The Cubelite builds on Lastolite's ever increasing range of spring-into-shape products that were first seen in the form of the popular circular reflector. It's basically an extremely lightweight cube made from translucent material that you can fire light through. The subject is positioned inside the cube and the camera points through a hole in the front. The idea is it allows you to illuminate and shoot reflective subjects without reflections and provides shadowless lighting.
There are two sizes - a 90cm cube and a 120cm cube. We tried the smaller 90cm version. It comes in the familiar blue Lastolite zippered case. When packed, this measure about 38cm diameter and about 13cm width. It has a carrying handle and weighs 2.2k making it extremely portable and easy to store away.
When erect you'll find the front - it's the side that has a removable Velcro panel. The panel also has horizontal and vertical slits that have zip fastenings. The idea is to remove the panel place your subject inside and then attach the panel.
Once the panel is in place you unzip the slit where you will poke your camera lens and, once in the best position, zip up so that the lens is snug the aperture. Now you're ready to light the subject. I used a room with good windowlight. You could point studio lights from any direction, including underneath if you have the cube on a suitable glass table or product bench.
One other feature that will find useful is a pair of crocodile clips that are positioned at the top on each side of the back panel on elasticized straps. These can be used to grip a background which would then be extended from the top to the base front to provide a continuous tone for the subject's background. I used a cut down vinyl sheet but paper or cloth could also be used.
The fun begins once you've completed your photo session and want to fold the Cubelite back into its case. The first stage should be easy and is if you remember one simple point - fold in from the side not the top! Grab the front left and push towards the back right, then bring the front right to back left to make it flat. Now using the traditional Lastolite twist hold one edge with the left hand and the opposite with the right one hand facing out the other in and twist. Get it right and the frame will collapse in on itself making it the size to stash away in the case.
After a few sessions of use and possibly down to me not folding it correctly the ends of the spring loop started to poke out from their clasps and they are sharp resulting in them ripping the material. This also makes the loop slight smaller too so the walls are less taught. The material picks up dust easily, so it soon gets grubby, especially if you're using it in a spare room or shared studio.
Although the diffused light does kill al reflections it dulls down the brilliance of glass too making shots look clean but sometimes lacking a little in sparkle. What it does do well is provide shadowless lighting which would be difficult to control in normal studio conditions. And for photographing less reflective items such as fruit and veg which would normally pick up a distracting highlight or two.
The Cubelite is a great idea. It's relatively easy to set up, extremely portable, and certainly does what it's designed to do. 90 isn't a bad price either. If you like still life photography and don't have the space or budget to set up a room as a studio this makes a perfect alternative. Take care with the frame, especially when folding it up and keep it out of dust to ensure it keeps clean.
Test by Peter Bargh
Pete's ideas of saving thousands on the cost of
a studio were severely flawed!