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Z-Cage

Review of the New LenSkirt

Review by Ron Risman -- April / May 2011




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LenSkirt - What is it?
The lenskirt is a portable and foldable lens tent designed to allow photographers and videographers the ability to shoot through glass without reflections.

How it Works
The LenSkirt uses four suction cups attached to a black cloth 'skirt' that is spread out on a window, creating a totally dark shooting environment for your camera. The back portion of the lenskirt is designed as a round 'sleeve,' allowing it to wrap around the lens of your camera. A draw string ensures that there is a tight fit, blocking any room light from getting through.

Who Should Use It?
The LenSkirt is mostly geared towards those who often shoot time-lapse sequences through Windows. Since it isn't always wise to leave a camera alone outdoors for hours and hours, many of those that shoot time-lapses often do it from the inside looking out. The LenSkirt will help to block reflections caused by light (TV, cell phones, camera flashes, indoor lighting, etc.), allowing for distraction free images.

Field Testing
About six months ago, before learning about the LenSkirt, I spent a couple of hours shooting a sunset time-lapse from the top floor of the Prudential building (The Skywalk) in Boston. I placed my tripod on the window seat, placed the camera lens against the glass, and threw my dark blue coat around it to help cut down on reflections from inside lights, people looking out the window, taking pictures using their flash, etc. The daylight portion of the time-lapse came out great but as the light of the day faded and the inside lights came on, the reflections in the window ruined the time-lapse, despite my best efforts using my coat to block out light.


The daylight photo (top picture) was no problem since there were no lights on inside and the jacket that I threw around the lens helped to prevent reflections from people looking out the window wearing light colored clothing, but as day turned into dusk, the lights came on inside and the jacket just wasn't positioned well to prevent all the reflections from interior lights.

Basically, to block out light you need to create a tight seal between the camera and the window as well as some space around the lens. The four suction cups of the lenskirt help to do this while also keeping the skirt firmly in place.


The LenSkirt makes it easy to capture images from inside a plane, train, bus, car, office or hotel - especially at night when reflections from inside lights, light colored clothing, and camera flashes will get in the way of your shot. If it wasn't for the growing popularity of time-lapse recording the LenSkirt probably would not have been created. It allows you to leave a camera set up in one location, day and night , without worrying that the time-lapse will get ruined by someone turning on a light or TV - or even walking up to look out the windows while wearing light colored clothing. For those that don't have the time or inclination to create their own, the LenSkirt does what it promises. It also won't add bulk to your camera bag as it folds up and can easily slide into a bag pocket. The sleeve of the lenskirt is designed to fit all but the largest of lenses and the four corner suction cup mounts helps to keep the black fabric stretched and tight against the window.

Use the LenSkirt to photograph fish in an aquarium, thunderstorms or hurricanes while safely positioned indoors, even sticking it to the front of the iPad to block light while viewing it outdoors. Admittingly, it's clumsy for this use, but it does work in a pinch.

A couple of weeks ago I was filming in New York and needed to capture a time-lapse of the city lights from the hotel room. I used the LenSkirt to help capture a 2.5 hour time-lapse sequence while the lights and TV were on in the room. As you can see below, the time-lapse came out perfect without any reflections or distractions.

The one thing you need to watch out for when recording with the LenSkirt are angles. If after mounting the lenskirt to a window you decide to pan or tilt the camera to a different angle before you start the record you may find that the light from behind may still reflect off the window at an angle beyond the width or height of the lenskirt. This is more of a problem with double or triple pane glass. If you decide to tilt your camera you should also make sure to reposition the LenSkirt so that the majority of the skirt is positioned to the side where the lens is aiming. If the angle is great enough you'll most likely find that the LenSkirt is too small to fully block all light. If at all possible I recommend shooting as close to straight-on as possible, to allow the LenSkirt to do its job.

When attaching the LenSkirt to a window you should also make sure that the edge span between the suction cups creates a tight seal all the way around. This will help prevent light leakage around the edges, that could show up if shooting with a wide-angle focal length.

Changes I'd Like to See
One of the things that bugged me about the LenSkirt was the difficulty I had trying to adjust focus or changing focal lengths once the camera was setup with the lens inside of the LenSkirt. I'd like to see one or two of the corner seams come apart with Velcro to allow better access to the lens during setup It's definitely not impossible to get your hand in there or to preset the focus and focal length, but there were times when the lens would press up against the windows as I was adjusting the tripod, which caused the focal length to change. I would also like to see a slightly larger version to help better protect against reflections when shooting at an angle.

Conclusion
Overall I'm thrilled that a product like the LenSkirt exists. At a price of $49.95 I can't help to feel that it's overpriced by about $15, however for those that frequently shoot time-lapses through windows you'll find this to be the best $50 you spent in a while. For those who don't shoot enough through windows to justify the expense, a carefully placed dark shirt, towel, or jacket may also do the trick.

Additional Information
For additional information please visit the manufacturer's website:
LenSkirt.com

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