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 🙂
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.
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.
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.
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