T R I E D - A N D -T R U E T R I O
Photographer Leon Rose heads out on a shoot with three versatile pieces to his kit — a tried-and-true trio that allows him to stay agile while remaining prepared for any photographic contingency
No matter how well you may plan or try to control a situation, there will always be an element of the unexpected in photography. That’s one of the big appeals to many photographers. With the right kind of a gear, you can be ready to take advantage of those unforeseen moments and deliver great images no matter the conditions. But you can’t carry everything. So, I’m looking at three pieces of gear to see if they can do the job of many others — that is, clever and efficient equipment that won’t overburden my kit bag.
ONE-STOP PORTRAIT GLASS The first thing I noticed when I unwrapped the Sigma 135mm f/1.8 DG HSM Art lens was the 1130g weight. It boasts a lot of glass — 13 elements in 10 groups — and it feels like it. This is a big plus for me. I have always loved heavy kit, because I find it easier to keep steady. But if you are a smaller photographer doing a lot of location portraits, you might find this lens a bit heavy for handheld work over long periods. Essentially, this is a portrait lens with a lovely ability to perform bokeh effects. Admittedly, it’s very hard to fault. To my surprise, I found it can also shoot close to macro, with the closest focal distance being 87.5cm. I did have to adjust to a different way of working because of its focus-limiter switch when shooting close up. The focus-limiter has three options: 0.875m to infinity, 1.5m to infinity, and full range — a great function once you get your head around it, allowing for faster, more accurate focusing. The angle of view at 135mm is perfect for portraits — and this lens is pin-sharp. On my first test day, I shot a series of portraits and still-life images at a magnificent English-style garden at Riverhead. Not only is the lens extremely sharp, but its focus speed and accuracy are also very impressive. I tested it through its aperture range of f/1.8–16 successfully. However, you just can’t help but open up and use that beautiful bokeh effect. I also tested the lens’s ability to handle backlight by shooting straight into the sun and found that it coped exceptionally well, both in focusing accurately and delivering accurate light metering from my point of focus. I recommend this lens, especially if you are a portrait shooter and not afraid of heavier kit. I’m thinking I might part company with my 85mm f/1.8 and my 100mm L-series macro and step up to one of these.
A STABLE ENVIRONMENT For an all-inone tripod with a ball-head option for great flexibility that’s small and light enough to take anywhere, the Vanguard Alta Pro 2 263 AB100 tripod is worth a look. I carried out two test shoots with the AB100: some close-ups of flowers and leaves at the garden in Albany, and a studio test, using the overhead position. The tripod is an aluminium build and the weight (7kg) is perfect for ease of use on location and during travel but not so light as to be a danger to your equipment. The central column offers as many options as you could want to position your camera in. Using just one tightening knob, you can position your camera from 0- to 90-degrees above or below the central column position, and, using the central column adjustment knob, you can freely rotate anywhere in a 360-degree rotation. The rotation knob is firm and easy to adjust. The rotation guides (in 2x180-degree increments) would be very useful for
panoramic stitches, but, when using the tripod on location, I was always trying to use the wrong knob to release the ball and readjust. Although this is something that I would get used to, the tension adjustment felt unnecessary and confusing. The not-so-simple three-legged device offers massive versatility, particularly due to the build of its legs, which have three sections with two adjustment locks. The rubber lock turns easily and firmly with a good grip and only requires a 90-degree turn to lock and unlock. This is, by far, the best locking system that I have used. It’s comfortable and locks into place firmly and easily. If you are looking for an all-in-one package that suits location and indoor photography, the AB100 is a great option.
LIGHTWEIGHT LIGHT Last, but absolutely not least, I played with one of my long-time favourites: the Lume Cube — a fantastic piece of kit to have on you at all times. I already own one of these and have been planning to get a second one for a while. It looks like a small LED in a cube shape, but it does so much more. With a 1.5x1.5-inch LED, it boasts an impressive 1500-lumen output and Bluetooth connectivity — but its real trick is acting as both a continuous video light and as a flash. The cube weighs only 100g, is shockproof and waterproof to 30m, and throws light out in a 60-degree beam. The real technology is accessed via the cube’s app: there is a free version and a pro version, which gives you control of up to five units at a time. With the app, you have control of the power output in brightness and the duration of the strobe, from 1/8000 of a second to 30 minutes. Also, you can set it to continuous or 0.5–10Hz output. The app also gives the ability to turn each unit on or off separately, and you can also use red-eye mode and turn the Opto trigger on from here. The Opto trigger can sense an external flash-head firing and uses its strobe function as a slave flash, allowing you to carry a Speedlight and a Lume Cube or two as a lighting kit anywhere you go. The cube has a built-in lithium-ion polymer rechargeable battery, which is charged via
USB. You will get about 40 minutes at full power, or two hours at 50-per-cent power, but I found that if I powered them off small power banks, the time was unlimited. The thing I love the most about these is their size. You can take them anywhere and...
IMAGE 2 CANON EOS 5D MARK III, SIGMA 135MM F/1.8 DG HSM ART LENS, 135MM, F/1.8, 1/640S, ISO 125
CANON EOS 5D MARK III IMAGE 3 CANON EOS 5D MARK III, SIGMA 135MM F/1.8 DG HSM ART LENS, 135MM, F/1.8, 1/100S, ISO 200
SIGMA 135MM F/ 1.8 DG HSM ART LENS IMAGE 4 CANON EOS 5D MARK III, SIGMA 135MM F/1.8 DG HSM ART LENS, 135MM, F/1.8, 1/2500S, ISO 1000 (PROCESSED WITH NIK COLOR EFEX PRO 4)
LUME CUBE IMAGE 5 CANON EOS 5D MARK III, SIGMA 135MM F/1.8 DG HSM ART LENS, 135MM, F/2.8, 1/30S, ISO 800, WITH LUME CUBE
VANGUARD ALTA PRO 2 263 AB100 TRIPOD IMAGE 6 CANON EOS 5D MARK III, SIGMA 135MM F/1.8 DG HSM ART LENS, 135MM, F/5.6, 1/60S, ISO 320, WITH LUME CUBE