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Bounce-Wall: The Genius/Insanity Line Goes Commercial

There is a fine line between genius and insanity, and it's a line the DIY readership of this site has proudly straddled at times.

But this time, the genius/insanity line is being straddled by a commercial product. Lemme 'splain…

What you are looking at the is the Bounce-Wall, a new lighting mod being introduced by California Sunbounce at Photokina this week.

Why is it insane? Because you are carrying a large arm attached to your camera with an up-and-over bounce surface attached to the other end.

Why is it genius? Because now you can bounce off of a nearby "patch of wall" from anywhere in the room. Or out in a field, for that matter.

Here is the thing: very few people will feel ambivalent about this thing. You'll either love it or your'll hate it.

A lot of people just won't get this thing. But I suspect event and wedding shooters (i.e., for shooting during the reception. etc.) will flock to it. After playing with it for a few days, I can now report the following:

It's Lightweight

Because you keep both hands on your camera and it is so light, you could shoot with this thing for hours at an an event with no problem. In fact, it replaces the most left-arm-numbing thing you can do, which is to hold an OCF-TTL corded light out at arm's length for better quality as you shoot one-handed with the other.

The arm is lightweight, but has a double-H-channel design for strength. And it is plenty stiff. It moves with you rather than shifting around. IMO, they hit the sweet spot on the strength-to-weight thing.

It Can Get Small

It comes apart in the middle, at the ball and near the panel. The pieces will easily slide into the back pocket of a Domke F2 bag, for instance.

The ball is a ribbed sphere, so is strong and functional without any appreciable weight. This lightness is important as it is flying out away from the camera and would otherwise be fatiguingly torqued.

It Goes Both Ways

Horizontal or vertical—doesn't matter, just rotate the camera. If the ball is at upper camera left for horizontal (as if you were hand-holding the flash yourself) a 90-degree camera rotation (primary shutter release now on the bottom right) puts the card on the upper right. Still fine. No adjustment needed.

Weather Or Not

Rain will not be an issue if outside. Nothing on it appears to be affected by moisture. The bounce card it corroplast, and is available in several different printed versions (white, silver, gold, zebra, yada, yada.)

You Can Mix It Up With Overspray

If you are in a small room you can concentrate the flash's beam to the card. Or go wide-beam and let a lot of energy go past the card to hit the wall and create fill light. The card (i.e., your key) can be warmed independent of the room's natural bouncing surface.

So, What's the Light Like?

It's a run-and-gun mod, rather than something for finely crafting light. Think big bounce card (but up and over about 18 inches) and you'll be close. And it's completely self-contained, and thus what every camera-topped fongsphere user should probably have on instead when they are working outside with no walls or ceilings. (I see those guys, and a reeeeally want to walk up and say something. But I have learned to just shut up and watch.)

Not being a wedding/event shooter (I'm more of a controlled-light portrait shooter) this thing is a little out of my wheel house. But Ben is starting a new soccer season at GK this Saturday so I grabbed him and took him outside for a quick test drive photo.

Mind you, this would most likely be used indoors—events, party pics, etc. But I wanted to see if it would hold up as a close, on-camera light source for an outside portrait.

Verdict: Not too bad, actually. I am exposing for the sky and flashing Ben so I have no fill. Remember, this is a single on-camera flash. But the quality of light is pretty decent.

Efficiency-wise, this mod is more of an indoor cat, as you couldn't really fight full sun with it. (We were out in the evening, so we were fine.)

Obviously, it works in either manual or TTL, depending on your normal preference. As a portrait shooter I gravitate towards manual. I suspect most event shooters will skew towards TTL. Both work well. Please don't tell McNally I tried TTL, tho.

Here it is in use. As far as that Faces of Death "Where'd that second camera perspective come from?" thing, suffice to say there were a few PocketWizards involved. I triggered the BTS camera from my PW'd primary camera's shutter (via the PC jack->PW) and then had my primary camera's flash PW'd to the BTS camera's PW, which was code-hopped so we could do all of this with three units.

No worries, as I have done this multi-camera-sync thing before.

The Bounce-Wall, by California Sunbounce, debuts at Photokina this month. If you are there, they will have them in their booth to play with. Price is still TBA. UPDATE: Price is expected to be $99 (in dollars or Euros).


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