Photography Equipment / by ivan Lee

CAMERAS

My first camera was the Minolta SRT101 with a 55mm lens. It belonged to my dad it was a beautiful camera with a very sharp lens the only issue I had with it was that it over exposed everything, even if I used a light metered it. Currently it sits on a shelf collecting dust but I have been tempted to have it serviced to be reused again for family photos. The Russian made Zenit and Holga 120N is the family photo cameras.

Today I use a variety of cameras but for work it’s split between the Canon 5DMKII and Hasselblad H4D-31. Both cameras have their Pros and Cons. When I started I always dreamed of owning a digital medium format camera even way back when Leaf was making 10megapixel medium format backs the size of full frame DSLRs these days. The Hasselblad with its amazing image quality is one of the best cameras systems out there. It’s a lot harder to get right because of the lower depth of field and single point focus compared to DSLRs but when you nail the shot it’s way ahead in quality to DSLRs. Quality lenses for the Professional Photographer is more important than megapixels. For the Canon, My workhorse is the 100mm 2.8 macro. It’s the perfect lens for Product Photography and Portrait Photography with minimal distortion and edge to edge sharpness. My next upgrade will most likely be a Canon 1Dx or a complete change to Nikon with a D800 or D4

99% of the time when I’m photographing products or architecture, the camera is on a tripod. Product Photography is technical and involves a lot of fine tuning of lights and cutters. The styling of props around an object also takes time and a camera on a tripod allows me to build the shot light by light. Photographing people is different, being able to move and find their best angle and being quick is very important; a tripod only slows down the shoot.

STROBE LIGHTS

I’m not a natural light photographer. I like my artificial lighting. I like being able to over power the sun when photographing on location. Speedlites just don’t have the power required to do so and they become even less powerful when light modifiers are used. I once went to a Joe McNally lighting demo. where he showed the audience how he lit a shot with 4-5 Nikon SP-800 speedlites. It made me wonder how many battery rechargers he would have in his studio ( I imagine 40 batteries being recharged in a room full of rechargers). I do own 1 Canon 550EX speedlite that has been in service for 10 years now and I won’t purchase another speedlite until the current one dies.

 

Behind the scenes- Lighting the scene with artificial lights /battery powered flash

I’ve owned just about every brand of professional photography lighting equipment out there – Bowens, Hensel, Elinchrom, Broncolor, Lightpro, Jinbei and Profoto. Elinchrom is what I use in the studio when I need more power and more lights. Elinchrom makes good value products that will last for years. It’s not the most expensive (their floor packs are 1/3 of the price of Broncolor and Profoto) but has a great range of modifiers and the Distributor support from Kayell in Australia is very good.

Location battery powered lighting for the last 4-5 years has been Broncolor. I liked the Broncolor Mobil kit because it was light and everything was well made even though it took nearly 10 seconds to recycle at full power and the batteries on gave 40 full power shots. I recently purchased my first Profoto battery kit. I have never been so excited about a piece of equipment purchase like I have with the Profoto Pro-B2 1200. I’m planning to grow the Profoto kit and now understand why a lot of people consider Profoto to be the best. I’ve used the Elinchrom Ranger a few times. It’s good and incredible value but i still prefer profoto even though Elinchrom has some pretty good modifiers (100cm deep throat, large octa lights, etc). Update I just added a mainsdock to the pro-b2 that allows it to be used with mainspower instead of batteries.

WHY I CHOSE PROFOTO OVER BRONCOLOR AND ELINCHROM?


My Broncolor Mobil pack died after 4.5 years of service and it was time to purchase a new battery pack. I’ve always loved using Profoto equipment- Simple with no digital displays I had decided against the Broncolor A2L because of the slow flash duration (1/360) and digital display. After working with Profoto equipment on a photo shoot I realised the dials to control power output is a lot easier and quicker to use than buttons and a digital display. I had decided on the B2r over the Elinchrom Ranger kit because I have never been a fan of Elinchrom flash heads. They have problems holding up large umbrellas like the Westcott 7 foot parabolic that I use all the time and the Elinchrom softbox mount can sometimes de difficult for new Assistants to get used to.

Pros:
-up to 200 full power fashes from a single battery cassette (Elinchrom Ranger 250 flashes / Broncolor Mobil 50 flashes)
-ultra fast recycling: 0.04–1.8 s (Elinchrom Ranger 3-4 sec. / Broncolor Mobil 9 sec.)
-very short fash durations: 1/2200–1/7400 s (Elinchrom Ranger 1/1300-1/5120 dependant on flash head / Broncolor Mobil 1/360)
-full 8 f-stop range in 1/2 or 1/10 step adjustments (Elinchrom Ranger 7 stops / Broncolor Mobil 5 stops)
-asymmetrical or symmetrical power distribution
-up to 250 W modeling lamp
-continuous modeling light or timer
-Built in PocketWizard receiver
-Pro-B heads. Sturdy build with zoomable dish reflectors (Broncolor Mobilites are better because of their compact size.)
Cons:

-12kgs weight
-no shoulder strap
-Only 1 stop difference between head output A & B in asymetrical
-Cost. Twice the price of a Elinchrom Ranger kit

Light Modifiers

My current favourite modifiers are
Photek 150cm softlighter II because it is easy to set up on location and has a removeable umbrella shaft. As a bounce back umbrella with a diffuser it is a really semi- soft light that has a nice look
Creative Light 5 foot Octa- Now called the Profoto RFI 5 foot Octa. Yes it’s expensive and are to put together the the light that comes out of it is beautiful and very soft. Looks great when used with a bit of distance from the subject from high up. Not as good as the Photek if you keep taking it apart a lot for packing up.

For Photographers starting out I think a 100-150cm octagonal softbox is a must have item on their list. A Photek 150cm or Westcott 7 foot para umbrella with a Paul C buff diffuser could be a cheaper but just as good of am option.
Ivan Lee
Principle Photographer, IJ Productions