Tokina Lighting Company: Handy, stowable "studio in a box" solutions.
A line of lightweight, portable lighting setups were among Dave's favorites at the show.
Lighting is one of the toughest things for amateur photographers to get right, and the difference between good and bad lighting is blatantly obvious. People selling products on eBay know the value of good-looking product photography, but how do you go about getting really great shots without a roomful of lighting equipment and a degree in commercial photography?
With digital cameras becoming more and more prevalent, a number of companies are beginning to offer lighting systems aimed at helping amateur shooters get great-looking results. The lighting setups made by Tokina Lighting Company (known as Universal Electronics here in the US) that I saw at the show look to be some of the best I've seen to date, and their pricing was quite reasonable as well. Read on below for a little more detail, or you can see me talking about the products in our Opening Day video from the show floor.
A key feature of the Tokina Lighting setups is that they use high frequency fluorescent lights with special phosphors to produce a 5200K daylight white balance. The benefit of continuous lighting is that there's no need to visualize how the final shot will turn out, as there is with strobes, the lighting is literally "what you see is what you get." The advantage of high frequency fluorescent lighting is that they throw off very little heat, and don't have the flicker of conventional fluorescent tubes.
Normal home-center style fluorescent bulbs do a very poor job of mimicking natural daylight, but the tubes used in the light heads for these mini-studios use a special blend of phosphors to get much closer to daylight. They're rated at 5200K color temperature, and a color rendering index of 90. Frankly, a CRI of 90 doesn't sound all that great, but for what it's worth, I don't personally think that CRI is all that good a measure of how cameras respond to fluorescent bulbs anyway. - I've had terrible results with CRI 95 bulbs, and better results with lower-rated ones. The proof is in the picture, and from the few shots I've seen taken with the Tokina light heads, it seems that colors are rendered pretty well.
I liked what I saw of the build quality of the Tokina Lighting mini-studios: The rods and support arms were all fairly heavy-gauge anodized aluminum, and the light heads seemed solidly made. While the heads would bobble around on the ends of the support arms when I moved them, they nonetheless felt solid enough to stand up to heavy use.
I called the pricing of the mini-studios "reasonable" -- They had three models displayed at the show, suitable for objects roughly 6, 12, or 24 inches across, and priced at $330, $910, and $2500 respectively.
Distribution of the Tokina Lighting products is currently rather limited in the US, but there is at least one place you can buy them on the web, www.webphotosupply.com, in San Marcos, Texas. Visit their site or call them at 800-831-0474. (Mention you heard about the product on IR. I'd actually like to get one of their units to shoot our product photos with, maybe they'll give us an editorial discount.) It looks like Web Photo Supply sells slightly different configurations than what was at the show, so the pricing on their site won't line up exactly with the systems I described above. Check their site for the details.
If you're a dealer or distributor interested in the Tokina Lighting products, contact their US agent, John Shirilla, at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by phone at 330-757-8159.
(Thanks to Web Photo Supply for the illustration photos here, I somehow managed to completely miss taking any still shots of the products myself, while I was at the show!)