Recommended Swivel: LumoPro LP679 v2.0

Abstract: A walk-through of the umbrella swivel (which connects your flash to a light stand).

To attach your flash to a light stand, you'll need an umbrella swivel adapter. They are also called umbrella adapters, or just "swivels."

Swivels pretty straightforward: a good swivel is rugged, well-designed and cheap. Our recommendation, the LumoPro LP679v2 (seen above, $16) ticks all of these boxes, and has a thoughtful design that is better than the others.

This largely comes down to flexibility of mount, and knob design. Since you will use the knobs frequently, often while keeping eye contact with your subject, these ergonomics are more important than you might think. The LP670v2 also comes with a 5-year warranty—more than twice as long as other brands.

Top to bottom, here is how they work.

The Cold Shoe

At top, you'll find a removable cold shoe. This will allow you to mount your flash to the top of the umbrella swivel. Some swivels have fixed cold shoes. Removable is better. This will give you a variety of mounting options for your flash (especially the side-mounting 1/4x20 socket on the LumoPro LP180) as you advance.

The Umbrella Mount

Moving down, this is the small hole and clamp which holds the optical umbrella which you will use to soften your flash's light. You put the umbrella shaft into the hole and clamp down the screw. Pretty simple. If you are doing it right (i.e., not backwards) the umbrella shaft should point about ten degrees up (instead of down) to offset the fact that the flash is a little off-center due to the mount.

And this may sound like a little thing, but the thumb screw that clamps down on the umbrella on the LP679-2 is nice and big. This was LumoPro listening to photographers' suggestions, and building a better mousetrap. This simple change makes this a better swivel than any of the others. Other swivels have a tiny nub of a screw that kills your leverage and make them comparative a pain in the ass to use.

The Elbow

I'll bet you can figure this out by yourself. You loosen it, tilt the flash and/or flash/umbrella combo, and tighten it back to lock in place.

But even here, you can go wrong. The large arm / smooth locking lever is the best route. Some swivels have small screws and gear-toothed joints. You might think that would be more secure. But in practice it can "catch" and appear to be locked down when it isn't. Then anything that jiggles the stand (like a little breeze, or moving your light) can send your flash and umbrella tilting over.

Go with the large locking arm and smooth hinge. It's faster and safer to use.

The Light Stand Mount

This is the female receptacle and locking knob that holds the whole assembly to the top of your light stand. Or anything else with a male 5/8" stud.

The Extra Stud

Some swivels ship with an extra brass stud. (The LP679-2, which is pictured above does.) This has a female, threaded ¼" x 20 hole at one end and a 3/8" hole at the other.

This is a very cool accessory to have. So even if you don't use it for a while, try not to lose it. With a little ingenuity (and a bolt of the right size) you can figure out all kinds of positioning devices and/or brackets that might support a flash in a tight or unusual spot. This stud will marry your frankenstein lighting creation to the swivel and allow you to connect it all together. Go nuts.

Important Note:

For some unknown reason, swivels often are assembled and shipped upside down. I have no idea why. Just know that the umbrella hole and the cold shoe should be on the same end of the swivel when you use it. (Both up top, as shown above.) Not the reverse, where they sometimes mount the extra stud in the end with the umbrella hole when assembling them at the factory. Sigh.

Knowing this (and swapping the studs, if necessary) might save you some confusion the first time you try to use it.


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