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FLASH BRACKETS


32 ALPHA PARK • CLEVELAND OHIO • 44143 • PHONE 440.646.9851


EDITORS NOTE:       I approved and support this endorsement!


BEST PRODUCT AWARD - BRACKET CATEGORY
2006-2007-2008-2009-2010-2011-2012



I used to post everything relating to brackets from all the firms but after thirty years of trade shows and basically looking at everything imaginable, one company stood out and outfoxes, out engineers, out builds, probably outsells, out markets, all the others who are probably in the out-house. 

With that said, some of those companies still selling the same thing they  created twenty years ago need not apply for recognition. When I see something that hasn't evolved in twenty years and still in the same packaging for some of them, the words lack of innovation, a failure to recognize market and a who cares attitude, it tells me why waste bandwidth.

So we go with the winners, and the public response to the product line has been a phenomena  in the camera business.  Five  years in a row this company has smoked the competition. In fact,  if flattery is the greatest form of acknowledgement this is the guy the others copy, period, I know, I saw the knock-offs at the show.  


TRUTH ABOUT FLASH BRACKETS

Buying a flash bracket is like buying a car. You buy a car style based on your immediate or future needs. The bracket purchase is based on similar needs.

Simply put the bracket is part of a system to improve the light you put onto a subject by the elimination of red-eye and shadows. 

There are three parts to any flash bracket: The bracket itself, an extended flash cable, like for Nikons, the SC-17, SC-28, SC-29

And those anti-twist plates for both the flash and the camera so these parts don't twist on the frame.  

Basically, you are building an integrated system that makes your job easier and a lot more secure.  Good quick releases also make life easier.Canon has comparable cables and extensions and there are after market brands like PRO and others.

All you are doing with a bracket is adjusting the angles of light from your strobe.


POINTS OF ARTIFICIAL LIGHT

POINT - Digital has less tolerance of bad exposure and lesser tolerance of mixed light temperatures. Even with the ability to white balance, it means little when a scene has differential lighting.  I think it picks up all the bad things that can happen and can multiply it.  Just the nature of the beast and that's how I got interested in brackets and using the power of the flash to stabilize things.  

POINT - Adapt, Improvise and Overcome - In trying to improve my work process, it forced me to modify my own gear. The unit above being grossly shortened in the Newton tradition, started out as something else. The rotator joint top right, got loose at a function, common on the Tiffen Stroboframe's, and always carry a Gerber tool or wrench in your bag if you use this brand or clones. 

I lobotomized it at my shop.  I pulled out the hacksaw and it got snipped, found some locking washers, nuts and bolts, locktite,  and some epoxy. I drilled out their holes and lock nutted them.  We also shortened the SC-17 cable to prevent it from getting coiled up with nowhere to go. I had to rebuild the whole thing to make it work right. That was fourteen years ago. If I bought another one I would do the same. It's easy, they still sell the same thing. no changes or upgrades. Today there are many different kinds of brackets, some great, some are jokes.

POINT -  Brackets don't eliminate all shadows. 

Most brackets put the light dimension where it belongs over the subject head plane. To further eliminate the remaining shadows here's a simple tip. Move the nice folks away from the wall and diffuse the light. The bracket will change things for the better but common sense will help you in further eliminating hours in Photoshop getting rid of shadows.

Next step is look at the flash.  Follow this. Most manufacturer OEM flashes are rectangles. So you have to flip the flash to align with the format. When the flash is in landscape or horizontal mode the flash is usually above the bracket matching the landscape mode. That's good. In portrait mode the flash has to turn ninety degrees.  But 90 degrees extends the arm almost vertical and you are turning the camera ninety degrees and canceling the whole turn out. Best bet, get the one that flips the camera.

POINT - Flipping Joints. 

This does not refer to throwing funny cigarettes outside the drivers side window with a cop car following you. This is the axis that the flash rotates on. The most common joints are friction joints with Teflon (sometimes) washers and they loosen.  Our winner year after year addresses this problem different from any other company.  Now the competition has started to copy Custom Brackets.

Custom Brackets use a spring loaded pressure joint that is self tending and eliminates wear as a concern. Ever wonder why the Mercedes Benz Sedans cost more than the Chrysler 300's even though for a while Daimler Benz had a piece of the rock. The Mercedes front end is steel machined and the Chrysler casted of a softer grade of metal.  You do get what you pay for even though it might not be visible.

POINT - Fast Releases

I also caution you about some fast releases, a couple I looked at are so fast you'll be picking up pieces before you knew anything happened. Why they put buttons in certain places I'll never know. A photographers best friend might be a set of Hex or Allen wrenches and some Locktite. Or just upgrade to someone's releases that make sense. Again the design of the Custom Brackets releases are outstanding.


Nikon SK-6 Power Bracket

PAPARAZZI RIGS…
We Nikon and Canon users have seen the expensive add-on Paparazzi style Brackets offered by these companies especially Nikon where they got the  "Chutzpah"  to charge in Nikons case 270-350 dollars for these fine add-ons. OK the Nikon one has a spare battery holder, more AA cells and a ot of money.  Canon didn't offer their version in the states, it was available in Europe and Asia markets and really offers no advantage. 

 

I was curious what Mike Mikulla from Custom Brackets was working on. We chatted over the phone about a paparazzi bracket, and he and I met at the PMA show... I threw mine on the table and he threw his on the table and they were almost identical, he had better refinements, and I threw mine out the window. 

Almost identical except for a few small points and features he had already addressed. Like a locking anti-swivel for the flash base and better anti-slid for the camera base. He now has the CB mini and the CB-MINI-RC. They are  a beautifully crafted pair of Paparazzi brackets, just look on his website located at and available from B&H and other retail on-line stores. www.custombrackets.com

CB Mini

These custom brackets retail at 45-55.00 and basically are ready to go out of the package. There are differences in the product.  Look carefully they depend on grip and preferences.

One the CB Mini-RC is for right-side users, with an offset and the other is a straight line rig you see on you left. They use the straight rig and not one of the U-Turns with flipping because they are always shooting in the vertical mode, and  sometimes chasing their prey.  

Why such a simple bracket so different.  It's obvious. Paparazzi are like sharks and attack their subjects sometimes at a really fast moving clip. It only takes one shot at hooking the flash on the guy running alongside you or worse you hook the flash on top of the camera on something and you either lose the flash or lose the prism. 

Simply put, No shooter is going into a "press chase" with a two foot tall bracket. 


THE WIMBERLY UPGRADE!

NATURE TREKKING - CB GIMBAL ( NEW)
These are elaborate and expensive brackets made for large lenses, macro flash and better beamers and such where stability of the longer heavier lenses is paramount.

The main concern when looking for a bracket in this category is strength, durability and strong locking components. 

In addition since these highly specialized brackets are used on tripods, the selection of a more than adequate tripod is essential.  

Many of these designs are the gimbaled style placing the weight below the object holder.  

The newest and probably most innovative on the block is manufactured by Custom Brackets and debuted at PMA 2008 in Vegas.   It's a winner. This class of brackets usually mates to a huge lens and finding the right center of balance is critical since most $4000-$10000 lenses don't take to falling well.

The CB Gimbal is made to handle the longest of lenses. With it's roller bearing design, movements are smooth and easy. Separate drag adjustment and lock for both horizontal and vertical movement is controlled using soft rubber coated knobs.  A setup lever provides a fast and easy way to balance your long lenses while a bubble level on the base helps you to level your tripod when needed. The CB Gimbal is also modular allowing you to disassemble it for easy storage and travel.  The Gimbal can be used on a tripod or an ARCA Swiss type ball head.

Capable of handling the longest lens, yet it is modular to disassemble for easy packing and travel.  With it's mini-components for complete versatility, it easily and safely adapts to any any lens application. With the patented roller bearings used in the top end CB products, it carries forth the quality found in this distinct line of camera accessories.


WEDDING, SPECIAL EVENTS BRACKETS

These are FLIP BRACKETS and the basic difference between Wedding, Event Brackets and Paparazzi style brackets is in the flipping.  The rotation of the flash from portrait to landscape mode.  Theoretically wedding and event brackets raise the light above the lens axis and allow the flash to be tilted for either portrait or landscape mode. 

The problem is  if a bracket just offered elevation, the flash would be way off center in the  portrait mode and you would get harsh side lighting. So we flip the flash.  

In the better level of bracket or the next higher level we flip the camera. You add a few dollars to the base models and we see the mechanisms that flip the camera rather than the flash.  They are more complex but get better results if they are engineered correctly. Most are not. We found the most universal, best constructed unit built in the world. Strong claim...yes but I stand by it.  (Read On)

HOW I PICKED THE WINNER…

There are many manufacturers of brackets out there. I have tried, looked, sampled, bought, owned, chopped and destroyed a few, OK, more than a few in my time.  It stated when one unit failed me and I stuck my two cents in. Each year I peruse the trade shows looking for accessories with quality construction, exceptional features, convenience, benefits, and innovation.  And I am a bracket and tripod nut.

Many buy their first bracket and think that an angled piece of metal with a camera on one end and a flash on the other is all they need and the better ones are overkill.  How wrong you can be.  In the heat of shooting today's weddings and events every part of your gear (kit for you Brits) it should be top notch.  

Some cost more and some are really less expensive than our winner. Some with quality standards far below and some just slightly better than two Stanley 8 inch angle brackets from Home Depot.  With one company their catalog is an archeological study. Some of their products for sale haven't improved in a millennium, same old stuff. 

CUSTOM BRACKETS…
Year after year always seems to amaze me. One innovation after another.  And if you think I'm playing favorites you are right, this is the real thing, nothing comes close.  Simply put, this is a company that effects change through innovation, they have the engineering, state of the art machining, and the integrity to stand behind what they manufacture.  

I like Mike, he thinks like I do about customer service, putting the best in the product and integrity, something really lacking today. Oh made in the USA by real technicians.  He and his family are everything good about doing business in the US. I have as I said looked at all the cockamamie ideas floating the web, most copies and cheap knockoffs.  This is the finest bracket engineered and manufactured in the USA and quality wise, ahead of everybody else period.  And it's made here….


THE BEST:  The DIGITAL PRO-M:

Digital PRO-M Kit

Custom Brackets has the ultimate bracket in my eyes. 

I had to have one and, there was no race this year in engineering and design, once again this gear is the tops in its field being the only manufacturer with innovation. 

Everything else is something I've seen before, a knockoff or copy.

This is Mercedes Benz quality in a unit slightly more than the medium priced units but one that you will not outgrow nor will you get tired of. 

Why do I get so excited about this line of goods?  Because the ideas and innovations go beyond my mechanical engineering skills and I appreciate when something stands out, it stands out! in fact, I showed it to five professional photographers plus friends and users in other fields, people that make a full time living at their game...comments ranged from the photographers "can I borrow it",  "to how 'bout if I steal it then"...  " I can't believe how the roller load bearings make it so smooth"

The fit and finish is excellent.  Black Anodized Aluminum richly done, both light weight and strong. Has a shiny but not annoying gloss to it. Doesn't look like the cheaper blackening processes" and that's from a plating manufacturer who refinishes very expensive firearms.  

It is the only wear-compensating bracket on the market today. It's maintenance free and no lubrication needed. It "feels right"...slick transition.  "Reduction machining, made from machined thick-gauge, lightweight aluminum with a smooth black anodized finish. Top Draw.

Custom Brackets are machined not bent into shape and this keeps the structural strength of the Aluminum, these comments came from a machinist and mechanical engineer. Translation. It feels right, not like a bent piece of cheap grade aluminum bar.

With the Digital PRO-Line, the new bearing PRO line and additional options and units going from economy to first class, this line now is the most complete line in the business.  

New quick releases and accessory plates for the radio slaves and other add-ons completes the picture.  

In this category nothing else on the market compares.  Everything else is basically same old, same old and probably some of it has been in the warehouses for twenty years.  

FEATURES
•  Professional looking design   
•  Rotates using roller bearings from horizontal to vertical   
•  Anodized black aluminum for lightweight and strength   
•  No lubrication needed - designed maintenance free     
•  Adjustable flash height with tilt for eliminating red eye and shadows   
•  Comfortable foam grip on left side   
•  Fits in camera bags using fold in legs and retractable upright     
•  Palm grip for comfort and support while holding the bracket and zooming
•  Weight:  23 oz.   (652 g)  
•  Bracket Dimensions:  7-7/8” high, 10” wide, 2-3/8” deep (storage position)   
•  Metric Dimensions:  22.5cm high, 25.4cm wide, 6.0cm deep


Required items - Included in KIT

•  CMP  Camera mounting plate
•  FCN  Flash mounting plate for Canon / Nikon flash cords
•  QR  Tripod quick release for mounting bracket to tripod

Optional items - Sold separately
• QR-C  Camera quick release
•  C-SP  Camera quick release sub-plate
•  CBP  Camera bottom plate (bracket to tripod)
•  AP  Accessory plate for radio slave, second flash, etc.
•  MC  Cold shoe for radio slave•  FT-JR  Shoe mount for radio slave, second flash, etc.

 

 © copyright aljacobs Stardate 10-18-2012