Archive for studio strobes

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.

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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.

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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

 

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