Review: The SaberStrip Light Modifier

Written by: Glyn Dewis

Published: October 31, 2011

Category: Review

A few weeks back the kind folks over at SaberStrip sent over their Light Modifier for me to try out and to write a subsequent review, so having taken it out on a couple of shoots I thought now was as good a time as any…

Ok so to put some kind of structure to this let’s break it down it down into a few sections and first of all talk about how it performs and then setting up, build quality and any other thoughts and to do so let’s break down one of the shoots that I used it on:

For the image above which was shot ‘on location’ 2 lights were used, namely a Nikon SB800 into a 60″ Reflective Umbrella to the front and camera left of our subject and a Nikon SB800 in the SaberStrip behind and above to later mimic either moonlight or maybe a streetlamp in the final edit positioned as you can see in the set up shot below:

Out on location the SaberStrip was incredibly easy to use; setting it up took no time at all and having attached it to a light stand, positioning it couldn’t have been easier. The light coming from it is great and a huge bonus here was that it wasn’t in the least bit affected by the sudden gusts of wind that kept appearing; adverse weather conditions being the norm for me when I’m shooting outdoors as anyone who knows me would testify 🙂

Setting Up
The SaberStrip is for use with a small battery powered Speedlight which fits inside at one end. On the point of the Speedlight actually going inside the SaberStrip I use Pocket Wizards as a means of triggering the flash however there is no space for the Transceiver II Model to fit inside also. Not a problem, as there is a hole specifically for any wires to be fed through to a trigger such as a Pocket Wizard attached outside. However, I’m also using the new Pocket Wizard Flex and Mini units and at the moment there’s no way that the Flex unit will fit in with the Speedlight on the hotshoe but apparently there is a work around using a TTL cable (See the SaberStrip FAQ section)

With regards to fitting the Speedlight inside the SaberStrip, I’m a Nikon shooter and use the Nikon SB800’s but also with the 5th battery attached to the side to give me a faster recycling time. With the extra battery attached, to fit the Speedlight inside I did have to get the tool kit out and make a minor adjustment cutting out a small U Shaped section; no big deal and not something I imagine many folks would end up doing anyway.

Build Quality
The SaberStrip is designed really well, but if I’m honest, and let’s face it this is a review so this is how it should be, I was a little disappointed that it actually feels like a toughened Cardboard tube.

Now just to clarify, that what we’re actually talking about here is what is described as ‘military grade phenolic tube for unmatched weight and strength’ ;undoubtedly tough stuff but I’d still prefer that it was a toughened plastic if only so that it also feels tough and doesn’t feel like, well…toughened cardboard.

Putting this aside, the SaberStrip as you would expect is light and extremely portable and versatile as it can be either held by an assistant, attached to a light stand, clamped into position or even stacked with another SaberStrip to create one long strip, or positioned in an L-shape. Being only 39″ long means it doesn’t take up too much room in your kit bag either.

Some folks looking at the SaberStrip might ask how you’re meant to access the controls on the back of your Speedlight once it’s inside. Well, I guess you could say there’s call for some kind of a ‘hatch’ that you open to access them but to be honest lifting off the SaberStrip and putting it back on takes literally seconds and having used it on a few shoots now I never found it an issue. Just a thought, but using the new Pocket Wizard units you can alter the Speedlight Power Settings and Mode (Manual, TTL, Off) from camera but again if you don’t use these, manually making the changes is no big deal.

One thing worth mentioning is that there’s no hot shoe adaptor inside meaning you’ll have to get/use your own. I know they’re not the most expensive things to get hold of but I just think it should already have one; the Lastolite HotRod Strip Boxes come with an adaptor and are ready to go once unpacked.

Overall
I guess the question has to be  “Would I buy one?” … Well, yes I would but the only killer for me is the £28.50 UK Customs Charge. How this can be justified is beyond me especially when this could be the make or break as to whether folks outside of the US actually order one! Sure this is out of SaberStrip’s hands but to pay a 1/3 ontop again is a bit on the steep side to say the least however I do know that Saberstrip are in negotiations, so it’ll be worth keeping an eye on their blog for any updates.

The light from the SaberStrip I can’t fault…it just works, and works well! At the moment I’m using the Lastolite HotRod Strip Boxes as I’ve mentioned and these are great but where the SaberStrip has an advantage is the ability to position wherever you want and to do so easily. Just fitting it onto a light stand using an umbrella bracket and spiggot as I have means it can be positioned high and at quite an angle; something I can’t easily do with the conventional strip boxes. I’ll definitely be taking it out for future location shoots because I don’t tend to work with an assistant the majority of the time and it is incredibly light and portable, set up time is virtually non existent, it doesn’t blow over when the slightest breeze passes by (yes I could use sandbags but this is yet more to bring along) and it can be put on the back seat of the car without being dismantled as I move locations unlike the Lastolite Hotrod Strip boxes which are quite large and don’t drop on the backseat of the car without a little persuasion 🙂

All this being said it doesn’t mean that I’m going to exclusively use the SaberStrip on location shoots from now on, but rather it has given me more options. For example, if using a Stripbox just isn’t practical for whatever reason, then it’s likely the SaberStrip will step in it’s place.

Read more about the SaberStrip at the official web site [Link]

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16 Comments

  1. Brian Worley

    Toughened cardboard, hmm… I seem to have found some short lengths of black plastic drainpipe in the garage and wonder if a bit of DIY will yield a home-built sabre strip.

    Oh as to wind, rain and extreme weather – yep that’s normal Glyn shooting conditions 🙂

    Reply
  2. claudio.von.grubens

    Hi glyn,

    thx for the report! exactly what i was looking for!

    cheer.cvg

    Reply
  3. David Kelly

    It certaintly sounds like an ace product though admittedly I’d like to see how strong this “military grade toughened cardboard” is in action before committing to a purchase, especially given the large UK import charge vs the cost of the product.
    ….I wonder if they’ll get in contact with any of the UK Photographic importers such as Johnson Photopia who distribute Westcott in the UK….

    Reply
  4. Andrew Keane

    Im with Brian. At over 20 pounds, I think Id be looking at making my own from cardboard

    Reply
  5. Mike Patterson

    Nice & honest review, just the way we like them

    Reply
  6. Keith Hammond

    i’m with the others re material used, i’m just wondering how many stops it loses compared to say bare flash or your strip boxs.
    nice diy job for the 5th battery holder there mate

    Reply
  7. Bryan Leighty

    Just to clarify / answer some of the above comments. The Saberatrip does not weight 20lbs. It is closer to 1 lb without the flash.

    The saberstrip is about 1/3 stop more efficient than the 28inch wescott softbox.

    And In regards to the “toughened cardboard” I’d ask for folks to look up the phenolic process. It’s more akin to fiberglass. Makes the tubes incredibly strong and light.

    And yes I do personally know the folks from saberstrip so my opinion in them can be taken with a grain of salt. Just trying to dispell the above incorrect comments and answer questions.

    Reply
    • Glyn

      Bryan,

      Thanks for your input there; very much appreciated.
      Thanks too for commenting re the 1/3 stop efficiency more than the Westcott…that I didn’t/wouldn’t test so that’s great to share.

      As for the 20 pounds you mention, I think you may have misunderstood the person who commented as he is actually referring to the Customs Charge of over 20 pounds (UK Currency…not weight) and for the toughened cardboard, you will see that it was mentioned about the phenolic process.

      Thanks again, I very much appreciate your jumping in to answer questions/comments that have been posted.

      Reply
  8. Jonathan Thompson

    Nice review. I’ll keep my eye on this, maybe hook up on a shoot & see it in action. Would an SB900 or 580EXii fit in just as easily? They are similar size, I’d imagine so, just a thought. 🙂

    Reply
  9. Glyn

    @Jonathan…Sounds like a plan mate, and yeah those Speedlights would fit in no problem at all 🙂

    Reply
  10. Terry Donnelly

    Custom charges are an absolute disgrace, really there is no need for that level of charge except to sting the pockets of UK citizens.

    Thanks for the review, one thing I have always found is that you give an honest account of how you see things, which is fantastic, and I wish others would have the same ethics as yourself Glyn.

    Reply
  11. Mark

    I’m interested in importing one of these, yes even with the Customs fees.

    Talking about a UK distributor, you do realise that if it was sold in the UK the price, taking in VAT + fees, would be a direct $ – £ conversion. So it would probably end up costing more then importing.

    But hey I can cream of this selling for £100 in UK.

    Reply
  12. Jim Davies

    Used a couple of the sabre strips on a workshop yesterday run by David Stanton in Glasgow. He had 4 of them although we just used two. They are incredibly light and easily set up.

    I have the PW Flex system and I’d like to see them work with those but the light produced from them is really incredible. Used two side by side and the light was wonderful. The last two images here were 2 Sabre Strips and a bare speedlight behind (set up by David Stanton).

    https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.521898667822783.123511.158241327521854&type=1

    I’ll keep my eyes on these and if they can import to the UK for a reasonable price I would certainly consider adding them.

    Reply
  13. Soren Bjorn-Andersen

    Hello.
    Since a few people in the comments here mentioned being interested in buying a Saberstrip, I would just like to mention that I am currently selling one from the UK, that I imported last year from the US. I would charge 45£ for it + whatever a cardboard tube for packaging it would cost + shipping costs.
    I am moving country soon and are trying to cut down on stuff I need to move, hence the sale.
    Check out my sales listing on my blog and leave me a comment if you are interested in buying!
    https://hippiephobia.squarespace.com/blog/2013/4/camera-gear-for-sale

    Reply
  14. Jo Penados

    Glyn, have you taken the reading of the strip from top to bottom? If so where they the same considering that the bottom part is nearest to the source of light? Thanks. Jo

    Reply
  15. Hans J

    looks great!!

    Reply

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