When I wrote my Macro Photography Lighting Tutorial, I had the opportunity to test a fairly popular product for my section on ring lights: the Bolt VM-110. I was happy with the quality of light from the VM-110 ring light, but I was unimpressed with its low strength. Since ring lights are so commonly-used for macro photography, I decided that it would be worthwhile to review the VM-110 and share some of my thoughts about how well it works for macro photography.
Macro photographers tend to struggle with two crucial variables when lighting their subjects. First, high-magnification macro photography usually involves apertures between f/16 and f/32. To use an aperture this small, you need a high-powered flash — especially if you want to use a diffuser. The second major issue is that many macro photographers work with just one on-camera flash, meaning that the lighting can appear flat and dull, even when diffused. So, when Venus Optics announced their alien-looking KX800 dual flash, I was excited to see that they had put considerable effort into solving these two major problems.
When I’m not scratching ever upwards toward the pinnacle of the high-stakes editorial bird photography world I find it helps my bottom line to prostitute myself as an HPLS. It’s not a pretty job, but imagine how ugly the world would appear if it weren’t for the services of us Human Powered Light Stands. When were not schlepping monolights, downloading memory cards, witnessing model releases, or checking to make sure the model’s sports bra isn’t wrinkled, we’re usually found holding the Venerable Shiny Disk.
It’s been bugging me that I only have a handful of decent insect photos, despite owning a macro lens primarily for that purpose. When they weren’t flying or running away from me, they were biting me, and when I tried the pop-them-in-the-fridge-to-cool-them-down trick – well, let’s just say Mr. Tarantula is still napping. I felt awful about that and vowed never to ice down a critter again unless it was a penguin with heat stroke. Still I’ve been seeing tons of great bug photos lately and it rekindled my interest. If I could just dial in the lighting, maybe I could start nailing some great macro wildlife shots.
This review is for three Impact Muslin Backgrounds and an Impact Background Support System. I have always loved backdrops and how they can convert any space into a studio. By setting up a studio backdrop, you can create a whole new feel for a shoot and they are versatile and easy to use. I chose to set these up in my living room and home office space, but if you are tight for space in your home, a garage makes a perfect studio as well.
The Nikon SB-500 speedlight was announced in September of 2014 together with the Nikon D750 and Nikkor 20mm f/1.8G lens. Sitting above the compact SB-300 and below the larger and more powerful SB-700, the SB-500 is targeted at beginners and enthusiasts, who want something more capable than a built-in flash or a basic speedlight. The SB-500 comes with an interesting list of features, one of which we have never previously seen on Nikon speedlights before – built-in LED lights. Although I personally had very little interest in using the SB-500, as I heavily rely on SB-800 and SB-900 speedlights for my work, ability to run LED lights continuously seemed like an interesting idea. In addition, with the SB-500 abilities of being both a commander and a remote flash unit with full compatibility with Nikon’s CLS system, I thought that perhaps I could use it in combination with my other speedlights. So I decided to check out and do a quick review of the SB-500, to see if it would potentially be a suitable tool for my photography needs.
Do you remember the Profoto B1 flash? We had the pleasure of reviewing it a few months ago. If you are into flash photography and need a portable, but powerful light source, I suggest you read that review. Suffice to say it left us thoroughly impressed. And now Profoto decided to add to the already good impression by releasing a firmware update. As if a firmware update for a strobe isn’t peculiar enough, it’s not actually meant to fix any issues (not that there were any, in our experience). Nope. It’s there to add an actual feature, and one strobists will very much appreciate – High-Speed Sync.
Technically, the article is supposed to be called “Nikon Speedlight Comparison”, because Nikon calls their flash units “Speedlights”. This article is written as an introduction to the current and older line of Nikon Speedlights, specifically the Nikon SB-300, SB-400, SB-500, SB-600, SB-700, SB-800 (discontinued), SB-900 (discontinued) and SB-910. In addition to some basic information on each Speedlight, I will provide a comparison chart on the bottom of this article as well, to make it simpler for our readers to understand the differences.
The last announcement from Nikon today was for the new SB-500 speedlight, Nikon’s first speedlight with a built-in LED light. With a guide number of 24m at ISO 100, it is not a very powerful flash unit (the SB-600 is at 30m and the high-end SB-910 is at 34m), but it is quite flexible with the head tilting up to 90° and rotating horizontally 180° to the left and right. In addition, it can be used as a commander or a remote flash unit and it is fully compatible with the Nikon CLS system. At $249.95, it is priced $80 cheaper than the higher-end SB-700. What’s exciting about this unit is not its typical features, but the built-in LED light. With approximately 100 lumens of brightness, the LED light can be used as a small video light or potentially even assist in acquiring focus in low-light situations. The LED light can be operated independently from flash, which means that you could actually detach the SB-500 from the camera and use its LED light exclusively, if needed. I personally welcome this innovation in speedlights and I believe it will be quite useful in some situations.
As you saw from our review of the Profoto B1, we were very impressed by the capabilities of this portable, battery powered flash head. At the time we wrote the review, the Profoto B1 was only compatible with Canon TTL and support for Nikon TTL was supposed to be announced later. Well, the wait is almost over, because Profoto announced the Air Remote TTL-N for Nikon, with expected availability on September 15, 2014.