Photography News Issue 36

56 Accessories test

Photography News | Issue 36 |

NISSIN Di700A and Air Commander

Buyers’ guide


Portrait essentials For the best in people pictures you need to be using the right gear. Here’s a selection of top-class kit that will help you do it...


TAMRON SP 85mm f/1.8 Di VC USD




SIGMA 50mm f/1.4 DG HSMArt

Nissin Di700A and Air Commander £199

squash down for easy packing and weigh very little, too.


Adding a flashgun (or ’gun) to your kit is one of the easiest ways to improve portraits. The extra light allows not only faster shutter speeds and therefore improved sharpness, butmostimportantlybetterandmore creative lighting styles, especially if you can fire the flash off-camera. A ’gun that makes this really easy, and has load of other plus points besides is Nissin’s Di700A. Reviewed last issue, and now a firm favourite in the PN office, the Di700A combines wireless shooting (via the Nissin Air Commander) with full TTL functionality, so you can just frame up and shoot without worrying about flash power if desired. The wireless connection works really well, and also functions with the ’gun’s high-speed sync mode, so you can use shutter speeds of up to 1/8000sec. Manual and two slave modes are on hand, and the flash has plenty of power (GN54), recycles quicklyenough,andcomesinCanon, Nikon and Sony fits. The portrait lighting from a flash is only as good as how you shape it, so once you’ve bought a speedlight you need to think about modifiers. These come in all forms, from those which spread and soften the light producing fewer shadows, to those that focus it to create lots of dramatic contrast. Trouble is, adding and removing modifiers can be fiddly andmany don’t pack down small enough to be truly portable; tackling both these problems and providing a wealth of light shaping options is the MagMod system. It’s built around a silicone rubber collar, the MagGrip which slips over the flash’s head, and then uses strong magnets to quickly attach the shapers. The range has recently been added to with the MagBeam whichmimics a Fresnel lens, but the Complete Kit contains all you need to get started and more besides; at just under £230, it includes the basic MagGrip, a MagBounce and MagSphere diffuser, MagSnoot and MagGrid2 for focusing the light as well as eight coloured gels and a pouch to carry it all in. As they’re made from rubber the modifiers all 2 MagMod 2 Complete Kit £230


Profoto B2 250 AirTTL To-Go Kit £1495


Profoto’s combines portability, power and professional build quality, all of which will help improve portraits wherever you’re shooting. Consisting of a battery pack weighing only 1.6kg, and a small head (700g), the system allows the flexibility of shooting on the move with the battery slung over your shoulder and the head mounted on camera. Alternatively the light can be used remotely on a stand and when not connected to the camera, it’s controlled wirelessly using the separately available Air Remote TTL (£320). The flash head is only 10cm round and its power is adjustable over nine stops in one tenth increments, with a recycling time of just 1.35sec at the greatest output. Full TTL metering is available for trouble-free shooting and it also has a High Speed Sync mode. The battery pack can support two flash heads, has a replaceable power cell, and Profoto also offers a huge range of light-shapers for creative results. Fast lenses are a mainstay of portrait photography and Sigma’s 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art lens is a perfect example. Its wide maximum aperture allows shallow depth- of-field effects and very attractive background blur. As one of Sigma’s Art lenses, pin-sharp, high-contrast images are created throughout the focusing range thanks to Sigma’s use of multi-layer coatings, moulded glass aspherical and special low dispersion glass elements. A Hyper Sonic Motor (HSM) is also on hand to achieve brisk and near-silent AF. Although, as a DG lens, it’s just as at home on full-frame cameras, using the 50mm lens on a typical APS-C body gives a more traditional 75mm effective focal length, which is ideal for close-up portrait shots and as part of Sigma’s Global Vision series, the lens’s firmware can be easily updated with the use of the Sigma USB Dock, along with other parameters like focusing speed. B2 flash 4 Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSMArt £570


PROFOTO B2 250 AirTTL To-Go Kit




MAGMOD 2 Complete Kit

TamronSP85mmf/1.8Di VCUSD£499

PocketWizardPlus IV transceiver £150

release. The trigger is compatible with PocketWizard receivers using Quad Zone channels, so if you’re already using the system, it’ll fit in nicely.



The 85mm is the classic focal length for portrait photography on film SLRs andwith full-frame sensorsnow commonplace there are plenty of new models tuned to the needs of digital cameras. Among the best is Tamron’s SP 85mm f/1.8 Di VC USD, and one of its most attractive features is the use of Vibration Compensation to steady shooting and provide sharper details. As part of Tamron’s SP line, the lens has a very high-grade feel with a metal barrel and even has weather-sealing allowing it to stand up to dusty, wet conditions. It handles well with a broad, smoothly turning manual focus ring and while it’s a heavy lens it feels well balanced on largerDSLRbodies. Optically, the lens is also first class using low dispersion and extra-low dispersion glass to minimise aberrations and improve image sharpness, while suppressing vignetting and fringing.

If you want to use off-camera lighting for your portraits, you need to find a way of triggering the various lights; PocketWizard is one of the most trusted names and continues to be a driving force in making off- camera flash easier to use. The new PocketWizard Plus IV is right up to the task with features like full TTL flash and remote manual flash control, and it’s compatible with most Canon, Nikon, Panasonic, Fujifilm and Olympus cameras. It also has a ‘top shoe’, so you can plug it in to trigger off-camera ’guns and fire one from the camera, too. The trigger can be set to one of 32 channels in four separate zones so there’s no problem with multiple lights or crosstalk from other shooters, and As well as Tx (transmitter) and Rx (receiver) modes, it can be set to intelligently switch between the two in Tx/Rx mode. By using an optional release cord it can also operate as a remote shutter

ManfrottoMN1052BAC Compact Stand£69


While many flash kits come with lighting stands included, it’s a good ideatolookaroundforstandsthatoffer a little extra in terms of build, features and handling. As well as supporting many of the world’s cameras on its tripods, Manfrotto also supplies a huge range of excellent lighting supports. Take the MN1052BAC Compact Stand; it’s strong, with a maximum load of 5kg, making it suitable for all but the heaviest heads, and also stable with a large 109cm footprint. The design is air-cushioned, and extends to a maximum of 237cm; at its lowest, it’s 101cm. The closed the length is 86cm and if you have multiplestandstheycanbeattachedto each other for transportation using a

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