Sometimes in my infinite idiotic wisdom I purchase something because I can’t afford something else. I use that item for a while and then it sits on the shelf for a bit. This has been my buying using pattern for quite some time, like I said I can be an idiot.
Such was the case when I purchased a Saberstrip light modifier. I had rented a Westcott IceLight and had a great experience with it, but at $499.00 it seemed a bit too steep in price for a constant light source I would only use occasionally. (I ended up buying two of them later, but that’s for another post.) Like everyone else I began searching the web for alternatives to the IceLight and found the Saberstrip. Unlike the IceLight the Saberstrip uses a handheld flash as its light source.
My primary use for a modifier of this type was originally for windy conditions. I often shoot outdoors and sometimes without an assistant so wind can become a factor. In most cases I use a beauty dish combined with a studio strobe and power pack to meet my lighting needs, but there are times I need less light and want to travel lighter, so the Saberstrip seemed like a perfect answer. I played with it some, but ended up stacking it into a corner collecting dust until I got smart and started to use it…more on this below.
There was not a ton of information on the web about the unit, but I liked their site and for $149.00 how could I go wrong. There were some do it yourself sites that attempted to replicate the unit, but as a commercial photographer those solutions held no interest for me. Yes I love to fabricate lots of things, but when I find something that seems well done, I tend to purchase rather than build.
The unit is surprisingly light weight and much longer than I had expected. I was enamored with the thumb screw clamp which holds the base of the unit onto the primary tube modifier. I had never seen a hose clamp like they had placed on the unit and ended up sources those for another project I was working on. Anyway onto my findings….
You must install a flash cable to the inside of the unit in order to trigger your flash. I simply purchased an aftermarket Canon ETTL flash cable for mine and paired it with a Phottix trigger. They recommend manually zooming any handheld flash to its maximum zoom range, in my case 105mm for my Canon EX580II Speedlite. The thought is you get maximum flash power by focusing the zoom head and my findings found their recommendation to be quite accurate. I got about 3/4 to 1 full stop of added light by zooming the flash head as recommended. Although I tend to adjust my Speedlite manually I did try it in ETTL and the modifier worked well. The Saberstrip will mount to any 1/4″ 20 screw since it has a female 1/4 inch 20 socket in its base. I’ve seen the unit hand held as well, but I have not personally used it in this manner.
My main concern was how the light would modify and I will simply say that it resembles the characteristics of a strip box softbox. The light is both even and bright given you’re only using a simple hand held flash. In wind it’s brilliant because of its form factor I would recommend using it as long as you keep the modifier close to the talent. Just out of frame is how I have used it.
And in close quarters it’s simply the right tool for the job. For my recent exhibit “29 Hands – 15 Artists” at the Peninsula Museum of Art I used the Saberstrip almost exclusively to photograph the hands of working artists. The images in this article were some of the 15 images I displayed in my exhibit and all that are shown here were lit exclusively with the Saberstrip. As they say a picture is worth a thousand words.
For mounting on a light stand I have found my favorite mounting system is a Manfrotto 233B Camera Mount Flash Bracket. By placing the Saberstrip on the telescoping pole it allows me to use it as a small boom when needed. The knob which attaches the small extension arm to the base allows it to rotate 360 degrees as well as swivel. I like it much better than a ball head. Also the small 1/4 screw handily holds my remote trigger. A remarkable tool to augment the Saberstrip.
If you’re looking for a modifier to use in high wind, tight quarters and gives reasonably soft light when placed close to your talent, look no further. The Saberstrip is a remarkable tool to add to your studio or on location gear bag.
A Saberstrip was utilized as the key light for all of the following images.