Review: Impact Air Cushioned Light Stand (8′)
I do a lot of my shooting on location with speed lights and either a soft box or an umbrella. Sometimes I have someone along to help me, but sometimes I’m shooting alone. This means a sturdy light stand I can rely on is absolutely essential.
When I bought my first soft box, I had no idea about light stands. So I did what every newbie probably does. I bought what was recommended (by staff, no less) as being “perfect” for the 24 x 24″ soft box that I chose. This was the 8′ Impact Air Cushioned Light Stand.
Air Cushioned simply means there’s some resistance when you collapse the stand. The idea is, when you loosen a section (or you don’t completely tighten a section), your light mounted on top won’t come crashing down. It’s intended to “save equipment and fingers from harm”. It does sound like a brilliant feature worth paying extra for, but I personally don’t find it necessary unless you plan on using heavier strobes. In which case, you probably won’t be buying this stand.
Impact Air Cushioned Light Stand
Price: US$32.95 from B&H
|Maximum Height||96″ (243.8 cm)|
|Minimum Height||34″ (86.3 cm)|
|Folded Height||29.6 (75.2 cm)|
|Footprint Diameter||36″ (91.4 cm)|
|Weight||2.05 lb (1 kg)|
|Maximum Load||8 lb (3.6 kg)|
The top of the stand is fitted with a standard 5/8″ stud and a 1/4″-20 in threaded tip. The threaded tip is just like the screw on your tripod plate. It will fit your speedlight foot so you can mount your speedlight straight on it. (Not recommended.) The 5/8″ stud will fit any number of different brackets you can purchase that will give you greater versatility. Brackets also allow the use of soft boxes, umbrellas, or other modifiers.
If you want the ability to wheel the stand around, you can also purchase a set of 22mm wheels for another US$30. But this stand is so light, and the legs aren’t terribly grippy anyway, that I really doubt you would find wheels necessary to have.
I honestly don’t know what the staff thought “perfect” was, because my experience with the 8′ Impact Air Cushioned Light Stand has been that it is in no way sturdy enough to truly support any decent sized soft box. Granted, it was passable inside my house, but anywhere else it was something of a nightmare.
You see, even though the maximum load for a light stand might be well above the weight of what you plan to stick on top of it, you have to take into account the centre of gravity as well as the footprint diameter of the legs. Not to mention, a soft box or umbrella can (and will) both take flight in the slightest wind.
What I found with my 8′ Impact Light Stand was that if I wanted to use it on location with my soft box, I really needed someone else to be holding it. Otherwise, it was quite at risk of toppling over. Even hanging my camera bag off the bottom of it as a makeshift sandbag wasn’t enough to stabilise it. And extending the stand to its maximum height (something I often needed to do) was always a terrible idea, even indoors.
Speaking of maximum height, 8 feet really isn’t very tall for lighting purposes, and there were several occasions when it just wasn’t tall enough. Keep in mind, since this stand has 4 sections, it really is quite thin and flimsy when fully extended.
With just a speed light on top and no modifiers, however, this light stand serves its purpose well enough. It’s nice to travel with because it is so compact and light.
However, being a cheap, compact, and light weight stand, I found the build quality to be rather lacking. Not long after I started using it, the mechanism to tighten the middle section actually seized up on me. This meant I could no longer extend or collapse that section without jamming a key into the mechanism first in order to pry it open.
The plastic knobs are also rather small, and – due to the air cushioning feature – without even noticing I often wouldn’t tighten them as far as they would go. This meant my soft box would either swing around freely on the stand when I least expected it. Or it would suddenly (slowly) sink.
The last straw for me finally came when the light stand toppled over one day and the new umbrella octobox I was using on it hit the ground. The impact caused the umbrella shaft to snap clean in half! Of course, as well as risking your equipment, using a light stand that is not stable or too light for what you’re putting on top of it is a safety hazard for others that nobody wants to have.
For a cheap stand, if you just plan on sticking a speed light on top, the 8′ Impact Air Cushioned Light Stand works well enough. Especially in small studio spaces. But if you plan on using any soft boxes or umbrellas, I really can’t recommend it. You’d be far better off spending a bit more on a larger stand with a larger footprint diameter. Even if you’re just starting out, getting a good light stand from the start will save you money in the long run.