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FORUMS General Gear Talk Flash and Studio Lighting 
Thread started 28 Jul 2008 (Monday) 21:42
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Review: Really Right Stuff B87-B Perfect Portrait Package

 
ben_r_
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Jul 28, 2008 21:42 |  #1

As promised here is my review of the Really Right Stuff B87-B Perfect Portrait Package flash bracket. :)

As usual with my reviews, my main goal is to help any out there who are thinking about, or might think about after reading the review, buying the item(s) I am reviewing. And with that being my goal please feel free to ask any additional questions on anything I might have missed or not covered and also feel free to ask for pictures of anything else that you may want to see that I failed to show in the images I did post. I try my best to be very thorough in my reviews but it's impossible to cover EVERYTHING! I do my best and I do it not only to help others but with the hopes that others will see my reviews and be inspired to take the time to write reviews of their own to help others as so many others have helped them!

I also want to add to this an apology... For some reason that is unknown to me, with all the thousands of dollars of equipment I own I still reach for my cheesy $200 point shoot camera to snap quick shots for web use stuff like this. I apologize if the images are sub par, but its just the first thing I grab when I know Im not looking to win a contest or make any money and just want to emphasize a point with web posted pics.

As many of you already know the search for the perfect flash bracket is a tedious, confusing and frustrating one that is doubled in its difficulty by the fact that most of the more popular options are not available in stores or retail outlets for you to simply drive to and play with in your hands. So we who are looking now and those who will look later rely on well written, thorough reviews on the internet and wonderful forums such as POTN to give us the best idea we can get of the particular item we are considering.

My first flash bracket was the highest end model from Stroboframe, the Pro-RL. For the price its a decent option but after just loading my gear on it once I could tell right off the bat that I would need something lighter, more compact and more sturdy and stable if I was ever going to actually use it. Well as we all know those nice features of compactness, light weight and sturdiness all usually come with a high price tag. Sadly this case is no different. So if youre looking for a cheap flash bracket just to get the job done, this route man not be the best option for you. However, if you are like me and having the right tool for the job is a must then you will appreciate the RRS solution.

After selling the Stroboframe I kicked around several different flash brackets available. After lots of research I learned that the three most popular brands were Custom Brackets, Newton and Really Right Stuff. From these I had to choose the one that best met my desired options for the perfect flash bracket for me:

  • Must be compact
  • Must be light weight
  • Must be somehow compactable for storage
  • Must be sturdy
  • Must keep the flash head in the same orientation when in portrait or landscape mode
  • Must keep the flash exactly center above the lens in both portrait and landscape orientation
  • Must be easy and smooth when transitioning orientation
  • Must somehow work with or be made to work with the Acra-Swiss style quick release system
  • Must be able to hold itself up when set on a flat surface and not tip over.
  • Must not cost a fortune
  • Would be nice to have the option of tripod mounting
  • Adjustable height of flash was not too important to me
  • Adjusting Tilt of flash was not too important to me
Sound like a bit much? Well of course it was! Hey, a guy can wish cant he? Well i actually got a lot closer than I expected to my ideal flash bracket. Here's some that I looked at:

From Custom Brackets I landed on the Digital PRO-M. LINK (external link)

IMAGE: http://www.custombrackets.com/media/catalog/product/cache/1/image/265x/9df78eab33525d08d6e5fb8d27136e95/d/i/digital-pro-m-cam_2.png

I had read a lot of positive things about the Custom Brackets solutions, but right away after seeing them I was reminded of the bulkiness that I disliked so much about the Stroboframe. So my search continued...

I then landed on two options from Newton. The Di100CR (external link) and the Di100FR2 (external link).

IMAGE: http://www.newtoncamerabrackets.com/newton1.gif
IMAGE: http://www.newtoncamerabrackets.com/Animation2.gif

I really liked how light and small the two Newton brackets were and how they both had astoundingly good reviews. I would like to note something regarding these two brackets though, between the two for me the only real advantage that the Di100CR offered for the extra $80 was the option to mount the unit on a tripod. This was not a feature that was necessary for me but one that I thought would be nice to have just in case.

I also considered the Really Right Stuff WPF-1 Wedding Pro Flash Bracket (external link).

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It seemed very compact, very well priced, and knowing RRS build quality Im sure it would have been built top notch. But I was never really a big fan of the "flip" style flash brackets. If you are interested in this bracket, I have a thread going here: LINK discussing it a bit more.

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Jul 28, 2008 21:42 |  #2

Lastly I found the solution offered from Really Right Stuff (RRS). LINK (external link) The Really Right Stuff B87-B Perfect Portrait Package really seemed to offer all the things I was looking for and wasnt priced out of budget. Here's the info from Really Right Stuff:

Portrait Perfect Packages

Our B-Series Flash Brackets are also sold as part of our Portrait Perfect Packages. Combine a B-Series Flash Bracket with our MPR-CL rail and you have a modular portrait package that is ideal for keeping the flash directly atop short, non-collared lenses.

Mount Flash Bracket to Camera Body

Modular Portrait Packages deliver maximum versatility for off-camera flash—ideal for keeping the flash atop short, non-collared, lenses whether you're hand holding or tripod mounting. All packages come with one flash bracket and one mounting rail, our MPR-CL. Portrait Packages mount to the camera body's quick-release plate (purchase camera body plate separately)—a conventional body plate works fine, but an L-plate adds the ability to tripod mount in vertical aspect. Portrait Packages come in three sizes—the size you choose is best determined by both camera proportions and personal preference.

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B87-B Portrait Perfect Package: Our mid-sized package fits larger bodies like Nikon D2-series, Canon 5D & 1D series, and Nikon D200/Canon 5D/30D with their add-on battery packs. Weighs 11.6-ounces (329g).

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Mounting your Portrait Package:

1. Clamp the MPR-CL onto camera body plate; if using an L plate, clamp to side of L-plate.
2. Clamp the flash bracket onto the forward end of MPR-CL rail; position hoop on left if using an L-plate, position hoop on right if using a conventional base plate.
3. Hold and turn the camera as you would normally. After changing orientation, simply reach up and push the orbiting head of the flash bracket into the detents along the hoop; now you’re ready to shoot either handheld or from your tripod while always keeping the flash over the barrel of the lens.

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B87-B Portrait Perfect Package mounted on Canon EOS-30D with BG-E2 grip.
Camera is fitted with BG-E2L30 L-plate.

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The RRS solution at first site appeared to be the closest to what I was looking for. But I needed to run some numbers to see how all three options stacked up cost wise. But before I do that I want to note that I am already bought into the Acra-Swiss style quick lease system, specifically the Really Right Stuff flavor of accessories. I have their B2 LRII Quick Lever Release Clamp on my ballhead and the B5D-L L plate on my ungripped Canon EOS 5D. Since the first product I laid eyes on and felt the fine craftsmanship of in my hands I have been in love with RRS products. So I knew going into this that while at first I was unsure of the RRS design I was sure that they always produce the finest of products. The other thing Id like to note is that while all of the solutions show a price next to them, that didnt mean thats all you had to buy to get the unit in working order or to met all of my requirements of a general flash bracket. Youll see as I break out the costs of the three that I looked most closely at why and what each part was. This is of course not going to include the pricing of an off shoe camera cord, flash, or camera body and lens. Those youll need regardless.

Costs


Custom Brackets PRO-M

$315 (Bracket itself)
$120 (RRS Quick Release Lever Clamp)
---------------
$435 Total


Newton Di100CR

$270 (Bracket itself)
$18 (Required flash holder)
$25 (Easy flash release)
$120 (RRS Quick Release Lever Clamp)
$55 (Optional RRS universal mount plate to tripod mount unit)
---------------
$443 - 488 Total


Newton Di100FR2
$190 (Bracket itself)
$18 (Required flash holder)
$25 (Easy flash release)
$15 (Extended screw knob so unit can be set down and will stand up without falling over)
$120 (RRS Quick Release Lever Clamp)
---------------
$368 Total


Really Right Stuff B87-B Perfect Portrait Package
$335 (Bracket itself)
---------------
$335 Total


So you can see cost wise for the many that are already bought into the Arca-Swiss quick release system and have an L plate the RRS solution is the logical and most cost effective way to go.


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Jul 28, 2008 21:42 |  #3

Okay now that you know a little of how I came to decide the RRS flash bracket was the one for me to buy and try, we can get into my actual review of the product.

The first image here shows the kit laid out with everything it ships with. Amazing how little $335 will buy you when you lay it out like this, but its the functionalism and quality that you are paying for, not the amount of metal! :)

The second shot shows where you mount the optional stop screw on the bottom of the main 6" rail. For those that dont know, most of the RRS lens mount plates come with this so that once the clamp has been loosened the item mounted to it it cant slide completely out and fall to the ground. You have to open the clamp up all the way to remove lens plates from it. I always leave those on my plates, just for safety.

As with all RRS products I own, right out of the packaging you are surprised at how light, smooth, and durable they feel! This item was no exception. All the pieces are a perfect blend of strength and pleasing aesthetics.


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Jul 28, 2008 21:43 |  #4

Once assembled the unit is rock solid! Here are a couple shots of the two pieces put together. There is zero wiggle anywhere from any of these parts. They are very ridged and feel as though they could support a lot more weight that what a camera can accumulate.


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Jul 28, 2008 21:43 |  #5

Here is a close up of the flash mount piece. The first shot shows the push button stop at the end of the bracket loop to stop the unit and flash from falling off the edge. If you want to remove the flash mount unit or put another on (yes you can add two, for say macro work or for use with some of their accessories) you merely have to pull the mount to the stop, press in the button and youre done. You might want to add a second for using the bracket to shot macro in this manner:

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The second shot shows what the flash mount looks like off the ring.


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Jul 28, 2008 21:43 |  #6

These two shots show how far back and forward the flash mount can be adjusted. You adjust it by loosening the large half wing nut style lever toward the camera body and can then freely tilt the flash mount toward or away from the camera. This range will allow you to point the flash at the ceiling or all the way down right in front of the lens for perhaps macro work.


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Jul 28, 2008 21:44 |  #7

Here is a couple shots of the bracket mounted to the camera without a lens attached. It connects to the side mount of the RRS L plate. At first when I saw this setup I was skeptical as to how sturdy that connection would be. It seemed to me that once the flash and a lens was mounted on there it would be a lot of weight to put on that L Plate that was only connected to the camera by the tripod mount screw. But I can tell you with confidence now that once this rig is fully loaded you can grasp and lift the entire unit easily by the 6" rail and none of it moves or shakes. I cant emphasize enough how solid this setup really is.


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Jul 28, 2008 21:44 |  #8

Here is a shot with just the off shoe camera cord mounted. I also wanted to show a shot with the off shoe camera cord and a lens attached.


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Jul 28, 2008 21:44 |  #9

And here is with the flash and lens added. These two are a front view in both landscape and portrait orientation. You can see here there is plenty of clearance around the lens for the rotation of the flash mount as well as for the right hand when gripping the camera body.


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Jul 28, 2008 21:45 |  #10

And here is a couple shots of the side view showing both landscape and portrait orientation.

If you are interested in getting the flash higher than possible with the bracket as it comes, RRS offers two different flash extenders, one with a fixed length of 8.5" (the B89 LINK (external link)) and the other with a variable length from 3.8" to 6.14" (the FA-EX1 LINK (external link)).

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I think if you were going to do either of these the adjustable one would be a MUCH better way to go, but personally I have found little need to raise my flash any higher on a flash bracket. If you are shooting a group and attempting to eliminate shadows by raising the flash higher and shooting the light down I usually prefer to either bounce the light off a bounce card, the roof, or switch to off camera lighting and use umbrellas. But for most cases I have found that even the lowest height setting on flash brackets works just fine for a majority of the shots. Or maybe thats just my shooting style or common subjects? Either way if you need it, there is a solution offered by RRS to adjust the height of the flash.


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Jul 28, 2008 21:46 |  #11

The ring of the flash bracket has four indents in it that correspond to locking positions for the flash mount to slide to. The first image shows each of these positions. This was another area of skepticism for me when I first saw this bracket. I noticed the screw knob that was on the flash mount and worried that it would have to be loosened and tightened each time I wanted to switch between landscape and portrait orientations. After having the unit it in my hands and playing with it myself I found that you do not have to tighten the flash mount screw down in order for it to be stable. Just sliding the flash mount into the notches on the rail holds the mount stable enough to support the flash. The other nice thing is that it literally takes about a quarter turn to tighten and loosen the flash mount screw. So if you did want to tighten it down after each move, its actually a very quick process and wont slow you down too much when you go to loosen it later to switch orientation.

For those out there like me who like to know how things function and work, I took a shot of the flash mount removed from the ring rail so that the poly-something notch ball can be seen. Apparently thats all thats used to hold the flash mount and flash in one of the notches on the rotation rail. Looks durable enough, but even if it did ever wear out the whole flash mount can be purchased separately and thus can be replaced.


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Jul 28, 2008 21:46 |  #12

Couple more shots of the whole rig. One thing I would like to note from these shots is that the whole rig is perfectly able to be set on a flat surface and hold itself up with no chance of tipping. That was one of my requirements in a flash bracket.


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Jul 28, 2008 21:46 |  #13

For a little on size and weight I took a picture next to a tape measure to give an idea of overall height (in the image it shows about 17") and weight of the rig (with an ungripped 5D w/ battery, 24-70L, 580EX II w/ batteries, OC-E3, and flash bracket it comes to around 6lbs 9oz).


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Jul 28, 2008 21:47 |  #14

Here is a couple shots of the whole rig mounted on a tripod in landscape orientation. You can see that in landscape mode you mount the rig on the bottom part of the L plate to the tripod head.


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Jul 28, 2008 21:47 |  #15

Here is a couple shots of the whole rig mounted on a tripod in portrait orientation. You can see that in portrait mode you mount the rig on the 6" rail.


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Review: Really Right Stuff B87-B Perfect Portrait Package
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