Once in a rare while a company comes along and produces products which not just fulfill a need, but create the need. The Apple iPhone, is an example of this--we didn't realize that we needed a touch-screen telephone that did everything but the laundry. Without the iPhone, we probably wouldn't have "Angry Birds". It is one thing for a company to spot a need and create a product to fulfill it, but it is another thing to invent an all new category of product. Sometimes, this is an all new original concept, but more often than not, it is the repackaging of a concept or idea. There was nothing really new about the iPhone, but it was a repackaging of ideas and concepts into a new design when accompanied by a brilliant marketing campaign that has altered the course of communications.
ExpoImaging is a company I've been familiar with for many years. I purchased and reviewed the Flashbender (review here) and have found even though the concept of a flash reflector is nothing new, the execution of the concept is not only fresh, but the logical choice. It is so natural of a fit to what we want that we wonder how we could ever be without one again. ExpoImaging is the company that produces the ExpoDisc, which absolutely was an original concept invented by George Wallace. Wallace's family continues the legacy by dedicating themselves to the photography industry with products which just make sense.
After reviewing the Rogue Flashbender, ExpoImaging made a Rogue 3-In-1 Honeycomb Grid available for testing. Long overdue, this review is finally presented here on www.zone-10.com. The delay in writing this review has had the unintended advantage of time. Instead of a "Hey, I got this thing yesterday and it rocks!" review, I can honestly say that I've been using it for months in multiple situations and environments. My appreciation for this modifier has grown with time and I'm even more excited about it now than I was in the beginning.
The Rogue Grid is one of those products which isn't necessarily a new concept--grid spot light modifiers have been around for decades. What is new is that we now have a grid spot attachment which fits in a pocket and attaches to nearly any portable/battery flash. As late as ten years ago, a product like the Rogue Grid didn't have much usefulness, but now with every major camera manufacturer having dedicated flash systems supporting wireless flash, the Rogue Grid has entered into the prime moment of adoption.
What is the Rogue Grid?
The Rogue Grid is a multi-component honeycomb grid modifier which provides beam widths of 16, 25 and 45 degree coverage patterns. Fitting inside a small pouch are two grids (one 45 degree, one 25 degree), the bezel and the flexible-body with velcro strap which will fit to nearly any portable (shoe-mount) flash. The flexible body attaches to the flash head with the built-in velcro strap and has enough rubbery surface to stay in place. Beam width is selectable by placing one of the two honeycomb grids into the bezel. If you want the narrower 16 degree coverage pattern, place both grids in the bezel.
If the flash is rectangle, how can the spot be round? The shape of the lightsource does not define the shape of the spot. The shape of the openings determines the shape of the spot. The honeycomb shape of the holes are slightly rounded, but with the way the light reflects through the grid, the shape of the spot ends up round. The honeycomb shape contributes to a softer penumbra and smoother transition. Perfectly rounded openings result in a harsher transition as well as a tendency to create a rimming "donut" of light on the subject.
There is lightloss as a result of using the grid, mostly through physical blockage of part of the flash tube, but also through absorption and redirection of light. The amount of loss varies depending on flashtube design as well as how close the grid elements are to the flash. As a grid light is usually used for accent or secondary use, this is not typically a problem.
What can you do with the Rogue Grid?
1. Accent lighting. Aiming a light at a specific location in the scene can bright up the exposure of that location or object without affecting other elements of the scene. If your style of lighting is "additive lighting" then a snoot or grid-spot light is invaluable to be able to selectively place light just where you need it.
2. Background lighting. Aim a grid light at the background behind a person. Doing this will raise the background level and create a fall off vignette. One classic style of portraiture lighting is light against dark and dark against light. Use a neutral background and light one half of it with the gridded light. Now, have your subject turned the away from the lit background and towards a lightsource. The light side of the face is against a black background, and the shadow side of the face is against the lit background.
3. Hairlight or rimlight. When using a normal flash as a hairlight, two problems come up. First is uncontrolled spillage--the light goes everywhere. The second is the potential of the flash shining back into the lens causing flare or incorrect exposures. The Rogue Grid will allow you to light just the person's head and shoulders with just the right amount of light to give background separation without overpowering everything around it.
4. Controlling light pattern from a distance. An obvious circumstance is the hairlight, but there are times when you can't get the flash close enough to the subject. Maybe, you are shooting a group and the composition includes plenty of foreground. A normal flash will overexpose the foreground. If you are trying to light just the subject and flash-to-subject distance is far, the flash will light far too much of the scene. Place the grid on the flash, carefully aim it at the subject and you'll have just the subject lit.
5. Catch lighting. Need to add a little sparkle to the eyes or just a touch more exposure to the face? Use your large, diffuse light source to light the subject as you normally would, but then place a portable flash with the Rogue Grid in front of the softbox or umbrella carefully aimed at the face. You get the wide, soft lighting of the softbox with just a touch of exposure lift just where you need it, providing a touch more 3D modelling.
6. Event photography, involving photographing people on a stage. Using a powerful on-camera flash while photographing an event has the unfortunate side-effect of disturbing the audience. We are typically shooting with a longer lens in this circumstance, a 70-200mm being normal. Placing the grid on the flash will restrict the coverage to about that of the lens. When the flash fires, the subject is lit up for the camera, but the audience is largely unaware that a photograph was even taken.
Many other uses abound, but these are some that I've personally done with the Rogue Grid. In all cases, the Rogue Grid performed well and was the solution I needed. It isn't often that I need this type of modifier, but just as with the Rogue Flashbender, the Rogue Grid is always with me. If I'm using my portable flashes and have a three-light setup, I can pretty much guarantee that the Flashbender is on one light and the Grid on another.
I started this review stating that the time for the Rogue Grid has come and the timing is right for it to be on the market. NIKON's Speedlights and Creative Lighting System as well as the CANON's Speedlite and E-TTL II offer extensive integrated flash control from the camera. Multiple flashes can be triggered and balanced in many on-location photography situations. Wirelessly triggering remote, dedicated flashes makes using modifiers very easy. Before these integrated flash systems, balancing modified remote flashes becomes more difficult. Not impossible though, as I'm using them on Vivitar 285HV flashes, but does require more time to measure, chimp and adjust power levels. A modifier like the Rogue Grid has always been useful, but without today's exposure automation, is usually just difficult enough to use that most photographers find other lighting angles or stay with what they've always done.
Can be knocked off. The bezel pressure fits into the flexible mounting sleeve that attaches to the flash. It is snug and won't just come off through motion, but it will come off when you bump it in a rough and tumble environment. This is not necessarily a bad thing as it will come off instead of having the entire flash break off of the camera hot shoe. Just as with the Flashbender, it is designed to comfortably fit the Speedlights and Speedlites. It is a very tight fit to go on a Vivitar 285HV. The other criticism would be that at some distances, you may get a slight donut light around the primary spot. If this happens, usually adjusting the bezel to flashtube distance or zoom position will take care of it.
In my review of the Rogue Flashbender, I made note of a design weakness with the Velcro strap. ExpoImaging had made an alteration to this design and the improved strap design is part of the Rogue Grid. (The Flashbender now includes this newer strap design). Just as with the Flashbender, the Grid is extremely well built and rugged. This is a device that can be taken anywhere and not be worried about.
Rogue is not just a product line, but a System
Most of the Rogue modifiers can be repurposed with other modifiers to accomplish different lighting tasks. The bezel of the Grid will fit on the end of the rolled up Flashbender. Of course, there is no reason why you can't place two modifiers on a single flash. Recently, ExpoImaging introduced the Rogue Gel Kit. The Gel Kit adds color filters to your flash unit and is useable with any of the other Rogue modifiers. These are available in two styles, one generic style for any portable flash and a rounded version which is specifically designed to work inside the Grid.
ExpoImaging, the company
ExpoImaging has established an excellent reputation in the photographic industry. I have absolutely nothing but the highest praise for this company. Customer service is supurb and they really do listen to the users. The products are of excellent quality and engineered not just to a need, but beyond the need. Just as Apple had engineered the cellphone to a level of perfection and clean design, so has ExpoImaging with their products. These aren't just light modifiers, they're ExpoImaging light modifiers. WIth the Rogue product line, it is a pretty safe assumption that if ExpoImaging sells it, it will be outstanding and attractive. ExpoImaging doesn't just engineer their products, but they perfect their products.
(images copyright ExpoImaging)
Please login or register to add comments