHT 360 were placed in the backdrop of my own studio lights, though both systems are more powerful than the 360ws of the BRiHT 360. Both the BRiHT 360 and Xplor 600 offer HSS and TTL, whereas the 640ws Einstein is limited to 1/200th flash sync on my Canon DSLR.

The SMDV BRiHT 360 is light, even with the battery attached. It is more portable than the Xplor or the Einstein. The BRiHT 360 balanced really well with the battery sitting on top of the strobe as opposed to the side or with a cord attached. The included case is nice and small and easily slips into a photo backpack with a camera body and 2 lenses. This strobe is also light enough that I was able to use a small, lightweight Cheetah light stand. The Cheetah light stand legs automatically fold up when the stand is lifted, making it exceptionally fast and easy to move and walk to the next location with your client.  See, http://www.cheetahstand.com/product-p/c10.htm  I felt comfortable that the strobe would not fall over.

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Behind the scenes on a windy day, I chose to use the SMDV BRiHT 360 with an Arca Swiss quick release on a tripod instead of using a light stand.

The Flashwave 5 remote trigger is really easy to use. It is pretty intuitive.  Adjusting zones was simple and easy to understand. The Flashwave5 are perfect to control lighting on a dance floor during a wedding reception because of the ability to have the different zones fire at different settings. Using Manual mode was also easy.  The Flashwave 5 transmitter is far superior to the R2 trigger of the Xplor 600. The Flashwave 5 allows the BRiHT the ability to adjust by 1/10 of a stop as opposed to the 1/3 stop steps of the R2 and Xplor 600.  This capability made it easier to dial in the correct exposure in manual mode on the BRiHT 360.

The SMDV BRiHT 360 allows HSS up to 1/8000th.  This a nice option to have and I found that 1/1600 seemed to provide the best lighting for my personal tastes. When shooting on location, using HSS with the BRiHT 360 allowed me to better control the sun while preserving important details in the portrait.

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Engagement session. SMDV BRiHT 360, Canon 5D III. ©2017 Lucas Huey Photography.

The mini-Bowens mount on the BRiHT 360 is small to aid portability, but it also limits readily available modifiers from other manufacturers. An adapter must be used in order to mount standard Bowens modifiers.  Over the period of four months, I used the SMDV BRiHT 360 on a variety of jobs and used the standard 5-inch reflector, the SMDV 12-inch beauty dish, the 7-inch tele-reflector, and the SMDV Speedbox 85 with the BRiHT 360.

I was impressed by the ability of the SMDV BRiHT 360 in helping me to achieve a nice blurred background or “bokeh” during a senior portrait session. I was able to shoot at f/2 at 1/1600, ISO 500. Using HSS made it easy to freeze waves crashing in the background without motion blur. I tried shooting at 1/8000, but found that often 1/1600 was the best shutter speed for my sessions.  An Arca Swiss compatible plate was attached to the bottom of the strobes and allowed me to attach the BRiHT 360 to my tripod as opposed to a light stand. This is an easy worthwhile modification to make on the SMDV BRiHT 360.

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SMDV BRiHT 360, Canon 5D III. ©2017 Lucas Huey Photography.

I used the BRiHT 360 on an engagement session in the mountains, a beautiful scenic setting that was special to my clients. The BRiHT 360 is so small and portable, it was easy for my assistant to hold the strobe and direct the light quickly when directed.  When portability and weight is a factor, the SMDV BRiHT is the perfect lighting kit.  TTL and HSS on the BRiHT 360 is easy to use and allows me to direct my attention to creating images with my clients rather than fussing with the lights or remote.  The strobe is not the most powerful option, but offers a better balance for portability in a lightweight, easy to use lighting kit. It is ideal for working on location and provides enough power for most situations.

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SMDV BRiHT 360, Canon 5D III. ©2017 Lucas Huey Photography.

The small footprint of the BRiHT 360 worked well in a commercial setting. It was nice not having to worry about cords all over the location, which also had pedestrian traffic in the area.  I used a 40 degree grid on the 7-inch tele-reflector, and along with HSS and TTL, my subject popped out nicely despite the busy background.

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SMDV BRiHT 360, Canon 5D III. ©2017 Lucas Huey Photography.

During an editorial shoot featuring a car and owner, I decided to use the SMDV BRiHT 360. It was easy to use the strobes in manual mode to underexpose the clouds and background while boosting the light at 1/10th of a stop to create highlights that would show off the curves of the car. The Flashwave5 transmitter made it very easy to control the lighting. The controls on the transmitter are nicely laid out and it is very intuitive.

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Editorial shoot. SMDV BRiHT 360, Canon 5D III. ©2017 Lucas Huey Photography.

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Porsche Carrera RS. SMDV BRiHT 360, Canon 5D III. ©2017 Lucas Huey Photography.

The ease of the SMDV BRiHT 360 makes it an ideal “first” lighting kit for a “natural light” photographer as well as a perfect portable lighting kit for a portrait or wedding photographer.

Lucas Huey

Monterey, CA May 2017

www.lucashueyphotography.com

www.montereyphotographer.com

 

 

The SMDV BRiHT 360: An Easy Introduction to Off-Camera Lighting

By Brandalyn Rexeen, Photographer, Red Light Girls

Seven years ago, I started the Red Light Girls as a social network for women striving to release their many egos/facades through modeling and sisterhood, and shedding the stigma of social media’s “ideal” model’s body. I have photographed women in all stages of cancer, paralysis, multiple sclerosis, stretch marks, scars, cellulite, varicose veins, all body types and ages—striving to reveal the beauty within every woman. Until recently, I had been photographing my clients only in natural light.  I knew that the next step for me as a photographer was to begin utilizing off camera lighting in my portrait sessions in order to offer my clients better image quality.

IMG_0184 Brandy BTS with the SMDV BRiHT 360

Behind the scenes with the SMDV BRiHT 360 with 7-inch tele-reflector and 30 degree grid.

The vast majority of my photography is outdoors and on location. I am also new to using off camera flash. Consequently, both portability and ease of use are very important to me. When Ken Doo asked me to try the newly released SMDV BRiHT 360 for him, I was cautiously optimistic.

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RLG. ©2017 Brandalyn Rexeen. SMDV BRiHT 360, Canon 5D IV, 85mm f/1.2 L.

I am relatively new to studio lighting and assumed that setting up lights would be both tedious and difficult. I was surprised how quick and easy it was to set up the SMDV BRiHT 360 with my Canon 5D Mark IV. The Flashwave5 wireless transmitter works seamlessly with the BRiHT 360. I found the controls extremely easy to use.  TTL and HSS functions worked flawlessly to balance with natural light even in harsh mid-day sunlight.  I was surprised how easy this lighting system is to use.

IMG_0213 Brandy BTS BRiHT 360

Behind the scenes with the SMDV BRiHT 360 and SMDV Speedbox 85.

I initially sought an off-camera flash solution to simply add some fill onto my model’s faces. Once I used the SMDV BRiHT 360, I realized the capability of this portable system to not only fill in shadows but also to easily add dramatic lighting in any setting.

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RLG. ©2017 Brandalyn Rexeen. SMDV BRiHT 360, SMDV Speedbox 85, Canon 5D IV, 85mm f/1.2 L.

The locations that I like to use often require travel and can be somewhat remote. The BRiHT 360 is extremely compact and lightweight, making it easy to slip in a photo backpack with my other gear. I initially used the SMDV 7” tele-reflector with a 30 degree grid and also the SMDV Speedbox 85. Both have helped to unleash newfound creativity and enthusiasm.  The SMDV BRiHT 360 is now a valuable part of my photography kit and I look forward to using it to empower and reveal the natural beauty of the everyday woman.

You can see some of my earlier work at www.redlightshoppe.com.

Brandalyn Rexeen

April 2017

The SMDV BRiHT 360 Portable strobe and Flashwave 5 transmitter is distributed in the U.S. by www.legiophoto.com

 

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.

The KPS T5 Geared Ballhead: In Search of the Elusive White Unicorn

Posted in General, Landscapes, Nature & Wildlife, Portraiture with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 15, 2015 by kendoophotography
Carmel Sunset

Carmel Sunset. ©2015 Ken Doo. Cambo WRS, Phase One IQ180, Rodenstock HR40 t/s, RRS TVC-33 with KPS T5-DV geared ballhead.

Background.

Photographers and camera bags are a lot like women and shoes. The endless search for the perfect camera bag is as evasive as the perfect pair of heels.  Finding the right tripod head is not much better. And if you are looking for a geared tripod head with an eye towards using it outside of the studio, the choices are slim indeed.

In 2009, Jack Flesher, wrote a review for the Luminous-Landscape on the Arca Swiss Cube, a really remarkable geared tripod head, which arguably set the standard for quality and precision in a geared tripod head. But the Cube also came at an incredible cost: approximately $1,700 for the Cube in a corrugated box version to $1,900 for a Cube packaged in a luxurious “Coach” leather bag that no one has quite figured out what the hell to do with once they have removed its precious cargo. Pure insanity, I thought when I first read Jack’s review. No tripod head is worth nearly two thousand dollars! But then I tried the Cube, and then I understood. The silent enabler, responsible for probably the most Cube sales to date, was right. Simply stated, the Arca Swiss Cube provides precision geared movements making leveling a camera platform child’s play, all on an extremely stable and secure platform.  When photographing in the shivering cold, a geared head makes leveling the camera much easier than with a traditional ballhead. Similarly, making fine adjustments in studio is also easier with a geared tripod head.

The Cube was a worthwhile investment to me. But the Cube is far from perfect. High price aside, the Cube is heavy, weighing approximately 2.25 pounds. Its profile is relatively stout and markedly larger than its non-geared heavy duty ballhead cousins. While the Cube promises precise geared adjustments, it also sacrifices the speed of a traditional ballhead. As good as the Cube was (and still is) mounted on a Really Right Stuff TVC 3 series carbon fiber tripod, I found that the Cube was top-heavy on my lighter RRS TVC-24 tripod which I use for hiking and travel. I wanted the quality and capabilities of the Cube, but in a smaller and lighter package. And so the search began for a geared tripod head alternative.

Before discussing the merits and shortcomings of the KPS T5 geared ballhead, I think it is necessary for me to first disclose the parameters for what I consider to be an acceptable tripod head. The tripod head must be capable of providing a secure and stable platform for a moderately heavy camera system, primarily a Cambo WRS technical camera, Rodenstock lenses, Phase One medium format digital back, and sometimes also supporting tethering with a Surface Pro tablet. Other alternate camera platforms might be a Phase One DF medium format digital DSLR, or a “professional” 1D series Canon DSLR with a long lens. These are heavier platforms, and generally much more expensive systems than may be considered typical, and worrying about whether your tripod head can safely support such expensive gear should not be even the slightest concern. Mounting and leveling the camera platform should be an easy task, with adjustments made smoothly and quickly. In short, the photographer should be able to focus on the process of photography and not have the slightest worry about the tripod head that supports his expensive camera system. In a nutshell, I want AS Cube-like quality and stability in a smaller, lighter package. I wanted a geared tripod head that bestowed all the Cube’s benefits afforded to my Cambo technical camera, and preferably less expensive too.  Simple, right?

The Arca Swiss Cube is considered by many to be the pinnacle of quality for geared tripod heads. As such, the Cube naturally set the standard by which to compare other geared options, including the KPS T5 in this review.  Manfrotto’s 405, 410, and their new xpro geared heads?  Not in the running for this level of desired quality. The Manfrotto’s paltry maximum of 16 pounds of support (even less for their new xpro) falls far short compared to the Cube’s 100+lb rating.  Sunwayfoto’s GH-Pro is a smaller, lighter, and less expensive version of the Arca Swiss D4, but its 26 pound capacity rating is rather optimistic and I found it much more acceptable for a small, mirrorless camera-sized platform. Both the AS D4 and GH-Pro exhibit lift inherent in their design and are not as stable as the standard set forth by the Cube. I did not consider the Photoflex Clam nor Linhof’s 3D Micro as both are very similar to the Cube in size and weight, not to mention expensive as well.   Enter the KPS T5 geared ballhead.

The KPS T5-DV packaged alongside KPS proprietary Slim Plates.

The KPS T5 Geared BallHead

KPS Research & Design is a small Korean company, owned by P.S. Kang. Kang’s background as an engineer and designer of custom industrial machinery carried over into establishing KPS. An artist and photographer at heart, Kang started developing and making photographic equipment, initially with viewfinders for DSLRs and later introducing the KPS Slim Plate system. A T5 geared ballhead prototype was introduced at Photokina in 2010 and became available to the public in 2012 and recently in the US. The T5 geared ballhead is unique in my mind as it is not a knock-off or carbon copy of pre-existing technologies. There really is nothing else currently on the market quite like it. This is not a cheap or inexpensive head. With the T5, KPS has clearly set its sights on the higher quality end of the photography market. If I had to describe a point of quality reference, I would place the fit and finish of the T5 on par with products from Arca Swiss and Really Right Stuff.  The U.S. distributor for the KPS T5 is Legio Aerium, located in Elkridge, Maryland. www.legioaerium.com  Legio Aerium is a veteran owned business.

 T5-DV with lever quick release on left; T5D with screw clamp on right. Both are Arca Swiss compatible. The T5DV also uses the KPS proprietary Slim Plate.

T5-DV with lever quick release on left; T5D with screw clamp on right. Both are Arca Swiss compatible. The T5DV also uses the KPS proprietary Slim Plate.

I received two geared ballheads from Legio Aerium to test: the T5D with screw clamp and the T5DV with quick lever release clamp. Both are Arca Swiss compatible, but the T5DV also uses KPS’ proprietary Slim Plates as well.  The T5DV includes a generic KPS Slim Plate. Legio Aerium also included several other KPS Slim Plates for a mirrorless camera and professional DSLR body. More on the KPS slim plates later.  The T5 head came well-packaged in cut foam placed inside of an elegant box. No “Coach” leather bag, but certainly better than a corrugated cardboard box. A small pamphlet is included that explains how to operate the T5.  This is much better than the poorly photocopied instructions that came with my Cube! I used the T5 geared ballheads for a period of approximately five weeks both in studio and on location. I will be taking the T5 geared ballheads with me to Capture Integration in Lake Tahoe, a workshop I lead with Don Libby of Tucson, Arizona.

I related to Legio Aerium my disdain for the needless use of permanent red Loctite, making it much more difficult for end-users to install the top clamp of their own choosing. Users must resort to a heat gun to release the adhesive and risk causing damage to the tripod head. I do believe that Arca Swiss has lost many potential sales of their venerable Cube and D4 heads when they recently opted for the use of red Loctite to prevent end-users from using anything but the stock AS top clamps. This rather shallow approach really misses the forest for the trees. Legio Aerium agreed. KPS is sending me a T5 geared ballhead at my request without a top-clamp, and machined to my specifications, so that I can freely swap between RRS lever clamps and a panoramic lever clamp. Responsive customer service? Make that an emphatic, “yes.”  Legio Aerium has informed me that KPS will offer the T5 geared ballhead in several clamp versions, including the same T5 that I requested without a top-clamp.  Smart move. Having a choice is a good thing. Pricing for the T5 ranges from approximately $730 (without clamp), $800 for the T5D AS screw clamp, and $830 for the T5DV quick lever release clamp.  The T5 geared ballhead is guaranteed free of defects in materials and workmanship for three years.

T5-DV, Arca Swiss Cube, and T5-D

T5-DV, Arca Swiss Cube, and T5-D

The Details

The T5 is a finely machined tripod head, approximately 5 inches tall, 2.5” in diameter, and weighs about 1.75 pounds. It has a 44mm ball with a rated capacity of 88lbs. The finish is a smooth matte black. It has a lockable panning base, with numerical settings marked every 30 degrees, and markings every 10 degrees between each numerical setting. There are three main knobs that control adjustments on the T5. The larger black knob controls the head much like any other typical ballhead. The friction lock may be adjusted as desired for the weight of the camera. Initial setting of the camera with the large knob is quick and easy. What makes the T5 unique is that the two smaller red knobs can make minute geared micro-tilt adjustments on two axes as much as 30 degrees total depending on the position where the ball has been locked down.  Leveling the camera is as quick and easy as with the Arca Swiss Cube.

Calla Lillies at Garrapata State Beach. Cambo WRS mounted on KPS T5DV geared ballhead and RRS TVC-24 tripod. Phase One IQ180 tethered to Surface Pro 2 with Wolf clamp, KPS T5DV geared ballhead and TVC-24 tripod.

Calla Lillies at Garrapata State Beach. Cambo WRS mounted on KPS T5DV geared ballhead and RRS TVC-24 tripod. Phase One IQ180 tethered to Surface Pro 2 with Wolf clamp, KPS T5DV geared ballhead and TVC-24 tripod.

I found that once the T5 head was adjusted for the weight of my camera, I typically would only need to secure my camera onto the ballhead and could go directly to making minor geared adjustments to level the camera with the two red knobs. Only if large adjustments are needed did I resort to using the larger main control knob. The knobs are much bigger than those found on the Arca Swiss Cube, and when making adjustments with gloved hands, this is a welcome feature. Depending on the position of the head, however, it can take as much as half a turn of the red knobs before the T5 gears are engaged to make minor adjustments, whereas the response of the knobs on the Cube when making adjustments are immediate. This has no impact on the ability to make fine adjustments or on the stability of the platform, rather I think this is more the nature of the geared mechanism moving to engage the ballhead. The knobs on the Cube to make adjustments extend from one side of the head to the other, making adjustments easy whether the user is left or right-handed. Consequently, both hands can also be used together on the same axis control knobs, making very fine adjustments on the Cube easier than on the T5. Adjustments to level the camera platform with both the Cube and T5 are smooth and fast. The KPS T5 provided a very stable platform for both my Phase DF and Cambo WRS technical cameras. Movements and controls are smooth and refined on the T5 as should be expected.  The video clip below demonstrates leveling with the KPS T5DV geared ballhead and with the AS Cube.

https://youtu.be/Y-ceazygCDk 

Other than the numerical markers on the panning base, there are no other markings or numbers on the T5. In contrast, the Cube has numerical markers to note the amount of adjustments made along both the x and y axis. Because of the fluidity and movement of the T5 ballhead, like any ballhead, it would be impossible to note with any sense of accuracy the amount of adjustment made along the x or y axis with the T5. I do not find this to be a significant feature in my work. The T5DV lever clamp has two bubble levels. The T5D screw clamp has a single bubble level.  The Cube has two bubble levels. I find that relying on the electronic dual axis levels, found on the Phase One IQ series medium format digital backs and other digital cameras, when making adjustments is easier than using the bubble levels found on the tripod head.

Of significant note is that although the KPS T5 weighs about ½ pound less than the Arca Swiss Cube, I felt that I had not sacrificed anything in terms of a stable platform for my cameras. The standard that I use for a tripod and head is that I should not have to worry about the stability of the platform nor the fear that my camera may crash to the ground at any given moment. I should not have to think about the tripod or the attached head. The photographer need only focus on the task at hand.  I feel equally secure using the Cube and the KPS T5 geared ballhead. The biggest concern that I had was that the T5DV, like the Cube, might be top heavy when used with the smaller and lighter RRS TVC-24 carbon fiber tripod legs. I feared that although it was ½ pound lighter, that it still might not be light enough yet.  My fears were not realized as I have found that the KPS T5 is well-balanced mounted on top of both the TVC 2 and TVC 3 series tripods.  I installed RRS TH-DVTL40 dovetails on the Cube and the T5 heads which allows me to quickly swap heads and tripod legs using RRS quick release lever clamps (aka the Graham Welland quick lever release tripod head system).

Slim plate and Arca Swiss compatible plate; 1Ds Mark III shown with Slim Plate attached and also with RRS L-bracket attached.

 The KPS Slim Plate System

The T5 comes in four variants: T5, T5M, T5D, and the T5DV. All are the same and only differentiated by the type of attached clamp (or no clamp for the T5). I did not test the T5M. All of the variants are Arca Swiss compatible. The T5DV and T5M also use the KPS Slim Plate system. Rather than clamping the outside rails as the Arca Swiss standard, the Slim Plate system is secured by clamping two rails along the inside of the plate. This novel design allows the system to have a much lower profile and take on a nice body hugging design. The clamping system is secure and clamp force is easily adjustable. The Slim Plate system is well-engineered and works well, but I decided that it is not right for me. I have multiple cameras, most with L-brackets, all of which by deliberate choice use Arca Swiss compatible RRS brackets and plates. This consistency allows me to easily use each of my cameras on all of my tripods with ease. KPS does not offer a “slim plate” L-bracket and consequently Slim Plates are not an option for me. As you can see from the photos above, the Slim Plate design is much smaller in profile. For those wishing to maintain a smaller camera profile, the KPS Slim Plate should be considered. A single Slim Plate attached to the bottom of a camera is substantially less obtrusive. I would estimate that the Slim Plate system is about half the thickness of a typical Arca Swiss compatible plate. The difference is more noticeable on smaller cameras such as a Sony A7r. The photo above shows the fit and finish of the Slim Plate attached to my Canon 1Ds Mark III compared to the bulk added by an Arca Swiss compatible RRS L-bracket. When considering its low profile fit, weight, and less bulk that the KPS Slim Plate has on a large DSLR like the Canon 1DsMark III, it really is remarkable. A line of sleek, low-profile, form-fitting, Slim-Plate L-brackets would really give a lot of photographers pause to reconsider.

Layout of the T5DV clamp

Layout of the T5DV clamp

The only issue I found, albeit minor, was with the T5DV clamp. Setting the clamp to be Arca Swiss compatible is easily and quickly accomplished by moving a single stainless steel pin from one setting to the other. However, in so doing, the camera plate is then slightly off center above the ball stem. This is not the case when using the Slim Plate system. This may or may not be an issue for some photographers. Regardless, the clamp does work well and overall I liked the speed of working with the T5DV lever release clamp better than the T5D screw clamp. My preference overall, however, is being able to attach the clamp of my choice using the base model T5.

Moss Landing Power Plant. ©2015 Ken Doo. Cambo WRS, Phase IQ180, Rodenstock HR70 t/s two-image vertical stitch. KPS T5DV geared ballhead on RRS TVC24. Thirty-four second exposure.

Moss Landing Power Plant. ©2015 Ken Doo. Cambo WRS, Phase IQ180, Rodenstock HR70 t/s two-image vertical stitch. KPS T5DV geared ballhead on RRS TVC24. Thirty-four second exposure.

Conclusion

Over the past five weeks I have used the KPS T5 geared ballhead in a variety of situations including portrait sessions, products, and landscape photography. I rarely use the Cube during portrait sessions because making adjustments is too slow. The speed of a ballhead during a portrait session important, yet still being able to make small adjustments during the session with the T5 was a pleasant surprise.  The T5 combines the benefits of a ballhead with the precision of a geared head. For those who already have the Arca Swiss Cube, buying the KPS T5 geared ballhead may not make sense unless your work requires a lighter geared head alternative that is capable of providing a stable platform for a larger DSLR or medium format camera system.  For those that have not yet succumbed to the Cube, the KPS T5 geared ballhead is a great high quality alternative. It may not come with a “Coach” leather bag, but the T5 provides similar quality and features, and at half the price of admission. My search for a smaller and lighter, geared ballhead has ended.  –Ken Doo, April 2015

Ken Doo is a professional photographer with a boutique portrait studio located in Carmel, California. He is also is a fine art printer and recently launched his new fine art printing website, www.carmelfineartprinting.com  From Vision to Print— order your photos on canvas and fine art papers online!  (831) 626-1844.

UPDATE! I just received a new KPS T5 “improved” geared ballhead prototype on December 31, 2015.  Okay, it’s really not a substantial material improvement in my opinion, but it does show that KPS has some mad engineering skills and is very receptive to offering an exceptionally high quality, mature, and polished product.  The new T5 no longer features a minimum friction control on the main knob. Instead, KPS has engineered “Click-stop” settings from 1-2-3 on the main knob. The user simply adjusts the ballhead and then tightens the main adjustment knob until the first click-setting or “1” on the knob. This insures that the camera is held in place and the microadjustment functions will operate optimally as designed.  Pretty neat.  Users with heavier cameras such as the Phase One XF may find themselves using click settings 2 or 3.

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New KPS T5 geared head prototype with click-stop functions on the main adjustment knob.

The KPS T5 geared ballhead remains my head of choice on my RRS TVC-24 CF tripod.  I don’t see a need to upgrade my T5 for the new “click-stop” features, but it certainly will be a welcome addition for new users.  The KPS T5 geared ballhead may be purchased through the U.S. distributor for KPS at www.legioaerium.com .  I have been promised a few KPS T5 ballheads will be available at Capture Integration’s medium format digital workshop in February, the seventh annual CI in Carmel 2016.

 

Rocco Mediate Scores the Cover for Ambassador Magazine

Posted in General, Portraiture with tags , , , , , , , , , on April 4, 2015 by kendoophotography
Golf Pro Rocco Mediate. ©2015 Ken Doo. Phase DF, IQ180, Schneider 150 LS.

Golf Pro Rocco Mediate. ©2015 Ken Doo. Phase DF, IQ180, Schneider 150 LS.

I don’t golf.  Plain and simple, golf becomes a dangerous game when I get my hands on a set of clubs. But living on the central coast of California places me in the heart of a golfer’s paradise, and I have been fortunate to have been selected to photographer several golf professionals, including Tom Kite, Joe Ogilvie, and recently Rocco Mediate.  The National Italian American Federation retained to photograph Rocco Mediate at Pebble Beach for a small publication, Ambassador Magazine.  I photographed Rocco and his wife Jessica on the 18th hole at Pebble Beach.

What Drives Rocco? ©2015 Ken Doo. Phase DF, IQ180, SK 150 LS

What Drives Rocco? ©2015 Ken Doo. Phase DF, IQ180, SK 150 LS

I chose to photograph this portrait session using my a Phase 645DF and Phase One IQ180 medium format digital back, along with a single studio strobe. The 18th hole at Pebble Beach provided a beautiful backdrop for the session. Rocco and his wife Jennifer both have friendly and affable personalities.  They were easy to photograph and made my job enjoyable. Rocco arrived at the golf links with his wife and a cigar in hand. He offered to set his cigar down, but I thought it was a perfect way to naturally add some of his personality to the portrait.

Rocco and Jessica Mediate. ©2015 Ken Doo Photography.

Rocco and Jessica Mediate. ©2015 Ken Doo Photography.

For more information on medium format digital photography, contact me at my boutique portrait photography studio in Carmel. Ken  (831) 626-1844

Carmel Fine Art Printing & Reproduction Grand Opening! 50% Off Prints Limited Time Offer!

Posted in Events, General, Landscapes, Nature & Wildlife, Portraiture, Weddings and Bridal with tags , , , , , , , , , , on March 11, 2015 by kendoophotography
Bonsai Rock Panorama  available printed on Hahn Photographic Baryta and Canson Rag Photographique. ©2015 Ken Doo. Cambo WRS, IQ180, HR70 t/s.

Bonsai Rock Panorama available printed on Hahnemuhle Photographic Baryta and Canson Rag Photographique. ©2015 Ken Doo. Cambo WRS, IQ180, HR70 t/s.

It’s official!  I’ve launched my fine art printing website, Carmel Fine Art Printing & Reproduction, making it easier to clients to order fine art prints, giclee canvas, and place re-orders for prints. To mark the grand opening and introduction of the website, online print orders will be 50% off  for a limited time only, until April 10, 2015.  Carmel Fine Art Printing & Reproduction was started for artists, photographers, and the general public to allow easier access to printing their images on the best archival fine art materials.  The website features an easy digital file uploading page tool which also allows users to open a free account, share their portfolio images with friends or their clients, and place orders from any device.  The website also allows for sending evaluation files and larger digital files for large prints and special orders, such as B&W K7 Piezography prints.

Gallery-wrapped stretched canvas ready for delivery.  Carmel Fine Art Printing uses archival Lyve canvas and state of the art printers using pigmented inks. Notice the great corners!

Gallery-wrapped stretched canvas ready for delivery. Carmel Fine Art Printing uses archival Lyve canvas and state of the art printers using pigmented inks. Notice the great corners!

Once files are uploaded, users can select print sizes, crop their images, and choose from many different fine art medias including photographic baryta papers, fine art cotton matte papers, and gallery wrapped canvas. Users can select finishing options from just a rolled print, to stretched canvas, canvas floaters and frames—ready to hang.  The fine art paper and canvas selections are exceptional and a step above normal photo lab offerings. The studio’s state of the art printers can produce images up to 44″ in width by whatever length.

Gallery wrapped and stretch bamboo!  Stretched fine art papers is a Carmel Fine Art exclusive!

Gallery wrapped and stretched bamboo! Stretched fine art papers is available to clients and is a Carmel Fine Art Printing & Reproduction exclusive offering!

Gallery wrapped stretched fine art papers is an exclusive offering from Carmel Fine Art Printing. It is a labor intensive process requiring hand coating of the fine art paper in preparation for stretching over 1.75″ wood bars. Bamboo paper is particularly well-suited for stretching, with the final product being tight as a drum.

Exceptional B&W printing is offered by Carmel Fine Art Printing & Reproduction.

Exceptional B&W printing is offered by Carmel Fine Art Printing & Reproduction.

Carmel Fine Art Printing & Reproduction is also one of the few printing studios to offer B&W K7 Piezography printing. Beautiful B&W prints are normally available on the studio’s Epson 9900 printer, with B&W K7 Piezography prints available only by special order. B&W prints from the studio’s K7 printer are simply exceptional.  K7 Piezography MPS selenium prints are available on both matte and glossy papers.  If clients do not have a print ready digital file, Carmel Fine Art Printing & Reproduction also provides high resolution scans and copy work for artists. This process produces a high quality digital file in preparation for the printing process. The studio uses a Phase One IQ180 medium format digital back with 80 megapixels, which is ideal for both color and B&W reproduction. The image above was reproduced using the IQ180 to first generate a high resolution file for some minor restoration work on a family image taken with a young President John F. Kennedy. The image was then printed on K7 B&W Piezography printer. This image exemplifies memorable portraits that are deserving of archival fine art printing!  Printing Family portraits, Wedding portraits, Anniversaries, and other special memories is no different than an artist or photographer seeking to use museum quality materials to sell or simply to display their work. Carmel Fine Art Printing & Reproduction helps you From Vision to Print.

Visit www.carmelfineartprinting.com and let me know your thoughts!  50% off prints introduction offer is for new clients and good until April 10, 2015. Use coupon code carmel50. Offer does not apply to featured artists galleries.  Professional/business accounts are welcome.  Please contact me at (831) 626-1844 for any questions.  Ken Doo

Bob Walthour: The Passing of an Icon

Posted in General, Portraiture with tags , , , , , , , , , on September 29, 2014 by kendoophotography
Bob Walthour at home. ©2014 Ken Doo Photography. Cambo WRS, IQ180, HR90

Bob Walthour at home. ©2014 Ken Doo Photography. Cambo WRS, IQ180, HR90

Coach Bob Walthour passed away last weekend, marking the loss of a much loved and respected local icon in Carmel, California.  I had gotten to know Bob through US Masters Swimming on the Monterey Peninsula. On occasion I would join Bob in the early morning hours at the old excuse of a pool at Carmel High School, where we would swim in the incredibly shallow water. On some mornings my eldest son Kenny would sit next to Bob.  Kenny was probably barely four years old; he’s now nearing twenty years and swimming competitively. That old excuse of a pool is now a world class facility at Carmel High School, named after none other than Coach Bob Walthour. Long since retired, Bob would still swim with Masters at 5:00 A.M. well into his eighties. He was often seen observing swim meets at Carmel High School.

A portrait session with Bob Walthour at his home earlier this year.  ©2014 Ken Doo Photography

A portrait session with Bob Walthour at his home earlier this year. ©2014 Ken Doo Photography

I had the opportunity to photograph Bob a few times both in my boutique portrait studio in Carmel and also at his home in Carmel, just a few blocks away. The last time I photographed Bob was just in March of this year (2014). It was a special portrait session for me because I chose to use a Cambo technical camera with an IQ180 medium format digital back, along with a Rodenstock HR90mm lens.  Not exactly a fast moving portrait outfit, normally intended for landscapes!   Bob sat patiently for me while I used a Microsoft Surface Pro tethered to my IQ180 to assist with framing and focusing of the portrait.  I used a single studio strobe.  I converted the huge 80 megapixel RAW files using Capture One Pro 7. I then opted to convert the selected portrait into B&W and printed the portrait on the studio’s specially converted K7 B&W piezography fine art printer.  I love Bob’s personality in this portrait.  We’re going to miss you, Bob.

The Bob Walthour Aquatic Center remains unfinished and is still seeking donations to complete the facility.  Contact www.carmelpool.org for donation information.  For more information on medium format digital portraiture or fine art K7 B&W Piezography printing, contact me at the studio at (831) 626-1844.   Ken

Congratulations Lee & Sian!

Posted in Events, General, Portraiture, Weddings and Bridal with tags , , , , , on June 22, 2014 by kendoophotography
Sian and Lee having fun in studio. ©2014 Ken Doo Photography

Sian and Lee having fun in studio. ©2014 Ken Doo Photography

 

Congratulations to Lee & Sian!  Lee and Sian recently became engaged to be married.  We completed their engagement session recently with portraits taken both in studio and on location at the beach in Carmel.  What a great fun couple!

Sian and Lee at the Beach. ©2014 Ken Doo Photography

Sian and Lee at the Beach. ©2014 Ken Doo Photography

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I just wanted to share a few portraits of Sian and Lee. Each portrait was hand-retouched in preparation for printing in studio and mounting. We also used the studio’s specially converted K7 B&W printer which produces really stunning B&W portraits of unsurpassed quality.  For more information on fine portraiture or scheduling a portrait session, contact me at my boutique portrait photography studio in Carmel, California.  Ken  (831) 626-1844