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The pop-up light tent idea is hardly a new one, with choices varying wildly in price from over a hundred pounds for some to a couple of quid for a cheap ebay offering. The Mini-Photo Studio is certainly not one of the cheapest of its ilk available, with an RRP of nearly £70. They all essentially do the same thing at the end of the day, which is soften the spread of light in a way that is ideal for product photography and studio macro work. The Hama Mini Photo Studio XL is one of the larger offering available, making it suitable for a wide range of subjects.
Hama Mini Photo Studio XL: Specification
- Height: 75 cm
- Depth: 70 cm
- Width: 75 cm
- Material: easy-clean nylon material
- Background cloth: grey/blue
Hama Mini Photo Studio XL: Features
The Hama Mini Photo Studio XL is a cube-shaped light-tent constructed in a similar way to a pop-up reflector, using a flexible frame to give tension to the material and rigidity when opened up.
As always with this kind of design, putting the thing up is always a lot simpler than collapsing it, unless you have the knack of how it folds down. First time users may find themselves in a bit of a tangle when it comes to packing it away. A handy compact storage bag is provided, which helps to keep it clean when it's not being used.
Three main parts make up the Mini-Photo Studio, the tent, a blue/grey backdrop and a separate piece of translucent nylon material with a hole in it which helps seal up the front, while still allowing you to stick your lens through the hole to take pictures. The blue/grey backdrop has soft velcro fastenings on both sides, which match up nicely with the velcro hooks inside the tent.
The fixings in the tent also have small white pieces of elastic attached to them, to give you something to hold onto when fixing the backdrop, which I think is a nice touch. I'm a little bemused by the choice of blue and grey, as I would think white would be a better choice for the majority of product shots.
Hama believe the blue backdrop is perfect for subject isolation in the same way the weather girl stands in front of a computer animated map. The problem with this is that it doesn't work with reflective surfaces, as the blue spills onto the object, and looks a little odd when replaced with white in the background.
The grey side is handy for taking a white balance reading from though, which will speed up the editing process once you get the images onto your computer. Another issue with the backdrop is with the material it's made out of. It's made out of a fairly thick nylon material, which is no doubt hard-wearing, but is absolutely impossible to get crease-free. Believe me I tried everything, but to no avail.
Hama Mini Photo Studio XL: Performance
Hama's Mini Photo Studio does pretty-much exactly what it's supposed to do very well. By simply placing it close to a window, you can get a pleasantly soft quality of light that will do for many things, although to me this kind of lighting is a little too flat and boring for my tastes. Adding a smaller light opposite the window helps to give definition and shape to objects photographed in the tent.
Using light from a window gives a soft light source with minimal contrast.
Bringing in a small light from the other side adds depth to the image.
When photographing reflective subjects up close, the front of the tent can be sealed up with the additional piece of nylon. This works to a certain degree, but I did find the size of the hole restrictive when using a large lens like my Nikon 135mm f/2 on extension tubes.
The size of the hole also makes it difficult to adjust your subject once the front is sealed up. I've seen alternatives use a velcro fastening system on the hole, which would be a much more satisfactory solution.
Hama Mini Photo Studio XL: Verdict
The Hama Mini Photo-Studio is capable of helping you to produce the same results as with any other light tent. My only niggles are with the backdrop colour, the crease-ridden material, and the restrictive nature of the opening in the front sheet of nylon material.
All of these would certainly make me look into alternatives before paying £70.
Hama Mini Photo Studio XL: Plus points
Nice soft spread of light is easily achieved
Grey backdrop is perfect for manual white balance readings
Hama Mini Photo Studio XL: Minus points
Blue/grey seems like an odd choice of backdrop colours
Creases are virtually impossible to remove from the backdrop material
Hole in front can be restrictive as it's so small
Chroma Key idea with the blue backdrop does not work with reflective items
Item could be difficult for first-time users to collapse
The Hama Mini Photo Studio costs around £70. Take a look at the Hama website for more information: