Guest Review by Jason Lykins: Saberstrips

One thing that I’m always looking for as a photographer is new ways to stay ahead of the pack. Whether that is with a new lighting style, a new editing technique, or a new piece of gear that allows me to do something different, I’m always looking for that edge. Recently Scott from Saberstrip sent me a couple of his unique modifiers to try out, and I immediately knew I had to add a few to my speedlight kit. Not only do they do something different than any other light modifier that I currently own, but also it’s a look that not many people are getting with speedlights. The ease of use, durability, and unique design make them well worth the investment.

Immediately after receiving them I set one up and grabbed my closest subject, which happened to be my son who was playing a video game. Being my son, he’s used to standing in as a model while I test out new gear, so he was willing and happy (or at least he faked being happy). I brought the light in close and used it to light his face like I would do for a headshot, and I couldn’t have been happier with the light quality.  I gelled the flash to match the ambient in the room and the output was beautiful.

 

What You Get

The Sabertrips arrives in a carefully packaged box, individually wrapped in plastic and bubble wrap. Each Saberstrip is a roughly 3foot long tube with a cap on each end. The middle section is cut out and covered with diffusion material. On the removable end you will see a wing nut type of fastener that allows you to loosen the cap to remove it.  Once the bottom cap is removed you will see two screws holding the mounting plate down and a ¼-20 screw protruding from the mounting plate. If you look into the tube you will see at the very top (the end away from the base plate that you removed) is a reflector plate mounted to the top cap.  That’s pretty much it. Other than a cold shoe or TTL cord (I’ll get to those in a minute) that’s all that you need to get started using your new Saberstrip. There are a few things that Saberstrip recommends to use when mounting your modifier, however they aren’t required. To see a list of those recommended items visit the Saberstrip website.

 

Setup

Setup is easy with the Saberstrip. Once the bottom cap is removed from the modifier you remove the two Phillips screws holding the base plate in place and the plate comes free. Once you have the plate removed you have access to the ¼-20 screw to mount your flash. Here you have to make a decision. Depending on how you’re going to trigger your flash units, you will need to attach one of two things to the mounting plate. If you’re using Pocket Wizard Flex units, or the Radio Popper TTL triggers, you will need to mount a TTL cable to the plate. If you’re using standard Pocket Wizards or any other kind of “dumb” triggers, you will need to attach a cold shoe adapter here. Personally I am using the Pocket Wizard Flex units so I attached the TTL cable to the base plate.  (One note here, at first I had a little trouble getting the TTL cable through the hole in the bottom cap but it finally went through with a little twisting of the connection part of the cable) Once you have your cold shoe or cable attached, you can reinstall the two Phillips screws to reattach the plate to the cap. Attaching your flash to the base plate is done by either sliding the hot shoe connection into the TTL cord, or tightening the screw on the side of the cold shoe like you normally would.  Once you have your flash attached, you need to remove the diffuser cap (if equipped) and zoom the flash to its maximum zoom. This causes the flash to bounce off of the reflector at the other end and distribute the light evenly across the diffusion material.  Mounting the Saberstrip itself is easy. The bottom cap accepts a ¼-20 screw/stud (like most common speedlight accessories) so you can attach it to most standard light stands and booms. I used them with all sorts of stands and never had a problem mounting them with no extra equipment needed.

 

Uses

I found a few different “favorite” ways to use the Saberstrip. Since the Saberstrip is similar in shape to a conventional strip box, the immediate thought is to use them as rim lights. I used them like this as well, but I wanted to try them out in different ways. In the shot I did of my daughter I placed the Saberstrip on a boom horizontally and lowered it until it was just out of the picture. I then placed a piece of Plexiglas below her arms on a posing table. The design of the Saberstrip allows the light to be feathered off of the subject, which is exactly what I did in this situation by simply rotating the whole unit so that the diffusion material was pointed more towards the ceiling than directly at her. The modifier worked really well for this shot because it kept an even source of light across the entire reflective area as well as her face. The quality of light was soft and made for a beautiful portrait.

The next way that I found myself using the Saberstrip quite a bit was as a hair light. I found myself placing it on a boom above and behind the subject’s head in a horizontal position. I liked it this way because it puts a nice soft light on not only the subject’s head but on the shoulders as well. It creates great separation from the background and really makes the model “pop”. I used it with Dawn in the shot above, but because you can see so far above her head in the frame it’s actually a composite. I had the camera on a tripod and I told the model to remain still after the first shot. After I took the first shot I removed the boom and hair light, returned and took a second shot without the hair light in the photo.  I then combined the two in Photoshop to make the image you see above. The main was a Qflash through a Zumbrella camera left.

The bottom Line

For me it comes down to creativity. I absolutely love the ability to control, contain, and shape my light to my liking. Adding speedlight powered strip lights to my mobile lighting kit is just one more way that I can separate myself from the pack making my images that are different than the rest. The Saberstrip is reasonably priced. For $135.00 you get a mobile strip light that can be used not only as a rim light, but also as a hair light, main light, fill light, and more!  It’s a great value and a great product! To find out more, or to order your Saberstrip visit http://www.saberstrip.com.


  • http://yes Jim Felt

    Terry.

    While, as an Obi-Wan Kenobi fan, I think these are inventive but compared to skinny American made Plumes or any Broncolor or other Euro makers these things are both tiny with respect to coverage and light shaping and woefully underpowered. Plus seem to offer no option for a useful sized modeling lamp that I can imagine. Though I suppose if you shoot tethered you could use the monitor as your “test”.
    And, yes, I know they’re inexpensive but, really, can they do anything except be very light and underpowered, that is new in any way? Maybe on the next round of tiny strobes Nikon and Canon can add CREE LEDs for modeling lamps after they all jump to Canon’s use of radio and not sketchy line of sight infrared.?

    10-4

  • http://www.anaadams.com Ana

    Hi Jason,
    I’ve been looking for light modifiers that can make nice reflections on glasses and bottles, and this one looks good for this. However, I understand it must use some kind of flash trigger other than my system’s own wireless (Canon Speedlites), is that right? Looks like the flash must be kept inside the strip, so it will not be able to receive any signal in it’s own wireless sensor.
    Thanks,
    Ana

    • http://www.bestappsite.com Jason Lykins

      Ana, that’s right they have to stay inside of the Tube. You really need to have some sort of external triggering system. You may be able to get the flash to work with the built in triggering system but I can’t guarantee that it will be consistent as those systems work using a line of sight method.

  • http://www.illusivephotography.com Alan Antiporda

    I concur with your review. I’ve been using SABERSTRIPS since 2010 and the beauty of the “strips” are that they are lightweight, offer excellent control without the need for grids. I travel solo and trying to carry a plethora of studio lights “On Location” doesn’t suit my needs.

    @Ana – yeah, they require a trigger system. I have PWIIs and have to remove the tubes when adjusting flash power, but it is not a big deal.

    Enjoy–

    • http://www.anaadams.com Ana

      Thanks, Alan!
      I do have and use PWIIs and love them, but with the big lights that come with optical sensors so I have only one on the camera and another in one of the lights. For my work with speedlites, I never use less than 4 – does it mean I would need one PW on each?
      A

      • http://www.bestappsite.com Jason Lykins

        Yes you would have to have one on each flash. If you set your flash to “slave” mode, you may get them to trigger without having a pocket wizard on each flash but you would have to try that out to see how your particular flashes worked.

        • http://www.anaadams.com Ana

          Thanks, Jason. I’ll see if I can get one to test, they look great =)

  • Bryan leighty

    @Jim Felt : Your arguments are ridiculous. You are aware that there is a large population of photographers and hobbyists that use only speedlights, right? And.. Have you watched any videos by Heisler or others that use striplights very often? http://strobist.blogspot.com/2010/07/gregory-heisler-on-stripping-with-derek.html (for example). The SaberStrip is a strip light for speedlights. Your rant about not liking them because they are not something else is silly. Its like me saying I cant imagine how anyone would like the new Spiderman movie because its not about a horse’s adventures during world war 1. I mean come on, its does not even take place in a European city. How can you like this Spiderman movie without it having the same plot as War Horse??

    You are very right that they are not Plumes or Broncolor. Nor do they play mp3 files, whiten teeth or massage feet. They are speedlight striplight modifiers. They are more light efficient than an Westcott Apollo 28 softbox (which is a popular modifer for strobists) so your “underpowered” statement is completely off base.

    I love my SaberStrips. If I only shot studio strobes then I would say “They look great but are not for me”. I wouldn’t argue they are junk because I cant use them with my choice of equipment.

    • http://www.jasonwaitephotography.com JasonW

      I beg to differ. I believe my teeth are a bit whiter after using the SaberStrip. GREAT product-

  • http://www.newtophoto.com Mark

    I’ve been thinking of importing one of these into the UK to give it a real try and do a few videos, there isn’t any on you tube say for a couple Mikey from lighten up and shoot and a guy from Germany.

    How easy is it to pop the speedlight out to adjust the power on the flash and can this be done when it’s on a stand?

    • http://www.bestappsite.com Jason Lykins

      Super easy to get the tube off to adjust. No need to remove from the stand and it can be done in about 3 seconds or less.

  • Jim Felt

    @Bryan.
    Cranky I might be at midnight but I did not say they were junk. I’ve seen lots and lots of lightweight accessories come and go and they, to me, simply look(ed) flimsy. Or you might say light and easy to carry for one person. Okay.
    That’s why I use my iPhone far more then the iPad. Same reason. But they are not tools. This I believed was considered a tool. So I responded like a workman talking about tools. Just my opinion. As for Greg and other great pj shooters, more power (pun not intended) to them.
    10-4

  • http://www.jasonwaitephotography.com JasonW

    Love the SaberStrip!

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  • TJ Schoffner

    @Bryan leighty I’d have to argue the statement about the light efficiency compared to a 28″ Apollo from Westcott. For the price, I’ll always chose my 28″ Apollo over my Saberstrip. I can always trim down the light from an Apollo, but you can’t increase the size of the source of the Saberstrip. It does what it’s called in regards to being a strip. I can fit up to four Speedlights inside of my 28″ Apollo, one mono-strobe, and even my Spiderlite TD6. Every tool has it’s place, but the 28″ Apollo has stood the test of time and will always out perform the Saberstrip. If you need a smaller light output from the Apollo, then you can add black strips to each side or just buy the Apollo Strip like I did. I too love my Saberstrip, but there’s really no comparing the two. Not to mention, unfortunately, it doesn’t fair well in being dropped from a few feet and doesn’t pack up as nicely as the 28″ Westcott.

    • http://www.bestappsite.com Jason Lykins

      I agree that I love my Apollo but his statement was correct about the light output being more than that of an Apollo. The Saberstrip does have a higher light output. Each modifier has its place. I love my Apollo but I also really, really like these Saberstrips.

    • Bryan Leighty

      @TJ – You are 100% correct that they are different modifiers for different uses. My point was in line with their efficiency from the same distance. I have seen on other forums where others that have even used them claim that they must “eat up light and cant possibly be efficient”. I guess the other posters “underpowered” comment took me in that direction. :)