Orange Monkie Foldio 3 Review
I've left in the exif data with the photos to give you an idea of what settings they were shot with, that should give you an idea of what lighting was available from the Foldio. Most were shot in the evening so there was very little additional light.
All the photos (with the exceptions of the two photos of the Foldio) were taken with the Foldio using either the stock white backdrop, charcoal cardboard or a piece of black reflective acrylic.
Orange Monkie isn't new to the photography market, and the Foldio 3, as it's name suggests, is not the first of its kind. As the 3rd and largest iteration of the Foldio produced to date, it is another Kickstarter venture that has seen considerable success on Kickstarter with more than $800,000 raised.
Given Orange Monkie's history of delivery, I decided to bite the bullet and buy one to see if they were any good. I do a lot of photos of photo gear and it seemed like a reasonable way to get decent quality photographs with minimal setup time. I'm lazy and time poor so if it helps with that, great.
For those who have never seen the Foldio, it's a foldable light box you can use to take photos of anything that is small enough to fit inside. It's 63cm (25") across in size which makes it suitable for sizeable objects like camera bags or large camera lens combinations. I won't try explain it, just have a look at the kickstarter video and it will give you more than I could try explain:
Pricing and ordering process
I backed the Foldio 3 on the 14th July, about 5 hours before it was due to close. The initial shipping estimates were September 2017. Mine arrived in late November, not quite in line with their original shipping expectations, but not bad by Kickstarter standards where actually delivery can exceed 6-12 months after the planned dates, and in some cases, not ship at all. I'm not sure why these kickstarter projects don't take more realistic approaches to their timelines because I have yet to be involved in one Kickstarter project that hasn't been delayed.
The Foldio is made of a clear plastic material which helps reflect the lighting. It's sturdy and light for what it is intended for. Realistically, you won’t be resting any heavy objects on top of this, and all it has to do Is hold up the light bar attached to the interior. Previous Foldio's came with one or two LED light bars that could be attached to the roof. With the Foldio 3, there are side attachments called Halo Bars that allow for a better spread of light. Although the construction is lightweight, it actually suits the purpose of the device. You could probably make it more durable but that would come at the expensive of weight and the purpose of this item is a cost effective and simple way to get good lighting.
Backdrops are the critical part to this device. They provided two backdrops (black and white) and a reflective surface which is cardboard with a coating.
The white backdrop is thicker than the black backdrop has a more solid thicker plastic like feel while the black seems to be a faux velvet material. The backdrops are attached via velcro to the backing. Whilst the limited selection of backdrops may be problematic for some people, A2 pieces of paper are easily accessible and stick on velcro is widely available on the market which makes it an easily maintainable solution. Get larger pages to fit the softbox perfectly may prove hard, but it depends on whether you need that.
From the quality of backgrounds, the white is a little transparent but should meet most user requirements. The black came with a lot of fluff so I had to use a fluff roller to remove this prior to the first use. It's an annoyance because I actually prefer using a black backdrop. I would still recommend buying some matt black or charcoal cardboard with a soft texture which would be my preferred backdrop. Sometimes black is too black when you put black equipment on it.
The mirror cardboard that came with mine had a water stain. I tried to clean it a couple of times but it's still there which makes this useless. It was included as a free item, but I have no doubt some people will be disappointed with these. Fortunately I already had a piece of black reflective plastic so I'll be using this.
I ended up buying a variety of cardboard sheets and sticking velcro to them. You can buy velcro circles fairly cheaply for under $5. This has worked perfectly although funding pieces of cardboard to match the sizing of the Foldio was difficult and I end up with A2 which is slightly too small. I'd recommend doing the same unless you need the larger sizes as it's cheaper and easy to replace A2
I never had the previous Foldio so I can't compare them. As a result I'll focus on the current model rather than speculating on previous versions may have worked.
Putting the foldio together is easy. It comes as a briefcase looking arrangement and everything sets up with magnets. It's a clever setup that is very effective. Open it up, connect the magnets and lights, and you're ready to go.
From a lighting perspective, the Foldio is very good and the adjustable lighting is very effective. It's not going to compete with a dedicated lighting setup with softboxes, but this costs a fraction and is adequate for the types of users. The key thing for me is the ease at which it can be setup.
I got the option that came with something they call the Halo Bar. The Halo Bar is an extra set of lights that attach to either side magnetically. I'd honestly recommend you buy the Halo Bars as it offers a lot of flexibility to move the lights depending on the type of shadows you want to achieve, or remove.
The second issue is the amount of lighting you want to achieve. I like to handhold my camera for the photos I take, I couldn't imagine having to use a tripod as it would take me a lot longer to get the photos. Combined with the 60mm at F5.6-f8, I find myself having to shoot at ISO400-1600 and I don't think I would want to go higher than that as a result of having less light. Granted you go with a tripod and keep the ISO down but for me personally, I find it's easier to move around on my feet than be constrained by a tripod, mostly because I'm a lazy photography when it comes to stuff like this. Let's be realistic, I'm not creating stock photos for Fujifilm like Jonas Rask.
I'm putting something short, but the reality for me is that I have no . intention of using the app. I'll be using iny Fujifilm gear, with the XF 60mm F24 as my choice OF lens 90% of the time.
That said, the app for this is pretty respectable and overall, for it was designed to do, it does a very good job. It has some basic features like the ability to change brightness but it also includes some chromakey Functionality.
I understand what they are trying to achieve with the app and it's going to meet the user requirements of the less tech savvy users, but I would expect any more competent photographer to be using something more than an iPhone.
I have to admit that I am sold on the Foldio 3. I think it's a brilliant idea, and aside from the substandard backdrops, it's very good value for money and makes very good product photos easy. It's not as good as a dedicated softbox setup where you would have more flexibility for controlled shadows, but that all comes down to how important that is from your perspective. For me personally, I can live with the limitations.