…and you’d expect every human who came after to build on from that right?
Wrong. It seems manfrotto is bent on re-inventing the wheel (in this case the chain) in order to line their pockets at the expense of their captive market.
Here we have two drive chains, both intended to turn a sprocket. The one above seems to have been produced by a far more advanced civilization, with better steel and better tools. The difference in sophistication between these two is so vast that you would think people who lived in the age of the less advanced chain (the bottom one) would look to the other and regard its construction as some work of magic.
Drive chains like these have been around since the 3rd century BC, chains like the one at the top have been used on bicycles for the last 130 years. But it’s only in very recent history that Manfrotto has been making the one at the bottom, which seems more like the work of an arts and crafts project than a product of a hundred odd years of industrialisation.
If Manfrotto was doing this to deliver photographers a cost effective product I’d cut them some slack, but when my Manfrotto expan system broke, fixing it with a bicycle chain and sprocket was both cheaper and more effective than a manfrotto replacement.
The plastic Manfrotto sprocket broke due to the fact that the chain links don’t fit it exactly, it constantly slips which eventually cracks the plastic. Almost every photographer who has rented our photo studio has been surprised that our manfrotto expans are still functioning as in most photo studios for hire in London they are broken. The constant slippage of the chain also causes the chain to bend and buckle.
To replace the chain with a new Manfrotto Expan one costs £27.50
To repair the entire ancient system with advanced components: £14 for a bicycle chain (2 joined together), £4 for a sprocket which I picked up from my local bicycle man, £0.50 for some nuts and bolts.
Here is what the badly designed, overpriced and doomed to break itself Manfrotto expan looks like:
Here is what I did to fix it for £18.50
It’s smooth and silent, never slips. It’s jumped off the sprocket a few times when I’ve yanked it pretty fast, but nothing near as bad as what the original Manfrotto did.
The bolts fit nicely attaching the bicycle sprocket to the Manfrotto one.
Manfrotto could not possibly have thought thier newly designed drivechain and sprocket was in any way superior than a standard bicycle chain (especially not at their outrageously inflated cost). It’s fairly obvious to me that the unique design is intended to create a situation where only Manfrotto can fix your broken widget, and at whatever ridiculous price they choose. We live in an era where sourcing all kinds of components is easier than ever before, and where the means of production is quickly falling back into the hands of the general populace. I can’t wait to swap my countless bits of overpriced manfrotto plastic things with cheaper + superior 3d printed replacements.
Manfrotto and friends beware – the days of this kind of deliberate inefficiency are over. It’s products like the 50 dollar follow focus that constantly remind me, your once captive market is free!
What is all the fuss about renting kino flos anyways?
This is what most photographers seem to know about kinoflos:
- They are expensive
- Peter Hurley uses them
And often you will find photographers using one of those two points as the reason for the other.
Despite loving kinoflos, despite recently buying 2 of the new 4ft 4 bank Tegra’s, I am actually a little confused as to why Peter Hurley, or any stills photographer would spend so much on them.
The reasons being that most of what you are paying for makes them great for video, not stills.
People say things like: “They are so soft” “Their light quality cannot be matched.” Photograpers go to endless lengths to replicate the lighting cheaply by fixing up their own fluorescent fixtures. I find this odd because if you know anything about lighting you’ll know that the quality of the light (with respect to softness) is a combination of the size of the source and the distance it is from the subject – nothing else, don’t listen to anyone who says otherwise.
For photography it’s relatively cheap and easy to change the size of your light source by using different size softboxes, a strip softbox the same size as a kino flo is going to produce an almost identical quality light.
Trying to build something with store bought fluorescents is dumb because mainly becuase of the colour of the light, even though you can white balance for it, there is something called color rendition index, flourescents even though they are white light have mainly green in the mix and you will never get a good skin tone with them, (or more correctly, you will always get better skin tones using stobes/sunlight or any other source that has a higher color rendition index) even if you are happy shooting at 60th / 50th second shutter speeds to account for flicker, the colour problem alone is a reason not to make your own DIY kino flo lights with store bought flourecents. Doing it with led lights on the other hand is a different story.
“The color rendering index (CRI) (sometimes called color rendition index), is a quantitative measure of the ability of a light source to reproduce the colors of various objects faithfully in comparison with an ideal or natural light source.”
So back to my main ramblings on what makes kinoflos so special and why over the past 2 years everyone has been asking to hire kino flos at the studio.
They are soft
Yeah I know I have already mentioned softboxes being just as good at making light varying degrees of softness, but for video most lights have been traditionally been designed as bare bulb lights, or with fresnel lenses which are very hard. Turning these bare bulb/fresnel fixtures into soft lights with softboxes is hugely inefficient because the lamp is not sitting at the focal center of the soft box you waste a lot of light this way and end up needing generators to run massively heavy and hot lights just to achieve an fstop of f4 at crazy high iso.
In the recent years we have been seeing manufactures like dedolight make dedicated softlights which are far more effecient and super soft.
Being fluorescents, kino flos use a fraction the power of traditional tungston lights. Combine that with the inefficiencies of shining a fresnel tungston light through a soft box/silk and you end up with the kinoflo outperforming tungston lamps at about 10:1 to achieve the same softness and same light output.
Probably one of the main things kino flos have become famous for is their colour accuracy. You can get daylight or tungston matched tubes which are exactly 5500 and 3200 respectively. The colour accuracy is maintained extremely well when dimmed, as apposed to HMI lights which don’t dim and tungston lights which go a very red/orange colour when dimmed. Whenever you need to light a scene that already is lit by daylight you need to match that source, if all you have is tungston lighting you can do it by putting CTB gels in front of the light, this cuts your light output by a whopping 2 stops!
To change the colour of a kinoflo all you need to do is change the lamps.
For comparison, I have a dedolight dlh1000plus with 5ft octa. It’s a beautiful soft light with 5ft octa softbox, but it’s tungston, so when gelling it with CTB to shoot in daylight I get about half the ammount of light than from my kino flos.
Thats 1000 Watts of power from the Dedolight giving less light than 400 Watts of power from the kino flo.
Producing more light per Watt obviously means the lamps are producing less heat per Watt…it’s not often a scene requires a sweaty model!
The lamps are barely warm to the touch compared to my dedolight that really bakes you when you are under it and needs to cool down for about 10 minutes before you can pack it away – bit the kind of problem you want when you need to move from one location to another quickly.
Normal fluorescents flicker, at 60hz / 50hz depending on which side of the ocean you live. Kino flos don’t.
So to sum up all the reason why you might want to rent a kino flo: Kino flo lights use very little energy to create a soft continuous light which is either daylight or tungsten, they dont get hot and they dont flicker, oh and I forgot to mention, the lamps last for around 10 000 hours.
The reason Peter Hurley uses these really expensive lights for stills photography when all the reasons for their expense benefit you only if you are shooting video: because he proclaims that flash ruins his “mojo”.
*UPDATE* – So Peter Hurley ended up renting our kino flos, he found us through this blog post, how awesome! He has so much mojo, more than enough to go around, and if it has anything to do with hanging around kino flo lights most of the day then that alone is a good reason to be renting them!
Click the link below for some great Kino Flo history:
The combined chorus of professional photographers online, it seems, is to defend the position of the professional photographer. There seems to be more fear than excitement when new tools make the boring parts of photography easier and pave the way for more people to create more amazing work. More photographers = more competition. It’s hard to follow whats happening on photography blogs and creative communities without wading through the huge percentage of articles defending the role of proffessional wedding photography or lamenting the death of film, or boasting how film seperates you as a ‘true’ professional.
Seth Godin writes: “If you want to get paid for your freelance work then access to tools is no longer sufficient. Everyone you compete with has access to a camera, a keyboard, a guitar. Just because you know how to use a piece of software or a device doesn’t mean that there isn’t an amateur who’s willing to do it for free, or an up and comer who’s willing to do it for less.” …
Of course there is value in hiring a professional photographer, but in a world where everyone is a photographer, what the professional photographer used to do is now being done by the amateur for free. It’s time photographers stopped complaining about instagram and started redefining what being a professional photographer means.
Even for a land known for it’s dreary weather, the Sun seems to be a little shy to show it’s face this year.
The weather screen on my phone has looked like this for weeks now:
April was the rainiest April the U.K. has seen, ever, since anyone started measuring the rain and writing it all down, and June the rainiest June (not to mention the second dullest)… looking at the above screen grab July seems to be following suit. So unless your shoot could do with a little rain and you don’t mind a few drops on your new D800, you may consider renting a studio for that summer test shoot you’ve been planning.
It was almost a year ago Chris called us to book hire the photo studio.
“Do you have a shower” He asked cutting right to the chase, “I want to shoot someone completely covered in black paint”.
Normally with special requests like this you end up the studio being packed with more people than could possibly be needed, spending the day tweaking the tiniest, most invisible details to perfection, so I was a little surprised when Chris rocked up with a skeleton crew consisting of himself, a make-up artist and a model.
It’s really great to see a small team taking on something so ambitious and actually pulling it off.
Apparently inspired by the Villan named Venom from Spiderman, Chris combined beautiful body shots with exploding splashes of paint.
He met his model while working as an extra on the Captain America film, bought some latex tights from a fetish shop in Shoreditch, and combined this all with paint elements bought from Shutterstock. The results are awesome.
Check out the full post on this awesome spiderman inspired shoot .
Photographer: Chris Parkes
Make-up Artist: Nikki Massey