Let’s face it, most photographers are cheap. Sometimes we need to be. With new lenses and bodies well over the $1k mark – most of us don’t have the extra budget to buy a lot of the fancy photography related doo-dads offered to us that promises a whole studio lighting setup out of a single strobe, perfect white balance under any condition, or a cure for male pattern baldness.
Just when I think I’ve seen it all, somebody creates something completely new. I’ve seen ping pong ball diffusers for pop up flashes, shoestring tripods and rubbing alcohol bottle diffusers for off-camera flash. PVC pipe softboxes, salad bowl ring flashes and para-cord light meters. Photographers sure are a creative lot in and out of the viewfinder.
But, sometimes we don’t want to be seen in public with our creations. We do have a lot of pride in living up to the pro-photographer part no matter if we are professionals or not. I certainly wouldn’t want to show up at a client shoot with a Wal-Mart bed sheet background and a Target shower curtain diffuser. Thankfully the LumiQuest FXtra addresses a major need for ‘Strobist Style’ photographers in a professional package without breaking the bank.
This is a review about a gel holder. If you are new to the lighting world, all light has a color. Incandescent lighting is yellow, Fluorescent lighting is green. Gels on our flashes allow us to closely match the ambient lighting of a room so we don’t get that separated flash effect. When lighting is done right you see the subject, not over-exaggerated tell-tale signs of how you lit the scene. And don’t forget that sometimes we can use completely off-the-wall colors for effect.
The LumiQuest FXtra is a gel holder for about $20. It is compact in size, fits most flash units and can be used with other LumiQuest accessories. The FXtra is held in place using velcro, with the FXtra you are given two strips of 1″ wide adhesive for your flash unit. The company also makes a velcro band (Cinch Strap) in case you don’t want your flash to have wicked awesome 1970’s velcro sideburns. The LumiQuest Cinch Strap is about six bucks, but what the heck, I don’t mind the velcro on my flashes. You can also purchase additional adhesive strips from LumiQuest for other flash units, but I found that the fuzzy side of Home-Depot 1″ wide black Velcro works just as good.
The Gel Holder is a nice looking, well designed vinyl holder with four sections. The first section acts as a holder for your most used gels. Initially the FXtra comes with eight gels – a few strengths of CTO, Green, plus one each of Red, Yellow and Blue. The Second and Fourth sections are ‘pass-through’ velcro strips. They have hook on the bottom and loop on the top so that you can attach other velcro based accessories to your flashes while using the FXtra. Section three is your gel holder, a clear sleeve for you to insert your gel(s) of choice.
Using the FXtra is easy. Connect and shoot. Done. You really should remove it from your flash to change/insert gels. Take your time.. Gels are flimsy pieces of plastic so you really need to be careful with handling them. Don’t worry if you start getting creases or scratches in your gels, as long as they are intact they’ll be fine. While the FXtra may fit flush with on the end of your flash unit, I recommend attaching it so that you have a little bit of room between the flash lens and the clear gel holder. This is so that heat buildup can properly dissipate.
The most interesting and exciting part about the LumiQuest FXtra is that the gel holder will hold gels from both the Rosco and Lee Gel Sample Packs. This gives you a cheap source of new gels to try!
Sidenote: Rosco and Lee Gel Sample Packs are intended for you to ‘try before you buy’ a few of their different gels. With the sample pack you’ll get what seems like an endless option of colors you can play with. Do Rosco and Lee a favor, buy the gels you use often (like CTO and Plus Green) and throw a little money back to them for the convenience of the sample pack. Full gel sheets will make plenty of gels for your FXtra holder. Give some to your friends and remember that Gels can be doubled up. You could take a sheet of 1/2 CTO and double it up for a full CTO of color.
I highly recommend the LumiQuest FXtra Gel Holder. It’s an easy, professional way to color your light for $20.00. Move from rubber bands and scotch tape into something more reliable. Additionally, pick up a Rosco sample pack using the link below and 1″ wide black velcro at your local hardware store for your other flash units. Lastly, the Cinch Strap seems overpriced just for a velcro band, I’m a big fan of a clean look and having velcro permanently installed on my flash units doesn’t look bad at all.