Wait. Am I allowed to review products? Hang on... Yep.... after a quick flip through Blog Tips for Guys With Six Subscribers, turns out I can.
I just bought - I'm going to go with a short-form here - the LQ3 a couple of weeks ago. Now, I already have two different umbrellas, a RayFlash, an Ezybox, a Tri-Grip and two Omnibounce thingys, so why bother? Truth is, David Hobby made me do it. If he hadn't shown so many great examples on his site, I would have spent the money on Polly Pockets for my daughter, and she'd love me again. Damn his eyes.
While planning a charity shoot that was literally going to involve running beside people and taking good pics in the shade, I re-read several Strobist posts on the LQ3 that I had only skimmed before.
I quickly became intrigued by the possibility of something light and portable - that I could "run and gun" with. I was also intrigued by the idea of getting back to CLS and way back into TTL-flash metering. If you're shooting my five-year-old, you better not be chimping with manual flash, or you're going to get a lot of pictures like this...
Anyway, the LQ3 is about $55 Can (Henry's) - it folds flat, is pre-velcro'ed, and it rocks hard. I'll admit, you could easily DIY this thing, but that would kind of be like making your own hot & sour soup - someone already makes it way better, and it really doesn't cost much. (Also, I plan to use this thing at weddings and location portraits. I don't care what you say, Raisin Bran and gaffer tape are not what clients want to see when you're setting up.)
For this test, I went with CLS, rather than PWs - again for weight and portability, but also because I am knee-deep in Auto FP sync, and PW's mean 1/250 max.
No matter how you slice it, you will look like a geek with this goofy pyramid thing in your hand. But, if you've read this far, you are probably at peace with your geekiness. Also there's not much you can light people with outside that doesn't call attention to you being a weenie. If you want to get really geeky, gaffer-tape he whole mess to a bike-glove, and you can now use your left hand, without putting the flash down.
TTL-flash was very important because I planned to have that thing very close to people's faces. If you're wavering between 6" and 2' from a face, locked manual power is going to produce huge exposure variations. As Joe McNally might say: let the camera do the thinking once in a while.
I used the D700 pop-up flash in TTL (-2.0 ev). This allowed me to cut into the shadow of the nice big soft light coming from upper left. Next time, I might use an SB-800 on-camera instead, since the pop-up restricts you to 1/320, rather than 1/8000. I like big depth of field and everything, but some shallow focus would have been nice to play with.
The aperture was set f/16 to keep the clouds from blowing out at 1/320. This also dropped the ambient so it didn't compete so much with the subject. The LQ was held at arm's length with a 1/2 CTO over the speedlight. Even though it's just out of frame, the fall-off wasn't too abrupt.
I am the first person to say that the whole "brooding sky" thing in every Strobist-Flickr photo kind of gets on my nerves. Every kid's birthday and soccer shot seems to be taken just as the Sixth Seal is being cracked. I mean, come on. It's a birthday party!
But I have to say I enjoyed the front-and-centre feel of these shots. (It also helped that my son didn't make his patented "chewing on a pencil" smile in every photo.)
Overall, a great experience. The smooth wrap-lighting that such a small rectangle produces is pretty amazing. Buy one and stash it in your gear bag next time you pack light for the outdoors.