This week’s hardware review is the Sigma Lightstand.  Specifically, the Impact 8 foot Air Cushion Lightstand.  While you may think that this is something that wouldn’t garner much discussion – I actually have found this to be a very handy tool.  “Tool?”, you ask.  Yes, a tool.  Sure, it’s primary function is to hold lights, but look at the variety even there – I’ve used it for small flashes (like my 550 EX II), studio strobes from Smith Victor, and water bags.

Lest you do a double take, that’s right, I used it along with a makeshift boom (arm that extends out to the side) to hold a water bag for a photo project.  The point is, light stands, like tripods, can function in a wide variety of capacities.   While I tend to shy away from making generalizations because I know my own gear experiences are unique, for me the biggest difference between a light stand and a tripod is weight and stability – light stands seem much lighter and aren’t as stable.  I am sure there are some high end light stands that provide excellent stability and can weigh a decent amount, but this one that I use is pretty light:

lightstand

I’ve linked the photo to the item at B&H (Item #IMLS8AQ  ) for those that want all the detailed specs, but here’s my two cents.

Pros:

  • Weight – these things are super light, and very easy to move around.  I could literally pick one of these up with one finger.
  • Extension – this basic model extends up to eight feet tall and compresses down into a shade under 3 feet.
  • Cost – very inexpensive, running a mere $35 from B&H Photo – small price to pay for an assistant
  • Size – this collapses down so small, I can fit my tripod, my monopod, umbrella, and this all in an over-the-shoulder bag!  Compactness is a plus, especially when travelling!
  • Functionality – aside from the obvious funtion of holding lights of various sizes, with a small clamp, you could hold pretty much anything from lights to grey cards to reflectors, to booms with water bags.  Heck, you can even jury-rig something from your garage or storage shed to make this guy hold pretty much anything for you.  So much for the photo assistant, eh?

Cons

  • Weight – yep, while a pro, it’s also a con – because they are so light, the can get easily bumped out of position or knocked over.  While using it with the boom/water bag for a weekend project, I bumped it ever so slightly with my foot and everything got knocked out of position.  Not by much, but when your DOF is a mere quarter of an inch and you are zoomed in tight on a water drop, one little bump requires re-setting everything from scratch again!
  • Workmanship – I was rather disappointed when I was going to pull out one of the extensions one day when the whole top pulled off the bottom legs.  It seems the nuts that are used to anchor legs and extensions into position weren’t tightened down all the way and as a result, a firm yank can pull it off the assembly.  Then, when I went to tighten it back down – the plastic collar that the screw/net combo fits through cracked on me.  *Sigh* Ah well – it still works, and I just have to make a mental note not to pull on the extension too roughly as the top will pop off.  But, what do you expect for $35?

Bottom line – I’d recommend this for people needed an extra set of hands from time to time.  If you are into off camera lighting (and after Wednesday, you should be!), then a light stand is a must – and this is a great entry level one that will fit your needs indefinitely, because even if you upgrade, an extra set of hands is just a few seconds away.

That’s it for today – make sure you stop in tomorrow for the next installment of software reviews!  Happy shooting and see you then!

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