A shooting tent from Godox is our review subject today that causes some controversy among photographers usually. This review is not about the quality and characteristics of the tent only but also about the situations where it can and cannot be used.
Mini and portable?
‘Mini and portable studio tent’ – says the description everywhere. Of course this line is written in the description of the 40cm and 60cm models too where it might be true, but in case of the 80cm version this should be a copy-paste text only. Because a 80x80x80cm shooting tent is anything but not ‘mini’. It is as big as a dog house….for wild boars maybe…
The question may arise: is it really portable? Theoretically it is. You can disassemble it into small pieces and you’ll get a nice carrying bag from Godox. But I’d like to have some remarks on this. First of all, why carrying around a shooting tent? This is a studio accessory. Although there might be some situations when carrying this is a must, but this might be rare in my opinion. Usually there is a room, an office or even a studio where a tent like this is assembled and used, and all the subjects, products will be carried there. If you are a webshop-owner, then you’ll have such a tent in your office. If you are a photographer shooting for webshops, then you’ll have the tent in your studio and your clients will take their goods to you. So if I say this shooting tent is not really portable, don’t be scared: usually you will not need to carry it around too often. However it can be disassembled and it is easy to carry in its bag, but the problems come during assembly. I’ll be honest, it took at least half an hour to me for the first time. Okay for the second time it would took 10 minutes or so, but I don’t want to assemble it again. It’s a struggle. If you disassemble it to every pieces, you’ll have 39 pieces on your table. Pure IKEA. Obviously though you’ll don’t need to dismantle it later to all its pieces in order to put it in the bag, so the real difficulty for constant carrying is not this, but the cover of the tent. During assembly you’ll need to create the frame first, then wrap it with the cover that fits pretty tight. If you don’t push the joints together enough, the cover will not fit at all, but even well assembled, zipping the last corners will be a struggle.
It’s not impossible, I’ve managed to assemble it too, but I don’t want to do it again. Even if you are willing to assemble and disassemble it all the time, the zip will clearly keep up the fight quickly: it’s easy to see that it’s not designed for that.
So I’d rather say, this shooting tent is designed to be assembled once then be used after on the spot.
The light tent is silver inside and has its own light sources: two repositionable LED strips give the lighting inside. There are two types of shooting tents basically, one is made of diffuse material and lit from outside, the other is like this one, which is not transparent, has silver (or maybe white) walls inside, and we use lamps in the tent. This gives us less potential when designing our lighting compared to a unique product-photography lighting.
The two LED strips can be mounted on the tubes of the inner frame. Also we have two extra tubes that can be positioned freely in the tent. The set has a diffuser too, it has to be mounted in front of the LED light sources in order to make their light more even and soft. The LEDs can be positioned on the upper tubes, parallel or L-shaped but their position will be somewhat limited by the single outlet (a hole) for the cables on the top of the tent. We can put the LEDs on the sides as well, but then the diffuser must be repositioned too.
One thing is for sure: such changes require almost full disassembly of the tent. You have to zip out the cover at least half in order to get access to the LEDs and the diffuser.
You’ll find holes for your camera on the side and the top of the shooting tent. Obviously if you want to take photos from the top, then you’ll have to remove a diffuser inside, otherwise it’ll cover your subject. On the front there is a bigger hole with double door. It is a good solution because if one half is shut, it’ll mean quite a lot regarding the front lighting of your subject (around 1/4-1/2 EV which is sometimes required).
The power of the LEDs can be adjusted stepless and separately, however you’d better not to expect big differences between full power and half-sided lighting. See below:
The white balance of the lights is okay, approx. 5651-5700K according to my RAW-converter. The green-magenta tint is neutral on max power. Possibly you will not use these lights on less than full power. On max performance you’ll get ISO100, f/10 and 1/15s values. BTW you can adjust the lightpower on the mains-adapter with two rotary knobs. This adapter will usually hang at the back of the tent, Godox possibibly knew this during the design process, so the cables of the LEDs attach with a bayonet to the adapter. Smart solution because they cannot slip out due to the hanging weight.
The Godox shooting tent has textured silver surface inside so if your aim is not an isolated photo at the end, then you’d better use a seamless background to get fine results. Godox provides a black and a white one for you. They are made of plastic, so they are durable and easy to clean, on the other hand they are a little bit shiny (especially the black) and you cannot remove the gloss with a polarizing filter. Fixing the backgrounds in the tent is not the easiest anyway.
Finally let’s see what this shooting tent is good for and what it is not.
Let’s talk about first what it is good for: webshops, packshots, classified ads, simple food photography and 360-degrees product shots for example. Photos that should be good looking but don’t require artistic implementation.
Any product photographed in this tent will look much better than photographed on your desk with ambient lighting. Even if you do it with your mobile.
There is nothing worse than a webshop with nitty-gritty product shots. If they have unified look photos that will look demanding even if they are not lit masterfully. The picture below has been made with an iPhone and has only minor post-processing that the iPhone’s default photo editor allowed. Don’t tell me that this shouldn’t be enough for a webshop that sells detergents.
What the shooting tent is not good for? It is not enough for demanding, advertising-valued product shots and for shooting high-gloss products. The latter is one of the hardest issues for product photographers, it requires professional knowledge. However shooting a glossy stuff in a shooting tent will still look better than shooting it on your desk with ambient lighting. But you should consider that if you put a glossy object in a tent, it will reflect everything: seams, shooting window, textured silver surface, or even your camera and your hands. If not, then it will be pure white (reflecting the seamless background) and will look flat white instead of shiny, glossy metal.
So you’d better not using a shooting tent for watches, jewellery, high-gloss kitchenware and such. Obviously you cannot achieve dramatic lighting in a shooting tent either. For demanding product shots you’ll need directional lighting and light shapers. And professional knowledge.