Kaiser’s Studio Out Of The Box
A Handy Tool For Photographing Small Objects

The name may not be catchy, but it is a fine piece of truth in advertising. Kaiser's Studio Out of the Box comes in a box and it's a sort of mini-studio for making small product shots for catalogs, insurance purposes, documenting collections, posting on websites, and many other applications. It's usable even by non-photographers: all you need is a light or two and a digital compact with zoom macro facilities.

In fact, it's so clever and so simple that there is hardly much to test: the pictures are self-explanatory. There's the usual few minutes when you first open the box and start playing around--ah, this bit has to be turned over and re-inserted, this bit clips on like this, and so forth--but once you understand the setup, it takes well under a minute to set the thing up on any convenient tabletop, or even on the floor.

Cissette. When Frances was a little girl she used to pore over the catalog that came with Cissette: it showed her in all sorts of different costumes in simple setups. For some years now she has been shooting the same sort of pictures herself, just for fun.

The baseboard is 30cm wide (near enough 12"). Unextended, it is 50cm long (near enough 20"); extended, it is 72cm (call it 281/2"). You therefore need a reasonably wide table, about 30" front to back. Or set it up lengthwise on the table, or use the floor. The background support extends a few inches behind the baseboard and the parallelogram arm can add more than 12", 30cm, in front of the baseboard.

Take it out of the box. Pull up the parallelogram camera support. Pull out the baseboard extension, which is of good strong metal, like the baseboard itself. Unfold the background support frame; flip the extension over, and slide it back in. Clip the background support rail over the background support frame, and drape the background (supplied) over that. Fix the camera on the camera platform; if you want to shoot "portrait" (vertical) rather than "landscape" (horizontal) there's a simple L-bracket right-angle adapter.

Voigtländer Bessa-T with Voigtländer 90mm finder and Leitz Thambar 90mm f/2.2. This has been "cut out" from the background in Adobe Photoshop: no more than a few minutes' work.

That's all. In most of the world you can get optional clamp-on lights, too, though not in the US: they are currently available only in the international standard of 220-240v. These add less than a minute to the setup time and if there is enough demand in the US, no doubt there will be a 120v version as well. They are not necessarily as useful as they seem, though: two lights of equal power at the same distance may be ideal for copying and acceptable for record shots, but for creative lighting, you want more control--though you can mount both lights on one side if you want. An Anglepoise or similar articulated lamp is arguably more use, though. Incidentally the white side of the case (the one without the printing) makes an excellent reflector.

Although it is designed for digital compacts, it proved just strong enough to support our Nikon D70, though that was right on the edge as far as weight goes: you need to use the self-timer or a remote release to avoid severe vibration. The pictures show it with a little Rollei film compact, simply because we do not have an appropriate digital compact.

Any problems? Not really. You need a camera that allows exposure compensation, or you are likely to get underexposure with small subjects against white backgrounds. A remote release is useful, or a self-timer, as already mentioned. The biggest things you can shoot aren't very big: 6 or 8" wide (15-20cm) at most. As for actual adjustments, we had to tighten the drag screws on the background support, which initially tended to fold up under the weight of the background. That was all.

You can use other backgrounds as well, and if you were ambitious enough, it would take only a few minutes to make additional backgrounds to the pattern of the one supplied, using a couple of pieces of wooden dowel at the ends. The background supplied is a rubberized fabric that looks like white blackout material: the rubberized side is washable.

Quite honestly, the Studio Out of the Box does nothing that we can't do already--but then, we have a fully equipped, full-time studio, and we normally use the D70 for product shots and the like. To put it in proportion, our camera stand-alone cost more than the Studio Out of the Box.