Photo review sites are always going on about cameras and lenses. Very few take the time to review some of the other gear that enables you to get the shot. Major photographic retailers have been taking advantage of the global marketplace and expanding their product lines with in-house branded accessories. Adorama graciously sponsored my site with a pair of neat accessories from in-house Flashpoint line:
The Flashpoint Glow Hexapop 24” Off Camera Softbox and the 3Pod P4CFH Carbon Fiber Fold Flat Tripod.
[DISCLAIMER: Adorama has provided me with the equipment used in this review. I have been instructed by Adorama to review them honestly and not hold back. Their funeral.]
A softbox and a tripod.
Actually, it is a big deal. These are two of the most important tools that professional photographers use every day. You have no idea how sharp your lens is unless you are shooting on a tripod. The sharpest lens in my bag is my tripod. Ever wonder what Photoshop tricks wedding photographer’s use to make the bride look magical? Let me clue you in: it’s not all Photoshop. One of the keys to taking great looking portraits is having big, soft lighting (the other is having an interesting subject – can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear).
The problem with these two accessories is that they are a bit cumbersome to drag around for the outdoor shooter. Well, both of these Adorama branded products are designed for the mobile photo studio.
Glow Hexapop 24” Off Camera Softbox
The Glow Hexapop is collapsible soft box designed for camera speed lights. As the name states, it is designed for off camera use. When you assemble the Glow, there appears to be a standard hot shoe “foot” on the bottom of the plate. This is where the light stand adapter is attached. You may be tempted to slide that bit on to your camera’s hot shoe. Don’t. With the soft box attached to the plate, two things will likely happen: 1) your lens will be blocked by the soft box and 2) the torsion produced by the weight of this thing is well beyond the tolerances of most hot shoes and may damage it.
Here are the three components of the Glow Hexapop: the light stand adapter (bottom left); the flash mount bracket (bottom right); and the collapsible soft box (top center, just below the bag). You will note that the flash mount bracket sports a cold shoe where the speed light is attached.
The first step is to attach the light stand adapter to the flash mount bracket. I also replaced the cold shoe with a FlashZebra
PocketWizard adapter cable for Nikon flashes. This little gem allows me to slot in any Nikon SB flash without having to futz with PC (Photo Compur) cables (which can be fussy and are not supported on all Nikon SpeedLights). If you manage to squirrel up a spare ¼” tripod mounting screw, you can use the original cold shoe to host the PocketWizard receiver unit behind the flash (if you use a larger flash unit like the SB-800 or SB-910, there may not be enough room for you to manipulate the flash the PocketWizard mount behind it.)
Once you have those bits together, mount the unit on the light stand and then slide the soft box on to the two vertical rails and tighten up the thumbscrews. Undo the velcro tie around the soft box and pull the battens out until they click into the mounting ring. Slide the flash into the hotshoe and then adjust the height of the soft box so that the head of the flash sticks into the soft box. If your flash include a diffuser, it is recommended that you put it on before you mount the flash onto the Glow Hexapop. Now here is the best part. When the shoot is done, all you do is press two clips on the back of the mounting ring and Glow Hexapop snaps closed. In contrast, most photographers leave their soft boxes assembled (occupying a lot of space) which makes them very cumbersome to move around with. This little guys is faster to take down than it is to setup!
Like any other soft box, the Glow Hexapop transforms your SpeedLight from a tiny point light source into a much larger one that envelops your subject in a gentle pillow of light. Here’s a shot of my highly chaotic desk taken with the on-camera flash of my Pentax Q:
Nasty and very flatly lit. Perfect for mug shots. Now here’s the same scene lit by the Glow Hexapop + SB-800 combo:
Much better. The side lighting adds some depth to the image and you can see how the lighting is not as harsh as it was with the direct lighting. So here is a shot I did professionally using the Glow Hexapop:
By the way, in case you were wondering what I used to photograph this gear in this report, get a load of this:
Taken with my iPhone 5 and Hipstamatic
The Glow Hexapop is sold exclusively by Adorama
and retails for $139.
3Pod P4CFH Carbon Fiber Fold Flat Tripod
A tripod’s three-legged design can make it a little difficult to pack in a suitcase. It has roughly the girth of a large bottle of champagne except that it is 2 – 2 ½ feet long. Generally less expensive models are made of aluminum but for travel not much beats carbon fiber for strength, rigidity and light weight. The 3pod is a radical departure from traditional tripod design. Using a “fold flat” design, the 3pod is much easier to fit inside a suitcase and its carbon fiber construction makes it very easy to carry.
While the clever design saves space in your suitcase, there are some compromises that had to be made. For example, the 3pod’s center column must be unscrewed and detached from the main body for storage. Also, when installed, the center column cannot be lowered beyond its collapsed height, bringing up the center of gravity of the 3pod. However, if maximum height is not required, you can mount the ballhead directly to the 3pod.
Despite this little shortcoming, the 3pod has several other features that make it very appealing. It sports three bubble levels including one on the side of the clamp (used for panoramic shots). The middle leg can be unscrewed from the body and converted into a monopod. Very convenient and one less thing to pack. The legs use a twist-lock mechanism which works but is not as fast as latch style leg locks.
If you unscrew the rubber feet, you uncover metal spikes which are useful for setting up on soft ground.
The H2 ballhead is very smooth in operation and can handle weights up to 28.6 lbs. (13 kg.). The clamp is Arca-Swiss compatible.
The 3Pod P4CFH Carbon Fiber Fold Flat Tripod retails
Both of these accessories are really well designed and very reasonably priced. The 3pod P4CFH is quite possible the most affordable full-featured tripod I have ever seen. The Glow Hexapod has allowed to become much more flexible in my outdoor shoots. Get them. They are worth it.