Monday, September 20, 2010

Review: Optex Portable Studio and Lighting Kit

Optex Portable Studio
Henry's, the giant photography store has moved a modest new outlet into St. John's. It opened a couple of weeks ago and the Grand Opening event is going to be held September 25th. Elaine ordered an Optex Portable Photo Studio and Lighting Kit from Henry's in the spring for the Archaeology and Conservation Lab in The Rooms. I've been using it a lot for artifact and artifact reproduction photography and really liked it, so I popped out to Henry's on Friday night and picked one up for myself.

Example of artifacts photographed in the portable studio

It folds up into a small case
The whole thing folds up into a flexible, sturdy case a little bigger than a briefcase for travel and storage. The case itself forms the back of the 16" x 16" x 16" photo tent, so there is no wasted space.  Its held together with velcro bands and sets up and disassembles in about 5 minutes. It comes with two reversible background sheets - one is blue on one side and grey on the other and the second is green and white. Those are fine for most situations and I find that the blue background gives excellent contrast with most artifacts. The design of the photo tent is simple enough that it would be easy to add other colour backdrops on your own.

The broken tripod
It comes with a small tripod. Optex makes some very good tripods, but this isn't one of them. I thought it was silver painted plastic, but its actually a light aluminum. The legs are loose, so that the only way it can be set up is with the legs fully spread. I don't have a photo of the tripod set up because the first time I opened it up and put a camera on it, it broke.

These are the backdrops it comes with
If I hadn't had several very good months using the photo studio at The Rooms, I might have been a little worried about the rest of the set-up after the crummy tripod. But overall, I like the photo box so much that I'm still very happy with the purchase. The soft-light photo tent is a very good size for photographing small objects.  Its just the right size for the sorts of stone tools and jewelry that I work with.  You can take pictures of larger objects, up to about a foot square, but you start to become limited with angles, as the sides of the box begin to show up in the edges of the frame. Its lit adequately for macro photography, and the weave of the fabric is tight enough that it doesn't become distracting.  Still, I might look for paper backdrops to create very clean backgrounds when photographing tiny artifacts or jewelry.

Ivory Harpoon Head photographed on the blue backdrop

Elfshot earrings photographed on the white backdrop

Optex Photo Studio and Lighting kit
The way that the box and backgrounds are fixed together with velcro makes it very easy to reconfigure. I'm not sure if Optex sells custom made backdrops in different colours or materials, but Henry's carries a wide range of background cloths and papers that could easily be trimmed to fit the case.  I'd recommend this studio to other archaeologists and craftspeople in an instant, especially if they already own their own tripod.  Before tax, the photo studio kit cost $139.99.

Photo Credits: Tim Rast

1 comment:

  1. I have been looking at purchasing this Optex tent for photographing glass etchings, and your review persuaded me to take the plunge and buy it. I can make the additional backdrops.


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