Archive for Wedding Photography

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.

 

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

Ken Doo Photography Family Books

Posted in Events, General, Portraiture, Weddings and Bridal with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 15, 2013 by kendoophotography
Ken Doo Photography offers custom handmade family books from Italy.

Ken Doo Photography offers custom handmade family books from Italy.

Family Books remain a popular option for special events and extended portrait sessions.  These custom handmade family books are the same luxurious books from Graphistudio in Italy that my wedding clients receive, albeit generally with not as many images or pages.  As with the Wedding Books, all portraits are hand-retouched naturally before the books layout and design is completed.

Silk, hardback and cover, and polished metal are just a few of the book cover options.

Silk, hardback and cover, and polished metal are just a few of the book cover options.  Briefcase included!

All the same new cover options are available for family books, and most designs and layouts are clean and simple.  Books are available in a variety of sizes and different page finishes.  Craftsmanship is impeccable and quality is unsurpassed.  All work is quality guaranteed.

Nicely bound and no gutters!

Nicely bound and no gutters!

Many sizes and options including pocketbooks and sizes up to a huge 16x20!

Many sizes and options including pocketbooks and sizes up to a huge 16×20!

For more information, contact me at my boutique portrait studio in Carmel, CA or call (831) 626-1844.  ken

New Wedding Book Cover Catalog and Swatch Book In!

Posted in Events, Portraiture, Weddings and Bridal with tags , , , , , , , , on July 7, 2012 by kendoophotography

New GraphiStudio Wedding Cover Catalog and Swatch Book. ©2012 Ken Doo Photography.

This just in:  GraphiStudio’s new Cover Catalog and Material Swatch Book!  Finally, choosing the right cover and fine art media choice for your custom GraphiStudio Wedding or Family Book couldn’t be easier!  GraphiStudio Wedding and Family Books are custom designed and handmade in Italy using the finest materials, and of course, your images all hand-retouched by your professional photographer, Ken Doo.  For more information on weddings, family portraits, and the incredible GraphiStudio Books, contact me at my boutique portrait photography studio in Carmel or call (831) 626-1844.  Ken

Custom Wedding Guest Signing Books and Save-the-Date Cards Added!

Posted in Events, Weddings and Bridal with tags , , , , , , , on March 11, 2012 by kendoophotography

Save the Date cards and guest sign-in books for 2012

Just a quick update:  Newly offered for 2012 wedding packages are “Save-the-Date” cards and custom Wedding Guest Signing Books.  The Save-the-Date cards are custom designed from the client’s first engagement session, printed on high quality card stock in full color.  Custom Wedding Guest Signing Books are designed from images taken over the course of several engagement sessions and printed on smooth fine art paper.  The Guest Signing Books may be designed to match (if desired) the cover of the client’s custom GraphiStudio Wedding Book album.  All images are hand-retouched naturally.  For more information, contact me at my boutique portrait photography studio in Carmel.  Ken (831) 626-1844.   www.kendoophotography.com

Ready for Valentines Day Romance 2012

Posted in General, Portraiture with tags , , , , , , on January 10, 2012 by kendoophotography

Phase One 645DF, IQ180, Schneider 110mm LS.

Valentine’s Day is just around the corner—are you ready?  Just in time for 2010, the Scarlet Letter Series, a luscious romantic glamour portrait book, offers new custom covers and sizes.   The Scarlet Letter Series Portrait Session is not limited to glamour or fashion, and often tasteful artistic B&W imagery is the call for the day.  My boutique portrait studio in Carmel will soon be adding another wide format fine art printer, and the current fine art printer will be converted to a very special B&W piezography printer.  A B&W wet darkroom print is the last remaining enclave that for the most part remains specialized and somewhat protected from the digital movement.  I know it’s blasphemy to some, but with a seven carbon-based pigmented piezophgraphy inkset combined with a separate gloss overcoating process, my studio intends to offer the finest in B&W portraiture and fine art reproduction.  More on this later!  Also new in studio is a wire-binder system, ideal for making calendars.  For more information on Scarlet Letter Series Portrait Sessions, make-up artists and stylists, or romantic clothing and lingerie, contact me at my boutique portrait studio in Carmel or call (831) 626-1844.  ken

Happy Holidays from Ken Doo Photography in Carmel!

Posted in Events, General, Portraiture, Weddings and Bridal with tags , , , , , , , , on December 23, 2011 by kendoophotography
Home for the Holidays. ©2011 Ken Doo

Happy holidays!  I know that many of you expect a humorous holiday greeting from Duffy, my bull terrier.  Sadly, Duffy passed this last summer from kidney failure.  He is sorely missed around the studio!  2011 has marked an extremely busy year, and I’m looking forward to a busy and exciting new year.  I am already working on new collections for portrait, wedding, and commercial clients.  New custom backdrops are being hand-painted and added to an already extensive collection of fine art backdrops in studio.  New framing options are available as are new exceptionally high quality portrait substrates.  On the event photography front, the studio will probably (sadly) be retiring its venerable Kodak ML500 printer.  The recent demise of Kodak Professional meant no longer being able to acquire media for the ML500.  There is no comparable printer to the Kodak ML500, and its replacement will require the acquisition of several event dye sublimation printers, most likely the DNP DS80.

Steve Rease. ©2011 Ken Doo Photography. Phase 645DF and IQ180; Phase 150mm D, ISO 50, f/5.6 @ 1/100. B&W converted by Capture One Pro 6.

 I am really excited about new offerings for portraiture both in studio and on location, just simply unavailable anywhere else!  : )  February 2012 will be floater frame February—with 50% off all floater frames with the purchase of a fine art canvas gallery wrapped and stretched wall portrait.  Portrait sessions need only be scheduled before the end of February to qualify.  Graphistudio Wedding Book options from  have expanded with new cover and media selections.  For more information, contact me at my boutique portrait studio in Carmel or call (831) 626-1844.   Best wishes for the new year!  ken