The Aquatech Sound Blimp – by Preston Mack

Preston MackPreston Mack is a professional photographer based in Orlando, Florida.
He is a graduate of the University of Miami’s School of Architecture. He shoots for advertising agencies such as Yellow Shoes Creative, The Meyocks Group, Mullen, GSD&M, Carol H Williams Agency, PUSH and Fry Hammond Barr. His corporate clients include Walt Disney World, Southwest Airlines, Pillsbury, GM, Kraft, Hy-Vee, Tupperware and Major League Baseball.
He shoots editorial assignments for magazines such as Reader’s Digest, The Sporting News, ESPN The Magazine and Forbes Magazine. His work has been recognized by the Best of Photojournalism, Atlanta Photojournalism Seminar, Southern Short Course, and the National Press Photographer’s Association. Preston is a board member of the Central Florida ASMP.
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Working on a Hy-Vee comercial with Celebrity Chef Curtis Stone in Kansas City, Mo.

The funny thing about a photo career is that it is constantly evolving. I started off as a portrait photographer. I didn’t live in LA, I didn’t shoot stills on sets. You think you are one thing, and the next thing you know you’re discovering this whole new world! When I started my freelance career, I had an opportunity to shoot a “reality tv” show competition in Orlando. I was given a Jacobson Sound blimp to use by the production. For those who have never used one, here is a brief description. Sound blimps are specially designed for one of the pro cameras (Nikon D3 or Canon EOS 1D or 5D, etc).

Jacobson Sound Blimp

The Jacobson Sound Blimp

You open up the “box” by the 2 latches on top. You take the remote release cable inside the box and you attach it to the camera’s remote port. You turn the camera on and set exposure. place the camera inside the foam and close the box. You then attach the lens through the round opening on the other side. The lens has a corresponding lens tube that fits snugly over the lens. The end is covered by a glass filter, sealing the entire camera inside a bed of foam. The Jacobson had a few different release buttons on front so if you changed the camera settings, you could have the focus separate from the release. That is a very handy thing. It also has a 3/8 and 1/4 monopod threads on the bottom. You wouldn’t want to try and handhold this all day.

Although I was happy that my camera noise was sufficiently drowned, I did have issues. It is REALLY cumbersome to shoot with a Jacobson. Hard to see through, hard to hold, hard to view images (no way to hit the view button if the blimp was closed). Also, maybe the worst part is you cannot change exposure once you close the box. Sometimes the lighting isn’t quite even and it would be nice to be able to go up or down with the shutter speed. I kinda thought that it was just the way it had to be. Over the next few years, I increased my unit photography work. I shot for quite a few network TV shows, cable reality shows and advertising production shoots. I eventually did get the hang of the Jacobson. Shooting became much easier with practice. However, the hard part was always finding one to rent on the East Coast. I am sure it is easy to get one on short notice if you live in NYC or LA. Orlando really isn’t a production hub, so there was none to find in town. That is why I decided to buy a sound blimp. However, I did not buy the Jacobson. I bought the Aquatech Sound Blimp SBN-3 (This version fits the Nikon D3/D4).

Aquatech Sound Blimp

The Aquatech SBN-3 Sound Blimp

When you first see the Aquatech sound blimp, you are startled by its ergonomics. The Aquatech opens up with a single quick release clip on top and is made with polyurethane construction, stainless steel, aluminum, acrylic. It is lighter than the Jacobson, has more controls buttons and has a full acrylic back side. The lens tube foam gently holds the zoom ring, and you are able to move the zoom while it is encased. Handy, but I generally shoot loose and not zoom too much. The immediate benefits of the Aquatech include the ability to review photos whenever you want, back button for the AE-L/SF-L and a dial that you can use to move Nikon’s main command dial! Exposure can be adjusted! Wow! The extra controls on the back are really great. However, the shutter release button is a little hard to reach because of the girth of the blimp. Feels a lot different than a regular shutter release button. You need to get the feel of it. Of course, this blimp performs very well. Aquatech claims a 98% reduction in sound. I cannot dispute this. You can barely hear the shutter. The additional controls itself would make this the clear winner in my opinion. Photographers always want to chimp (review images).

Aquatech Sound Blimp

The back of the blimp, showing the 3 control buttons

Photographers always want to be able to control exposure. Since the price for the Aquatech blimp body and tubes are nearly identical to the Jacobson ($1000/$350) the price is negligible. There is no savings to be had by going old school. The Jacobson is a fine device, but the Aquatech is the new king in town.

 

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