Lighting basics: Karamy umbrella, light stand, and umbrella holder review

Apr 10 2016

Karamy is a new name in the lighting equipment game. The company was founded few months ago, and its initial product line consists of the lighting basics: light stands, umbrellas, bags, and some small accessories. In the future, Karamy plans to expand its product offering. In this review, we are taking a closer look at a Karamy light stand, convertible umbrella, and a swivel umbrella adapter.

Karamy manufactures a range of light stands of different heights with the choice of 3 or 4 sections. The light stand we are reviewing here is Karamy KLS-4220AL, which can extend up to 86.6" (2.2 m), has 4 sections, and folds to 27.6" (70 cm). The family of the Karamy light stands offers a few interesting bells and whistles, but first, let's cover the basics.

Karamy KLS-4220AL light stand: collapsed to the minimum height Karamy KLS-4220AL light stand: locking screw / knob

The Karamy KLS-4220AL light stand is well-built. It feels sturdy, the quality of materials is great, and the black matte finish adds to the premium look and feel.

The Karamy light stands are air-cushioned. If you don't tighten one of the height adjustment knobs, the mounted flash will slowly slide down with a very little risk to be damaged. Many other light stands on the market have spring cushioning or no cushioning at all, but the ones with air-cushioning are the best to protect your lighting equipment. We tested the Karamy KLS-4220AL light stand with a number of speedlights and studio strobes, and the air-cushioning performed very well.

The tightening screws on the Karamy light stands are made in a way that you only need to turn the knobs 180 degrees to loosen or lock. We found this to be very useful in the real world applications when we needed to adjust the height very quickly.

One of our favorite features of the Karamy light stands is the removable center column. You can pull it out and use as a boom arm on another light stand. It even has a loop at the bottom end to hang a sandbag. The metal plate that has the sandbag loop has to be unscrewed to remove the center column, so it also serves as a stopper, and you can't accidentally pull the column out.

Karamy KLS-4220AL light stand: center column detached
Karamy KLS-4220AL light stand: stopper at the end of the center column Karamy KLS-4220AL light stand: boom arm, sandbag loop

What's also cool is that, because the center column is detachable, you can push it all the way towards the floor when you need to position the light source just a few extra inches lower than a regular light stand would be able to do.

Karamy KLS-4220AL light stand: regular center column position Karamy KLS-4220AL light stand: center column lowered an extra few inches

A new workflow that we found for ourselves was setting up a flash on the Karamy light stand and, later on during the photoshoot, detaching the center column and using it as an assistant held boom arm.

There is one quirk, though. When the column is detached, the pressure pad that goes between the tube and the lock screw falls out, so you need to make sure not to lose it. We wish the Karamy folks could re-visit and improve this.

Karamy KLS-4220AL light stand: pressure pad, not to be lost

Another useful feature of the Karamy light stands is the ground spike (included in the package). You can screw the spike in the bottom of the center column. When used on a reasonably soft soil or sand, the ground spike provides extra stability and increased wind resistance.

Karamy KLS-4220AL light stand: ground spike Karamy KLS-4220AL light stand: ground spike installed

While we liked the ground spike and found it useful, we wish we wouldn't need to carry it separately. On that note, we prefer how the LumoPro compact light stands have 3 ground spikes integrated in their feet. (Check out our LumoPro Convertible Light Stand and Monopod review.)

With most light stands, you need to put sandbags over their feet, when you want to weigh the light stand down. All the current Karamy light stands feature a sandbag loop integrated into the center column, which gives an easy way to anchor the whole light stand itself, instead of its individual feet.

Karamy KLS-4220AL light stand: sandbag loop, center column Karamy KLS-4220AL light stand: sandbag attached to the center column

Finally, the Karamy light stands come with a 1/4" to 3/8" double ended spigot, which can be installed either vertically or horizontally. To be honest, we haven't found much use for the horizontal orientation of the spigot, since we usually use a swivel umbrella/speedlight adapter. It does not hurt to have it, though ;).

Karamy KLS-4220AL light stand: spigot (stud) installed vertically Karamy KLS-4220AL light stand: spigot (stud) installed horizontally

Speaking of umbrella adapters, let's take a look at the Karamy KFB-N3, the umbrella holder we were testing along with the Karamy KLS-4220AL light stand.

The Karamy KFB-N3 swivel umbrella adapter is made of aluminum. It is very sturdy and is designed to support up to 17.6 lbs (8 kg). It comes with 1/4" Male - 3/8" Male and 1/4" Female - 3/8" Female spigots, which give various options in attaching it to light stands and tripods.

Karamy KFB-N3 umbrella adapter: adapter and two included spigots (studs) Karamy KFB-N3 umbrella adapter: installed on a light stand

Unlike most swivel umbrella holders, the Karamy KFB-N3 has 3 sections instead of two. So, not only it can tilt your flash and umbrella together in relation to the light stand (like you can do with other adapters) but also it can tilt the flash and the umbrella independently from each other.

Karamy KFB-N3 umbrella adapter: tilted Karamy KFB-N3 umbrella adapter:

The 2-way independent swivel of the Karamy KFB-N3 allows you to position your flash along the shaft of your umbrella, which results in much better light distribution across the umbrella surface. (With the traditional placement of a speedlight on a swivel adapter, the flash head is positioned fairly far from the center of the umbrella.) The following images illustrate the difference.

Karamy KFB-N3 umbrella adapter: regular speedlight positioning Karamy KFB-N3 umbrella adapter: on-axis speedlight positioning

As a side note, if you use a LumoPro LP180 speedlight, you can position it on-axis with any regular umbrella holder. The LP180 flash has a standard 1/4"-20 mount built into the right side of the flash head, which allows the flash to be mounted sideways. With the Karamy KFB-N3 adapter, you can do the same with any speedlight and not just the LP180 flash.

One of the pet peeves that we have with the Karamy KFB-N3 umbrella holder is that one of the tightening knobs is very close to the umbrella locking screw. To be fair, it's not unique to the Karamy unit: many other similar products are designed in the same way. It is a trade-off between being compact and having large and well-spaced knobs. In any case, the knobs are more than usable and functional, so there is no real problem here – just another thing to put on the wish list.

Karamy KFB-N3 umbrella adapter: knob is close to the umbrella screw

The last member of the trio being reviewed in this article is the Karamy KUB-DP46 umbrella, which is the largest umbrella currently being offered by Karamy. There is nothing really outstanding about this umbrella, but it is well-built, and it served its purpose during a couple photoshoots we used it in. A thing to note is that the stretchers and ribs are better constructed than on some other umbrellas we used in the past. So, we expect the Karamy KUB-DP46 to last.

Karamy KUB-DP46 umbrella: runner and stretchers Karamy KUB-DP46 umbrella: stretchers and ribs

The Karamy KUB-DP46 umbrella is a convertible one. It's a shoot through translucent umbrella, and it comes with a silver lined detachable canopy that turns it into a reflective umbrella. We like the flexibility of 2-in-1 umbrellas, but if you prefer white or shoot through only, Karamy offers them, as well.

Karamy KUB-DP46 umbrella: detachable silver-lined canopy
Karamy KUB-DP46 umbrella: reflective umbrella Karamy KUB-DP46 umbrella: shoot through umbrella

The Karamy KUB-DP46 umbrella comes with a carrying bag, which is quite thick and does a good jobs of protecting the umbrella when we toss it around together with other gear.

Karamy KUB-DP46 umbrella: umbrella case

To conclude, Karamy is making a solid entrance into the market. The quality of its products is very good, and we like the ideas and thoughts they put into even very basic photo equipment. Despite some minor quirks, we feel very comfortable recommending the light stand, umbrella holder, and the umbrella we reviewed here. Karamy products are price competitively, and they are already available on Amazon. Please check the links below for the current pricing.

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