Stepping up to XL…

As a photographer I find that I will grasp at anything with a white surface as a light modifier. I’ve used napkins, place mats, restaurant menus, burnable DVD’s, loose leaf and office printer paper, newspapers, my own shirt, white walls, the sides of trucks, bedsheets, and last but not least; real life actual brand name light modifiers made by Wescott, Lumquest, Promaster, Dynalite, and many others. When I say I’ve used anything I can think of; generally that’s true unless it’s something I haven’t thought of yet, so when a company comes and says hey we have a new light modifier that will replace a couple in your bag while giving you the light shaping ability that you want/need…….I say bring it on; and they did.

(Image Courtesy of ExpoImaging Website)

Some may remember the review I wrote last year about the Rogue Master lighting kit. Great kit, used it constantly while I had it. In fact I was loaned it again for this particular review of their XL Pro Lighting kit, however as a full time pro something interesting happened. I ended up using the XL Pro more than anything else. Coincidence? Maybe. Does that it mean that the Master kit is obsolete? heck no! I just preferred carrying less every day considering most of what I use for the Indystar Newspaper must be carried on my belt while I’m on assignment. Speaking of such, before I go any further I need to mention that I am in fact NOT being paid for this review or write up by either Roberts Camera or Expo Imaging. They loaned me the gear to see what I think about it, and that’s what I’m going to say. Nothing less, but maybe a little bit more. We’ll see.

(Nikon D4, 400ISO, Nikon 70-200F2.8VR2@115mm, 1/100th@F2.8.  Nikon SB900 in the Rogue XL Pro Lighting kit set to Strip softbox mode above to the right of our Nurse of the Year set to iTTL, and a Nikon SB-800 Speedlight zoomed to 105 set to fire via SU-4 Dummy slave set at 1/8th Power shot into the flags.  The SB900 was controlled by a SU800 Speedlight commander on the Cameras Hot Shoe.)

What’s different about the XL Pro Lighting kit is that while you can use it like any of the other Rogue Master Kit pieces (as a flash Bender or big ass bounce card as shown in the first image in this post), you can also shape it into a strip softbox about the size of a standard Forearm.  Forearm being the part of your arm between your elbow and hand, as opposed to some odd photography piece of gear called a forearm.  An Actual Forearm.  Anyway, this is brilliant because as someone who wants to carry less, but have more I can carry around the XL Pro Lighting kit and have multiple diffusion options depending on what I’m shooting, but only take up one pocket in my bag and not have to sort through it every time i want to use it. Fantastic. It has the standard Light bender “bendy’s” inside it to shape it in various forms, but the Velcro diffusion panel over the front to make it a softbox is what I was really interested in it. Umbrellas are a great “one size fits all” solution that just wildly shower soft light over an area. The XL Pro Lighting kit’s Strip soft box gives you enough light at a reasonable size for an individual portrait when you need something a little softer than a hard light in a hurry, and you don’t want to light up an entire room interior. Not to mention the thing Rocks for on the fly tabletop photography.

(Nikon D3, 200ISO, Nikon 60mmF2.8N Macro, 1/160th@F10.  Single Nikon SB700 set ti 1/4th shot through the ExpoImaging XL Pro Lighting kit set to Strip Softbox directly above the rings and fake crystals.  Flash Triggered by Nikon SU-800 Commander in the D3 Hot Shoe).

Tabletop photography on location at an event can be tough. If someone required 1 end all reason to buy the XL Pro Lighting kit, tabletop would be it for me. When I shoot the rings at a wedding, I end up using every little random thing I can find to help diffuse the light. Half of that list above included. In this case I still used a tablecloth behind to the right of the setup here, but the XL Pro did the hard part, which was soften and Shape the light. When shooting rings like this the Shape of the light is incredibly important since it reflects in the rings. Have you ever shot a wine bottle with an Umbrella before? You know what I mean as the reflection of a Softbox is infinitely more pleasing to the eye.  Reflections are a part of everything, and the directional shaped light from the XL Pro is fantastic.

The shot on the left is shot as my test shot with a single speedlight with no modifier.  On location you are forced to do things quickly and generally dirty.  When shooting things that are transparent it’s always best to light around them.  In this case, I tried to cut the hard light through the glasses and illuminate the background to get both the form, and shape of the glasses while also keeping some sort of depth in the image.  FAIL.  The shot on the right is a similar attempt with the XL Pro’s much larger light area.  I dropped my depth of field a bit, and for those out there that are sticklers for Measurbating I can post the shot with the XL Pro using the same settings as the shot on the left; but really the results are similar to the one on the right but the shallower depth of field makes the shot more pleasing to the eye just as much as the greater light spread. That being said; quite a difference yea?

(Nikon D4, 200ISO, Nikon 28-70F2.8D@40mm.  1/250th@F6.3.  Nikon SB900 shot through the XL Pro above the subject who was holding a book for a reflector, with a Nikon SB800 set to shoot into the background.  Both Flashes controlled by a Nikon SU800 on the camera Hot Shoe.  See below for setup)

The XL Pro uses the same technology that their previous light benders use except it includes this small diffusion panel to conform it to the shape of a Strip Softbox.  For me, this is a better option than the Master Lighting kit.  That seems backwards, but I would prefer to carry less and do more as I mentioned up top, and the style at which I shoot the XL Pro makes much more sense than carrying the several diffusion panels.  That being said, NO, the XL Pro doesn’t come with the Grid of gels which I use regularly also, so it doesn’t make the Master Kit obsolete, it’s just a part of the Rogue Lineup that I prefer due to it’s simplicity, effectiveness, and less pieces to carry.

Is it for everybody?  No.  The Master kit is a much better fit for photographers as a whole and if you’re just gettinginto the game the Master lighting kit is definitely the way to go due to its versatility including the Gels and Grid set.  The XL Pro is exactly as it sounds in the name.  It is for Pro’s or people looking to shape their light into a more directional yet soft light source; or more specifically speaking to take their on location on the fly photography to another level.  The Rogue XL Pro lighting kit is a wonderful addition to an already great lineup from ExpoImaging.  Go to Roberts Camera online or here in Indy to check one out in person.  It’ll really make you rethink the standard shoot through umbrella setup that so many people (including myself) use and abuse so much.  More Soon.