Light modifiers designed for shoe mount strobes has been one of the fastest growing types of photographic accessory the past few years. This is in part because photographers have realized that improving the quality of the light coming from their shoe mount flash units can really make a big deal in the quality of their images. It’s also because this is an area where a little creativity goes a long way and a photographer/inventor can end up creating a useable (and marketable) device cheaply and quickly.
One of the most remarkable light modifiers I’ve seen is the Presslite Vertex, an interesting and versatile device that can produce amazing results in your images, provided you take the time to learn to use it properly.
Photo 1 Model Porsche Brosseau arranges the diffusion panels on a Vertex.
Photo 2 Model Porsche Brosseau examines the mirrored panels on the Vertex.
Photo 3 Model Lisa Simon lit by an off camera Canon EOS 580 EXII using a Vertex light modifier while on the Grand Canyon Railway.
Photo 4 Grand Canyon Railway Conductor lit by an off camera Canon EOS 580 EXII using a Vertex light modifier.
Photo 5 Sodas and ice lit by a Canon EOS 580 EXII using a Vertex light modifier and shot using a Lensbaby Composer.
The Vertex is a strange looking light modifier, but it’s what makes it strange looking that also makes it a powerful tool for controlling the light from your flash. The Vertex features a pair of rotating panels, each offering a mylar mirror on one side and a white diffusion panel on the other. These panels are removable (both the panel itself, and the mirrored material too) and you can add gels or other materials to change the color of the light from your flash. The panels can also be rotated and positioned at different points on the flash via a crossbar arm that they attach to, making a wide range of options available.
The beauty of the Vertex approach is that the panels can be used to direct light in multiple directions, effectively turning your flash into multiple light sources. The Vertex can be used outdoors, but it really shines when used indoors in situations where the ability to direct light in more than one direction and bounce it off of walls and ceilings really comes into play.
The device is at its best in a room where the walls and/or ceilings are within range of the flash. By positioning the panels properly, the photographer can bounce light in multiple directions and have that light then bounce off walls and ceilings to provide diffuse, even light. By rotating the panels so the mylar sides reflect light, very little light is lost as it is redirected. While using the white diffusion panels (be careful to avoid scratching them) costs some light, they also help soften the light from the flash. Generally (according to the Presslite website) the photographer uses the mirrored panels to “steer” the light from the flash towards a desired wall or reflective surface and the diffusion panels if directing the light towards the subject.
Learning to use the Vertex can take some practice. Fortunately a useful instruction manual is available for download from Presslite’s website, https://www.presslite.com, via the “downloads” page. The site also features 3D demos that show how to use the device in its various configurations.
Construction/build quality (4 out of 5)
The Vertex is more strongly made than it looks. Its components include an elastomer band attachment which fits the Vertex to your flash, a plastic cross brace that attaches to the elastomer band and two flat panels which mount to the plastic cross brace. The panels are easy to attach, pivot or remove as needed and are used to direct and modify the light as desired. I’ve used the Vertex on both a Canon 420 EX and a 580 EX II flash unit and the elastomer band has been able to mate to each of these strobes even though their flash heads are very different in size. The diffusion panels can be scratched though.
Price to value (5 out of 5)
At $49.95, the Vertex is a mid-range priced light modifier that is worth consideration for any photographer who has to work with a shoe mount flash indoors. If your photographic efforts call for you to spend most of your time shooting outside, then the Vertex loses some of what makes it so special, its ability to direct light to bounce off of different surfaces. The device is small, weighs only a few ounces and takes up very little room in a camera bag yet delivers a lot of performance for its price and size. It’s one of my favorite tools for indoor photography when I’m using a shoe mount strobe. It even comes in handy when I using it on a remote controlled flash. If I was shooting indoors and could only carry one light modifier, this is one I’d use.
Presslite provided me with a Vertex for the David Busch Quick Snap Guide to Photo Gear.