Review: iModeler Review – Foldable Photo Booth 40x40cm / 16×16″
Let’s be honest – we all love to look at beautiful pictures of scale models. No matter if online or in a print magazine, the overall looks, the colors and the detail we see in well-made photographs leave us inspired and full of ideas for our own projects. But at the same time, many of us might think “I can’t do that with my skills”, “I lack the equipment”, and so on. Yeah, no.
Not wanting to go into too much detail (I’ll leave that for another installation of my ramblings), the most important aspects of a technically good picture are lighting, focus, and depth of field. Focus (a “sharp” image) is something every modern camera and every smart phone can take care of. Depth of field (how much of your image is in focus) can also be controlled by your camera, but it will need enough light to do so. To put it in the simplest of terms: the more depth of field you want, the more light you need.
And that leaves us with the one thing many struggle with: bringing enough light to where it’s needed. We might start with a simple desk lamp, snap a picture and wonder why everything is blurry, or looks yellow. Well, the lamp either was not bright enough, or it holds a bulb that does not actually produce “white” light. Our brain can adapt to different colors of light – if you look at a white wall in a room lit by candles, we will still see this wall as white – because our brain “knows” it is supposed to be white. Take a picture of that wall and it will look yellow. Suddenly our brain can no longer adjust the colors. We truly are the master species…
There are lots of different setups to help you in your photography – from DIY contraptions using sheets of paper, wooden frames, and multiple lamps, to high-end studio setups. One of the most convenient, however, is a foldable photo booth with integrated LED lighting. So let’s take a look at this one.
Unpack, Unfold, Unleash.
When you look around your favourite online retailer, you will find lots of different products doing basically the same thing – they provide you with a white box that can be folded, a strip of LED lights, and some kind of power connection. And although you should not quote me on that, I have the strong suspicion they all come from the same bunch of Chinese factories and just get branded differently. For our review we went for an offering by “amzdeal”, which retails at 29.99 Euro in Europe or $29.99 in the USA.
The booth comes in a sturdy cardboard box roughly 50x50cm in size and under 1kg in weight. Inside you will find the actual booth, a bag with two different backgrounds (one black, one white), a USB cable with on/off switch, and a manual. Please note that you will need a USB power adapter that matches your regional style of power outlets – as these booths are sold internationally, the manufacturers do not bother with different power cords and just provide said USB cable.
Unpacking and setup are a matter of two minutes. Literally. You just unfold the booth, slide the background of your choice into tabs at the bottom and the back, and plug in.
The way the backgrounds are packed, you will see a fold line in the material that might show up in your pictures. I was able to get rid of this by carefully bending the background in the opposite direction – as a general rule, background material should be stored rolled up rather than folded.
The LED strip is glued to the top front of the booth, and that’s where the USB cable goes.
What Can You Fit In It?
If you are looking for a way to take pictures of your 32nd scale B-52, you may stop reading and take the next golf cart back to your workbench. But apart from that, the 40x40 booth should meet most modellers’ needs.
1/48 Mustang? Sure.
1/35 tank? Bring it!
1/48 Phantom? Well, kind of. You might need to get creative with your camera angles here.
Quality of Lighting.
My usual setup consists of a Canon EOS 450D on a tripod and two different lenses – a 50mm and a 105mm macro. With this I can take reasonably good pictures in most conditions, so no point testing it. Instead I took my smart phone, a Motorola Moto C. Worst. Camera. Ever. And I hate taking pictures with a smart phone anyway, so there you go.
Not too bad for someone who was shaking with annoyance while snapping these pics… The pictures were not altered or enhanced in any way, and they still look good.
Switching to the black background and my trusted EOS, it becomes apparent the lighting is really good – although there is just that single LED strip, the white sides of the booth reflect enough light to produce a soft lighting without any yellow tint and all the other shenanigans.
Short of having a professional and permanent setup, this booth is a good as it gets. It is an easy and cheap way of really improving your model photography, it does not take up too much space, and it can be stored away quite comfortably when you are done.
So, if you want to step up your photography game, here's where to get it:
And An Update.
While I was uploading this article, a new version came online - same price, more backgrounds (black, white, green, and blue). Not bad.
1 additional image. Click to enlarge.