Sunday, January 17, 2010

light_panel_review

Calumet Light Panel Review

For anyone who has not watched the Best of Dean Collins lighting dvds, I cannot recommend them highly enough. Here is a preview video:






Order them here.

Even just the two preview videos can teach a ton. Sadly the lightform brand is no longer sold, so I was hunting around for what the most equal equivalent is. It seems that Calumet's light panels are the most similar, but made out of aluminum rather than PVC. Since there is a Calumet in Dusseldorf, I purchased 2 frames, 2 diffusion fabrics, and 2 clamps. I plan to make my own black/silver version, but fabric store white fabric can introduce unwanted color casts, so I wanted to purchase the official diffusion fabrics, which were also the cheapest. The photos online aren't so great, and I couldn't find any reviews, so this is serving to show how the system works with closeups.

Panel frame itself:



It's made out of thin aluminum tubes, very lightweight, the whole thing probably weighs less than 2kg. It has a shock cord running through it, and square indents that keep it from being able to twist, which adds extra rigidity. It does not flex in the middle like the PVC versions. You can assemble it just like the frames in the Dean Collins videos, but they don't shake together quite as easy. Maybe after some more usage, but it's easy enough.

The Clamp:



The clamp is identical to the one in the videos, with the added benefit of having a clamp that really holds onto the tube. It can be clamped to almost any tubular surface, it rotates, and the middle T-bar can be screwed tight to the holder to clamp the angle tight, not allowing the frame to rotate. One alone is not sturdy enough to hold the frame from the side, but if you clamp it to the top of the frame, you can hang it and it's secure. It's more likely to use two, one on each side of the frame.

The diffusion fabric:


It doesn't completely even the light, as you can see when the panel is severely under exposed, but I haven't found it to affect illumination of the subjects at all. If you photograph it so that the flash isn't directly visible, as in the 2nd image, you get a fairly even soft white light. I also bought the double clips, and can clip both of them together, with diffusion panels on both, for a giant 2x2 meter wall of soft light. Unless the flash is positioned perfectly, you cannot see the light leaking between the two panels, meaning you never have to worry about a line of undiffused light shining through when using them clipped together. The fourth photo shows the panel from the flash side, showing that while the material is thin, it can be used as a reflector, no real need to buy the white fabric panel. I plan to make a double sided black/silver panel, and I would put the silver side on the other of the white, for a more efficient bounce. The 5th final image shows a real white reflector to show the difference in bounce efficiency. The real white fabric would most likely be more reflective, but it's quite expensive, and only comes with either gold or silver on the opposite side. If they made a double sided black/white I might have bought it.

Examples:



The two panels together give incredible soft light, in fact I have a 2x2 meter window in this same room, and the lighting is near identical in terms of it's directionality and softness. Now I can reproduce it at will at any time of day.



Even when I backed the subject up quite far, these panels are so large they still produce quite soft light. this is probably 3 meters from the panels.



This was a quick test to see how they would work as reflectors. Obviously the harsh bare flash is not flattering on the subject, but you can see a nice bit of bounce filling in the shadows, especially on the side of his temples.



These last two show how reflections are treated. Even with the hot spot, it seems to reflect as a solid white surface, which is great for revealing shape, and the large size keeps it from blowing out to a pure white highlight.

Use this link to show the different products from the Calumet panel line. I bought the large 107x198 cm panels, and the white diffusion that goes with it, plus two clamps, but they have kits as well.

The main problem I have now is not having barndoors that fit the quadra reflector. I intend to look around a bit, and even try a DIY solution I have cooking. Barndoors enable to you keep the light only to the diffusion panels, rather than spilling past to a background or the ceiling.

12 comments:

  1. Thanks for the review - I've been considering these for a while. Might finally invest this year! For an inexpensive silver reflector addition on one side, how about a silver space blanket (as we call them here in the UK. If you do a google search you'll should get a link to "survivalbox.com" which sells them really cheaply. Also, a DIY solution for barndoors might be to use "Cinefoil". Folds up nice and portable as well.

    Cheers.
    Steve H.

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  2. Thanks for the suggestions Steve. Unfortunately cinefoil doesn't mount to circular reflectors so well, but thanks for the suggestion. Also silver lame fabric can actually be had for quite cheap, and will sew to a black fabric a bit more sturdily than a space blanket, but that's also a good suggestion. Glad you liked the review!

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  3. I made one and simply used a translucent shower curtain and I could not be happier with the way it works

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  4. Cool to hear Rick. Do you find it adds any color cast to your light? Did you have to create a custom WB to get neutral lighting with it? Are you able to mix official flash gear like white umbrellas or softboxes, with your DIY solution without mixed color temperatures from the different light sources? I'm curious because that is the main reason I wanted something "official"

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  5. Ha Ha funny you should ask. I took my umbrella in the store with me and matched it up with the closest white curtain I could. no off color cast whatsoever, plus it doubles as a diffuser for the sun when doing outdoor portraits.

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  6. Great idea! Any chance you remember the manufacturer and fabric name type in the off chance I can find it here?

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  7. Thanks for the review. I have been thinking about these but I missed the Thanksgiving sale where Calumet here in US was selling 2 42x78" panels along with various fabrics, legs and the support bar for < $300. The diffusion panel with frame was only $65 or so. I also wish they had white/black combination.

    BTW - Do you think these frames will be OK for outdoors if held by an assistant?

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  8. The frames would be fine outdoors, very rigid, but the fabric will act like a total sail. The original line had wind versions with little pockets in the middle that let air through, but calumet's does not.

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  9. Funny, I just ordered the Dean Collins DVD set. I'm curious to know how secure the interlocking brackets are. If you were to suspend two interlocked panels into an 72x72 overhead scrim, would it fold in at the middle?

    I'm basically tryign to decide between a 72x72 light panel and 2 48x72 light panels. Obviously the 2 panels can be more versatile, and they are cheaper than the 72x72 chimera.

    Thanks for the reveiw

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  10. The interlocking brackets are basically tight hinges, it would most likely sag in the middle. I was thinking the same thing as you, and I was wanting to construct cross braces out of pvc pipe. Just a 30cm length with these double brackets attaching it on each end to the frame would keep it from bowing. Maybe hard to visualize what I'm saying, but they'd be braces crossing the hinged part at the top and bottom to provide rigidity.

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  11. Yeah that makes sense, though it would be nice if they had a ready made product designed for such an apparatus. Or perhaps find a piece of pvc whose inner diameter is the same size as the light panel frame, then cut it in half length wise to create your own snap on support. Your idea sounds easier though; I'm horrible at DIY work :)

    Thanks,

    JB

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  12. JBrew,

    Calumet sells aluminium bar for these panels so if both panels had bars with the bars on the top then you can perhaps tie those bars with something to prevent them sagging in the middle.

    Bobby

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