First Look with the Lastolite Brolly Grip & Umbrella

Female Lifeguard
Tanned, Ready, Rested - © Copyright 2011 by William Beem

My order from B&H is now complete, so I decided to try it out this weekend.

For those of you who haven't followed my saga with B&H, we'll skip that part and just get into the details. Lastolite has a pair of products that I thought would be great for a very portable light modifier for flash.  The first part is called the Brolly Grip.  It's essentially a plastic handle to mount a small flash, and includes holes to mount umbrellas with either 8mm or 12mm shafts.. The grip measures about eight inches in length.  The coldshoe mount for flash rotates and is designed to have the flash fire straight, rather than the usual “bent” configuration for most other mounts. My Nikon SB-900 only has a sensor on one side, but the fact that the coldshoe rotates means I can easily switch sides and still fire via CLS.

The other piece of this kit is the Lastolite Trifold 32″ umbrella.  It also collapses to a very small eight inch length, so you don't have to walk around with some big umbrella.  There's a smaller 20″ umbrella from Lastolite, but I wanted the larger light source.  You can see the results above in my first test shots with it.

Theoretically, you can hold this brolly grip & umbrella in one hand, and fire with your camera in the other.  In practice, that doesn't work very well if you're shooting with a heavy 70-200 lens, as I was.  The Brolly Grip has an opening on the bottom to easily mount on a standard light stand if you're working alone, though that takes away from the portability that initially intrigued me.

In this case, I had plenty of people around who assisted by holding it for me.  However, be prepared for a slight problem when you let someone else be your light stand.  Take a look at this product shot:

Lastolite Brolly Grip & Umbrella
Lastolite Brolly Grip & Umbrella

If you hold the handle straight in your hand,  it's designed to angle down with the umbrella.  That's exactly what I want. After all, light comes from above, not the side. Even so, almost everyone who held this for me pushed the thing so the umbrella was vertical with the model, not angled down. It may seem like a small thing, but the direction of the light dictates where the shadows fall. Push in close so the umbrella is just out of frame and you get beautiful wrapping light with a gentle shadow.  Now ask yourself – where do you want your shadows to fall?  I'm a fan of having light angled down, but you may have to direct your assistant more than your model to get the shot right.

Overall, I'm very pleased with the product. It's lightweight, compact and at about $60 for the pair, relatively inexpensive as light modifiers run.

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