What can you do with €150 worth of LED Light?

Well, not much you may say. But you can do a lot, yes, indeed you can. I bought a pair of MCOPlus LED 322A video lights from Hi-tech Wonder in Lisbon, with the sole purpose of using them for still photography. At less than €75 each, they were a steal. Obviously, forget mega productions, massive fashion shootings or anything like it. But if you need complementary light, studio lighting for small objects, that extra hand when photographing indoors, this is the kit.

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These two units, alongside a smaller Metz Mecalight LED 480, a pair of Manfrotto Pixi mini tripods, a very, very old Cobra Portapod, a few B+W polarisers and a battery charger all fit inside my old, faithful Lowepro Nova 1 shoulder bag. Being a Fuji X Series mirrorless system user, portability, size and weight are paramount for me, hence the choice.

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Beyond the technicalities, I’m posting a few shots made with this set – mainly with the MCOPlus LED322A: they are the best possible testimony of what you can achieve or expect from these units. As a reminder, I would say that “stage/set lighting design” is personal to the bones, so bear that in mind when observing the photographs that illustrate this review.

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There is a battery tester on the back, next to the potentiometer. On the usability side: six AA batteries, rechargeable the better, or any of these camera batteries: Canon LP-E6; Nikon EN-EL15; Panasonic CGR-D16S; Sony NP-FH70, NP-FM55H or NP-F550. On six AA’s each unit will run for 60 to 120 minutes at full power, a very acceptable amount of time. There is a universal input for an external power supply, handy for studio or location work.

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As with the vast majority of competitors on the market, MCOPlus LED322A is delivered with a pair of diffusers, white or orange for a warmer lighting tone.

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The units are made of industrial-grade plastic (beauty is not of their attributes) and none has overheated so far – keep them away from moisture, take good care of them and I believe they will last and stand the test of time.

As for anything else in photography, knowledge and technique are much more important and far more critical to achieve good results than gear and that applies to lighting as well. For a budget this is a very good option, strongly recommended.

Bottles are extremely difficult to photograph – with two LED322A and a Metz LED480 this was the result.

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Same setup, with the help of a small Fujifilm EF-X20 TTL Auto Flash

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Just two LED322A units lit the scene above and the following sequence was lit using one or two LED322A units.

Below, another studio session where nothing else but one LED322A was used to create the light design used to lit up the set.

Last, but not the least, all photographs below produced with a pair of LED322A’s from MCO.

 

Hi-tech wonder MCOPlus 322A LED video light page here.

Tech specs for MCOPlus 322A LED video light here.

MCOPlus website here.

“O Fotográfico” reviews where these units were used to lit the set:

https://fotograficoweb.wordpress.com/2016/11/29/genesis-bh-34-arca-swiss-head-and-giottos-carbon-fibre-tripod-gt8223/

https://fotograficoweb.wordpress.com/2016/11/28/coordame-mar-flat-wrist-strap/

https://fotograficoweb.wordpress.com/2016/11/17/fujifilm-ef-x500-shoe-mount-flash-review-part-one/

 

 

 

 

 

 

Manfrotto Pixi and Pixi Evo

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Roughly one year ago Manfrotto has launched the Pixi Evo, a miniature lightweight tripod with two-section legs and five adjustable steps. The Pixi Evo represents a design update over the original Pixi mini tripod, and is designed, in part, to support entry-level DSLRs with large lenses. I got mine from Hi-tech Wonder in Lisbon.

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Maximum load capacity is 2,5 Kilograms, which is quite substantial given the size of the Pixi EVO. In spite of this, the tripods are lightweight due to the use of aluminium and technopolymer. Features include a portrait shooting mode with a 90-degree tilt, sliding selectors on the legs, and three color options: white, red, and black.

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I have been using Manfrotto’s Pixi Evo for a few months now and let me tell you how handy this is: it really is compact, extremely light at only 260 grams, and folded takes up 20 centimetres. I use it with the X-Pro2 and any of the Fujinon lenses that I usually carry around, from the 18mm f2 to the heavier 50-140mm f2.8.

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The original Pixi, a design revolution and precursor to the EVO, would only stand one kilo maximum load and, at 190 grams was not that lighter. Therefore, what Manfrotto achieved with this second Pixi is outstanding.

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For me it is some sort of buddy, something that I will put on top of almost any surface knowing that it will do what it says on the tin.

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I’ve used a couple of Pixi mini tripods for everything, from speedlite mounts to LED stands and they are sturdy, reliable and beautiful objects. The one I’ve photographed here is roughly three years old and still looks the part, fully functional, no problems whatsoever. Hopefully this new EVO will have the same predicaments.

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Links:

Hi-tech Wonder, Pixi: http://www.hi-techwonder.com/productsList.aspx?s=4&id=pixi

Hi-tech Wonder, Pixi Evo: http://hi-techwonder.com/product.aspx?idProduct=6249

Manfrotto: https://www.manfrotto.co.uk

Photographs: Fujifilm X-Pro2 and Fujinon XF 90mm f2, two LED light sources, one Fujifilm EF-X500 shoe mount flash as a stand alone unit, camera mounted, FP HSS. Velvia film simulation, ACR and Photoshop to taste.

Genesis BH 34 Arca Swiss head and Giottos Carbon Fibre Tripod GT8223

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I’ve been using this set for quite a while, both the Arca Swiss head from Genesis, model reference BH 34 and Giottos Carbon Fibre Tripod GT8223.

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For all of you out there working on a mirrorless based system, weight is paramount – at only 1150 grams (tripod 810 grams, head 340 grams), this is an extremely lightweight system, portable on the side/underneath your backpack or even handheld in a soft case.

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For Fujifilm users that use handgrip on their cameras (except power booster for X-T1/X-T2), the Arca Swiss norm is quintessential. Instead of having to rely on a normal head system, with a plate (camera mount) to attach to the camera, which is cumbersome and impractical, with Arca Swiss heads the camera base plate is the actual plate that slides onto the tripod head, sliding in and out one way, faster, safer and improving practicality and work flow, exponentially. Believe me, once you’ve tried this solution you will agree with me, no doubt.

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The Genesis tripod head I’ve been using (BH 34) costs less than €55, has a maximum load capacity of 15 Kg(!) and I highly recommend it, due to an unbeatable price/performance ratio.

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This ball head is made of lightweight and durable aluminium-magnesium alloy. It features panoramic base with rotational scale to ensure seamless panning experience – extremely smooth. Additionally, there is a knob to unlock the ball with an integrated limitation stop that allows pneumatic adjustment of the ball’s clamping force, clever. The quick-release’s mounting point features spirit levels for precise framing and is equipped with special bolts protecting against the accidental fall out.

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The ball diameter is 34mm, height at 93mm – you get a reduction key and a 1/4”-3/8” reduction, a case, an Allen wrench with it, so it will fit almost anything you throw at it.

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Giottos has now discontinued this model (GT 8223 Carbon Fibre Tripod), but you can still find it in a few retailers that kept them in stock for longer, usually with 5011N Giottos head, a universal camera mount tripod head, no Arca Swiss here. At around €120 it is an exceptional deal. There are other options, from Triopo, models GX 1027 and GX 1127, from €119, without head – so around €170 provides you an excellent solution, durable, piratical, cost-effective and lightweight.

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The reason I would recommend carbon fibre over aluminium alloy, is not only about weight gain – 35 to 45% – indeed, carbon fibre has higher strength and has more resilience to fatigue, is less prone to vibrate (some say in excess of 50%, imagine what it can do to your long exposures) and it has better looks and finish.

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The reason I would recommend carbon fibre over aluminium alloy, is not only about weight gain – 35 to 45% – indeed, carbon fibre has higher strength and has more resilience to fatigue, is less prone to vibrate (some say in excess of 50%, imagine what it can do to your long exposures) and it has better looks and finish.

If you’re on the market for a tripod that you are going to use often, although it is not something that you’ll use on a daily basis then a 3 section leg tripod, with legs around 20mm in diameter, a maximum height of 140 to 160 cm, weight below one kilogram and a maximum load capacity of around 4 to 6 kilograms will do the trick. A hook in centre column is welcome: on windy days extra weight can be added this way, providing a sturdier base to your camera, reducing wind-induced shaking. Also, make sure you can invert the centre column so that macro and studio photography will not be an issue.

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Let me just stress the fact that, if your gear is equipped with an Arca Swiss base plate it is absolutely irrational to buy a normal base plate tripod head, given the advantages one gets from using the Arca Swiss norm.

Links

Genesis head: http://www.hi-techwonder.com/genesis-bh-34-ball-head

Triopo tripod: http://www.hi-techwonder.com/triopo-gx-1027-(carbono)

Triopo Tripods: http://www.triopo.pl/en/

Genesis: http://www.genesisgear.pl/en/

Giottos: http://www.giottos.com

A bit more on Arca Swiss: Camera equipment maker Arca-Swiss independently developed a quick-release system for use on their tripod heads. It is based on plates that are 38mm wide, and have a 45° dovetail, which is held into place on the receiver with a screw clamp. Starting in the 1990s, with the popularization of the Arca-Swiss B-1 ballhead, many other companies began producing plates and including Arca-Swiss style (sometimes referred to as arca-type) receivers on their tripod heads. Today most plates are machined aluminium which are attached to the cameras or lenses with a 1/4-20 hex screw.

Another aspect of the Arca-Swiss system is that the mounting plates are designed to prevent accidental rotation of the plate relative to the device. When used with a camera or camera body the plates incorporate an anti-rotation flange or lip. When mounted to a lens with a foot, the plate will often be secured with two screws to prevent rotation. When this type of system is used, the camera cannot become accidentally detached from the tripod, which is possible when using a quick-release system that doesn’t prevent rotation, or when no camera mount is used. Nearly all makes and models of modern SLRs, medium format cameras, and large lenses have specific plates available with anti-rotation flanges. Universal mounting plates are also available, which can be used with nearly any camera with a tripod mount, though they provide little or no anti-rotation protection.

 

All photographs: Fujifilm X-Pro2, XF 90mm F2, two LED light sources and one Fujifilm EF-X500 Shoe Mount Flash, mounted on to the camera as a stand alone unit. ACR, Velvia Film Simulation and Photoshop to taste.

 

Workshop Fujifilm em Algés, Street Photography

Fim-de-semana a correr, do Porto para Lisboa na quase madrugada de sábado, depois de ter estado na festa de aniversário do P3 na Casa da Música na cidade do Porto e me ter esquecido das horas. Viagem tranquila, tardia para leitão no Pedro dos Leitões – fica para a próxima…_dsf0488-copy

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Noite bem dormida no Sana Metropolitan na Soeiro Pereira Gomes – embora curta… deu para retemperar.

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Manhã de sábado, sala cheia no Palácio Anjos em Algés com cerca de 70 pessoas ávidas por conhecimento – espero ter cumprido…

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Depois do almoço a câmara Municipal de Oeiras disponibilizou um autocarro para nos levar a Belém para o photowalk da tarde, tendo todos os participantes tido a oportunidade de experimentar a X Series da Fujifilm. Muito obrigado ao Carlos Maia da CMO que esteve irrepreensível na organização do evento, belíssimo.

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Photographs: Fujifilm X100T Black.

 

 

Fujifilm EF-X500 Shoe Mount Flash Review – Part One

efx500boxBoxing is typical Fujifilm X Series fashion, big black elegant boxes, white letters and graphics

The brand new Fujifilm EF-X500 flashgun arrived yesterday straight from Fujifilm Portugal – actually I received a pair of these units. This is the first part of a detailed review that I started straight away, after all Fujifilm was missing a proper, professional grade flash system and the EF-X500 promises to deliver. The guide number is 50m at 100 ISO @ 105mm.

The first part of this review will focus on the design and perceived quality, first impressions to put it simply and I have to say that straight out of the box the EF-X500 is impressive. Build quality is second to none, Canon and Nikon are clearly overshadowed: touch, materials, dials and buttons are top notch, but flaps and hinges are a step further and there is no sense of fragility whatsoever. These units seem to be build to last forever. They are made in China, not in Japan, but that doesn’t seem to make any difference regarding build quality.

EFX500LCD.jpgControl buttons are backlit – the LCD in standard flash mode provides plenty of information, well laid out and easy to read, backlit in green

Enjoy the first set of pictures, part two will cover essential features and functions of the EF-X500, soon.

EFX500BACKtif.jpgFinishing resembles X-Series cameras, leather like material, good standard and incredible looks for a flash

EFX500SHOE_DIFFUSER.jpgGood quality soft case included – it holds the EF-X500, mini-stand and diffuser

EFX500DIFFUSERONtif.jpgTo attach the diffuser you must remove the accessory mount cover – clever, thus reducing diffuser size

EFX500WIDEtif.jpgCatchlight and wide panel (minimum coverage 20mm focal length in 35mm equivalent, which is basically 14mm in APS-C terms)

EFX500BATTERYLID.jpgBattery chamber-cover is solid and well designed, easy to operate on the go

efx500powerEF-BP1 will be available as an external power source – it will be connected to this socket

EFX500MADEINCHINA.jpgMade in China – this time Fujifilm opted to leave Japanese manufacturing out of the equation

EFX500LEDtif.jpgLED light is powerful – this shot was made without any further lighting. It can be used for video, AF low light beam and/or catchlight

EFX500LCD2.jpgLCD in standard flash mode, backlight off

EFX500LCD3.jpgLCD in remote flash mode

EFX500LCD4.jpgLCD in master flash mode

EFX500XPRO21655tif.jpgMounted on a X-Pro2: perfect balance and size, given the guide number and available functions

Photographs: one LED light source, Fujifilm X-Pro2 and Fujinon XF35mm f 1.4