Polaroid Pro Table Top Photo Studio Kit Review: A Low Cost Lighting Solution

When it comes to tabletop product photography, I rank right down there with the worst of the worst. I am far too lazy to improve my ability primarily because I hate product photography. It’s difficult to do well, doesn’t pay much and is grossly unappreciated. I mean, whoever saw an ad for a can of pineapple juice and exclaimed, “Great product shot! I wonder who did that?” This explains why I like the pop-up type light tents and white boxes that reduce this arduous chore to a tolerable experience.

Last November I reviewed the Fotodiox LED Studio-in-a-Box and concluded that “It’s fun and easy to use, and you’ll get great results even if you’ve never done any tabletop product photography.” You can read about it here.

Between my ardent lack of ability and my incredibly positive experience with the Fotodiox setup, I was ambivalent toward reviewing the new Polaroid Pro Table Top Photo Studio Kit. Nevertheless I decided to press on and, after allowing the unopened box to sit on a workbench for a few weeks, I dove right in.

Here’s what you get. One pair of matching multifaceted LED light arrays, each about 5.25-inches in diameter and resembling a slightly oversized flood lamp with dimples; one pair of mini light stands; one camera holder with thumb-screw head; four backdrops (red, blue, white and black); a case that remains permanently attached to the cube and one fold-up cube. Everything fits inside the case and the whole unit becomes a highly portable, portfolio-shaped package.

Nice touch—the lamp assemblies come with plug adapters to accommodate line voltage outlets found in foreign countries. The instruction sheet, as it were, indicates that the lights are suitable for 120V-240V but I did not find a UL or any other safety certification indicia.

My Gossen Luna Pro ambient light meter, which I purchased from Robert’s Camera, also known as usedphotopro.com

Here’s what I didn’t like. The mini light stands are too tall; even when adjusted to the lowest position, the placement of the LED array is unavoidably above the midpoint of the cube. The LED arrays are not very bright. My Gossen Luna Pro meter indicated that even with bright ambient light included, the necessary exposure at ISO 400 was 1/30 sec at f/5.6, making handheld shots at small apertures impossible. Finally, when assembled, the pockets on the case (which becomes the back of the cube) are facing downward, thereby spilling the contents.

Okay. Not too bad. Here’s what I did like. Unlike some cubes, the walls are translucent, so the cube is eminently useable without the LEDs (or any artificial lighting). That’s cool.

One of the multifaceted LED light arrays as seen on the inside of the cube.

The mini light stands, albeit too tall, are handy. I can think of a number of other situations where a shorter-than-average light stand is desirable.

The price of the Polaroid Pro Table Top Photo Studio Kit is very attractive. I found it available for $89 at a couple of online stores. Not bad when you add up all of the components and factor in the four backdrops.

I hate to admit it, because it’s a little rickety, but the novel camera holder is cool, too. The top has a very lightweight ball head and the bottom is a large U-shaped, horseshoe-type affair with rubber feet. For the customer likely to use this product, perhaps someone with an online auction business or a model maker, this un-tripod camera holder is just right to support a point-and-shoot camera.

In the final analysis I can recommend this product with the above caveats underscored. It should not be labeled “Pro” but then again, what does “Pro” really mean? The Polaroid Pro Table Top Photo Studio Kit is a huge step up from a simple white fabric photo cube, and although it’s not perfect, it’s a good value.

—Jon Sienkiewicz