Wednesday, 16 March 2016

Pixapro CITI600 TTL on location

The first time I took my Pixapro CITI600 TTL portable battery flash on location, in typical English fashion the sun disappeared behind cloud and rain so I didn't bother testing the high-speed sync facility as planned.



This Ed Nugent; Ed is one of life's nice guys, a nurseryman, grower & plantsman who's worked with plants since leaving school, including exhibiting at the internationally renowned Chelsea Flower Show in London. He and his wife Josie have just established a new plant nursery Garden Sage not too far from the studio I work from in Burgess Hill. I popped in to a) see what was in offer & b) buy some herbs plants - as you do, we got talking as Ed was on hand to welcome the customers, a great touch and testament to his desire for the nursery to succeed. He even agreed to be photographed for my Sussex Photographer blog!

As I said at the beginning, they day became very grey thick cloud & rain making for a a very cool look to the images which didn't really give the look I wanted. To compensate for this I added ½ CTB (Colour Temperature Blue) gel - LEE Filters 202 ½ CT Blue, took a grey balance reference close to Ed's face to correct in post-processing. This gave me the warmer background area not lit by the flash.


The Pixapro CITI600 TTL battery mono bloc flash head was mounted to a 20" sliding leg Kupo Grip C-stand with a 40" boom - I find this a very stable & versatile configuration for most lights from Speedlites through to bulky mains powered studio heads. It's essential to remember that when rigging any light stand that one of the legs MUST bender the load of the light & boom for optimum stability.

The soft box is the Pixapro 60cm portable beauty dish (silver inside) with the front diffuser in place, but not the inner deflector. This modifier has a recessed diffuser panel allowing a egg crate grid (supplied) to add more direction & less spill to the light.

As this is a TTL unit I used the TTL facility in conjunction with the Pixapro ST-III T (Canon) trigger. My camera was set to Av with -⅔ stop exposure compensation dialled in. The flash was set to TTL via the trigger & an initial exposure compensation of -1 dialled in (this was established with a number of controlled Fred Tests prior to use). When using the CITI600 you'll notice that any exposure compensation does not appear on the head display; this doesn't mean the flash doesn't recognise the trigger commands, it's just the head is designed to work with both Canon & Nikon camera systems. This may or may not change with future firmware upgrades.

The first frame was a bit hot (over-exposed) so I dialled in -2 stops exposure compensation on the ST-IIIT trigger and was ready to go. The light was not that challenging so for the short duration of the shoot I didn't need to change this.


Given the ambient light conditions, camera Av TTL exposure was ISO 160, ƒ/4, 1/160th sec.

The Pixapro CITI600 TTL  is a welcome addition to my portable lighting gear as it fits nicely when I need a wide aperture ƒ/stop for shallow depth of field (DoF) effects which with conventional portable battery flash are not possible without the use of a camera lens 0.9 solid ND filter which darkens the view finder & reduces the exposure overall requiring more flash power. I will have Speedlites in my kit, which on average are 80w/s compared to the mighty 600w/s of the CITI600 at full power:)

During a controlled location Fred Test I've achieved with a 45º deep long focus reflector in place (honeycomb grid not fitted), ƒ/22 at 4m (13ft) in bright sunlight, Manual 1/1, camera ISO 100, 1/50th sec.

The Pixapro CITI600 TTL is also available in a non-TTL version.

Pixapro CITI600 TTL Key Features:

  • TTL auto exposure Canon & Nikon with appropriate trigger, variable over a ±3 stop range in ⅓ stop increments.
  • Manual from 1/1 to 1/256th power - a firmware upgrade is required for the ST-III T rigger at the time of writing as the trigger only goes to 1/128th power. Be aware that the firmware upgrade is only PC, not Mac for now and the download page is in Chinese.
  • Multi stroboscopic flash with variable frequency.
  • 32 channels and 5 groups.
  • 10w CoB LED modelling light with three power levels.

Of special interest to some will be the flash tube which is user replaceable and has a protective glass cover - reducing the risk of damage or electric shock from an exposed flash tube.

The design of the flash tube projects as well as radiating light improving efficiency with most Pixapro reflectors and modifiers - Speedlites and the Profoto B1 & B2 have concealed flash tubes very much like a Speedlite so only project light! The LED modelling light is positioned to project light through the flash tube and gives a surprisingly accurate preview.

Very soon a remote lead will be available for the head which means the power supply & flash head will be separate, very much like the Elinchrom Quadra system - one of the reasons which attracted me to the system originally was low mass on the top of a light stand when on location outside.

Also, not the construction of the 60cm portable beauty dish, very durable and not dissimilar to the Elinchrom Rotalite range of flash modifiers.

The instruction manual is clear & concise. These days a paper manual is a bonus as much of the time manuals and user guides are PDF download for DIY printing.

I highly recommend the Pixapro brand products available from https://www.essentialphoto.co.uk - Yang Wu and the team offer a superb level of customer service (yes, I have experienced it) both on the telephone and by the website Live Chat!

If you're based in UK Yang and the Essential Photo team will be at The Photography Show 19-22 March 2016, stand E91

That's it for now and don't forget if you really enjoy lighting to visit and join The LIGHT Side - a place to learn, be mentored, nurtured and learn about lighting, lighting and photography, whatever your level or experience.




Monday, 14 March 2016

Pixapro ST-III TTL Wireless Flash Trigger

Pixapro ST-III TTL Transmitter & Receiver for Canon DSLR cameras
I conducted my initial test of the Pixapro ST-III T (Canon) with a Canon 580EXII Speedlite. For now the triggers are only available for Canon or Nikon. I'm informed that Sony compatible units will be available later in 2016.

First impressions. The build quality and layout of controls is good, although the CH (Channel Select), GR (Group Setting) & MODE (Mode Selection) buttons would benefit from white fill to the recessed letters (see photograph). The backlit LCD display is clear and once I became familiar with the button sequences changing channels and moving between modes is straight forward.

Camera Trigger ST-III TTL-T Canon
Buttons:
TEST - press to see if flash fires, also to trigger remote camera with supplied lead.
Select Dial -  Changes flash power, moves between groups and modes.
CH - Changes channel 1-32 and adjusts custom functions.
GR - Selects group A-C and confirms settings.
MODE - Moves groups between modes.

It should be noted that the flash group to be adjusted needs to be in the centre of the screen next to the white dot on the left of the backlit LCD panel.

The flash group to be adjusted needs to be in the centre of the screen next to the white dot on the left
When set to Manual Mode the flash power may be adjusted from 1/128 to 1/1 power in 1/3 stop increments. In TTL Auto mode exposure may be compensated between ±3 in 1/3 stop increments. I don’t know if this is a feature or an anomaly, but when set to Manual mode the power settings are mirrored on the flash LCD display, but not when in TTL. Apparently this is a feature of the Pixapro CITI600 (Godox AD600) as the flash is multi camera system compatible.

In TTL mode the ST-III trigger doesn’t need switching between normal & HS Flash mode it does it automatically. On my flash I have to switch to HS Sync and the trigger recognises this.

Wireless range is stated as >100m which will be line of sight with no obstacles. Indoors, depending upon conditions, less.

There is an AF beam assist for those times when light levels are low or contrast insufficient for cameras to focus.

Flash/Speedlite Receiver ST-III TTL-R Canon
Buttons:
TEST - Fires all functioning flashes with compatible receivers in place.
CH - Changes channel 1-32.
GR - Selects group A-E.

Both units have a Micro USB socket for firmware upgrades - which at the time of writing only seem available in Chinese and MS Windoze OS. Nothing for Mac users. The transmitter also has a PC socket which will allow older studio flash etc to be used triggered but not controlled remotely.

I’ve tested Pixapro ST-III TTL Wireless Flash Trigger/Receiver set with the following:

Pixapro CITI600 TTL - total remote control
Yong Nuo 565 EXII - TTL, Manual remote power setting, no HS
Canon 580 EXII - total remote control
Canon 550 EX - Manual only, no HS or TTL
Elinchrom Ranger Quadra - trigger only
Elinchrom BXRi - trigger only
Elinchrom EL500 - trigger only
Multiblitz Profilux 200 - trigger only



This means is you can mix differing makes & types of studio flash & speedlites with ease. A selection of adaptor leads are supplied, including a lead to use the trigger/receiver as a remote camera trigger.

THE trigger & receiver are both powered by AA cells, not supplied.

The instruction manual is clear & concise, although if you’re like me the type is of a size where reading glasses will be necessary! These days a paper manual is a bonus as much of the time manuals and user guides are PDF download for DIY printing.

I highly recommend the Pixapro brand products available from https://www.essentialphoto.co.uk - Yang Wu and the team offer a superb level of customer service (yes, I have experienced it) both on the telephone and by the website Live Chat!

If you're based in UK Yang and the Essential Photo team will be at The Photography Show 19-22 March 2016, stand E91

That's it for now and don't forget if you really enjoy lighting to visit and join The LIGHT Side - a place to learn, be mentored, nurtured and learn about lighting, lighting and photography, whatever your level or experience.

Thursday, 3 March 2016

How to attach lighting gels to studio & battery flash

I've worked lighting correction, effects and diffusion gels for most of my photography career - in the early days shooting video correcting tungsten lights to daylight entering through a window necessitated clipping a blue CTB gel to the barn doors of the hot lights - hot lights because if you touched any metal part your finger would blister, hence why we used to all have a pair of riggers gloves handy.

Simple, cheap and effective,  fixing lighting gels to barn doors with wooden clothes pegs



A few lighting gaffers used metal crocodile clips to clamp gels to a hot light and many nothing more sophisticated than the humble wooden clothes peg - wooden clothes peg don't transmit heat and if they get too hot only char - use plastic clothes pegs on a hot light and they melt! The wooden clothes peg has become the subject of myth - in the film industry they are know as C47s!

The same principles apply when attaching gels to modern studio & portable battery location flash with a reflector in place.

The 600w/s TTL Pixapro CITI600 battery location/studio flash with standard reflector

I keep a handful of wooden clothes pegs in my camera bags along with numerous other useful odds & ends not directly photography related!


The quick & scruffy way to attach lighting gels to flash reflectors, clip a couple of clothes pages direct to the reflector.


It's also possible to gel soft boxes and beauty dish modifiers using clothes pegs by clamping the gel to the soft box spars.


Another useful accessory is the Double or Multi-Clip. The name will vary according to where you buy or who manufacturers. 


Pair of Double Clips attached to your flash reflector make a easier solution for attaching gels to lights.


Here you can see a LEE Filters cosmetic gel (combined diffusion/colour) clamped to an Elinchrom Ranger Quadra standard reflector with a pair of Double Clips.


If you need to change gels frequently during sessions then I use a piece of clear acetate or polycarbonate sheet clamped between the Double Clips.


Gels are then attached to the clear sheet with clothes pegs! This is also useful with diffusion gels as it increases the distance from the flash tube giving a better diffusion effect. When using diffusion gels and textiles I use a scrim frame as it allows me to fine tune the distance between the diffusion & light source, as illustrated in the image below.

Click on image to view larger.


The Pixapro CITI600 portable battery flash is available from Essential Photo in Birmingham, England.

I work mainly with LEE Filters which are available from Acebil in UK and other retailers worldwide.

Elinchrom portable battery & studio flash is available from The Flash Centre - call Birmingham store and talk with Brian Collier or email Simon Burfoot and don't forget to mention this blog.

That's it for now and don't forget if you really enjoy lighting to visit and join The LIGHT Side - a place to learn, be mentored, nurtured and learn about lighting, lighting and photography, whatever your level or experience.