In the Spotlight: The Rogue Grid

Introduction

The world of small flash modifiers has experienced something of a boom in the last few years. What started with just a couple of manufacturers like Lumiquest and Honl making modifiers for shoe-mount flashes, has now grown into a much larger industry.

Bigger companies like FJ Westcott and Photoflex are now starting to make modifiers that can be attached to small flashes as well.

As a result, practically every type of modifier that’s available for big studio strobes is now available for small flashes as well. From soft boxes and strip banks to beauty dishes and grids, there’s no shortage of accessories that will help you shape the light coming from your small flash.

One such modifier comes from a more recent entry into the game. It’s the Rogue Grid from ExpoImaging, and it’s something I’ve been using – and loving – since its release.

Why a grid?

There’s often some confusion as to why one needs a grid in the first place. Well, grids help shape the light coming out of your flash into a nice, focused beam that can be used for hair or accent lights. While you can focus light with a snoot (essentially a cone or cylinder of material with a small opening at the end), as shown in the images below, when using a grid, the quality of light is very different.

Snoot vs. Grid
The snoot (left) has a much harsher transition from light to shadow than the grid (right)

Each have their place, but the gradual falloff of light when using a grid, as opposed to the harsh transition between light and shadow when using a snoot, is often preferable for accent or hair lights.

Initial impressions

Out of the box, you get the grid holder, two honeycomb grids, the mounting strap, and a small carrying pouch that can hold all the items. I was expecting the grids to feel flimsy – there’s a competitor’s product whose grid I accidentally cracked – but it feels solid, with no flex or give. The grid holder is made of a fairly flexible plastic, and bends easily without breaking or losing shape.

The Rogue Grid holder and honeycomb grids.
The Rogue Grid holder and honeycomb grids. Image courtesy ExpoImaging.

The mounting strap that the grid set comes with will look familiar to anyone who’s used Rogue’s other small flash product, the FlashBender. It’s essentially a large Rogue Flashbender, cut off about an inch or two above the mounting strap.

Using the Rogue Grid

The strap goes onto the flash first. An elastic band that has a button snap on one end and a velcro pad on the other is used to hold it in place, giving the grid a good custom fit for just about any flash. I mounted it on a Canon 580EX II and it fit perfectly.

The two honeycomb grids can be used in tandem or separately to control the output of light from 45º down to 16º. They go into the holder next, which is then fitted onto the strap. It can take a little bit of finessing – one of my few quibbles with this product – but once it’s on there, it’s not likely to fall off.

Rogue Grid Angle Shots
Rogue Grid Angle Shots. Image courtesy ExpoImaging.

Now, I have a Lumiquest UltraStrap on all my small flashes at all times so I can quickly mount accessories on them. With a little finagling, I was able to fit the Rogue Grid’s strap over the Ultrastrap, allowing me the convenience of not having to detach and reattach the UltraStrap as needed.

As far as I could tell, mounting the Rogue’s strap on top of the UltraStrap didn’t have any effect on the function or fit of the Rogue Grid.

 

Performance

The grid performs as expected. I like that the honeycombs are a bit distanced from the flash’s surface – I feel (no quantifiable reason here) that it allows for a more shaped light, with a less noticeable hotspot. The grids I used before the Rogues strapped onto the front of the flash head itself, which I didn’t much care for (again, no quantifiable reason here, just a personal preference).

Also, I love that the grid is rounded, as opposed to the rectangular grids I had used before. The light projected has a nice “spotlight” effect, which I think has a better falloff than with a rectangular grid.

I used the Rogue Grid on a test shoot where I photographed three wine bottles on a table. As you can see from the images below, the bottle on the left had a shadow across its label. I used a Rogue Grid on a Canon 580EX II flash to bring out the detail in that shadowed area.

Using the grid on a shoot
Using the grid on a shoot. Note the shadowed area in the image on the left. A Rogue Grid was used in the center, with the finished, retouched image on the right.

Conclusion

All in all, the Rogue Grid met my needs and expectations. There are a few very minor issues – as I mentioned, the grid holder takes a bit of fiddling to get on, but that’s a very minor issue. I presume that the grid holder can be used at the end of one of the Rogue Flashbenders, which can be rolled into a snoot.

I haven’t tested to see what the light from the flash would look like when you add a grid at the end of a snoot, but it’s on my list. ExpoImaging also makes a set of gels that can be fitted into the Rogue Grid, so strobists everywhere can experiment with color correction and color casting when using these modifiers.

Bottom line: I highly recommend the Rogue Grid to anyone needing this sort of modifier for small flash. There aren’t a lot of choices out there for small flash grids, but this is undoubtedly the best of them.

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