I’ve been struggling with a lightbox setup for quite some time now, and after reading a review from Greggles on the Foldio Lightbox, I recently took the dive and picked one up. I’ve put together my review and a couple of tips I have already found with it.
The Foldio was a recent Kickstarter success, with this lightbox being their second, and larger, version. They’ve even got to the point that I was able to pick mine up from Amazon and get it in just two days.
The biggest things I was looking for from a lightbox was to be able to break it down and store it between projects. I share my painting/hobby space with my other work projects, so being able to clear out table top room was a must.
I had previously built a crude lightbox from an Ikea records box that closed nicely to put on a shelf but took over a whole shelf just to store. It was time to shrink the footprint while getting a larger lightbox – a solution provided by the Foldio.
The box was well packed and includes nearly everything you would need (see below for a couple of extras I added). Included is the light box itself, felt/cloth/paper backgrounds, storage bags, and a box of electronics with two LED light strips, power cable, and plug converters for worldwide power support.
The two LEDs are super bright with built-in diffusion on the strip and double stick tape on the back. The plug includes a splitter that connects to each strip rather than needing two power bricks – a nice little touch. The power plug adapters just snap right in and are easy enough to swap out for anyone traveling with the Foldio.
Again, the LEDs have double stick tape on the back that makes installation a snap, peel the tape and slap it to the top-front section (the double ridge section on the left there).
Both strips attach to the top front lip which provides a bunch of light below, but I wish it included lights for the bottom or sides as well, which I’ll point out below.
The kit includes four colors of background: white, medium gray, black, and greenscreen-green. It’s hard to describe what they are made out of as the top is felt/fabric feel but on semi-rigid paper/plastic. They bend nicely when setup but are sturdy enough that they seem like they will last a long time.
To attach the backdrop to the Foldio, a small extra piece uses magnets to sandwiches the backdrop between it and the top. This provides the whole height of the lightbox to be usable and makes swapping out backgrounds a breeze.
The case itself is made of corrugated plastic, making it super light but very sturdy. The various panels have large magnets that allow the lightbox to be set up in literal seconds. The two magnets on the front that you can see not connected to anything snap to the two that hold the background in place when you put the Foldio into storage mode, helping it stay shut – another nice little touch.
Fully set up the LEDs provide a nice bright light to the whole box, and the black background fits from top edge to front edge with a gentle bend at the back.
To get a full sense of the size of the Foldio, I placed my Knight Titan for scale. You can see that he easily fits with plenty of room to either side and above so that even larger models could fit as well.
Notice something about his legs and base though?
Those bright LEDs on top provide a shadow below, so I broke out my cheap can lights (~$5 each from Home Depot) with daylight bulbs and added some additional up-lighting. This is where I wish the Foldio had a few extra strips on the bottom or along the side edges, but for now the cans are easy to set up.
The picture above is the result with zero photo corrections! Compare that with the original images of the Knight Titan and you can see why I’m excited about the box.
Another tip that I found is that the box is so big that individual models are too small to be fully lit by the top LEDs. To solve this problem, I grabbed a couple of foam blocks left over from a pick-and-pull tray and stacked them under the backdrop.
By folding the background over the blocks, I can add the model and provide better lighting.
One thing I learned after taking the picture above is that the background needs not to dip behind the blocks or it shows up a bit in the final photograph. So next time I will pull it tighter before placing the model.
Again, the result is fantastic with the only editing required was to remove that dip in the background.
The simple black background shows a huge improvement over my previous takes on the Ork Warboss.
Back to the storage, the Foldio snaps back shut, and I simply folded the backgrounds around it before slipping them into the provided cloth case. The power plug has its own cloth bag. Both can now slide away until needed again.