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Accessories we like: three products to better manage your lighting
Thursday, April 15, 2010 | by Rob Galbraith
There are three accessories for managing lighting we wouldn't want to live without: the Manfrotto QSS 1004BAC light stand, the Horizontal Flash Mounting Bracket from Michael Bass and the Hoodman HoodLoupe 3.0. Here's why.

Manfrotto QSS 1004BAC light stand

Stilts: A pair of Manfrotto 1004BAC light stands, at nearly full extension. Click to enlarge (Photo by Rob Galbraith/Little Guy Media)
Light stands are forever in a supporting role, providing a perch for the flash units and wireless triggers that are the real stars of any lighting show. They're an all-mechanical device outshone by the slick electronics they hold up. Truth is, light stands are boring.

Except for one: the Manfrotto 1004BAC, a 12ft/3.66m tall aluminum light stand in the company's Quick Stack System (QSS) series. Introduced in 2009, the 1004BAC is the tallest of four QSS stands from the Italian maker of lighting and camera support equipment. It's our go-to light stand for just about everything, because it combines soaring height, excellent strength and durability, smooth operation and a collapsed profile that makes it possible to fit four of them in a light stand bag that would normally hold three.

For location shooting that requires getting the light up high or attaching somewhat heavy or ungainly modifiers, the 1004BAC just works.

The precursor to QSS was the Stacker series introduced in the 90s; the new QSS line is its third generation. In the case of the 1004BAC, third time's a charm. Manfrotto took the stackable, fold-flat design of the second generation 307/307B and did away with its primary shortcoming: it was too clumsy and difficult to attach and detach the tab that secured one to the next in a stack. Gone is the tab now. In its place the 1004BAC has a click-lock system that is effortless to engage and release.

Manfrotto also added air cushioning - that's the AC in its name. It's the good kind of air cushioning that helps slowly bring your heavy gear back to earth, not the bad kind that bounces and jerks as the stand is lowered. Plus, when fully collapsed, the 1004BAC will stay upright without teetering. This, combined with its simpler stand attachment mechanism, makes it easier to get several of them stacked together.

Other changes, relative to the 307/307B, include an improved leg lock mechanism, a slight drop in the maximum height and the elimination of the non-B version (meaning the 1004 comes only in black, there is no silver option).

Between myself, site co-editor Mike Sturk and shooting partner David Moll we own eleven of the current 1004BAC and previous 307/307B. The 307/307B is great, except for the frustrating stacking tab. The 1004BAC keeps its strengths, eliminates its limitations and what you're left with is a darned near perfect location stand when hiking the lights up beyond 10ft/3.1m is a key requirement.

The picture below shows a trio of 1004BACs in place and extended to about 11ft/3.35m for a team photo shoot. Below that are pictures of the stands linked together plus closeups of the stacking system.

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Upright: Views of the 1004BAC, the tallest of Manfrotto's QSS light stand series. Click any photo to enlarge (Photos by Rob Galbraith/Little Guy Media)

The 1004BAC is the tallest member of the QSS series and the one that's most suited to what we shoot with studio heads and monolights, but there are three shorter ones too. The basic specifications for all four are:
  • 1051BAC Maximum height: 6.9ft/2.11m | Closed length: 26in/67cm | Load: 8.8lb/4kg
  • 1052BAC Maximum height: 7.8ft/2.37m | Closed length: 34in/86cm | Load: 11lb/5kg
  • 1005BAC Maximum height: 9ft/2.73m | Closed length: 39in/100cm | Load: 22lb/10kg
  • 1004BAC Maximum height:12ft/3.66m | Closed length: 42in/107cm | Load: 20lb/9kg
Of these, the only other size that could be useful in our work is the 1051BAC. As the smallest of the QSS stands it's potentially an alternative to the venerable Manfrotto 5001B/001B stand when working with small flashes in a hurry. While the 1051BAC is noticeably taller when closed, it has higher maximum height and load rating specifications plus, as a QSS stand it compacts well for travel with other 1051BACs. These characteristics could make it the light stand to graduate to for those in the Speedlight crowd who need a bit more height and stability than the 5001B/001B offers.

On paper, anyway. As it turns out, the 1051BAC is a bit of a dud. When fully extended its height essentially matches the 5001B/001B, despite the fact the latter stand is rated to only 6.2ft/1.9m vs the 1051BAC's 6.9ft/2.11m. The 1051BAC's stability is also hampered by its short legs, which don't extend out far enough to support its height. The reversible-leg design of the 5001B/001B allows it to have a footprint that's nearly 1ft/30cm larger in diameter than the 1051BAC; with the two side by side, raised to about 5ft/1.5m and with a small flash and umbrella mounted on each, it's the 5001B/001B that's less tippy.

There's room for improvement in the 5001/001B - it would be great if it were just a bit more stable and offered a bit more usable height while still collapsing small. That extra stability and height, however, does not come in the form of the 1051BAC.

The pictures below show the 5001/001B and 1051BAC. You'll see the shorter collapsed height of the 5001B/001B, its larger footprint, similar maximum height and different mechanical design.

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Two Up: Views of the Manfrotto 5001B/001B and 1051BAC. Click any photo to enlarge (Photos by Rob Galbraith/Little Guy Media)

The picture below shows both the 1004BAC and 5001B/001B in action. The QSS stand is being used to support the softbox, middle, and hair/side light, right, while the 5001B/001B is holding a shadow-softening flash low to the floor at left.

Supportive: The Manfrotto 5001B/001B and 1004BAC light stands, in action. Click to enlarge (Photo by Rob Galbraith/Little Guy Media)

On the next page: the Horizontal Flash Mounting Bracket and Hoodman HoodLoupe 3.0.
Next Page: Horizontal Flash Mounting Bracket, HoodLoupe 3.0
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