Updated April 14 2019
I have been remiss in updating my findings utilizing this remarkable modifier. Most of the imagery I cannot share right now, but do have one which can be shown. This particular image is one of the publicity shots for Momma Mia. I used it pointed directly at the talent about 7 feet in the air. Two Saberstrips were also used, one camera left to illuminate the talent’s face as she was in complete profile looking up as she lifted the microphone to her face.
These images illustrate how the lighting was generally arranged.
Updated September 6 2018
I have an upcoming publicity session so it was important for me to test the Grand prior to deciding on using it for this project. I asked Sammi, a local actress to be my model for the shoot. I have decided to not use any other lights or modifiers when I test new gear to see how they stand on their own. I normally shoot with at least three lights and modifiers during a session. In this case I only used the Grand 70 using a Flashpoint 600 with the remote head. I did not use the Grand with anything other than the focusing arm, no diffusion panels at all. Here are my observations:
My first test was against seamless to ascertain the glamour capabilities of the Grand 70″
I wanted to see how the modifier handles full body shots. In each of the following images I stood directly in front of the Grand which was 10 feet from the model. I also wanted to see how the light quality would be effected by different outfits, some shiny some mat.
In the image below you can see in her eyes the light pattern which I had fully flooded to create a ring light affect. I’m standing directly in front of the modifier.
My next test was to move away from seamless to see just how angling the modifier can create a completely different look.
In both of the instances above the light was feathered to one side of the Grand in order to give dimension to the shot. Both were shot with the light in mid focused position to add contrast and drama.
I will continue to try other methods with this Grand that I was never able to do when I rented the Bron Para line of modifiers due to time constraints. At this point I will simply say that the Glow Grand Para line, at least this 70, truly competes with the Para 177 at a third of the cost. I find the light quality as good for glamour imagery and am thrilled that Adorama has started to carry a line of modifiers like this. I recently purchased and am awaiting the remote head for the 600Pro which I am anxious to try with this Grand. I also plan to use the outer diffusion panel with the focusing rod to experiment with the light characteristics with that combination. Stay tuned, but for now I highly recommend the Grand line if you are looking for a viable alternative to the Bron Para line of modifiers.
Updated August 27 2018
In just over a week I will be testing this modifier on actual talent. I am anticipating a very good result. So much so that I had a client meeting this morning for an upcoming publicity shoot on location in front of a grand staircase at a Fairmont Hotel. Because I anticipate using the Grand Para 70 for that shoot I had to determine if it would fit into my SKB hard sided golf bag! IT JUST FITS thank gawd! LOL
Original Post 8-22-18
These are my initial impressions of the Glow Grand 70 and the Zoom-In Bounce Rod. I won’t be able to test the modifier on talent until early September. So for right now I will go over some of the facets of the modifier and bounce rod, AKA focusing rod. It’s the first 24 rod octa I’ve owned, although not the first I’ve used. The Broncolor 177 ($4300 USD) is the closest in size to the Grand 70” ($1150 USD plus $490 for Bounce Rod = $1640 USD). The Bron Para 177 measures 77” across its face, 7 inches larger than the Grand 70. Both utilize 24 rods in this configuration. The Grand 70 comes with a choice of strobe mounts; mine arrived with a Bowens ring although I won’t ever use it without the Glow Grand ParaBox Zoom-In Bounce Rod.
The assembly of this octa is very different than any other modifiers I have owned or rented. The new configuration consists of 24 levers that are spring loaded which must be ‘locked’ into adjoining bars on the modifier.
This is where I encountered the most difficult part of assembling the Grand Para. In order to put enough tension on each individual arm, I needed to stretch each arm out from the center of the modifier. Doing so alone without assistance, I found that I could not create enough leverage to push each rod away from the center of the modifier to get the lever to ‘click’ into its corresponding bar. This may be easier with the smaller modifiers. Right now this is one of the primary differences between the Bron Para 177 and the Glow Grand 70. The Bron’s rods are hinged in the middle and must be extended before using a crank to expand the modifier. Much easier to do and keeps the fabric taut. Because they’re hinged the Bron’s collapsed length is shorter than the Grand, but its collapsed diameter is larger. The Grand’s interior fabric is very similar if not the same as the Bron; a very shiny silver and very tight as well. The Bron’s outer fabric is thicker than the Grand, but I believe both are very durable.
This is the interior reflective fabric of the Grand. The eyelet is for the supplied inner diffusion material.
A close up view illustrates how each rod ‘snaps’ into place using a hooked tab which engages a bar on the latch.
In order to gain enough leverage to bend each rod to engage the bar, I found it best to use the Bounce Rod for leverage. I GENTLY pulled the rod toward me and then the rods would easily snap into place. The rods are fiberglass so they won’t permanently ‘bend’, but using caution is always the best practice when stressing any modifier rod be they fiberglass or a metal material.
The octa itself is very well made and much lighter than I expected. It has a ‘pass through’ slot which I had hoped would fit/accept my Flashpoint Portable 600ws Extension FlashHead. But unfortunately the opening is not large enough to allow the Extension socket to pass through. No matter since the cord is more than long enough to allow it to come through the front of the modifier to easily reach the strobe body.
The Bounce Rod attaches to the Grand 70 via four spring loaded/nylon shimmed Phillips head screws. I changed them to wing nut/turning knobs so I would not need to have a Phillips head screwdriver with me when I set this up.
The Grand Para will not fit into its supplied case with the bounce rod bracket attached. It WILL fit into the case by detaching the bracket, inverting it and inserting it into the ring hole which reduces its length to fit into the bag. The modifier comes supplied with an inner and outer diffusion panels (not shown) as well as a speed ring for your strobe connector of choice. Mine came with a Bowens mount (not shown). I doubt I’ll ever use it as a traditional octa bank. I prefer the look/flexibility of focusing arms. Adorama also supplies an empty sand bag (not shown) that can be used as a counterweight on either the Bounce Rod focusing arm or the leverage arm.
The focusing arm has an eyelet on the end for the sand bag.
The leverage arm also has an eyelet for the sand bag.
I did not find a need to use the sandbag to counterweight the modifier. It may be because I am using an extension head rather than the weight of an entire moonlight on the focusing arm. Although I believe the Bounce Rod would support the weight of a moonlight I would highly recommend NOT using that method.
One item that was NOT included with the Bounce Rod is a flash head bracket. I thought this was very strange since in order to use a focusing arm, one needs to have a strobe head holder. In the image above I am using a Cheetahstand BirdCage for Chopsticks for Bowens mount lights. Because I have a number of focusing rod modifiers, I have several extras. But if you order a Bounce Rod, be sure to obtain a light cage of some sort.
The construction of the Bounce Rod is excellent. The only part I will replace is the pivot swivel handle. It is made of plastic and does ratchet, however the ‘feeling’ of the lever does not instill confidence in me. That is NOT to say it will break, it just means my preference for a piece of hardware that provides this much torque should be metal.
The focusing rod is located on the top in this photo. The leverage rod is the bottom one. Both are removable from the bracket and easily store in the supplied carry bag. The plastic swivel handle is located in the U shaped bracket. The whole bracket is well constructed.
I’m all about options so I appreciate that the bracket has both a vertical and horizontal mounting hole. IF I’m ever inclined to mount this modifier facing down on a very sturdy light stand I have that ability.
The focusing rod has two sections, the first slides into the housing and is secured by the turning knob on the top of the main cylinder. It can be moved in and out as needed for distance. The second portion is adjusted using a friction knob. My preference for using the focusing rod is to slide the first section all the way into the cylinder and use the friction knob portion to move the light to the fully focused, flooded or anywhere in between position.
I prefer to adjust the focusing arm distance from the front of the modifier. The Grand allows me to do that due to its rod configuration. It’s smooth. I am able to see the effects of the position of the light while in front of the modifier rather than from behind.
This is an example of how I adjust the light position.
One of the most attractive aspects of the large Bron Para line with focusing rod is its ability to replicate a ring light flash and sculpt the light by simply adjusting its angle. But unlike a ring light the ability to stand in front of the modifier while still creating a shadow less light on the talent is wonderful. And then the ability to sculpt the shadows simply by turning the angle of the para to remove or add light to one side or the other is another fantastic feature. Bron has created a well done video about the method to which I’m referring.
Light Pattern Test
To determine if the Grand can accomplish the light control of the Bron, I ran a preliminary test with my partner. Here are my results:
The light position in its fully flooded positon creates a ring light affect which is wonderful. As you can see in the photo the light is shadow less, much like a ring light. I was standing directly in front of the modifier and my partner is about 9 feet in front of me.
A close up of her eyes reveals the ring light affect.
All of this means very little if the light quality of the Grand is not excellent. BUT having said that and having had experience using quite a few modifiers I can say with 90% certainty that this will easily compete with the Bron’s quality of light. In early September I have scheduled a shoot with talent to actually test this modifier in a studio session. Of course I’ll be posting my thoughts and images here. I’m really excited about this modifier!
UPDATE April 12 2019
I have recently been configuring an Ohlins rear shock to my bike. It’s the TTX22 9.5×3.0 model. What I have discovered is since the length of the OEM FastAce shock is 10.5 inches the loss of one inch can come into play. The rear ride height is obviously less which in turn increases the trail of the front. By how much I have not measured. How much does it affect the handling? For me it is no slower in steering or more stable downhill. I will say that they feel of the rear shock is just as amazing as it was when I changed from the RST forks to the Dorado’s. It’s plush. I had to do some calculations to see just how losing approximately 1″ of travel affects the bike:
So during my road racing days I worked with an Ohlins tuner. I’m working with some of their guys to figure out just what I need to do to increase the length by an inch. It may be a new dog bone in the linkage. But for now I’m using the 9.5 inch Ohlins after determining that nothing catastrophic will occur should I bottom out the shock. I don’t plan to do bottom out jumping until I can measure and ensure that the tire will not impact the fender on landing. But until then I just can’t give up the incredible plushness and control of the Ohlins. Stay tuned for me info when I figure this out….
UPDATE April 2 2019
I recently found out that Hope out of the UK manufactures a floating disc in the 225mm size. So since I’m a real bitch about brakes and suspension I decided to swap out my 224mm solid disc. You can read further down in this post my reasons for preferring a floating disc. Be aware that I needed to purchase two steel spacers with a 6mm hole and 12.62mm long. Doing so places the pads in the optimum spot on the disc.
March 20 2019. Although it has not happened recently, I recall hearing from ‘some people’ “Well of course that image looks like that! If I had the gear you have I could do that too!” Uh huh…right! So I purchased the new Samsung Galaxy S10+ to replace my ‘battery only lasts 6 hours’ old phone. The S10+ has three different lenses on the back, normal , tele and wide. So I decided to take a shot using the wide lens and compare it to my 1DXII. Incredible for a camera phone!
Update March 2 2019
Mirror mirror on the wall…..
Having ridden street bikes (motorcycles) for so long and training people I just don’t feel comfortable riding without a mirror on the street. At least on the left side. As a trainer I use to ask “Tell me about your accident and I’ll tell you why it was your fault.” Even though I sometimes sit at a traffic light in a well marked bike lane on my way to offroad areas, I always keep an eye on my 6:00 in the event some dumb shit is using their cell phone as they approach the light or stop sign. Even a small tap or veering into the bike lane can be deadly for me. I hate antenna mirrors, so I installed a bar end left side mirror on my bike. The issue arose when I would get to my offroad area. Some of the paths are narrow and the mirror snags brush. So after much searching I found a small 2″ mirror that I had hoped would replace the bar end unit. I can see to my left, but unfortunately not directly behind me. So I reinstalled the bar end mirror and mounted the small 2″ on the right side.
I’m really fortunate that I live in an area where I can ride to offroad trails easily. Some folks poopoo (those who consider themselves hard core offroad riders…LOL) mirrors, but that’s OK. I don’t plan to get rear ended as I ride to my offroad joy.
Update February 20 2019
I wanted to update this post for several things, first the brakes. I needed to change my brake pads and installed the Resin Organic Semi-metal Brake Pads and all I can say is WOW!. The initial bite, the fade resistance and the modulation is incredible! Run don’t walk if you need to get a set of pads. The next item: Luna now imports a sticker that is made by Sur Ron which will indicate when the green/black wire is clipped the bike is no faster than a Bird Scooter. For those who ‘may‘ have law enforcement issues this can be an option to help keep you legal.
And finally since I have a custom made suede seat I have to cover it when washing the bike. I purchased an ultra large shower cap (since my gf was pissed when I used hers…) to cover it. And while I’m on the topic I use Simple Green to clean my chain and bike. I use a wallpaper tray to catch the sludge that comes off of the chain and a top cover of the bucket to shield my rear disc from that same sludge while washing my bike. I simply cut out a pie shape in the bucket lid so I can slide it over the axle. And I have used a Grunge Brush for years on my motorcycles, but have found and used a better product. The Tirox 360 degree Brush for Chain. At first it’s a little tricky to spin onto the chain, but man once done it’s a breeze to use and cleans ALL SIDES of the chain. That’s it for now!
Update January 20 2019
I’ve made a few changes to my bike since the 10th of January. I needed to replace my rear tire since it was worn so I decided to purchase a dual sport rear tire. The Shinko 244 Dual Sport Tire. Since I ride on a wide variety of surfaces I felt that knobbies were not best suited to my needs. I ordered the 2.75×19 inch tire. I estimate that it is about 3/4 of an inch taller overall than the stock tire. To date I have found that the grip on pavement, gravel fire roads and dirt is great.
I also opted to change to an O Ring chain to keep chain maintenance to a minimum. I found that the noise of an O ring chain reduces chain noise by about 50% to my ear.
And finally I had never been a fan of the “fenderett” of a rear fender on the Sur Ron. Not only did it not provide much splash protection, but in terms of aesthetics, it just appears truncated on the bike. So through some research I found that a Honda CRF70 body kit off of eBay would provide me with a rear fender and inner fender more suited to my bike and my taste. And for 21.00 it’s a bargain at that! So with a little measuring and my handy Dremel tool I adapted the rear fender to the Sur Ron and modified the Honda front MX fender to use as a rear sub fender. The one I had fabricated before was too narrow for the new Shinko tire.
Update January 10, 2019
A custom made seat to replace the Sur Ron torture rack! LOL
Nothing about the Sur Ron is a ‘must have’ thing. The reality is this bike is a pure luxury for me and most others who purchase them. My use of the bike is completely recreational in nature. Others use theirs for a wide variety of very cool reasons; mobility reasons, farm or land owner use among a few of them. Having owned and used my bike for around seven months, I can honestly say it’s the best two wheel motor vehicle I’ve ever owned. And that includes one Bultaco, one Maico, one Penton (now KTM) two Kawasaki’s, three Yamahas and four Hondas.
I’ve made four ‘major’ changes to my Sur Ron:
- The Cane Creek Headset
- Manitou Dorado Pro forks
- X Controller imported into the USA with regen braking and charging. (current model does NOT offer much regen or braking in the USA. Apparently the EU and AU versions do)
- Renazco custom seat
If I had to choose an order in which to make these changes, here’s how it would go:
- X Controller imported into the USA with regen braking and charging.
- Renazco custom seat
- Manitou Dorado Pro forks
- The Cane Creek Headset
Why a new seat? Well the longer I’ve owned this bike my trips become longer each time. Heck I even pack a meal because I know I’ll be out in remote areas. And for anyone who owns one of these bikes who rides more than 15 minutes at a time, the seat is a torture rack. Don’t think I’m sitting on my bony ass the whole time. When off road I’d estimate I sit about 40% and stand about 60%. On the street or bike paths I sit 90% of the time. After about 35 minutes on the stock seat my ass HURTS, not my butt cheeks, but the middle portion. The stock seat is only 5.5” wide and the foam contained in it is stiff. I had purchased an X seat from Luna which was ‘better’ meaning I could last about 50 minutes before I wanted to cut my ass off!
So I tried biking shorts….nope not much improvement. Then I bought two different Air Hawk pads. They were good, but I didn’t like how they looked and felt. Tried a gel/foam seat pad, nope that one didn’t help the middle of my butt.
Finally I tried a Mad Dog seat pad. I reinforced the sides of the pad by placing pipe insulation tubing under where my butt cheeks rest. This lifted the middle of my ass off of the seat and it was way more comfortable. Also by folding the front of the pad under, it removed the slope of the stock seat which prevented me from sliding forward during hard braking.
I had originally planned on heading down to Corbin seats in Hollister, CA about an hour and a half drive from my home. They make custom seats, but primarily focus on street motorcycles. So after researching on the web I came across Renazco Racing Seats located in Santa Rosa, CA. James, the owner has done quite a few off road and dual sport seats. So I sent him an email and didn’t expect to hear back for quite some time. Having read forum information about his seats, lead times were around 6-8 weeks. Plus it was Christmas time….
To my surprise I heard from him in two days and this was during the Holidays! He mentioned that he was intrigued by ebikes and would be more than willing to build me a custom seat. So I sent him my stock seat and in two days he wrote back to me that he had stripped the upholstery and foam from the seat. He mentioned that the seat pan was of a higher quality than most he sees and the foam was rather hard. He had questions like my inseam length, my weight and if I wanted any color of stitching. I had sent the stock seat to him with blue tape where my ass resides when I ride, which is the back quarter of the stock seat. I also had sent him photos of me sitting on the bike so he could get an idea of my posture while riding.
He wanted to cover the entire seat in suede, but I asked if the sides could be ‘carbon fiber’ and he told me he had just the color grey to match my bike. Suede is the favorite cover for his work since it breathes and grips as well. I also asked that the slope of the stock seat be taken out since it causes me to slide forward when I don’t want to do so. Taking out the slope combined with the suede would make the seat a whole new animal.
I had written to ask if he would mind sending me some photos as he progressed. But the very next day he wrote that the seat was done and he was shipping it back to me! Holy crap!!!
So how does it feel? R E M A R K A B L E! The padding he uses which is a special Tempur-Pedic foam over another proprietary foam which is both firm and lush, much like my Manitou Dorado forks! LOL. The shape of the seat now fits my skinny ass and does not hurt my perineum area. I’ve never had anything suede but I can tell you that it’s a fantastic choice. It’s not yet winter here but I can tell it will keep me from having ‘soggy bottom’ during the summer. And its ability to keep me in place and not slide forward is fantastic. Just lifting up a bit to readjust my sitting position is so convenient.
Having never owned anything suede I asked James about caring for the seat. He places a waterproof membrane between the seat upholstery and the foam so the foam does not become a sponge for moisture. He does recommend that you don’t get the seat wet either through rain or washing. So I went on Amazon and found a jumbo shower cap that fits perfectly over the seat when I wash the bike. Bingo!
So is it worth the price? Oh hell yes for me it is! $400.00 is not a small price to pay for anything. But for a handmade, well designed piece of craftsmanship that allows me to ride as long as the battery last rather than how long my ass lasts is a godsend. Each of us gets to choose how/why we spend our hard earned after tax dollars. The Sur Ron brings me more joy and fun than I could have ever imagined before owning one. Now James’ seat makes that joy last longer than ever before. (And all guys want to last longer! LOL!!!!) And since I too am a small business owner I love supporting other small businesses that produce remarkable hand made products.
Update December 8, 2018
23:32 SOLVED! The forks need to be unweighted when adding or removing air. Granted most people mount these forks on a 40 pound mountain bike, not a 110 pound electric dirt bike. Doing that allows both the negative and positive air chambers to fill easily when they are fully extended. Whew!
Manitou Dorado Pro Sag Adjustment
Today while attempting to adjust the amount of static sag in my Dorado’s using my Manitou air pump air suddenly escaped from the forks causing them to collapse to almost a fully retracted state. Yet the pressure gauge continued to measure 5 bars. I have contacted Hayes who manufactures Manitou forks.
When the pump is attached to the valve I am able to extend the forks to their full extension. Of course letting them go returns them to the aforementioned compressed state. When the pump is not attached I cannot extend the forks higher than 1/3 of the way.
Update December 7, 2018
I decided to upgrade both the forks and headset from the Sur Ron stock parts. Unlike some on a Facebook Group I experienced no head set issues like play or binding. Nope mine were fine. And the RST forks are very satisfactory for 85% of the riding I do. That entails street riding to run errands, fire roads, bike paths, OHV parks and trail riding. The only times I noticed less than good front end behavior was during high speed bumps or holding a line in fast bumpy corners. What that means is hitting something with a hard edge, or ‘high speed’ compression. Think of running into and over a curb or down a long flight of stairs. Those are the types of bumps considered ‘high speed.’ The result was a rather jarring hit through the handlebars, or holding a line in a bumpy corner without having to over compensate to remain on my line. If large bumps are present for an extended run (300+ yards) arm pump would set in for me.
If you’ve read further down in this post you will see that in a former life I was a road racer. I had switched to Ohlins suspension on my RC51 and was overwhelmed by the difference GREAT suspension makes in a bike. In truth Ohlins suspension will spoil anyone who experiences the smoothness, the tracking through corners, etc. etc. Now paying 3-5k for racing forks is a different story when you’re in competition to win. No way was I going to fork over the cost of my total sur Ron on suspension for a bike I use for fun. I looked at Ohlins DH MTB forks….way too pricey for what I need or will ever use to their full potential. I’m pragmatic and maybe in a prior life I would have purchased them.
But a fellow owner alerted me to an AliExpress deal on a set of forks called the Manitou Dorado Pros. I had never heard of them and in truth had never researched any forks for the Sur Ron. I was just happy that Luna had opted for the Killah RST forks after assessing them against the DNM (Do Not Mount was their joking way of referring to those forks) forks originally installed on the first Sur Rons. So for $642.27 USD including shipping for a pair of Pros I just could not pass it up. After doing extensive research on the forks, Downhill News’ review finally convinced me to make the purchase. I have found their reviews to be very comprehensive, candid and fair.
The only other worry for me was AliExpress. Since this would be my very first purchase through what many say is “The Amazon of China” plunking down 600 bucks and change made me a tad nervous. So I entered my credit card info and kept an eye on my account. Just ten days later a package arrived all taped and wrapped securely. My forks had arrived!
During my research of the Dorado’s I had noted that they made a major change to their forks in 2014. The pair I was purchasing was listed as being manufactured in 2014 so I checked the date on the box as well as on the fork legs. Sure enough both legs, although manufactured on different dates, were manufactured in 2014.
I’ve done loads of work on motorcycles and bicycles, but had never replaced or removed a headset on either. So I was just a bit nervous. After talking to several individuals I decided to buy the right tools for the job. Most I will never use again, but I always believe in using the right tool for the right job. Here are the tools I felt I needed to replace the headset:
- Extra headset spacers. To compensate for the stem height difference between the RST and the Dorados.
- Headtube cutting guide. To cut the steering stem to the length I wanted. I can definitely use this later to cut any round tubing.
- Star Nut Driver. EVERYONE I spoke to said this is a must have. Driving the new star nut STRAIGHT into the new steering stem isn’t easy without this.
- Headset Bearing cup removal tool. You can use a punch or screwdriver, up to you.
- Headset Cup Press Set, Bottom Bracket Install Tool. Some use threaded rod and washers. I bought this since it is inexpensive and would prevent me from sourcing the items I would need to build it.
Remember NONE of the above is absolutely necessary. I just like to keep my cussing to a bare minimum by using the right tool for the right job.
In the image below you can see the stock RST fork and how the spacers are placed along with their size. One below the top triple clamp and one under the bar mount. The distance from the top of the RST steering tube to the bottom bearing race is 8.25″
You can see in the image below that I used the stock bottom spacer from the RST below the top triple clamp. I increased the size and number of spacers (with those I bought) between the top triple clamp and the bottom of the bar mount. This increased the height of my bars by 0.75″. I had previously replaced my stock bars with some that have a 3″ rise so in total my bars are 3.75″ higher than stock. Actually they are a bit higher than that because I reversed the stock handlebar mount which gave me another inch of height. I find that height just right for me when I’m standing on the pegs or pedals. BEFORE CUTTING ANY STEERING STEM MEASURE TWICE AND CUT ONCE. If you fuck up, it’s expensive. And be sure to leave at least 3mm of space LOWER than the top of the bar mount. If not you won’t be able to tighten down the forks against the headset which will give you too much play in the headset.
People have inquired about the ‘thing’ just to the right of the handlebar mount so here is a photo of my cockpit.
Here is a great headset installation video made by one of the guys at Luna Cycle where I bought the Cane Creek headset I installed. I highly recommend this headset. It’s made in the USA. Lots of folks buy Hope products. They’re good but just because they’re made by white folks in the UK to me doesn’t mean they’re NOT imports. Most folks seem to feel that stuff made in Europe aren’t imports…bullshit. In the installation video Jason is not using a star nut tool because he’s reusing the same forks. If you’re changing forks, you need a new star nut. There’s also no need to remove the bottom bearing race from the RST forks if you’re not reinstalling those forks.
So I’ve had a chance to do a cursory run with the Dorados. I can only say they are PLUSH in their ability to absorb both low and high speed bumps. Being able to set up static sag is super easy with an air sprung fork. I followed the advice of the Manitou manual for initial settings. I also noticed that a single click of either high speed/TPC (low speed) or rebound damping has a noticeable effect on handling.
I have lots more to experiment with in a variety of situations. But at this point I will just say that I am not disappointed with the purchase. They feel much like my Ohlins did when I first installed them, incredible. More to come….
Update October 7 2018
A member on a Sur Ron group I belong to lost their key and had to have a new one made. They kindly listed the type of key blank their locksmith found which works so I’m listing it here. It’s an Ilco X121 DC3 key.
Update October 4 2018
Not really an update but as a photographer I just could not help myself to use some smoke, strobes and reflection for a portrait of my beloved Sur Ron I named “Wall-E.” Fun!
Did another portrait of my beloved bike! LOL
Update September 19 2018
I was made aware of a fender upgrade a fellow FB group member made to his bike using the Topeak DeFender FX Bicycle Fender he purchased. Although designed for use on the front of a MTB, he modified it to use as an inner fender to keep muck off of his rear shock linkage and shock. Although further down in this post I had done the same, I like the aesthetics of his better since it follows the line of the tire. Anyway I decided to purchase the same unit to improve the look of my beloved Sur Ron. And while doing so I made some modifications of my own….
Update September 13 2018
I have assembled a downloadable PDF that lists the equipment I’ve changed or added to my Sur Ron along with links to those items. You can download the v2.0 PDF here -> Sur Ron Modification parts v2.0
Sur Ron Seat
A few months ago I recall being very interested in the Sur Ron X that appeared on the Sur Ron China site. Two of the new improvements which were of particular interest to me; the X Controller with a Sine wave, regenerative braking and an improved seat. There were other new improvements which were of little interest to me. Subsequent to the announcement I happened to be one of the lucky 50 in the USA who obtained the X Controller and in my view it is all that it was touted to be.
I never heard anything more about the new and improved seat. So many of the people I converse with through a group complained about the OEM seat; too hard, too narrow, hurts the ass much more quickly than the battery runs dry. And to each of those complaints I wholeheartedly (or assly) agree. So I decided to purchase one of the $35.00 OEM seats Luna had listed on their site. My plan was to use the extra seat as a form for Corbin in Hollister, CA. I’ve used Corbin in the past for motorcycle seats and they are true craftsmen. So my thought was to take the seat down there and have them make a custom seat. I know it would not be inexpensive, but for me it would be worth the price.
When I got the OEM seat from Luna I wasn’t sure if it was wishful thinking and seeing, but it appeared that the new seat was thicker and of a slightly different shape than the one which came on my Sur Ron. “Naw Mark, you’re just wishful thinking……” or was I?
So I decided to measure the seat, the width, the thickness and the shape. And guess what!!??? It is thicker and of a different shape. So I can only surmise that the new OEM seat being sold by Luna is the NEW X SEAT that comes on that model! YIPPEEE!
The real test though was my seat of the pants test. By no means is this scientific, but according to my ass the seat is a HUGE IMPROVEMENT. I rode my normal route which is about 13 miles. Normally when I get home my ass is sore, specifically the part that is three inches on each side of my crack. It aches and if I continue to ride it becomes painful after about 10 more miles. So in those instances I take a break and get off the bike. With the new seat my anal cleft and surrounding fleshy parts didn’t hurt AT ALL after the 13 mile ride.
Will I have a Corbin Seat made now? Nope. This is the best 35 bucks I’ve spent on my Sur Ron. My ass thanks me and a happy ass means riding longer!
Update September 4 2018
OK so up front I want to say that what I install on my bike are almost always attachment points that are temporary and don’t alter the stock form of the Sur Ron. I don’t like to drill, grind or do anything to the body work or frame. It’s just my personal preference.
I use the following items only when I am riding on the street to run errands which makes the tedium of errands fun for me. But if I am riding on a bike path or exclusively off road I remove the turn indicator. Off road only I remove both which only takes about 3 minutes in total to remove or reinstall.
I use hand signals and eye contact when changing lanes or turning/stopping.
Having ridden motorcycles on the street I just don’t feel good about not watching what goes on behind me, especially at a stop sign or signal. So for me a mirror was a must for the street errands. The turn indicator was just something I found that seems ‘ok’ and was cheap and easy to install and uninstall. YMMV, but I thought I’d just pass this along.
Update August 29 2018 – Luna Cycle Sur Ron Bash Guard
I recently purchased Luna’s custom fabricated bash guard for my bike. In the old days when I raced motocross and desert, in some of my bike’s configurations the exhaust header exited downward. In other cases they exited upward. So when I would land ‘wrong’ the bash plate would dent the header pipe and never crack the cases. Sure a bent header pipe is crummy, but much better than a cracked case with oil spilling out all over. As well as the inevitable wrenching and money.
But with the Sur Ron there aren’t any exhaust headers! But there is a bash plate. The stocker is made out of steel and by my mic measurements is 2.16mm thick weighing 0.8 pounds. It is also easy to flex both laterally and horizontally by hand. As of this writing I have NOT hit the stock bash guard hard enough to severely dent or bend the unit. What concerns me was just on the other side of the bash guard is the electric motor. And unlike the dirt bikes I’ve owned in the good old ‘vintage’ days bikes had double cradle tube frames which would somewhat protect the engine cases along with their bash guards, the Sur Ron does not. There is one tube that runs laterally under the engine, but that’s it.
So a direct hit with enough force onto the bash plate ‘may’ crack the engine case. I say ‘may’ because I don’t know for sure and certainly don’t want to test that theory! I am not an expert on stressing metal, so I have no expertise in that area. And how/where/what one strikes the bash plate with, along with how much force/weight will also determine a failure rate. That much I do know.
Luna’s custom stainless steel bash plate is just about the same thickness as the stocker in my measurements, 2.13mm. The weight is significantly different at 1.93 pounds, a full 1.13 pounds heavier than the stocker. Some of you may think “Well sure they added the right side engine protection panel.” True, but even though I didn’t measure its thickness, the side panel is definitely thinner than the actual bash plate. I’d estimate about half the thickness.
I was NOT able to flex the Luna guard at all by hand like I could with the stocker. I would estimate that the Luna model could easily take twice the impact of the stocker without bending. I have no idea how much force it would take to dent the Luna guard enough to damage the engine. Again that would depend on so many factors; the speed of impact, the concentration at the point of impact, the weight of the rider, on and on and on.
The Tig welds are well done and the shininess of the unit is less than I had anticipated. I contemplated painting the Luna guard black to match the bike, but after installation I’m not so sure. So I’ll leave it its native stainless for a bit and decide later.
Which leads me to…
You must reuse the fender nuts that are attached to the stocker. (Fender nuts is one of the terms for those types of nuts with housings) The bitch of the installation is the Luna guard is NOT extremely accurate in alignment with the attachment points. I installed three of the four bolts into the frame/fender nuts and DID NOT TIGHTEN THEM DOWN. I simply started the threads in each to hold their places. The first one was easy. The second on the same side (I started on the cool engine guard side, the right side) took me having to use an awl to line up the holes before inserting the bolt.
On the left side of the bike I had to do the very same awl alignment to insert the top screw. And then came the bottom left bolt…..resulting in Mark’s 6/10 cussing level of frustration. Huffing and puffing, cussing at Eric, cussing at the Sur Ron, cussing at life and FINALLY I lined up the holes and rushed to put the final bolt into the hole. Guess what? It slipped back. Fuck! But I finally got them all in.
I would have liked to see both sides of the engine protected. This side, the left side is where I often ground down the cases on my racing bikes. But heck I guess if I didn’t fall, I would not have needed a guard…LOL.
So do I think the Luna guard is worth the 85.00 plus shipping and tax? For me it is because I ride on paths, roads, off-road and in OHV parks. Considering a new stock engine for this thing is currently 650.00, 85.00 insurance is worth it to me. Would I buy the guard if I only road in the street or on paths…nope. Sure you can always hit the plate on a curb, but that seems unlikely.
I’m glad they made this, as I feel the engine has a better level of protection. Will I paint it black or remove it again? Doubtful…unless I feel like cussing some more! Hahahahaha.
Comparing the Sur Ron to KTMs and Altas
Recently I have seen and read articles written by a number of users comparing the Sur Ron to KTM gas 350s, Alta MXR electrics, and KTM SX-E Freerides electrics. They are entertaining to read and it led me to realize that the reason people are comparing a $3495.00 electric dirt bike to $8000+ motorcycles is because Sur Ron has developed a new segment in EV bikes. There really aren’t other bikes to compare it to. Sure there have been kids off road gas motorcycles for years. Heck we used them as pit bikes at Laguna, Thunderhill, Sears Point and Buttonwillow. (some of those track names have changed, but I refuse to use them…LOL) The closest bikes like the Neematic, The CAKE are currently all vaporware AND TWICE TO THREE TIMES THE PRICE OF THE SUR RON!
A guy named Grantland contacted me to ask if he could try my Sur Ron. I NEVER let people ride my motorcycles, but made an exception for him since he was seriously considering purchasing his own. Like me he had only read about them which doesn’t really prepare you for what it’s like to ride one. And just as important to see the build quality of the unit. His question to me through his excited grin after his test ride, “Mark, why doesn’t everyone own one? OMG they are great!”
Yeah I know……he bought his own too.
Adam Emanuel Brennan posted this valuable Sur Ron chain length information for various sprocket sizes:
104 links 42T
106 links 48T
108 links 52T
112 links 58T
Thank you Adam!
I can verify that the RK 420 chain 110 link, fits the Sur Ron sprocket well. I purchased this chain to use with the Super Moto with pedal kit rather than the chain Luna Cycle provides with the SM kit. The SM kit does NOT anticipate being used with the pedal kit option. Also the cost of the chain (because it is not an o ring chain) is very inexpensive. I plan to purchase another one to use with a chain breaker if I need additional links for other applications.
Luna Cycle Sur-Ron Super Moto Conversion Kit Review
I recently purchased the optional Moto Kit from Luna. I like the option to change the personality of this fantastic bike from dirt to street. For $419.95 excluding tax and shipping I felt it to be a crazy good deal. It’s supplied with tires, rims, and spacers for the front rim, a rear sprocket and 203mm brake rotors on both wheels. They also include a chain to fit the 42t sprocket that comes with the set. Having purchased motorcycles and their associated parts my entire life, I estimate that this ‘ready to go kit’ would have cost me around 700 bucks if I assembled it myself. Not to mention the time it would take me to research where/what/how to source all of the stuff. So I made the plunge since it was a no brainer….
It’s pretty straight forward with a few caveats which will depend on how your Sur Ron is set up. On mine I have the pedal kit installed and for many personal reasons I love it. BUT the chain supplied with the Moto Kit does NOT contemplate having a pedal kit installed. It’s short by about two 420 chain links. The reality is no one but I will probably want the pedal kit installed with the Moto Kit. But for any other oddball who have the pedals, be forewarned that the supplied chain won’t fit. I didn’t try the stock chain to see if it would fit, but it may…..hum.
The rims size for both front and rear are 17” compared to the 19” stockers. It makes the profile of the bike shorter. Because of that the kickstand props the bike much more vertical than with the stock 19ers. Just keep that in mind. The kickstand still works well, but you’ll need to be mindful of where/what /how you park the bike because of the increase in vertical angle.
The other factor to be aware of is the tires come deflated, unlike the knobby tires that came on my bike. I measured tire pressure of 5 PSI for both the front and rear tires before I installed them onto the bike. In the package with the chain are two spacers for the front rim/tire combination. Others have said theirs came zip tied to the rim. For the rear rim/tire you simply reuse the stock rear wheel spacers.
My front tire was manufactured in March 2017 according to the tire’s date of manufacture mark.
Inflation recommendation for the front is 32 PSI measured while the tire is cold.
My rear tire was manufactured in August 2017
Recommended tire pressure is 36 PSI measured while the tire is cold.
Something I noticed after installing the rear rim/tire is the brake line is way too close to the tire/rim. I believe this is due to the smaller diameter of the rim over the stock 19ers.
Resolving this is very simple, just use a zip tie to attach the brake line to the swing arm and it’s all sorted.
Riding and Performance
Once everything was installed I took my bike out for a test ride. Because my former team mates and I installed racing slicks and new brake pads every race, I’m familiar with how to bed in brake pads and new rubber. BE VERY CAREFUL when you go out for your first run. The pads on your bike are bedded for the 19 inch discs and need to be re bedded to the new Moto rotors. Lightly press on each brake as you ride. Heating pad/disc evenly is important to obtain a great bite and feel on brakes. Also the whole thing you see where people are ‘weaving ‘back and forth does not break in tires. Accelerating and braking is what does. Don’t go full bore and then slam on the brakes. Get up to about 30 MPH, then gently squeeze the brakes which will heat up the carcass of the tire to remove any molding release agents. Keep doing that for about 20 repetitions and remember that the edges of your tires must be warmed as well.
The ride of the Moto kit is remarkable. It’s so much smoother than the stock knobbies, which they should be! It may be my imagination but the rate of acceleration with the Moto kit ‘feels’ stronger, perhaps due to my removal of the pedal kit. I did NOT attempt to corner like I did on a racetrack, getting my knee down in turns! The Sur Ron is NOT a sport bike by any means, but I believe this kit was developed to modify the bike into a super motard type of ride. So yes I did power slide the rear end like a super motard is meant to do. We use to call that ‘backing it in’ and it felt controlled and stable. Who’s this kit for? I believe people who will primarily ride their Sur Ron on the street, obviously. And for those folks this is a great way to transform an already remarkable piece of hardware into a fun street hooligan … and for not much cash.
X Controller Update 8-18-18
So today I opted to remove my moped plate and ride as an “ebike” to visit Joe and Luis, the two fellas of Motostrano in Redwood City. Motostrano is where I purchased my Haibike Fullnine RC “Sofia” as I named her back in 2016. And yes I still ride her regularly, she’s not to be ignored…LOL. I wanted to ride to Joe’s shop in a combination of bike path/on public roads to see how the X performs in regenerative braking and charging. Unlike my prior test the Sur Ron was fully charged to 100%. When Wall-E is fully charged I always start off in EP mode. Why? Well I am aware that the X controller does not have the ability to discontinue regenerative charging during deceleration even if the battery is at 100% capacity. This ‘could‘ damage the battery, the engine or both. So I travel about 2-3 miles in EP mode to bring the charge down to 95-97% just to play it safe.
Today’s combined dirt/public road journey was 15.9 miles round trip with a top speed of 38 MPH. Both of those stats are from the Sur Ron display since I did not use the GPS app on my phone. The route I took today was relatively flat as well. At no time did I use full throttle during this ride.
One of the things I noticed about riding on the street is I tend to NOT rush toward a stop and then chop the throttle. So getting off the throttle smoothly and early resulted in me slowing down much more quickly and well before the intersections. I had to give a little throttle to reach the intersections! LOL This indicated to me just how strong the X’s engine braking affects the bike. I was riding on the stock tires as I have not yet changed to the Moto kit.
Upon returning home my battery indicated a remaining charge of 61%. I’ll continue to post my finding about the X and the Sur Ron.
Sur Ron X Controller Review 8-17-18
This will be an ongoing post for the X Controller. I was completely intrigued by the Luna Cycle X Controller, especially after Matt Richard’s video review of the unit. I respect Matt and his reviews so I ordered one right away. Apparently Luna had only 50 of the controllers. Sur Ron is hesitant to import more to the USA for reasons unknown to me. At the time of this post they are currently sold out of the units and don’t have an ETA or when or if they will return.
Matt also created an installation video of the X Controller which is excellent. I did not follow his instructions to flip the bike upside down, but instead decided to leave the bike upright on a rear tire stand. I just felt it was a better solution for me.
One of the steps I feel is ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY whether or not you keep your bike upright or on its back is to remove the battery. You will be disconnecting the main wiring of the controller and motor so you certainly do NOT want anything to arc or short out.
Almost all of the terminal connections on the X are the same as on the stock controller with the exception of one of the connectors. On the stock controller the smallest connector is not connected to anything and contains a blank socket. On the X controller there is a small triangular shaped connector that will not be connected to anything. I surmise that it may be for a future upgrade from Sur Ron. I simply placed electrical tape over the socket to try to prevent any moisture/debris from entering.
The Red, Green, Yellow, Positive and Negative terminal are clearly marked on the X Controller.
X is on the right, the stock controller is on the left
The X controller with the small triangular plug which does not connect to anything
The stock controller’s small non connected plug with a blank inserted.
I taped over the X controller’s triangular plug.
All buttoned up and ready for the test ride.
Luna makes the following claims for the new X Controller
- 25% increased power from the stock controller
- 10% increase in top speed
- Smoother, more linear power band
- Regenerative braking.
- ($220 trade in for old sur ron controller)
- Plug and play installation (max 20minutes)
So let’s take these one at a time….
25% increased power from the stock controller – TRUE
Because I have no ability to test the increase in power on a dyno (nor do I think anyone has as of this writing) I cannot say objectively that the increase is specifically 25%. What I can say and attest to is my seat of the pants experience. Prior to the X I had installed the 60t Luna sprocket. Prior to its installation, I was happy, but not thrilled with the torque of the Sur Ron. It was good, but I wanted more grunt down low for the type of riding I enjoy. Installing the 60t over the stock 48t provided me with the amount of low end grunt I wanted. Sure I lost about 15 MPH of top end, but my riding is primarily in the dirt on climbs and so losing the top end didn’t bother me much. Instead of the claimed 45 MPH I could only attain 42 MPH according to the Sur Ron display. LOL, as if 42 MPH on a 110 pound bike is slow, yeah right.
I had the 60t sprocket installed on my bike when the X arrived. After installation I took it for a test spin. Holy Shit! The increase in power of the X combined with the 60t sprocket was too much for my taste. Now some will ask “How can too much power be a bad thing?” I’m all about control of power, not brute power. So I switched back to the 48t and thought “OMG this is the PERFECT combination for me, the torque of the 60t with the top end of the stock sprocket.” So my seat of the pants assessment, absolutely it has a 25% increase. Maybe more like a 30% seat of the pants increase.
10% increase in top speed – TRUE
I have the pedal kit installed so I feel that the extra drag created by that kit reduces the actual top speed compared to a non-pedal kit bike. Before installing the X I could attain 42 MPH. With the X I could achieve 47 MPH. That’s a 12% increase. I have started to use a phone app that tracks speed using GPS positioning. At the time I saw 47 MPH on the Sur Ron’s display my GPS app showed 43 MPH. So the Sur Ron’s may be off a bit, but that does not mean the top speed didn’t increase with the X.
Smoother, more linear power band – TRUE
For me this may be the best part of the X. Prior to it, whenever I started increasing the throttle the bike would slightly ‘lurch’ forward. Not dangerously so, but it would not be smooth. And I have always prided myself on great throttle control skills based on my race training. With the X controller, taking off from a dead stop is now like a fine car….smooth as silk. And the power curve? Again, no dyno, but seat of the pants assessment is it is linear all the way up to about 80% of maximum throttle. That is where the power levels off. It does not shut down completely; it’s just not ‘pulling’ strongly at that point. The stock controller has a big initial jump, then levels off at about 30% throttle, and levels off again toward 75%. It becomes completely flat after that.
Why is smooth linear power so important to me? Well I ride single-track and places where there is loose gravel or dirt on top of hard pack. And when there is pavement it is often covered with silt or dirt. Getting on the pipe when on surfaces like this can lead to the rear end sliding, overshooting a turn, a myriad of unexpected stuff if throttle input is not smooth. Imagine having an early generation turbo engine or a two stroke bike. There is a flat spot and then all of a sudden the power comes on. This is an exaggeration of the stock Sur Ron, but it helps illustrate the difference between stock and the X. Throttle input is strong, smooth and predictable with the X. Much more so than with the stock controller.
In some ways I feel that presents a safer situation than the stock controller, ESPECIALLY the stock controller paired with the 60t sprocket. Because the power delivery is much more abrupt with the stock one, the torque hit of the 60t can be surprising. This is NOT to say the stocker is dangerous, just less predictable than the X. Enough said.
Regenerative braking – TRUE
I’m going to combine regenerative braking and engine braking here which is something Luna does not mention. In terms of engine braking for those who have not ridden a regular 4 stroke motorcycle, imagine you’re driving your car. You are approaching a stop light and remove your foot from the accelerator. At that very instant you shift your automatic transmission to “N” for Neutral. What you would feel is the car NOT slowing down, but coasting fast, much faster than you want. THAT is how the stock Sur Ron feels with the normal controller, no engine braking. Basically the compression of gasoline powered cylinders doesn’t slow you down, which is the nature of electric motors. NOW with the X – that feeling, that physical action of engine braking HAPPENS.
What it creates is a more ‘natural’ feeling, one most of us associate when we lift/turn our throttles off, not coasting, but SLOWING. The X accomplishes that in spades. On downhill sections, approaching a stop; letting off the throttle SLOWS YOU DOWN without the need to apply the brakes.
Doing so then regenerates the battery pack. I did not measure the voltage (like Matt demonstrates in his great video) during my tests. BUT what was apparent is on the very same 17.4 mile loop going approximately the same speeds, in the same wind/topography conditions – here are my very unscientific battery readings:
- 100% charge at start
- 17.4 mile loop
- 3 miles of full throttle
- Combination of dirt/pavement riding
- Battery reading upon returning home: 48%
- 96% charge at start
- 17.4 mile loop
- 3 miles of full throttle
- Combination of dirt/pavement riding
- Battery reading upon returning home: 52%
($220 trade in for old sur ron controller) – Unknown but TRUE
I have not sent mine in, so I cannot attest to this being true. HOWEVER I have NO DOUBT that Luna honors what it says. And what for me is even more important? Honoring early adopters by offering a trade in amount….unheard of in my world! Bravo!
Plug and play installation (max 20 minutes) – Nope not for me!
So Matt’s video shows him installing the X with little to NO issues. Well…. That’s fine for him, but not for me. I had a hell of a time removing the wiring connectors from the neck of the bike. Yes I removed the tip over switch bracket, but the damn horn was in the way. And when I tried to unloosen the hex bolt to the horn bracket it was so tight I just gave up! So I pushed the horn to one side and was finally able to work the wiring connections free from the neck of the bike. Whew! In total it took me about an hour to complete the job. And my cussing scale was 8/10, mostly at Matt for making it look so fucking easy! LOL
This is certainly not my last or only post about the X. It will be ongoing as will my experience with the Sur Ron. I do NOT want anyone to get the impression that the bike is shit without the X! Far from it. The Sur Ron is a REMARKABLE bike, an INCREDIBLE value. The X Controller takes it to a different level in terms of smoothness, power, engine braking, and regenerative charging for 270.00 with the 220.00 trade in! Insane!
Unfortunately as I write this they are sold out. And Luna has stated that they are unsure if Sur Ron will supply more of them to the US. If true that’s sad because it’s wonderful upgrade to an already incredible machine. IF they are offered again, don’t be ‘that person’ and ‘wait’ just buy one!
Update August 13 2018
I belong to a small Sur Ron Light Bee group and wrote up how to bleed the brake system on the bike. I debated over posting it here, but decided that some may want to know. So here you go!
Bleeding Sur Ron Brakes
- My GF: “Babe I made you some lunch…wait what are you doing? I thought you JUST worked on your brakes!”
- ME: “Yeah I did but that guy Matt wanted to know how to do it so I told him I’d post a how to.”
- My GF: “You must really like this guy!”
- Me: “He’s the one with that adorable little daughter.”
- My GF: “Ah no wonder you’re doing this. OK lunch is ready.”
First and foremost I HATE when people try to tell me how to do something. Or worse they feel THEIR WAY is the BEST WAY. So I’m posting this to tell you how I do it. How you do it is up to you.
If you don’t want to do a full bleed, a simple way I maintain my brakes is to just remove the top mushroom screw, insert the plastic syringe into the hole, fill it about halfway with oil and pump the lever. As time goes on the bubbles move upward toward the brake lever and they’re easy to remove with this method. Up to you. Just be sure to adjust your brake lever so that it’s level to the ground and you’ve turned your handlebars so that the respective lever is higher than the lowest part of the brake line.
Here is the kit I purchased to work on my MTB and Sur Ron brakes:
I always remove the brake pads from the calipers no matter what I’m working on. Dirt bikes, MTB bikes, on road race bikes. I never want any contamination of the fluids to hit the pads or rotors.
- Step one is to remove calipers from the fork leg and the rear swing arm. I think it’s a 5mm hex but I can’t remember. Easy.
- Remove the pads from the calipers. Just use a number 15 Torx and unscrew the pin that holds the pads in the caliper. You’ll need to remove the small retaining safety clip on the end of that threaded pin. BE SURE TO INSERT A BRAKE PAD BLOCK INTO THE CALIPER!
Unlike motorcycle master cylinders the Sur Ron’s are tiny. Hence they use tiny screws too. On motorcycles I would draw the fluid from the top down. With the Sur Ron I push fluid from the bottom up. I like it better since it moves air bubbles up rather than down.
- Pick which brake you want to bleed first. Loosen the brake handlebar 5mm bolt and adjust the lever so that it is level with the ground. You should turn the handlebar to the right all the way if you’re working on the left brake. This will allow the brake line to be as high as possible.
- In this case go to the back caliper and remove the teeny tiny 15 Torx screw which is the ‘bleed’ screw. Don’t worry if mineral oil starts to leak out. Place one of the threaded hose fittings (the one that fits from the kit I use) into the bleed port on the caliper. Attach the hose. Fill the syringe ¾ of the way with mineral oil and attach it to the fitting.
- Undo the very small mushroom screw and place an empty syringe into the opening. Be careful to notice if the rubber washer is on the screw or left in the threaded hole. Place the non-threaded syringe into the hole.
- Go back to the caliper and start compressing the syringe with the ¾ amount of oil. You will see the syringe on the brake handle start to fill and you will see bubbles too. That’s what causes the mushy feeling when you brake. Stop when you have about ¼ inch of mineral oil left in the caliper syringe.
- Then pull the oil back through the line by drawing the caliper syringe back until the one on the brake handle is about 4mm from the bottom. Reverse the procedure and again push the mineral oil back into the line.
- Doing this removes more bubbles than just doing it once. Once that’s done place the pushing rod slightly into the top of the brake lever syringe. Not too much, it’s just to keep the fluid from flowing out of the caliper fitting once you remove that syringe.
- Remove the syringe, nipple and replace the bleed bolt.
- Use the caliper syringe to suck out the majority of fluid out of the brake handle syringe after removing its plunger.
- Replace the mushroom bolt, do NOT over tighten.
- Wipe down everything with a rag and alcohol. (Not the kind you drink) The caliper, the brake handle, anything that has oil on it.
- Remove the brake pad block and reinstall the brake pads and be sure to align the spreading spring properly as to NOT be in front of the brake pads.
- Reinstall the caliper. I use Blue Loctite on the threads.
- Remove the mushroom screw and reinsert the plastic syringe without its plunger.
- Fill it halfway with mineral oil.
- Pump the handle. This is to remove any remaining bubbles. If some remain, you will see them rise up from the brake handle. Do this for about three minutes.
- Reinstall the mushroom screw and adjust your brake lever to where you like the angle.
The brake levers are also adjustable for reach, although it may not be readily apparent. Using a 2mm hex wrench you can adjust the reach to be further or closer to the handlebar with this small screw:
Update August 11 2018
I recently purchased and am awaiting the Super Moto kit from Luna Cycle. I have also changed from the 60t sprocket back to the stock 48t sprocket since I have also ordered the new X Controller which offers more torque, top speed, engine braking and regenerative charging! During the sprocket change I noticed that the pedal kit I have installed was coming apart. The pedal kit is the weakest link in the build quality of the Sur Ron and is actually a poor build. It is basically a tube that gets bolted to the frame. A rod runs through the tube and is held in place by two screwed in caps on each end. No bearings, no shims, just a hole on each side. The sprocket itself that turns does have a bearing. But because the end caps are just ‘large threaded washers’ the play of the rod is quite large. What this means is that the chain tension varies as the pedal sprocket turns because the rod has so much free play. Much like a motorcycle whose sprockets or chain are worn, the tension varies depending on where the pedal kit through rod is in its varied position. Not good.
When I got my bike which had the pedal kit installed, I noticed that the chain tension was very tight. MUCH tighter than I’d ever have on my motorcycles. I had read and been advised by other owners of the Sur Ron that the bike didn’t need to have chain slack like a regular motorcycle. The opinion of one owner: “Because of the jack shaft, the chain tension does not change through the entire motion of swing arm travel. Thus the chain can be tight and it will keep it from flapping. The fact that there is no chain guide confirms this. I run my SurRon snug and my motorcycles proper loose.”
Well intended, but what I found in my actual experience is by loosening the chain to allow play of about a 1/2 inch either up or down in the middle of the chain, it provided me with seat of the pants torque equivalent to the 60t sprocket compared to the stock 48! Yes THAT LARGE OF A DIFFERENCE. Better acceleration, higher top end, just by allowing more play in the chain than it’s been since delivery. Whether or not the ‘jack shaft’ location has anything to do with the chain becoming more tight or more loose as the swing arm compresses, my recommendation is that having some play in your chain is well worth trying. Some without the pedal kit installed recommend 5/8″ play. Your own mileage may vary, but give it a try.
For the poorly designed and executed pedal kit; I may look into bearings which will fit the ID of the pedal tube and the OD of the shaft. That would solve the poor tolerance issues.
Update August 8 2018
Luna Cycle asked Matt Richards to test their new X Controller for the Sur Ron. This is the YouTube video which show the results which are very impressive. It is expected to be released by Luna later this month. Once I have the chance to test the controller I will post my findings here. Stay tuned, but this bike just gets better and better and better! I have begun to use my Sur Ron on the street since it is now licensed and insured as a moped in California. Formerly mundane errands are now fun not to mention saving wear and tear on my car. Make no mistake, my primary use for the Sur Ron is off-road and now with a valid CA Plate it is legal at all CA OHV parks too! To have it serve as a dual sport electric bike is incredible!
I have also ordered Luna’s Sur-Ron Super Moto Conversion Kit which will be delivered later this month. I plan a full test and review on that road option as well.
Update July 11 2018
My motorcycle pal Chris sent me this screen grab of an article about the evolution of technology and how that relates to motorcycles and now ebikes. Very cool that it specifically mentions the Sur Ron Light Bee.
Update July 9 2018
Not really an update on the bike, but had fun jumping Wall-E yesterday until something went wrong that I cannot remember because I got knocked out for 45 seconds. And for those who think I’m silly to have mounted a first aid kit to the front forks, this is the reason why. Not my first concussion on a bike, but the first for the Sur Ron. At least I didn’t get airlifted to a trauma center after crashing at 145 MPH in turn 10 at Thunderhill Raceway! LOL. No one saw the actual crash, but I must have gone over the bars. The only damage really was the right foot pedal arm got a bit bent and the right bracket of the Fisher FabHouse headlight got a bit tweaked. Other than that no damage. I think that because the mass of the Sur Ron is so low (110 pounds) damage is low during a crash. Kinda like when I crash my mountain bike, little damage occurs….
I certainly look much worse than the bike…thank goodness as I was too handsome anyway! LOL!!!!!
Update July 8, 2018
When I was riding street bikes one of the most used features of the tank bag on my bikes were the bungee cords on the top of the tank bag. It was so convenient to shove my gloves under the little black cords or clothing I wanted to shed when the weather turned warm. So I decided to fabricate something similar on my Sur Ron (Wall-E as he’s been named….)
The tough part was figuring out how to mount everything. My workflow is to NOT permanently alter things by drilling or cutting native materials. Wall-E’s ‘tank’ is plastic and I could have easily placed eye hooks through the plastic by drilling into the cover and bolting the other end from the inside. But I opted instead to use hooks to secure the bungee cords. The first issue I had is what the hell are those flat kinda hooks called? Well they’re known as ‘gutter hooks’ and I found the ones I needed through Wolfman luggage. (The same company who I purchased an off road tank bag for Wall-E BTW) Then in examining the slope and angle of Wall-E’s battery cover, I determined that I’d need to secure the top gutter hooks to the plastic by using some sort of tensioning strap. I decided upon some Reusable Fastening Cable Straps off of Amazon specifically the 18” one. I bought the bungee cord and tightening lock from REI.
I simply ran four zip ties through the gutter hooks and then crossed the bungee through the zip ties. I had originally thought about just running the bungee through the gutter hook slots, but they are too narrow and would not allow the bungee to smoothly slide. On the back gutter hooks, I securely attached two other zip ties to keep the ones I used for the bungee cord from moving back and forth.
What I really like about this set up is that I can still see the battery indicator and lift the plastic cover to remove the battery if needed. And since it’s always on Wall-E if I stop somewhere to grab a sandwich, or need to shed clothing I can simply stuff it under the bungee contraption……score! And a final convenience is I can leave this on the bike even when I’m using my Wolfman tank bag! (I have a photo of that bag and a link to it down toward the bottom of the post.)
Update: July 1 2018
Update: June 27 2018
This posting appears with my permission on ElectricMotorcycle.com
Today I installed the Luna Cycle 60t stainless steel sprocket. My desire for more lower end torque over top end prompted me to purchase one of Eric’s units. Went on easy as can be. My only concern is that the included chain extension takes the chain adjusting screws to almost the end of their reach. Not a big deal, but I will probably remove a link to keep the rear axle in the middle of the adjustment range. The added torque down low changes the personality of the Sur Ron more to my personal taste. Exiting a corner and the ability to climb steep hills has always been good, but now it’s great!
Tonight I wanted to see just how much the 60t sprocket reduced my top speed. (like I need ANY excuse to ride Christy!) Luna states that it will max out the top end at 28MPH. Another user stated he obtained a top speed of 32 MPH. Tonight I got 36 MPH measured via a GPS app on flat ground. The hill climbing with the larger sprocket is incredible especially for a bike this small and this light. For what I use my bike for anything over 30 MPH is plenty. My top track speed on my RC51 was 168 MPH so if I want top end I’ll ride that bike! LOL
I’m not sure what the angle degree it is to get up to this spot, but it’s easily over 30 degrees. No question if the Sur Ron would climb this hill, not even a slight hesitation. Remarkable.
I am pleased with the modifications I’ve done to my Sur Ron. I added a First Aid kit to the front. Why? If you’ve never crashed while riding alone in a remote area then you have no experience in being injured and alone. Enough said. I continue to be impressed with the Sur Ron and plan to mount the 60t rear sprocket I purchased from Luna next week. Don’t need top end, need more torque…. Stay tuned. The fenders work very well to keep mud from being flung onto the controller and the rear linkage and shock body. One definite improvement I’d like to see either Sur Ron or a third party make happen…a better seat! I tend to ride an average of 20-25 miles at a time and man my ass hurts! I’m not a big fella nor do I have a big ass, but the seat makes my ass hurt. Even when I wear bike shorts with padding! And if you think it’s because I have a peddle kit, think again grasshopper! LOL
After….(my mods to make her my own)
I realize this is my photography site. But I like to post things I’m passionate about and two wheeled vehicles DEFINITELY fit in that category. They have occupied my thoughts and activities my entire life. So for you photographers looking for my latest assessment of a strobe, modifier or something similar, keep moving along. And for the two wheel crowd who are visiting and wondering WTF is a photographer doing posting about the Sur Ron Light Bee on this site? Life isn’t about just one thing is it? And like my photography posts this is all about Paying it Forward. The experiences I’ve had and the modifications I’ve made to “Christy” are to enhance my use of the Light Bee and may not apply to your needs/uses. But if some of what I’ve done helps others, so much the better.
So before getting into my impressions of the build quality, performance and value of the Light Bee and Luna Cycle’s customer service, I’m going to post a bit of my background. I’ve ridden two wheeled motorized vehicles almost all of my life. I’ve raced motocross, TT and long haul desert events. Saddleback Park (RIP), Barstow to Vegas twice, Carlsbad, and Indian Dunes were just a few of the places my dirt bike days covered. Roger De Coster, Brad Lackey, Charlie Bower were my dirt bike heroes. I owned a Yamaha DT125, a Penton 125, a Bultaco Pursang (250) and a Maico 250 with leading link front forks. On road courses I campaigned a Honda RC51 1000cc vtwin. I belonged to Keigwins at the Track and was one of their original instructors. Laguna Seca, Buttonwillow, Thunderhill and Sears Point were our venues for both track days and training racetrack tactics.
As I aged I finally surmised I’d never contend in World Superbike and felt that my reaction times had gotten to the point where I may endanger my fellow racers so I stopped racing. Chasing a mid-level AMA racer and crashing in turn three at Laguna and then a helicopter ride to the Enloe Trauma Center in Chico after crashing at Thunderhill Raceway convinced me. I still did track time for a year and a half after that chopper ride though…..
And street riding, well I loved it in the early days, but after 28,000 miles of track riding/racing it just no longer appealed to me. So I got into mountain biking because I missed the ‘offroad life’ and bought a Specialized Hard Tail with Rock Shock forks. It was sure fun, but I missed the tinkering and fabricating a ‘real’ motorized two wheeled ride offered me. So I began looking into eMTBs and bought a Haibike Fullnine RC in 2016 from Motostrano in Redwood City. I’ve written a post about my experience with “Sofia” in another post on this site. You can read that here.
I wanted a ‘bit more’ in terms of speed and power so I started researching other ebikes. Not necessarily legal either…. I found two possible bikes, one made right here in San Francisco called The Bolt (which has now changed to Monday Motorbikes and they have moved to SoCal). At the time it was not really available for sale. I’m not sure if it is now since their website is not very clear about sales only preorders. And I could find very little non marketing material by real users of the bike. Plus the bike is really designed for street riding. And if I’m going to do that I would just use my now street legal RC51. But again, I’m not keen on street riding anymore. ESPECIALLY with all of the fuck heads who think texting is OK because they can multi task. Bullshit. Let’s play slap face texting. You text on your fucking phone while I slap your face and let’s see just how quick you can react to block my hand. Enough said.
The other bike that was VERY intriguing to me is the Neematic. A trellis frame, 50MPH top end and ‘seems’ well built. But at 8500 Euros and still vaporware I didn’t have much hope for the bike actually being produced in quantities that would actually hit US shores. And as of this blog post (June 2018) I still cannot determine if it’s being produced. And no actual user reviews of the unit…..bad. Not really much new marketing materials either…..suspicious.
I cannot recall how I happened upon the Sur Ron Firefly as it was called when I first happened upon it. But I sure as hell am glad I did!
The Meat and Potatoes
OK so like you I searched a LOT on Google about the Sur Ron. Lots of video reviews were done and the ones I especially appreciated are from Homes Hobbies on YouTube. John (ahem he must get a LOT of shit about his name…LOL!) has such informative and useful information I highly respect his channel. The other resource I found helpful is by Sur-RonUSA and I’ve followed several of his recommendations on my own bike. I also researched Luna Cycle and had originally planned on flying down to LAX to visit their location. I grew up not far from LAX (Crenshaw) and know right where El Segundo is, but after reading TONS of information about the Sur Ron I opted to nix that idea. Why? Because reviews from actual users about both Luna and the Sur Ron convinced me to just pull the trigger. Eric and his crew at Luna seem like no nonsense, no bullshit fellas, the kind I like. As a matter of fact Eric reminds me of Paul Buff, a guy who doesn’t give a good hot shit about what established makers think of what he’s doing. He seem to only care about innovation and quality, much like Paul (may he rest in peace). And like Paul he has built his own company albeit a bit smaller and younger than PCB.
I can tell that Luna is a young and growing firm, having the same growing pains all young companies experience. But what instilled trust in me parting with 3500.00 USD plus tax and shipping was the level of response I received from his crew. And the other web posts that talked about his other products, those developed well before he became the sole US distributor for the Sur Ron. His video on the teardown of a Sur Ron was the final selling point. Having wrenched on Honda, Yamaha, Suzuki and Kawasaki motorcycles has shown me how brands stand above and beyond each other. Small things like bosses welded into frame points rather than loose connectors are the small things that show build quality. The video and the fella’s comments illustrated that. And when I received my own Sur Ron I confirmed the quality of the build. It’s a Honda level quality build and that’s saying a fucking ton.
Shortly after I made my purchase I noticed that Luna had discounted the pre orders by 200.00. I wrote to them to ask if I could get that price. They responded immediately that my account was credited 250.00 for any future purchases. Again, excellent customer service, well done and timely.
Luna shipped my bike via FedEx Freight which is different than the way I normally received FedEx packages. I was told from Luna that the driver would contact me via phone to confirm a date/time when my bike would be delivered. As I waited for the day my bike showed it was to be delivered, I received no call. And their website never showed “Out for Delivery.” So I called FedEx and was transferred from the number I normally call to their Freight division. I was pissed when I was told that the bike which showed it was to be delivered on a Friday would not be delivered until the following Wednesday. As a young man I had the patience of a teenage male’s stiff dick and as a more elderly person now I have a little more patience….of a 28 year old hard on! LOL!!! Just be aware that when you get notification from Luna that FedEx has picked up your bike, CALL FedEx Freight. Their number is 866-393-4585, don’t call their normal package delivery number. Don’t just trust their website, call!
My Sur Ron was well packaged and included the installed Pedal Kit which I had ordered. As a matter of fact had Luna not offered the pedal kit I would not have purchased the unit. In reality the pedals don’t really do much to propel the bike forward. And of all the elements on the bike the rotating spline on the pedal kit is the weakest link. It is not well machine and has a significant amount of play while rotating. Why get the pedal kit at all? I’m not going to answer that for you, but it should be obvious why you’d want them…..enough said.
One of the YouTube videos I watched shows the guy cutting the shipping straps, but I found that they make handy tie downs so instead of cutting you may want to just untie the ends and release the buckles.
I suggest that you immediately remove the battery and begin the charging process. My Sur Ron arrived with an 83% charge in the battery.
I believe this is v2 of the charger. In Homes Hobbies video he mentions that Sur Ron had revised the charger from the one he received which I don’t believe had the fins or fan. This charger remains dead cold as it charges, as does the battery.
The Pedal Kit includes the pegs too, so not to worry. A simple tool kit is included which takes care of mounting the front wheel.
Luna’s Mountain bike pedals are nice large flat and studded pedals. One of the issues I found is on the left side of the pedal kit the threads are not reverse threaded meaning counter clockwise tightening. Since the pedals rotate counterclockwise on that side it can loosen the 14mm nut. I found that putting Blue Locktite thread locker on the nut/bolt thread helps prevent this. Also the two hex head bolts on the right side of the pedal kit must be tightened to get any friction on the pedals. Mine shipped loosely fastened.
The user guide refers to a ‘fuse box’ located in front of the ‘air switch’ and an extra fuse. I could not locate a fuse box or an extra fuse. I believe the air switch is a breaker switch, much like you have in a modern house.
In this shot the breaker switch is the red switch just below the ignition/USB plug. I’m not sure what the white connector is with the black electrical tape’s function is for the Sur Ron.
The suspension is damn impressive. Compression and rebound on both front and rear. I converted my RC51 to full Ohlins forks and shock just to get those features!
Compression for the front really works. Just adjust a click at a time.
Rebound on the same fork leg as the compression adjustments dial is located at the bottom of the right fork.
Rear shock’s compression damping is on the top of the remote reservoir. Rebound is located on the bottom. I’ve adjusted the spring preload. It comes fully extended, so adjust to your weight/riding preference.
During my first rides I had an issue where my Sur Ron would either cut off engine response to the throttle or not respond at all to the throttle when leaving my garage. The level of battery power varied anywhere between 100% to 70%. The lights and the display stayed on, just the response to power died. After writing to Luna it was suggested that it ‘may’ be the brake safety sensors. After contacting John Homes at Homes Hobbies he instructed me how to remove the brake cut off sensors. I removed the threaded collars that are just below the brake lines on each of the hand levers. I noticed that on the front brake (right) the very small set screw was backed very far out. I’m assuming that may have caused my no throttle issue. I have no idea how those sensors work, as they don’t seem to be pressure sensitive, but rather magnetic. In any event after removing the brake sensors I have not had any issues with the throttle not responding.
I replaced the sleeve bolts and filled them with Instamorph (BEST shit EVER!!!) to ensure moisture doesn’t get into the master cylinder levers.
These are the brake sensors in the levers. I could not locate any moving parts which may indicate they are magnetic sensors.
I found that both the rear and front brake lines were about 5 inches too long. So I shortened them to what I feel is the proper length so they don’t catch on brush or branches. Like mountain bike hydraulic disc brakes the Sur Ron uses Mineral Oil for hydraulic fluid. I have tons of that from changing my ebike brakes. Just use a sharp pair of cutters to cut the lines and buy some brake Olive and connector pieces. Bleed the brakes and you’re all set!
Removing the brake sensors and trimming the brake lines made Christy’s front end very tidy!
I also took the advice from one of the site’s I’ve listed to increase the height of the stem by simply reversing it upside-down. Doing so adds about an inch of reach at no cost. Very slick! The Quad Lock bracket simply holds my cell phone when I ride.
I like riding in the rain and the resulting mud. OK so I never outgrew the toddler phase of my life, so what?! LOL. But after racing off-road I know firsthand the toll packed mud can take on suspension or cooling fins. It’s never pretty. So I’ve installed a fender on the front of Christy and am installing a rear off-road shock guard to keep mud off of the shock body, linkage and spring.
Front Fender by Mud Hugger. Rear is fabricated by me. I simply took a 5.5 inch piece of 90 degree aluminum and cut/bolted it to the existing bosses on Christy’s swing arm. Just buy an addition 5mm x 12mm long bolt for the right side boss which is empty. I attached a Honda mud flap to finish the job.
I will be riding solitary most of the time. I don’t know others who own bikes like this so I feel it’s important to carry some basic tools with me along with a first aid kit. I use to tell students at the track, “Hey I know it’s fucking hot today. It’s fine to not wear your back protector. Just wear it when you know you’re going to crash!” The Sur Ron uses fasteners that are basically mountain bike nuts and bolts so I’ve lashed a multi tool pouch with a MTB multi tool to the right side seat frame.
And I plan to go on extended rides, sometimes at night. So I want to carry snacks or extra layers of clothing. So I simply bought an off road tank bag by Wolfman. It’s perfect for my needs and stays damn secure on Christy’s ‘tank.’ And yes that’s a water bottle on the right side of the frame. I hate wearing a backpack so I installed some removable boss fittings onto the frame to attach a water bottle cage. Does it stay secure? Yes it does!
What Luna and Sur Ron have here is what I consider to be an absolute winner. The build quality of the bike is incredible. I have no idea how either of those companies make a profit off of these bikes. The margins must be very slim. The fun factor is incredible and I’m sure there will be loads of performance upgrades.
In terms of performance upgrades I’m a real bitch about tire pressure, brake performance and suspension over horsepower. I had read somewhere that a user was going to change the stock Sur Ron brakes to Magura MT5s. I installed those on my eMTB, but I find the stock Sur Ron’s are great and don’t plan on any brake conversion. Great feel and modulation on the stock units.
Sure like anyone else I like ‘more power’ but after racing I KNOW that it’s what you can USE and for me races are won or lost entering and exiting turns. Late braking and getting on the pipe coming out of the corner is where it’s at. Additional horsepower is great, but at the expense of greatly reduced battery range would be an issue for me. I’ll keep Christy for what I think are for the rest of my days. And after that my daughter wants Christy! She’s pissed that I let her ride it on Father’s Day. Now she’s figuring out how to budget her funds to get her own…..or when her old man will die and leave her the bike and all of my damn tools!
My son had the opportunity to ride the Sur Ron and he loved it. Since he wants to get a street bike I discovered just how valuable this bike is for a new rider. Learning on dirt (the way I did) is MUCH better than on the street with a heavy bike. Teaching him throttle control, body position, sliding, hard braking, etc. on this thing is brilliant! The feel and the mechanics of bike riding are much better done on the dirt too. So cool!
I had purchased a Thule Easy Fold bike rack prior to purchasing my Sur Ron for the two ebikes we own. Both are Haibikes one a Full Nine and the other a Trekking. So I wanted to find out if I could use the Easy Fold to transport the Sur Ron and guess what? It can which means I don’t need to have or rent a truck to take it to off road parks or trails! SCORE!
One of my favorite things to do is to imagine a concept and then execute it. This post is about concepts, mood and light rather than gear. Oh sure it takes gear to have my concepts go from only in my head to fruition, but if you’re looking for a gear review, it’s best to keep moving along.
I wanted to photograph Jeannette, a dear friend’s daughter who was studying ballet in two different concepts. I gave her a general idea of them; one would be as if she was dancing in a grand ballroom. The other was to appear as if I was on stage BEHIND the ballerina shooting downstage toward the audience. And finally I wanted to see if I could configure a lighting protocol where while under an umbrella I could light the ballerina’s face.
So once the concept was developed finding a venue and prop was necessary. A large warehouse along with a non-lit chandelier was needed for my grand ballroom concept. I would light the chandelier using a strobe and long throw reflector. Combining incandescent light, like a tungsten lit chandelier would be very difficult to balance with my strobes. They would overpower incandescent light no matter how low I powered down my strobes. It could be done, but why when I can light it and balance it with a strobe?
The next concept was a tad more difficult, making it appear as if I am actually on stage shooting toward the audience. Using two Fresnel heads on my strobes to appear as spotlights to create drama and spotlight shadows ‘on the stage’ was in order. And then to balance a fill light for her back was delicate to do. I also knew I wanted to add atmosphere to the shot which would add a mystic mood to the image.
And finally how can I light someone’s face under an umbrella? Ah using a simple speed light and a homemade rig to hold it under the umbrella was the answer!
What was this all for anyway? Practice! My belief is practicing the execution of concepts keeps me sharp and improves what I can offer clients and myself in creating imagery. For me it’s not about what gear I own. It’s how I use it.
I know there are a ton of online sites that show specific lights/cameras/etc. along with their specs and such. I wanted to write this post about combining all of the tools we all have at our disposal to create an image. FIRST AND FOREMOST the paramount factor in my shooting is NOT the gear, but the concept. Of course the right gear makes my job easier, but without a solid concept and how to execute that concept, no amount of cool gear matters in my world. My clients come to me looking for several solid concepts to create for a final image. Most have ‘some‘ ideas, but they are depending on me to flesh out their ideas. The two most valuable assets I can provide to them are the final concepts and the talent’s expressions. Authentic expressions can’t be created in post processing.
I wanted to share the video my partner created as I was shooting the promotional materials for a small theatre company’s production of “Heathers.” This video shows in detail how the shoot was created for the client. BTW I always shoot wirelessly tethered to my iPad using the Canon WFT-E6A (replaced by the WFT-E8A) through Shuttersnitch. Both the client and I then know when the shot has been achieved and we can then move onto the next shot. Much more efficient for me than taking a break to show the talent and client things on the back of my camera. I still do that when needed, but it is much more the exception rather than the rule.
Here are the items I used AFTER scouting a location for the shoot and conveying my concepts to the client:
- 6 Flashpoint XPLOR 600 HSS Battery-Powered Monolight (Non TTL)
- 4 7″ cone modifiers
- 1 PCB Omni reflector
- 1 Aputure Fresnel Lens Mount for COB 120 Series Light Storm
- 1 Yamaha EF2000iSv2 generator
- 1 Chauvet Smoke Machine
- 1 EGO Power+ leaf blower
- 1 Flashpoint R2 Pro 2.4GHz Transmitter for Canon
- 1 Glow Grand ParaBox Pro Softbox (70″) (for in studio publicity shots not shown here)
- 1 Glow Grand ParaBox Zoom-In Bounce Rod (for in studio publicity shots not shown here)
Using battery powered equipment is key to my on location shoots. Wireless everything has been a godsend in the last 12 years. No more cords which were replaced with remote triggers, remote control over strobes…wow. The only reason I used a generator was to power the smoke machine. In those instances where gas generators are not allowed I use a Goal Zero Yeti 1000 solar generator for my smoke machine when called for in a shoot.
I selected the Ego Power leaf blower because it has variable power, not stepped power. During those times when I need to have a wind machine I need the ability for my assistants to either subtlely or forcefully use wind. As of this posting I cannot show the actual publicity shots the client will use, but can display shots they have opted not to use for the promotion.
What will be of interest is the video my partner Tracy Martin created for the client which has been released. My point of this post is to help others in displaying how combining all of the tools now available to photographers is only limited by your imagination.
Four strobes in various positions including to illuminate the smoke. Key light using the PCB Omni reflector. It’s great in wind and produces the quality of light I wanted.
Update March 4 2019
I was reminded today by a frequent visitor to my blog, Fritz N that I had not posted any further information about my misfire issues with the R2ProC. He’s right, it’s because I have very little to report. I have found that the trigger ‘seems‘ to misfire based not on distance, but the particular construction of the building and how many wireless devices like routers are in proximity to my strobes and trigger. Yet I have nothing scientific or objective to report. The building in my January 13 2019 post below is of normal commercial construction. Aluminum framed joices, sheetrock and tile. They do have a number of consumer routers in the building. But nothing out of the ordinary.
I’m literally stumped as to what may or may not cause misfires with this trigger. If anyone has experienced the same issue, please let us all know in my comment section the particulars of where you were shooting. Thank you.
Update January 13 2019
Unfortunately I am having an issue with this trigger. During a recent studio dance shoot it misfired 10% of the time which is really unacceptable. I’m not sure why this has happened. But at this point I will be trashing this trigger. I’m scratching my head as to what caused this malfunction.
The greyed out images in Lightroom are where the the flashes did not fire. It was not a specific strobe, as they malfunction went back and forth. The two strobes are Flashpoint 600s. Very sad and I won’t be using this trigger again.
UPDATE March 4 2018
Yesterday I was commissioned to create imagery of a dancer for an upcoming magazine cover. It was all on location and I was using xPLOR600s one with a H600 remote head. All of the locations were outdoors. In the first location I was completely outside with no walls or ceilings around me. The Flashpoint R2 Pro C worked flawlessly. When I moved into an area where two vertical walls were present that’s when my troubles began. The strobes would not fire. I had to restart my camera (1DX Mark II) as well as restart the R2 Pro. The strobes would then work for about 4 flashes and then the same issue would occur. I got my shots and then moved to the final location. Again one without walls, but during the last portion I was shooting in a tunnel which of course has walls and a ceiling. In all but the aforementioned venue the R2 Pro worked flawlessly. I’m not certain what would have caused the misfiring. I have my trigger set at the 0-30 meter setting and the strobes were well within those distances. Strange….
I am literally at a complete loss for why the R2 would misfire in my second location. So as a backup I now plan to carry both the R2Pro and an X1 whenever I go on location. I am using rechargeable alkaline 1.5v AAs in the unit which were fully charge. I have another outdoor on location shoot this coming Friday so I’ll be taking both.
UPDATE December 9 2017
I just returned from a two day studio session using the Flashpoint R2 Pro C on my Pentax 645Z. The unit performed well and I discovered that when using the transmitter with another non Canon (C) camera the Standby feature does not function as it does on the camera it’s designed for. I have the R2Pro set to Stby in the menu and when mounted to my Canon when I half press the shutter the R2 comes back to life. Not so with my Pentax. I must physically press any button on the R2 unit to revive the transmitter. Other than that (no TTL or HSS) it works well.
UPDATE November 15 2017
I recently had the opportunity to use the Flashpoint R2ProC during a commercial session. The short story is it worked flawlessly. My issue with the XT32C sometimes misfiring when standing right next to my key light did not occur at all. I have the unit set to 0-30m distance in the Custom Functions. The most significant feature I can highlight at this point is being able to view most if not all of my strobe settings at once. It’s wonderful. I did run into one issue that is totally user error when attempting to use the ALL button to change all of my light settings…
I had left A-E lights active but for this session I was only using two lights. I became frustrated when trying to adjust all of the lights at once since the unit seemed to only allow a 2 stop range down or up. What I realized when I got home is that by having more than the number of strobes I was using active on the screen, the unit will only go up or down based on the lowest or highest setting of a group.
Let’s say group D which you’re not using is set at 1/64th. If you scroll power down and have your units set to 1/128th as the lowest setting all of your adjustments down are limited to just one stop. So the answer when using the unit is ONLY KEEP ACTIVE those light groups you’re actually using. I tried to find this in the user guide but it is not listed. Now you know.
I have assembled some of my initial impressions and comments about this transmitter. It will be a few weeks until I can actually use the transmitter in sessions. But that won’t be before I run it through some of my own usability tests. I must admit that I was hoping Godox would develop a transmitter like this. I want to say straight off that in life there isn’t a single thing that is perfect for everyone. I laughed out loud when I read one person was concerned about the angle of the R2 Pro which they felt is ‘too angled’ and forced them to tilt their camera ‘too much’ to see the display. Another person complained about the R2/X1 controller having no tilt and hitting him in the forehead when he looked through the viewfinder. All things can be improved including human attitudes. The important thing is if a piece of equipment is right for YOU. And of course every manufacturer can and should improve their products, and the R2 Pro is living proof of that concept!
For many years I enjoyed the use of the PCB’s CyberCommander with his Einstein line of strobes. Sure the CyberCommanders involved a bit of a learning curve, was not the most elegant interface…BUT it was so well designed from a function/operational standpoint those aforementioned issues seemed petty. I loved being able to view the power settings of all of my strobes in one look. The range of the CyberCommander was excellent and the variety of controls I had at my fingertips made my job so much easier and more importantly was my ability to focus on the talent, not the lights.
One of the things I noticed right off about the R2 Pro was the battery level indicator. (BTW neither the R2/X1 or the XT32 have battery level indicators) I had just put fresh rechargeable Enloop AAs into the unit and in a matter of seconds it went from 3 bars to 2. Strange…so I changed to a new pair and it was the same. I then got out two fresh Duracell Alkalines and guess what? Three bars stayed. Since I had not yet read the manual and figured I needed to put batteries into the unit to follow along I began to search for the answer in the user manual. Page 09 states:
“AA alkaline batteries are recommended…..Low Battery Indicator When the battery power is weak, less than 2.5v…replace them to assure a strong wireless signal and reliable flash triggering.”
Well there you have it. Alkalines are 1.5v and rechargeables are 1.2v. So right off the bat 2.4v is BELOW the 2.5v they recommend if batteries need replacement. This is certainly not a deal breaker even though I use rechargeable batteries for all of my gear. I will research if anyone makes 1.5v rechargeable batteries. And I will have to find out through testing if 2.4v affects the transmitter’s ability to consistently fire my strobes. If not, then it’s back to using alkaline batteries in this unit. It’s also very interesting that the battery indicator does NOT come on immediately when you boot up the unit. There’s about a two second delay before it appears. I surmise that the unit is ACTUALLY testing the battery level before displaying the remaining voltage…..interesting.
I should also state that I am NOT a speedlight user. I may use one now and again, but my work does not lend itself to speedlights. My work involves the use of strobes so I won’t be testing/writing much if anything about the unit’s compatibility with speed lights. Sorry. I’m not a review site, but like to post what I observe to help other shooters who may or may not operate with the gear I talk about. While I’m on that subject I realize that this unit has TCM, TTL Converted to Manual. Never had that, seldom if EVER use TTL. I’m the old school light meter kinda OG and with digital hell I don’t really need to use my light meter all the time. I can get pretty close because I do this so much and adjust my lights/aperture/ISO/Speed after looking at the shot and Histogram. So I will get around to ‘testing’ the TCM at some point and report my findings. It seems like a cool feature though…
Initial operational observations
HSS and Second Curtain Sync
The R2 Pro requires you to select HSS, Second Curtain Sync or nothing. Unlike the R2/X1 and the XT32 which automatically switch to HSS above Canon’s sync speed, you must enable HSS on the unit or the camera will not go above the sync speed, at least on the 1DX. With the X1/R2 when the shutter is set at 1/30th or slower the camera automatically goes into SCS. The XT32 does not and you must set SCS in the camera’s flash menu when using the XT32. On the R2 Pro C you must set SCS on the transmitter or the flash will remain in first curtain sync. Unless I plan to use SCS I found that leaving the controller in HSS allows it to function in both HSS or normal sync.
In the Group view you must press the MOD button which lights all of the group’s modeling lights. Only then can you turn OFF individual modeling lights for multiple strobes. If you do not turn on all modeling lights in the group view then selecting a specific group with the physical buttons on the left side of the controller does not show the MOD choice on the menu. Sounds confusing I know, but once you get a unit you will see. I prefer the ability to decide which strobe’s modeling light is on or off and the unit has that ability.
Like the modeling light I prefer to control individual units beeping, but it appears it’s an all or nothing choice with the R2 Pro. Certainly not a deal breaker! The nice thing is this unit has a Menu button which easily accesses the former “Cf” function area. That’s where you can enable or disable the sound along with other functions.
Individual Group On/Off function
There are often times when I want to turn an individual strobe on or off and this can easily be done with the R2 Pro. You simply go from the Group view to an individual Group and toggle through the choices of M, TTL or Off using the physical Mode key. Easy!
This is in the Menu area and it’s welcomed. There have been a number of times when I was using my XT32 that I’d get misfires while standing right next to my keylight! It was not all the time, but sporadically and at random times. Now in the Menu area is a DIST choice of 1-100m or 0-30m. In studio and on location I tend to shoot within the 30m distance so it’s nice to have that choice. I’ll be testing to see if I get any misfires when close to strobes. I’ve never had an issue with either my X1/R2 or XT32 at long distances.
Good god I love having an ALL button that is physical so I can easily turn all of my lights up or down keeping ratios I’ve set before the same. I’ll use this feature all of the time.
Something I’ll miss….
On the XT32 when you change Channels in the upper right hand corner is a little diagram of how the old school dip switches correspond to your channel selection. I know most of you don’t use those old dip switches anymore. But for me when I use my Pentax 645Z and the old FT-16 USB receivers to get HSS with xPLOR/Godox strobes I am often changing channels. It’s pretty idiot proof for me to just look at the diagram and switch those little dip switches. Oh well… I’ll just carry my XT32 as a backup anyway.
These are just my initial impressions of the long awaited R2 Pro! And the topics I’ve outline above are the features that are important to me and my work. I have yet to test the unit other than to see how HSS/SCS work and they perform just fine with both the xPLOR/eVOLV line of strobes. I’ll be posting more as I have the time to test the units and finally in commercial work. So stay tuned.
UPDATE February 26 2019
Update to the update. The visitor who left me a message stating the baby pin did not come with their stand was mistaken. THE STAND DOES INDEED COME WITH THE STAND AND CAME WITH THEIRS. I have deleted their comment in the comment section.
UPDATE May 15 2018
I continue to appreciate the strength and build quality of the stand. I have been using it to hold my Mole Richardson 412 converted Hollywood Fresnel. The total weight of the Mole with barn doors and 1200ws strobe head is 29 pounds. Add to that the weight of one or two Flashpoint 600s and this thing remains rock solid. The only downside? It’s a bitch to lift that spotlight up! LOL
UPDATE December 22 2017
The more I use these stands the more impressed I have become. Not only do I find they present a better value than Matthews stands, but their wide footprint makes them invaluable for my work. I use one religiously whenever I’m using a long boom arm to suspend lights/modifiers over the talent. I’ve found that by placing my 15 pound counterweight on one of the legs rather than on the boom arm is beneficial for two reasons. First I am not having to lift an additional 15 pounds up while raising the height of the stand. Secondly the lower placement of the counterweight is more effective in offsetting the weight of the modifier and light head than placing the weight in a higher location on the stand.
UPDATE October 19 2017
I’ve had the opportunity to use this stand extensively over the past few months. I will simply say that whenever I need to ENSURE that my light/boom/whatever combination needs to be rock solid it is my go to light stand. I always use it when I’m using a boom arm for an overhead light. Or when I use my 59″ Zeppelin. Do I like lugging it to locations? Oh hell no!!! It’s damn heavy, but the trade off of stability and rock solid dependability to ensure the talent is never at risk of being injured is well worth it!
UPDATE August 16 2017
I am preparing for a fashion shoot and due to the way I will configure my 59″ Westcott Zeppelin on my boom I could not be happier with my Flashpoint Junior Steel Wheeled 12′ Stands! Their huge footprint makes them so stable for things like this.
UPDATE July 17 2017
I recently wrote an article about using all of my Xplor/Godox lights in one shoot including the Junior Stands. You can view that post here.
UPDATE: February 18 2017
Today I ran an eight hour studio session for a client’s upcoming season brochure. I was able to use the Flashpoint Junior Steel Wheeled Stand – 12′ for an entire day. I should explain that this day involved shooting seven different scenes with different talent for each, so moving lights around was constant. I will simply say that the stand performed FLAWLESSLY and I will not hesitate to purchase another and another. The wheels are incredible and roll over extension cords with ease. Granted none of my strobes use cords, but my smoke/haze machines/wind machines do! These stands are highly recommended for its performance and value. Be forewarned these are not sissy stands, they’re heavy and beefy, use them in studio only!
UPDATE February 20 2019
I continue to be incredibly impressed with this modifier. So much so that I utilized it for an important on location shoot in Los Angeles, CA for a professional Argentine Tango session. The client had hired me to create publicity imagery for their 2019-20 season. The space I chose was Monk Space located in DTLA. It has an incredible variety of rooms all with a different look and feel. In addition to the Deep Parabolic 48″ I used an Elinchrom 39″ Deep Octa, the new Glow Wing Like Parabolic, several cones, and a gobo focusing modifier.
Since everything had to be flown down in checked luggage (including my smoke machine) space was at a premium. Since the Deep 48 comes with a grid, two diffusion panels and a deflector ring it was the right tool for this job. Even though it is NOT my preferred focusing rod modifier, its quality of light and versatility is remarkable.
And in some cases the best modifier is no modifier at all. Sometimes I like to just use a bare bulb. While trolls will get an erection arguing over whether the shape is a ‘true parabola’ others of us will judge its quality by the light produced. I for one love this modifier. An incredible value that gives up very very little in light quality compared to other much more expensive modifiers.
My client was thrilled….
My client has released the press publicity imagery for Rock of Ages so I can now share them which were lit with the Glow EZ 48″
I will simply say having used this modifier for three months that it may be the best value in the business. I have found that it rivals my much more expensive focusing arm modifiers in terms of light quality when used with the disk at the maximum distance allowable on the short rod combined with the inner diffusion panel. Of course it does not have the versatility of a focusing arm, but the light quality is delicious.
The quality of light is both punchy and soft, much like a focusing rod modifier. Incredible value considering it comes with a grid as well. The ease of set up and striking is incredible. I use a short length of PVC pipe to push the locking mechanism down since my reach to the lock is tight. I’m sure smaller versions of this modifier are easier to reach.
I have also used it for a recent (this week) on location publicity shoot, but cannot share the actual photos at this time. Having used it for one of my longest standing large clients will attest to my confidence in the Glow 48. Remarkable. I can share the light test shot I did of the Marketing team for my client before the actual talent arrived from hair and makeup. In the actual shot there are eight people, but for the purposes of my lighting test I only had seven individuals.
Below are all shot with the Glow 48 as the key light camera left with a Saberstrip v2 as the fill light camera right behind the talent. Pentax 645Z with the newly released R2Pro.
Publicity imagery for A Christmas Carol. The only adjustments to these images were done in Lightroom for white balance, lens correction and contrast. Strobes were: key light through the Glow 48 was a Flashpoint 600Pro and an AD200 in the v2 Saberstrip.
Our client Hillbarn Theatre just released one of their publicity posters for the upcoming production of West Side Story. This image was shot using a Flashpoint XPLOR 600PRO and the Glow EZ Lock Deep Parabolic 48″ with disk and inner diffusion panel as the key light. Rim light was a Saberstrip v2 using an eVOLV200.
I did a re-shoot for a client’s West Side Story publicity imagery since they have actually cast the roles. I decided to use the Glow 48 with the metal disk and inner diffusion panel installed instead of my focusing arm modifiers for this session. I wanted a slightly softer yet still punchy look for the mood the client wanted created. I continue to be amazed and happy with the light quality and the ease of set up with this modifier. My only niggle is that it can be tough to push it open because of the size of the modifier. I have to stand to one side and really push down to get it to click. Ah first world problems eh? LOL.
I continue to be impressed with the EZ 48, so much so that it was only one of four modifiers I took for a personal editorial project down to El Segundo to shoot Luna Cycle. (I have an upcoming article on that trip along with photos of course….) The other two modifiers were my Fresnel and two the soon to be released SaberStrip v2.0 which comes out later this month. This project was editorial in nature over ‘beauty‘ in the traditional sense. (I find beauty in loads of things that may not seem obvious.) I know a good many of you (including myself) like to ‘learn’ about modifiers and how they apply to shooting beauty or product. But for me the real test of a modifier is just how versatile it can be in a variety of situations.
The light quality is always my first concern and the EZ has that down pat. The ease of assembly and if it is the right tool for the right job is my second consideration. For the two images below it fit both all three of those criteria perfectly.
I have found that the value and quality of light presented by the EZ is remarkable.
I had a client reschedule one of my sessions, so I decided to do a quality of light test today with this modifier against my SMDV 110 using a focusing rod and my Parabolix 35D modifier. Since the Glow comes with this little metal disk I wanted to find out if it could produce a similar quality of light to my actual focusing rod light modifiers. Spoiler Alert: Yes it can! With one major limitation…..
I was actually away at how good this 95.00 modifier’s quality of light is in real life. The major difference between it and my other focusing rod modifiers is its inability to feather light while using the disk. I almost always feather light using any modifier. I know that many people generally point a modifier directly at the talent, but my taste prefers having the light bounce away from the talent. It produces a delicious wrap that a direct shot just doesn’t accomplish. Because the light source on the Glow is pointing DIRECTLY TOWARD the talent, but is deflected back toward the modifier by the disk (much like a beauty dish), any angle not pointing directly toward your talent exposes the strobe bulb. This creates a severe hot spot and ruins the effects of the modifier. True focusing rod modifiers point the strobe bulb AWAY from the talent toward the modifier. That greatly increases the angle at which the modifier can be turned without exposing the bulb. In addition the housing of focusing rods which hold the strobes have a flange that also shields the bulb from direct line of sight.
One of the “potential issues” I had read somewhere is that the Glow 48 is passing light ‘through‘ the spokes of the housing skeleton. I’m always fascinated how people concern themselves with things like that. In my experience it does NOT affect the quality of light in this modifier.
For the purposes of this test I shot all three modifiers directly at Jenni, no feathering. In the focusing rod comparison, no diffusion material was used on any of the modifiers. The reason I prefer focusing rods is the extra contrast, smoothness and punch they produce in the quality of light. They’re certainly not for everyone, but my clients now insist on this type of light for most of their publicity work. There are exceptions, but it’s what we both prefer. The ability to focus or flood the very same modifier to give different lighting moods/looks is wonderful.
For the SMDV and the Parabolix I had the focusing arm in their mid-flooded position (both used the Parabolix focusing arm and an xPLOR 600 with remote head), meaning halfway out from the apex of the modifier. I did this because the disk on the Glow would only go about halfway from the apex of its modifier. I did notice a color difference between the modifiers as well. I’ve decided to post the images without identifying which modifier was which…until the end. After all we each decide for ourselves what we prefer and I don’t want to influence your view of this modifier. So here we go….
I also wanted to do a quality of light test using both diffusion panels which is the way most of the people will use the Glow 48. I did NOT use the diffusion disk in addition to the two diffusion panels. The inner diffusion panel has a 2 stop circular panel which effectively reduces any potential hot spots. My gold standard in a two diffusion panel configuration has been my beloved Elinchrom 39” Rotalux Deep Octa. I found the Glow achieves 90% of the light I love in the Eli. And considering the Eli is 290.00 PLUS an additional 55.00 for a Bowens speedring AND 86.00 for a hooded diffusion panel (no grid is made for the Eli Rotalux line) that’s a whopping 431.00 compared to 95 bucks. Is that 10% difference worth the extra three and change Benjamins? That’s totally up to how your client feels about the lighting. And if you’re not shooting client work, how you feel about the light quality.
So let’s do a little math:
- Glow 95.00 (46”)
- SMDV 110 (44”) 325.00 (not including a focusing rod)
- Parabolix 35D (89cm) Package 838.00 (including focusing arm)
In order of ease of assembly and breakdown as I used them today (without diffusion panels):
- Glow 48*
- SMDV 110**
- Parabolix 35D
* The Glow is the easiest to assemble and strike IF you don’t use the inner and outer diffusion panels. They must be removed and installed each time you use this modifier.
** The SMDV is hands down the fastest and easiest modifier to assemble and break down if the diffusion panels are installed. You don’t have to remove them when breaking down the modifier. They can remain on the modifier.
- Shot A: Parabolix 35D
- Shot B: Glow 48″
- Shot C SMDV 110cm
I will simply say that the light quality and value of the Glow Deep 48” Quick is REMARKABLE. Add to that fact its cost and it’s a no brainer. It is going into my workflow immediately and I’ll not hesitate to use it when it’s the right tool for the right job. A side note, Jenni the young woman I asked to be my test subject is also a photographer. She was so impressed she plans on purchasing a Glow 48. Hell who can blame her?!
Zarli, a visitor recently asked me two questions, one of which didn’t take long to research and I’m assuming others will have this same question so I’m adding it here. He wants to know the diameter of the changeable speed ring in the unit. The measurement is 144mm or 5 2/3rds of an inch. If the light quality is as I expect I will change the Bowens speed ring to a Cheetahstand low profile ring. I’ve done this for all of my Bowens modifiers when using them without a focusing rod. The reason is the Cheetahstand Low Profile rings allow my Flashpoint strobe bulbs to penetrate further into a modifier giving me a percentage increase in light output. It’s a very easy change and well worth the extra 25 bucks.
Although I have not had time to evaluate the actual light quality of this modifier, I wanted to give my impressions of the Glow EZ Lock Deep Parabolic’s physical build quality of the unit. As is my workflow, until I can test any modifier I won’t be using it on commercial shoots. Since this is my hectic time of year I’m not sure when that will occur. But once it does I will post my impressions here. And I’m not going to get into the fucking bullshit back and forth about whether this is a true parabola. If you’re one of those best of luck and start babbling about geometric facts somewhere else. My world is about creating compelling and excellent imagery, not having to be fucking right. Plenty of other troll places you can go online for that.
At this point it’s way too early to give my impressions of the light quality, simply because I haven’t tried it! But from a construction standpoint I feel that for 95.00 USD it presents a great value. Is it ‘better’ than this brand or that brand? I can’t say, but will say that IF the light quality is great to excellent I will add this to my workflow when it’s the right tool for the right job. More to come…..later.
February 18 2019
I recently used the Flashpoint eVOLV 200 Round Flash Head attached to an AD200 during a professional tango shoot. I like the modeling lamp in the head and find it brighter than the stock Fresnel head in the AD200. I used the light with a ‘voice activated light stand’ (a human) in this instance. Because the Argentine Tango dancers were moving freely a normal light stand just would not be the best tool for the job. Plus the room was filled with haze and the rays of light coming through the doorway made balancing light a challenge.
The quality of light produced by the Round Flash head is very very nice. I won’t ever hesitate to use it when it’s the right tool for the right job. And in this case it was.
Update February 18 2019
I had the opportunity to use the Glow Wing Like during an Argentine Tango shoot to create marketing imagery for the dance troupe. I will say that the modifier is a great medium in terms of light quality between the Glow EZ lock Parabolic Softbox and an Elinchrom 39″ Rotalux Deep Octabox. The primary difference is of course the fabric being white. And its ability to be feathered is not as keen as a normal octa or umbrella. But its shape came into play during this shoot since the ceiling was very low and I needed to have the modifier as high as possible.
You can view more of the images I created using both the Wing Like and the Glow EZ Lock Parabolic here.
AD600 with a 5″ cone reflector was used as my back light/smoke illumination light. Water on the concrete floor creates the reflection. 64″ Wing Like Parabolic is my key light placed horizontal to the ground all the way up to the eight foot ceiling.
Original Post February 11 2019
I recently received the Glow EZ Lock Wing-Like Parabolic and am completely intrigued! It’s not just the shape of the umbrella or the oh so popular parabolic title, but the inner diffusion panel. I’ve NEVER seen any umbrella including the Angler ParaSail Parabolic Umbrella with the Glow’s configuration of diffusion panel.
The Glow has diffusion material OVER the umbrella ribs. Sure there are flat diffusion panels which go completely over an umbrella opening, but I’m not aware of one like this.
It’s a bit difficult to see in Adorama’s stock photo, but the ribs of the umbrella are covered which then creates a cone of diffusion material…so interesting! I was watching some friend’s 11 year old daughter while they attended an ‘adult theatre play’ so Lily was NOT a willing light test victim…hahahahaha. But I wanted to give some initial observations before I do an actual test of the units.
- It ‘appears‘ that these can be used without the inner diffusion panel, BUT and this is a big but; it would be a total hassle to remove the white fabric. Each rib is attached not only at the ends, but with two additional threads points which hold the fabric onto the ribs. Sliding the fabric off of the ribs would be easy. Reinstalling them onto the ribs would be a whole different story. So I’m not sure if it’s meant to be used without the diffusion panel.
- The inner silver fabric is smooth and shiny, much like the original PCB Extreme umbrellas. If you’re not familiar with those think of the shiny side of aluminum foil and you’ll get the picture.
- Some of the nibs that hold the inner and outer fabric can come loose from the umbrella ribs during shipping. But after that they’ve stayed in place nicely.
- The shaft of the umbrella is well made, seems solid rather than hollow. Doesn’t dent too much when screw down umbrella mounts are used.
- On strobes or holders that don’t have a screw down mount for umbrella shafts the unit will rotate a bit, as with the 600 Pro which only has a friction holder for umbrellas shafts.
- The construction is a 7/10 and should hold up well for those (like me) who treat their gear well. For rental houses where people who rent could give a shit about care they’d have a much shorter life.
- They come in three different sizes, 45, 60, and 88 inches.
I will of course be testing the quality of light and some unusual ways to use these because of its shape. People who have used this shape of modifier talk about how great it is in tight spaces or low ceilings. I can see how that would be of high value. But I have some different ideas on how well these will perform…..more to come.
I really wish I had these to try during a recent all day publicity shoot. Not that I would have used them for the actual shoot, but done some testing with real talent in a great environment. Oh well….
First Post – February 15 2019
For years I have used Sunbounce reflectors. I have found them both durable and ‘OK’ in the wind. I say good rather than excellent because just like anything that is fabric (like sailboat sails…) it catches the wind. When Adorama came out with their Glow Collapsible Circular Wind Proof Reflector with Handles I wanted to test them. I chuckle at the term ‘wind proof’ since for me that would mean even in a tornado something would survive! But I know what they meant, ‘wind resistant’ is the term I would use.
When my photo partner and I unpacked the 32″ one (the one that’s reviewed here) it was a sunny day so we tried ‘reflecting‘ sunlight with the Glow 32. Although I felt that it was comparable to my beloved Sunbounce 32″ she said “Oh it’s not as good.” Hum…. So today I decided to actually test the reflective qualities of the Glow 32. I used one of my AD600s set to 1:1 full power, attached an eight inch cone and placed the strobe about 6 feet from the reflector. I then held my Sekonic meter at the end of the AD600 above the cone and fired five shots for each reflector.
Here are the results all metered at ISO 100 at a shutter speed of 1/100th:
- Sunbounce 32″ silver/white reversible reflector using the silver side
- Glow 32″ Wind Proof
So the Glow is 1/3 of a stop more reflective even though it’s not a solid fabric! Now to be fair my beloved Sunbounce (which I shamed Greg Gorman into giving to me btw) is old and NOT as silver as it was when I got it. BUT it’s still very reflective. So for me even if the Glow was a third of a stop less reflective the fact that it’s so efficient is incredible. The real test for me is its advertised wind resistance so….
I have a battery operated leaf blower which has variable stepless power that I use as an on location wind machine. I set it to “Low” and placed both the Glow and Sunbounce on a reflector arm and set it onto a light stand. Don’t bother being a troll and asking me the MPH or other shit trolls like to ask. This is unscientific and I just wanted to see how it compares to a regular piece of fabric in wind. Needless to say the Sunbounce IMMEDIATELY started turning around the light stand. The Glow on the other hand only began to turn as I placed the blower closer to the mesh. Incredible! I’d estimate my seat of the pants difference to be about 60% LESS affected by wind.
There are several other facets to the Glow I appreciate. The metal rim is more narrow than my Sunbounce which makes it much easier to attach to my reflector arm. Normally I have a 4/10 cussing with the Sunbounce. With the Glow it’s 0/10! The other thing the Glow has are two female attachment points in the handles. On one side is a 1/4 20 and the other a 5/8s thread. I prefer to use a reflector arm bracket but in a pinch being able to mount the reflector on a male threaded light stand is great!
It’s not reversible like my Sunbounce with one side silver and the other white. So if you’re looking for that versatility then the Glow Wind Proof isn’t the right one for you. I’ll be trying these on location shoots for sure knowing the reflective/wind resistance quality is good!
Perhaps an unforeseen advantage of these reflectors is the fact that the screens can be seen through presents a HUGE advantage for me. Assistants can view how the light is falling on the talent even if the reflector is blocking their view. This will come into play when using Glow’s larger reflectors as well. For me that is even more important than being wind resistant….well as important.
I’ll be using these both in studio and on location. I prefer more specular light in most of my sessions. Will I give up my framed Sunbounce reflectors? Nope, the right tool for the right job is my motto. And in wind or when an assistant needs to look through the reflector these are the right tool for my work.
UPDATE February 11 2019
I realized I had posted some of my lighting techniques under a different blog heading about the v2.0 Saberstrip modifiers, which I consider to be a revolutionary modifier, but had not updated this post. I do so because I find the v2.0 Saberstrips to be almost invaluable for me in creating dance imagery. In some cases I have used three of them to light dancers in studio. As an overhead light on a boom arm and two on each side of the dancers as rim lights. It creates a very dramatic sculpture of their forms as they move. I have also taken to using my 10″ Fresnel to light dancers. I love the light produced by a large lens Fresnel. A hard contrasty light that is unlike any other modifier.
The following images were all created with three v2.0 Saberstrips as shown in my photo above.
The following were shot with a backlight with a cone, three v2.0 Saberstrips and the Fresnel as a fill light.
And finally two v2.0 Saberstrips and the Fresnel as a key light.
For me experimenting with light is one of the most exciting parts of dance photography. Don’t be afraid to experiment, otherwise all of your images will begin to look the same. And what fun is that?
UPDATE October 12 2017
In my review of Cheetahstand’s Quick Stripbox and Lantern I have shown my lighting setups for a different dance troupe. You can view that post here.
I was recently hired to do an annual studio dance session by one of my long time clients. I’m posting this to show how I use xPLOR, eVOLV, Cheetahstand, CononMark, etc lights and modifiers in a session. This was an all-day session lasting approximately 6.5 hours of nonstop shooting. I had charged both the Xplor and eVOLV lights to full the day before. I never even ran close to running out of battery power on any of the strobes. All of the strobes showed half full at the end of the day. My Canon 1DXII showed 25% battery life left at the end of the day to give you some reference. I was using the WFT-E6A wireless transmitting dongle on my camera to wirelessly tether my rig to my iPad so the client could view the images as they happened. Using the transmitter uses more battery life than without.
There seems to be quite a bit of ‘talk’ that certain brands of modifiers/lights/etc. must be used in order to ‘be a pro.’ Nonsense. How one uses gear, how one engages with the talent and how one uses their imagination are the most important part of imagery to my clients. So I post this in hopes that it will help other shooters who are interested in multi light set ups, but not hung up on brand names or scientific theories about what makes a true parabola or other talking points. When people ask me what is the one thing I would have for gear over everything else, I always say your imagination. Years ago I was blessed to be able to spend time with Annie Leibovitz and I asked her “How do I shoot more like you?” Her response? “Don’t shoot like me Mark, shoot like you. It’s the only way to develop your own style.”
Some of my final images.
January 13 2019
I continue to be absolutely amazed at the flexibility and versatility of the v2.0 Saberstrips. As of this writing I do know that Scott has not yet offered these for sale to the general public. The reason I continue to post my findings here is in hopes of motivating some of you to contact him to ‘hurry him along‘ in the sale of these modifiers. In addition to dance, their form factor and quality of light make them invaluable in my tool kit. Seriously – combined with the AD200 strobes I feel they are a revolution in modifiers. Here are just a few of the in studio dance imagery created using these lights.
Update November 19 2018
I continue to be so impressed how using two v2.0 Saberstrips can produce the light I so love which could only be created with a ring light. But the huge difference is since the lights are NOT attached to the camera, I can use a long lens, yet keep the lighting near the talent. This was taken with a Canon EF 85mm f1.2 lens. The versatility of these modifiers is incredible.
Not to mention my use of them in dance imagery creation.
Several of you have written to me asking when Scott will release these modifiers. I highly suggest you write to him on his website to ask. I continue to encourage him to release these modifiers.
Update October 14 2018
I recently conducted a studio dance session using three Saberstrip v2.0s combined with a Mole Richardson Fresnel spotlight I have converted to a strobe. I continue to be so amazed and impressed by the versatility and light quality of the second generation Saberstrips. As I’ve stated before I’m just scratching the surface of what can be accomplished with these remarkable lighting tools.
Each of these images were created using a combination of Fresnel/Saberstrip light modifiers.
Update September 17 2018
Yesterday I conducted an all day dance session. I found that utilizing three v2.0 Saberstrips with 3 Flashpoint AD200s produced remarkable light for studio dance. Rim lights, using two Saberstrips and one overhead light produced the exact mood I was trying to achieve. Seriously this combination is incredible for my dance work.
Update August 1 2018
I recently used the v2 Saberstrips in on location sessions in Seattle. Man I could not have done it without them! You can read about it here.
I have also completed a publicity shoot using two Saberstrips for a West Side Story publicity image as shown below.
Like most other folks and way before I began shooting as a full time pro, I had a day job. It was during this time I discovered a very unique light modifier called the SaberStrip. What was so intriguing to me is its shape and the quality of light it produces. I was a bit suspicious when I first received my Strip because it seemed like ‘just a high quality shipping tube’ with some rip stop nylon as the modifier’s cover. Also this was back in the day when I was almost exclusively using speed lights, but had two PCB Einsteins for my ‘studio work.’ And this was well before the advent of built in radio receivers in speed lights, so I had to use a pigtail cable connected to my speed light inside the tube to attach it to the Phottix Transmission receiver I was using at the time. A bit of a hassle, but it was the only thing that existed at the time, which was ‘high tech’ for that era.
Although I loved the quality of light it produced, for me the power or rather lack of power of the speed light relegated the Strip to my closet. I tried to fabricate my own ‘Strip’ for my Einsteins, but found out it was not as easy as I thought. So I basically gave up and moved on to other things.
In 2013 I decided to create a series of images about the hands of artists which included both performing as well as creating artists. Since I wanted to shoot the talent in their natural environments I found that all of my ‘normal’ modifiers would not work well due to space. In some cases I had literally 10 inches or less to place a light and modifier to light the talent! So as I was rummaging through my gear closet I happened upon my Strip that I had doomed to its lonely existence in the back of my modifier closet. Eureka! That’s the perfect tool for this job and since most of the venues I was shooting in were very small I would not need a ton of light power so my speed light would do just fine.
By happenstance the Director of the Peninsula Museum of Art saw one of my images and asked to see the rest. She then asked if I’d consider having a solo exhibit at the museum the following year. I politely told her no and when she inquired as to the reason for my decision I simply replied “I don’t think my work is good enough for a museum and I think it would be very narcissist to do that.” She simply smiled and said OK. Later one of the artist I know mentioned that he had heard I was offered a solo museum exhibit but turned it down. Werner asked me if I ever go to museum exhibits to which I responded “Why yes, I love going, why?” His response was typical Werner, direct and to the point; “Well quit being so fucking selfish and let others enjoy and be inspired by what you’ve created Mark!” I’m seldom if ever at a loss for words but I had nothing to say. So I contacted the Director and agreed to display my work which I titled “29 Hands, 15 Artists.” With the exception of one of the images, all were lit with my Strip and a speed light.
Fast forward to today, 2018 and I was made aware of SaberStrip’s v2.0 version of the Strip which accepts an eVOLV200! In March 2018 I was shipped two advanced copies of the modifiers to test to see if I could offer any feedback. Here’s what I’ve found so far:
The 200 is inserted into the bottom of the modifier through what I call the “Tractor Tire” the designer fabricated it to attach the 200. I believe his design is to offer strength to the mount. I simply like to think he liked Tonka Trucks as a kid! The knurled knob on the left in this photo is the turning knob that screws the 200 in place. The other nice design feature is you can eject the battery of the 200 without removing it from the modifier, a very thoughtful design element.
Sorry for the shitty camera phone blurry image. The red thing you see at the top of this shot indicates that the screw is NOT attached to the 200 which is a very nice feature. One of the things that I found to be a design issue, it’s very easy to over tighten the screw. There’s no need to do so because it makes it VERY difficult to unscrew the unit from the mount. I learned the hard way and had to use a screwdriver and hammer to loosen the screw.
It’s also not possible to let the eVOLV slide down into the tube because there are ribs on the interior which keeps the strobe from sliding too far into the unit. I believe he may have other plan since those interior ribs seem to be reinforcements for four exterior metal nipples. Barn door or grid accessories for the future? Perhaps.
I painted a directional arrow on the housing to indicate which direction to loosen the mounting screw.
What the interior looks like in the v2.0 Strip. You can see the reinforcing supports which prevent the eVOLV from sliding too far into the tube.
Although most people will not have to do this, I ground down the mounting peg that is cast into the housing. This allows me to easily insert the peg into female mounts I use to place the modifier in either a vertical or horizontal position. Although the v2.0 Strip works extremely well in stands which offer the mounting peg to be in a vertical or horizontal position, not all light stands offer that option. When I travel to other cities I often have to rent stands and not all rental houses have adjustable spigot locations on their stands.
This is why I needed to shave down the diameter of the molded peg. It would not fit as cast. I find these female spigots invaluable in my gear bag.
I plan to use these to mimic a ‘ring light’ because I can now leave the modifier and strobe very close to the talent and back away to shoot with a long lens. Not possible with traditional ring lights. Also since the eVOLVS have modeling lights in the Fresnel head I now have a modeling light in this configuration. Sure, not brightest modeling light, but way better than none.
Canon 1DXII EF135 lens ISO 100 both AD200s set at 1/8 power. 1/5000th f2.0
In those instances where I want to place the v2.0 Strip close to the ground I will simply use a Godox S bracket as a base. This configuration will be perfect for dance shoots as fill lights or anytime you wish to place the units very low onto a flat surface.
|SaberStrip v1.0||SaberStrip v2.0||w/2 eVOLVS and SS|
|Light||Flashpoint Zoom R2||Evolv200|
|Flash weight||17 oz||31 oz|
|Distance to Sekonic||5 feet||5 feet|
|Time to Recycle||6.8 sec||1.57 sec|
|Length of fabric||29″||29″|
|Width of fabric||2.25″||2.25″|
|Length of modifier||38.5″||34.75″|
|Diameter of modifier||3.5″||3.5″|
|Saberstrip Weight||19 oz||27 oz|
For me the most significant stats are the recycle time and power. It’s the very reason I stopped using my original speed light Strip, it just lacked power. And in my work a one second delay feels like 12 years. Human expressions change in a nanosecond and invariably it’s the money shot I wanted, but missed because the strobe was recycling. Two full stops and five seconds faster in recycle time makes this modifier an incredible tool.
The ‘tube’ freely rotates around the mount so it can easily and conveniently turn the fabric to any position needed. There’s also a very small 1/4 inch 20 screw hole in the ‘tractor tire’ housing. I’m not sure why the guy put one there but it’s damn convenient. I plan to place a female mounting stud in there so I can either mount the Strip with the built in male stud or a female one. It should be noted that if you place a long ¼ 20 screw into that hole it will stop the free rotation of the tube. So IF you are the anal type and want to lock down the tube’s rotation you can do that with this screw hole.
This coming weekend I have three personal project shoots and I plan to test the light quality and applications in those sessions. I’m not sure how many times the Strip v2.0 will be my key light, but now that the recycle times and the power available through this meets my needs I’m sure it will always be in my bag.
Having a stand, a strobe and a modifier all in one easy to transport package is great for run and gun shooting, especially outside in moderate to high wind. My preferred stand for these is the Neewer Light Stand, 114 inches/290 centimeters Stainless Steel Heavy Duty with 1/4-inch to 3/8-inch Universal Adapter. It has a removable spigot that can be configured for either a vertical or horizontal female mount which is perfect for the new Strips. They are well made, strong and inexpensive.
The number of ways to mount the Strip seems endless. My current favorite grip mount for the Strip is the Matthews Mini Grip Head. I modified it by drilling out one of the holes to 9/16th of an inch which fits the Strip’s 5/8th inch stud.
What I like:
- High quality Construction
- Built in male mounting stud
- Ability to rotate the modifier around two axis
- Accepts the Evolv200
- Well balanced, having the strobe at the mounting end of the modifier
- Very wind resistant
- Will fit into very tight spaces
- Male stud needs to be the 5/8th inch size standard of all spigots
- Wheel that attaches the strobe needs to have directional arrows.
- Wheel needs to prevent over tightening
During the weekend of April 21st 2018 I had my first opportunity to use the v2 Sabers in studio. I wanted to determine if paring them in a horizontal way would give me the ring light type of affect. I’ve always loved the look of a ring light shot, but have been frustrated that the distance of the light to the talent is limited by the focal length of my lens. Using my ring light further away to compress the talent’s face meant that the light is also further away, causing a harsher look. But using two Strips horizontal to the ground with the ability to adjust the distance between them allows me to leave the light source close to the talent, yet move further back to use a longer focal length. Having my cake and eating it too is wonderful!
The images below show how this worked on Jessica and I’m very happy with the results. Shot with a 135mm prime lens.
The flexibility of being able to angle the pitch of the Strips and distance between them is wonderful. More control than a ring light. As a fill/rim light I have not experienced a better modifier. Reflectors make great fill or rim light modifiers, but I have always preferred strobes for that task. It allows me finer control of my fill light.
By changing the angle of the top Strip in the image of Jess with her arm above her head I am able to cast a bit of a shadow on her eyes while filling in under her eyes to prevent shadows. That flexibility allows me to create nuance shadow/highlights with the Strips.
Here I am using the Strips as a fill and rim light. All of these images are three light shots. My 10” Fresnel is the key light, a gobo modifier is used on a light to create pattern on the background and the Strip is used as a fill/rim light.
The control of the Strip as a fill light is quite lovely and can be used as subtle or as bold as you wish. Here are two more images I created using two SS’s in parallel as a ‘ring light’ but in my view with a much better result.
Oh and large groups in moderate to strong wind? I was recently at a client to cover the high school musical awards and prior to the event kids assemble outside. It’s often a fun place to get group shots before the show. The issue is always crowded sidewalks and of course crazy high school kids. I shot this image with ONE SS and one eVOLV200 at HALF POWER.
I recently visited Luna Cycle in El Segundo to do some documentary photography of the staff. In the vast majority of cases the SS were used due to their flexibility and light quality. As in my 29 Hands Exhibit I was able to use the SS to light the talent in places where it would be almost impossible to fit a modifier in the space I had available and achieve a quality of light I wanted. Below is an example of one of the shots.
My apologies as I know you won’t be able to ‘unsee’ the image that follows, but to date it illustrates the rim lighting capabilities of the Strip. During this session I was to shoot two Drag Queens. The fella on the left is 6-1 without heels and with his 4” heels it makes him 6-5! I used the Strip as a rim light and if you notice the illumination from head to toe it’s quite remarkable. Could this be accomplished with a gridded light? Of course it could. But due to the very slim shape of the Strip it allowed me to get as close to the back drape as possible keeping spill to a minimum and certainly much less than a softbox without a grid.
Outdoors with the Strip is quite good. It is ‘almost’ impervious to wind, high wind. It is more wind resistant than my go to outdoor modifier, the PCB Omni. The disadvantage is since the Strip uses the AD200 it is a full stop less powerful than the AD600 I use with the Omni or my Aputure Fresnel head. But to circumvent that disadvantage I often use two Strips as a key light when outdoors. And in those instances where I want a very large light source I use three Strips configured in a Y shape. I find it’s the equivalent to a 45” octa with 600ws of power. Ever use something that size out in moderate or high wind? And I use all three on a single stand.
My partner recently conducted a head shot session using two of the Strips. She used one as the key and the other as a rim light. It was very windy under the concrete bridge where she was shooting and the Strips barely wobbled. The light quality is excellent and easily replicated her preferred modifier, a Glow 36” Octa. But in that kind of wind, especially the gusts that occurred an octa would have been quite the handful. She does prefer the catch light of the octa, a personal preference to which many people may agree. I happen to feel that round catch lights are the default, yet in natural light a catch light is anything but round…..
As you can see the quality of light produced by the Strip is excellent. Two lights, both Strips. One as the key light the other as a rim light.
Is it the perfect modifier? Nope, but as of right now there is no perfect modifier. Just like there’s not a perfect camera, lens or person. Is it the most versatile modifier I currently own or use? YES! For me the v2 Saber Strips are revolutionary and I have not even scratched the surface of how they can be used. Thank goodness for the AD200 lights and Scott’s development to incorporate them into the Saber Strips! Scott has mentioned that the v2 versions which use the eVOLV200s will be available in late July 2018.
Update January 13 2019
I purchased the 36″ version of this modifier based on my experience with the 25″ model. I’m not sure if manufacturing has changed, but the 36″ model’s snaps which hold the inner diffusion panel are of less quality than my 25″ model. They are EXTREMELY difficult to remove once they are snapped into place on the modifier. So much so that removing them is very difficult and one of them pulled the mating snap off of the modifiers. I now use a binder clip to hold that part of the diffusion panel in place.
Be aware that the modifiers may be of a different manufacturing level when purchasing these.
Original Post November 26 2018
I was recently asked by a client to create a portrait of one of their executives that will appear in a magazine article. They let me know only one day before my flight. This was a surprise since my trip was originally scheduled to fly up for a production shoot. This meant I had no plans to haul any strobes or modifiers up on my airline trip. So in order to keep my luggage small I opted to take my Glow EZ Lock Octa Small Quick Softbox for Speedlite (25″) along with my Flashpoint eVOLV 200 Round Flash Head as my lighting gear.
I really like how small the EZ Octa folds down. It fit so well into my suitcase and hardly took any space at all. Because the modifier is relatively small, I knew I would have to place the light close to the talent. I rarely use modifiers smaller than 39″ as my key lights, but in this case opted to use the 25″ due to packing space. I used the metal disk in its concave placement along with the outer diffusion panel. Although the Adorama ad shows that the modifier comes with a grid, mine did not…..
So here are some of the shots:
My assessment of the modifier is it’s ‘good.’ The light quality is good for a modifier this small. Its pack ability is excellent and I will continue to use it as a rim or hair light. Or when I need to pack very small as a key light as well.
Update November 25 2018
It’s been over three years since I wrote this article. Since that time I have had the privilege and experience working with other disabled individuals, primarily those who are deaf. Antoine Hunter, a deaf dancer who I photographed for the magazine “The Pool“ and Joshua Castille a deaf actor who appeared in Hunchback for 5th Avenue Theatre are both remarkable in their abilities as artists. My work with both Christine and Sarah along with those who I’ve come to know since then has forever changed my life. Just like ‘White Privilege” it’s tough for anyone non white to understand the meaning of that phrase. So often when I bring it up (if at all) to whites, they immediately go on the defensive, as if they’ve done something wrong. No in 95% of the time that’s not the case. Privilege of any type often goes without any conscious thought. It just ‘is.’ In the very same way ‘able body privilege’ exists for which I have been guilty, but without meaning to be guilty. Not experiencing first hand being disabled doesn’t allow one to truly KNOW the feelings/experiences/hardships of what was once just a right.
My partner recently sent me a New York Times article that hits very close to home, Revelations in a Wheelchair by Nolan Ryan Trowe. It is especially poignant because he is a photographer. He became disabled due to a cliff diving spinal injury and decided to use his photographic skills to document how able body privilege works.
This month the Camp Fire near Oroville, CA recorded the largest wildfire in California history. A 62 year old woman who was wheelchair bound due to a stroke managed to escape despite her disability. This is especially poignant to me since after caring for my mother for three years before her death, I suffered a stroke 22 days after her passing. I am forever grateful that my stroke has not left me with any visible disability.
I know that many people visit my site to learn about my experiences with ‘gear.’ But the most important part of my life isn’t gear. It’s the people I meet and befriend. I hope you find that in your life as well.
Original Article June 29 2015
Three years ago I was inspired to be uncomfortable when I met and worked with Adrian Blue, a deaf actor/director. He immediately struck me as an individual I wanted to know, and even though he would read lips I was motivated to learn ASL, at least enough to sign a few sentences. I’ve always been crappy at languages, but I noticed I had more of an aptitude at ASL than I did in learning French!
It was during my interaction with Adrian that I realized I knew NOTHING about people with disabilities. Growing up I had one family friend who had been born with Down’s Syndrome. I was not very popular in school simply because I was the only Japanese American, but each and every time Karen came to visit, she would run up to me yelling MARK! and gave me the largest hug I’d ever received. I noticed my father was very uncomfortable around her which bothered me quite a bit. He own discomfort arose from not knowing what to do/say to her. It was while watching his reaction that I realized growth can come from placing myself in ‘uncomfortable’ situations so I could grow as a human.
So for the past two years I have embarked on a personal journey to learn more about those with disabilities, to educate myself about something I know very little about. I originally started with a young girl and have now worked with two young women who from birth have used a wheelchair. My voice is to use photography in describing how I see my world and those who interact within my life. How despite each person’s handicap we are in the end more than our disabilities. And each of us has one or more. Some are visible, some are not. How we deal with our own disabilities determines how we will live our lives. How we view our brothers and sisters will determine how we view our world.
At the end of this project, at least the photographic part I will amass all of the lessons I have experienced at the grace of those who have allowed me to share a part of their lives with me. But for now I will simply say that we are all the same, we are all human souls who all want the very same things; love, respect and community.
UPDATE November 18 2018
I opted to use this modifier during a recent ballet shoot for a SF Ballet student. Lately I have been so impressed by the quality of light Glow modifiers produce. The Deep Beaded model is no exception. The flexibility to focus the light by pushing or pulling the strobe further in or out makes these a inexpensive alternative to focusing arm modifiers. I’d estimate they achieve 60-80% of what focusing rod modifiers can produce in terms of light quality and versatility. Part of the reason I surmise is the texture of the silver fabric in this modifier. It is much like my beloved Elinchrom Rotalux Deep Octa, pebbled.
Both of the shots that follow were taken with the strobe ‘mid focused’ into the modifier. I wanted the punch of contrast combined with a softness for the mood of the shot.
UPDATE May 13 2018
I recently used the Glow 65″ Deep Beaded Silver Umbrella on a commercial shoot. My decision to use this modifier over my normal focusing rod modifiers had to do with the unknown. Although I knew what the client wanted, I had no idea of the area where we were to shoot the session or whether I had to move from spot to spot. Breaking down and setting up a modifier could have presented a potential issue with time, so I opted to use the Glow. I was very pleased with the results as is the client. The beaded texture of the modifier is something I prefer as it adds more contrast to the images.
Wow! I’ve read about ‘deep umbrellas’ for some time now and have tended to “poopoo’d” them. Sure higher end companies like Profoto manufacture deep umbrellas, but for their price point I’d rather go with an octabox. I had been a huge fan of PCB’s PLM umbrellas and still utilize them from time to time, but had made a move to more ‘professional’ (bullshit word btw) modifiers like Parabolix. I love the look of focusing arm modifiers produce. Punchy, yet soft when you want soft. Focused when I want focused light. I now find ‘normal’ softboxes boring in what they produce and when I want to keep spill with softboxes, I’d have to use grids. Not so with a focusing arm modifiers. This deep umbrella prevents “spray light everywhere” situations like normal umbrellas and non gridded softboxes.
Prior to using focusing arm modifiers my go to octa was the Elinchrom Rotalux Deep Octabox 39″. The light that modifier throws is magical. So when I saw the Glow was offered in the same ‘pebbled’ texture silver interior fabric as my beloved Eli 39, so I opted for that model. BTW I continue to use the Eli 39″ in both a diffused and focusing arm configuration. During a client’s session they allowed me to use the Glow 65″ in some ‘test shots’ with their talent. I used it as the key light, camera right for two of the actors. The fill light was camera left and I was using a 69″ Elinchrom Oct which I have adapted to use a focusing arm. In this configuration I had it in the fully flooded position. In another post I have displayed my shot using the 69″ Eli with a focusing rod.
The actors are in costume for the play “The Elephant Man.”
So the question is, would I use the Glow instead of the Parabolix, CononMark or Zeppelins. The simple answer to that question is ‘no’ I have yet to find a single modifier that can do EVERYTHING well. BUT when choosing the right tool for the right job I would not hesitate to use the Glow Deep with pebbled silver interior. As a matter of fact I plan to obtain the two smaller units as well. The ROI and ease of setup and striking of an umbrella is undeniable. What The Glow line has done is mitigate the down sides of the lowly umbrella for a price that presents an unbelievable value. And for me no matter how ‘cheap’ a piece of gear may cost, if it doesn’t produce EXCELLENT light when I’m using it, then it doesn’t get used.
For people on a budget I cannot think of a better modifier to use. And for people who make their living shooting, it’s an incredible tool to add to your bag.
Update November 17 2018
On a recent on location session in Seattle WA I encountered a situation where the R2Pro would NOT fire my strobes. I was in a club called The Triple Door to shoot publicity for my client’s upcoming performance for Rock of Ages. I had the room filled with haze for the session and the client wanted some shots with two of the stars in a booth. As I looked over I was blown away at the rays of light coming through the windows! The issue in obtaining the light rays just using natural light was the club is below street level and it was a cloudy day (Seattle! LOL) the sunlight was intermittently blocked by both pedestrians, vehicles and clouds. It was also late in the day so the angle of the rays of light would move quite a bit.
I had my partner go outside with both a 600Pro and an AD200, both with cones attached. My thought was that using a strobe through the windows would produce the same light I was experiencing with the natural sunlight, but not blocked by clouds or people passing by. Yet even in complete line of sight for test shots the strobes would NOT fire. I can only surmise that the combination of concrete, brick, the wiring in the club and my lower elevation to the strobes prevented the radio signals from reaching the strobes. And yes I tried both the 0-30 and 0-100 distance choices on the R2Pro. The distance from where I was to the strobes was about 35 feet and 15 feet below.
I always test my gear before putting it into workflow and did so with the R2 for the Pentax. But in this particular situation the radio signals would not reach the lights. Keep my experience in mind for your own sessions. I am NOT not recommending the R2 transmitters. Both my Canon and Pentax R2s have performed well. It’s just in this situation the R2 Pentax did not make a connection in this specific situation…..strange.
FINALLY! I was thrilled when the R2 Pro for the Pentax was announced! As some of you who follow my blog know, I’ve done a workaround for the 1/125th max sync speed for my Pentax 645Z which can be found here. The short version is I was using a Cactus v6II trigger combined with older Godox USB plug in receivers. It worked fine, but like all workarounds it had limitations. That’s all over now with the R2 Pro for the Pentax! Yay!
So I just did some testing to determine if the trigger works with the 645Z and just as important if any banding occurs with the trigger. You see, I had originally purchased a MBX1000 Priolite when the Z was first released. At that time it was the ONLY strobe that would perform HYPERSYNC with the Z rather than HSS. I found that in addition to being quite expensive, the Priolite produced a gradient in the image similar to using a graduated neutral density filter which I found to be unacceptable for such an expensive strobe. Sure it could be corrected in post, but why should I have to do that with an expensive strobe?
All that is over now and here are my test shots I conducted with the R2 Pro for the Pentax:
I could NOT use an eVOLV200 inside of the Saberstrip v2.0 because the USB port was covered when inserted into the SS. But since I no longer need a USB receiver I can now use my Pentax with these remarkable modifiers. I have not tested the trigger with the other xPLOR600s and 600Pros I own, but I have no doubt it will work well. If I find there are issues, then I will post them here in this short review. I have an upcoming client session on location where I now plan to use the Pentax and the new trigger.
A final note. Formerly while using my Canon R2 Pro attached to the 645Z (when not using HSS), pressing the shutter did not reactivate the R2 Pro after it went into sleep mode like it does on my Canon gear. I had to manually press a button on the R2ProC to wake it from sleep mode. Of course there were times I forgot to do so and missed a shot. Not so with the new Pentax R2 Pro. Now when I press the shutter it wakes the transmitter from sleep mode.
Thank you thank you thank you for producing a HSS trigger for Pentax!!!!
Update October 30 2018
No need to do this workaround anymore. Flashpoint has released their new Flashpoint R2 Pro 2.4GHz Transmitter for Pentax. You can read my findings here.
Update September 26 2018
I am preparing for a publicity shoot where I want to use my 645Z, so I had to remind myself how to shoot HSS with the method I explain below. A spider had built a cool web in my backyard so I had this crazy notion to use my eVOLV200 with the Pentax. BTW Flashpoint will be releasing the Flashpoint R2 Pro 2.4GHz Transmitter for Pentax (XPro-P) which will allow HSS without all the shenanigans I went through to make it happen. I sent this shot to a friend of mine who hate spiders. Now she’s not talking to me….LOL!!!!
UPDATE February 16 2018
I have confirmed that the new Flashpoint/Godox AD600 Pro works in HSS with the Pentax 645Z as explained below.
UPDATE September 8 2017
In my post about the Parabolix 35D I have some of my recent client work which was just released. All of those images were shot using HSS with my 645Z.
UPDATE August 31 2017
A visitor recently asked if the older AD360 line of strobes achieve HSS with a Pentax 645Z based on the method I describe below in my original article. The answer is YES it does. Rather than just ‘say yes’ under an ‘assumption’ that it would I decided to actually test it. I’m preparing for a dance session in two days and my partner who is making the move to all xPLOR/eVOLV units herself asked if she could borrow my old AD360s for the shoot. As a gift I had purchased an xPLOR TTL 600 for her so she wants to combine that with my old AD360s using my XTR-16 receivers. So a quick test before charging all of the units for her proves that the AD360 line works!
UPDATE August 20 2017
I ran a test yesterday of various modifiers along with the new AD-B2 mount and discovered that when you are using the USB receivers in the eVOLV200s the only level of modeling light that can be activated on the AD-B2 is the lowest level from the FT-16 controller.
UPDATE: July 29 2017
I have just completed testing HSS with the eVOLV200 strobes with my Pentax 645Z. I have included my test shots with “Bob” and all Flashpoint USB triggers and Cactus v6II settings are the same as the Xplor/Godox 600 lights. But I have outlined how I set the eVOLV200 lights below.
A few people contacted me to let me know they have been able to use HSS with a Pentax 645Z using other brands of lights with the Cactus v6II which I very much appreciated. But even though they have had HSS/645Z success with Profoto’s B1’s, Speedotrons, Photogenic Studio Max, etc. I wanted to make this work with the Flashpoint/Godox line of lights. Why? Well because for my work they fit my workflow with incredible innovation and the largest eco system of strobes. Using an xPLOR600 as either a monolight or pack/head system is just one reason. Combining two of them to make a single 1200 ws head when I need that power, creating their upcoming eVOLV200 twin head all combine to make it the line I love to use. I’ve had my fill of purchasing other strobes just for my 645Z, namely Priolites to achieve HSS. Now I no longer have to use separate brands of lights to do my commercial work no matter what brand of camera I’m using for the job at hand. And that’s great since I use three different brands of cameras!
Thank you to Cactus for developing a tool that is both remarkable and functional. It’s been a godsend for my work.
Original Test Review
To put it simply HALLELUJAH!!!! Oh my gosh for the past four years I have wanted with all of my want to have an option for HSS and my Pentax 645Z other than my MBX1000 Hotsync Priolites. Priolites do NOT use HSS, but rather hypersync and as the shutter speed increases the slight shading of banding increases as well. I’m not talking about black bars, but what looks like a graduated neutral density filter was applied to the image. Sure I could remove it in those instances where it’s obvious, but in my mind for $2600.00 per light it should NOT be something I have to do. Anyway there are several other issues that bothered me, but as ‘the only game in town’ for shutter speeds over 1/125th of a second when using strobes, I like other shooters was stuck. Ricoh never manufactured modern leaf shutter lenses for the 645 and based on their current financial situation and market share I seriously doubt they will. Plus leaf shutter lenses are expensive and limited to whatever focal length is produced. It’s one of the limits that smug shooters of Phase One or Hassy bring up when talking about the 645Z. I just laugh and now I snicker…
So here’s how I figured it out. I now use a Flashpoint R1 Flashpoint Commander Transmitter with older 433mgh USB receivers in my Xplor/Godox 600 strobes. The FT16 is placed on top of a Cactus v6II transceiver. And as you can see by the shots I’ve displayed below it’s a godsend. Will I miss 1000ws from my Priolite? Oh hell no, not when I can simply combine two Xplor600s and hook them to my 1200ws head. HSS using my beloved Xplor600 with my Pentax 645Z means Christmas came in July 2017 for me this year! Hallelujah!!!
Will I like it if Cactus develops a firmware update for their triggers so that I don’t have to use the USB receivers? Sure! It would also mean I could use my eVOLV200s with my 645Z too. But for now I’m damn happy to have figured out how to use my 600s in HSS with my 645Z. No shaded banding whatsoever using my Xplor/Godox strobes.
I truly am one happy person!
Update October 25 2018
I recently conducted a studio session using my Mole Richardson Fresnel. I continue to be impressed with the quality of light it produces along with the versatility of focusing.
Update October 14 2018
I was able to use my Mole Richardson Fresnel during a client dance session. I have been excited about using the Fresnel for dance since the light it throws is just delicious. I combined the Fresnel light with some Saberstrip v2.0 lights which use the Flashpoint eVOLV200s. In this case I just used a single xPLOR600 even though I have a 1200ws head in the Fresnel. I didn’t need the power of 1200ws for this job.
I realize that many people chase ‘soft light’ but I have found that the light thrown by a Fresnel is more acceptable to my client base for quite a few types of sessions. For my blog post about the Saberstrip v2.0’s which I consider a revolutionary modifier I used in conjunction with the Mole Richardson, you can click here.
UPDATE May 14 2018
I recently conducted a client publicity session using my converted Mole Richardson 412.
I was finally able to run a session with both the converted Mole Richardson and my gobo light modifier where I use Rosco size B gobos. The Mole Richardson performed brilliantly. Since I was in studio I did not use both AD600s, but rather a single one. Barn doors were used along with a light modifier I am not allowed to display or mention. I used it as a fill for these shots.
The final tweaks have been made to my now converted Mole Richardson Junior 412 2000w tungsten spotlight into a strobe. I have installed a Flashpoint 1200ws strobe head into the unit along with a 9″ reflector as well a diffusion bulb cover. I love the look large Fresnel lenses offer for light and plan to use this not only for portraits, but for dance. The modifications I’ve made allow me to convert the Fresnel BACK INTO a tungsten light. The design of the light is genius. By simply removing four machine screws the entire guts of the light simply drop out.
I wanted to try the converted unit outdoors using the barn doors and HSS. Still more refinements, but I believe this will make a valuable tool in my lighting kit. Both images shot at 1/2500th f2.8 ISO160
Original Post March 27 2018
I’ve been in love with the light a Fresnel throws. As a young man I marveled at Hollywood glamour portraits produces by film and Fresnel spotlights. I purchased and have used two Aputure 4.5″ Bowens mount Fresnel modifiers with much success. But I longed for a larger version of a Fresnel. So I researched models over 8″ in diameter. The only ones I could find were the Elinchrom FS30 and the Broncolor Flooter. 3k and 4.5k respectively in price. There are some new LED Fresnel lights that are great, but I wanted a strobe. So….
I purchased a used Mole-Richardson Junior 2K Fresnel Tungsten Light, 10″ Lens – 412 off of Craigslist and am converting it to accept a strobe. It’s going well and when the project is finished I’ll be posting how I did my conversion as well as some test shots. I’m excited to say the least as it’s going way better than I expected. I wanted to have the ability to switch from my 600ws head to my 1200ws head when needed. I love choices. One of the great design elements of this classic unit is the ability to switch it back to its native tungsten configuration. AND Mole Richardson sells a LED conversion kit that only takes four screws to install. The unit is designed so well. No wonder so many film studios used these things!
My total cost to convert it to accept a strobe including the cost of the unit? 315.00 including the barn doors!
I know that I often state whenever I get a new modifier/strobe/etc. I ALWAYS test them BEFORE putting them into my workflow. I’ve had a suggestion arise lately about showing them in a group in addition to in each of my modifier/strobe posts. Sounded like a good idea so here we go, but I have no plans to make this post comprehensive for all of my tests. Just a few. The first covers the Saberstrip v2.0 that utilizes the Flashpoint eVOLV200s.
Bought this 1965 MGM Studios MR 412 Fresnel and converted it from a 1000 watt constant tungsten light into a strobe Fresnel. The following images were all shot AS TESTS prior to putting the Fresnel into my workflow.
Elinchrom 39″ Deep Rotalux
I NEVER place anything into my toolkit unless I’ve tested it previously. Too many unexpected situations come up in any session. Being unprepared with things you KNOW about is not wise.
I have noticed that so many of the reviews/recommendations are from companies who sell the unit and because of that I’m always cautious of their views. There is one site I found well done that is NOT a company, but a user. His review can be found here. Accessories for almost all medical devices are expensive, or more expensive than I feel they need to be so I opted to find products that fit the AirMini as good or better than ResMed’s own products. And that’s what I want to share here.
ResMed offers two different cases for the AirMini. One is the $29.99 ResMed AirMini CPAP Machine Travel Bag that just holds the AirMini CPAP device. The other is the $61.00 ResMed AirMini Travel Bag which holds all of the needed AirMini items, the CPAP, the hose, the mask, the power brick, etc.
First off although I’m sure both of those cases are of good quality I felt that they were way overpriced for protective carrying cases. Plus the $61.00 carry all travel bag does not have a strap to hold the bag onto my rolling luggage handle. Perhaps it does, but I could not see it in any of the photos. So here is what I found that performs great for less money:
Yep a lunch bag and expandable to boot!
I fly a drone for my work and it comes with two cases. The smaller top case meant for the Mavic Pro’s controller fits the AirMini unit perfectly.
I use one of the HumidX disks for only a week and then they go to waste since ResMed recommends that they only be used for 30 days after opening the airtight package. So I store them in the Tupperware containers after letting them dry out for one day after I return home. I also put the disk through my SoClean machine to allow ozone to disinfect the disk. I believe this will prolong their life and not having to throw them out after only a week’s worth of usage. I do replace them after 30 days of use, just not 30 days after I’ve opened the package. I wrote to ResMed to ask them the reason why the disks have a 30 day life, but never heard back. I will mention that when I took the AirMini camping the night temperature was around 50 degrees Fahrenheit and quite a bit of moisture accumulated in my hose. Just FYI.
Pretty self-explanatory, I just want it clear to the TSA and airline staff that it’s medical equipment and doesn’t count as a carry on item.
As of this writing ResMed has yet to produce a battery for the AirMini. I have used two different ones when I was camping. The first is a battery pack I used for portable flash strobes, the PCB Vagabond Mini. It has two 110 pure sine wave outlets and one USB female outlet. Fully charged the unit lasted two full nights before needing to be charged.
The second unit I used was a Romeo Power Saber. It contains a universal AC 110v outlet, two USB outlets and one USB-C outlet. I purchased this for my airline laptop/cell phone use. It lasts 10 hours using the AirMini and only takes 2 hours to fully charge from dead.
I’d recommend either of these units it just depends on the size/recharge time configuration you need at the time. Longer time? Vagabond Mini. Smaller footprint/faster recharging time? Romeo Saber.
I hope this post gives you more options for cases and portable power for your ResMed AirMini. If so I’m happy!