Accessory Review: Nimbus Cloud Dome

Nimbus Cloud Dome Horizontal Kit
$149 www.clouddome.com

The Nimbus Cloud Dome is a plastic bell-shaped light diffuser designed to allow you to capture evenly-lit images of small objects using a smartphone. 

The Nimbus Cloud Dome is available on its own for $79 or as part of the Nimbus Cloud Dome Horizontal kit, which is what I recieved for this review. The Horizontal Kit includes the Nimbus Dome Photography Base and Nimbus Cradle for holding the apparatus horizontally. All three pieces are constructed of a high impact, non-yellowing, crack-resistant translucent plastic. Most of my testing was done in the upright configuration, as pictured above.

The top of the Nimbus Cloud Dome is equipped with a trio of spools that hold a thick elastic band. This elastic band securely pins a smartphone in place - I used an Apple iPhone 4 for this review. There's a small hole in the middle of the Nimbus Cloud Dome's top, which is where the phone's camera lens should be positioned. In order to make certain the phone was positioned correctly, I had to power the Camera application on and nudge the phone about until no portion of the plastic was obscuring the lens. Once situated, the phone stays put thanks to the elastic band.

The Nimbus Cloud Dome, pictured with the Photography Base. The Nimbus Cloud Dome Horizontal kit includes the Dome, Photography Base and Cradle.

The Nimbus Dome Photography Base is a must-have if you plan on taking serious pictures. It provides a white uniform background for images, but also accommodates external lighting for spotlight and backlight effects. Spotlighting is acheived by adding a light under the cutout hole on the bottom of the Nimbus Cloud Photography Base, while various backlighting effects can be added by placing a light in the base's shelf portion. A mirror panel on the inside of the base's bottom level helps to reflect and spread light evenly. The legs of the base are height-adjustable to help vary the intensity of the lighting underneath.

As for size, the Nimbus Cloud Dome is 5" high by 7" in diameter. The Photography Base is 8" x 8" x 3.25". The Nimbus Cloud Dome and Photography Base each come with their own carry satchels, and can consolidate into one bag for easy transport. The Nimbus Cradle enables the Nimbus Cloud Dome to be mounted horizontally for shots of products like necklaces and earrings, and can also fit into the larger bag with the Nimbus Cloud Dome and Photography Base.

Now how about lighting quality? There are many videos of the Nimbus Cloud Dome in action, and they all make it look so easy to attain professional shots. Well, once I figured out the optimal configuration, I was able to capture some impressive images. However, this was not a plug-and-play experience. I had to experiment multiple times with different external lighting sources in order to happen upon the luminance sweet spot. I tried indoor ambient light, outdoor ambient light and dual softbox studio lights before determining that the best results came from outdoor ambient light on an overcast day. Very rarely, I was able to achieve decent results with indoor ambient lighting, as long as it was bright enough.

Without iPhone HDR, under Nimbus Cloud Dome in outdoor ambient lighting. With iPhone HDR, under Nimbus Cloud Dome in outdoor ambient lighting and touched up in Photoshop.
Without Nimbus Cloud Dome in outdoor ambient lighting. With Nimbus Cloud Dome in outdoor ambient lighting, touched up in Photoshop.

The softboxes yielded a rather warm color cast, and needed a temperature adjustment in Photoshop while the indoor ambient light was too dark and would need a brightness adjustment.

One of the Nimbus Cloud Dome's main selling points is that the company claims no editing is necessary. I'm here to tell you that's a bit of a stretch. First off, I enabled HDR mode on the iPhone 4, which produced the best results in most situations. I then had to crop and do a little Shadows/Highlights work before an Unsharp Mask in Photoshop in order to get the results I wanted. So, editing is necessary, although it should be noted that my iPhone 4, unlike the newer 4S and 5, does display color-shift issues in some situations, and it isn't unusual to see magenta/green color casts in areas of plain neutral tone. 

With Nimbus Cloud Dome, iPhone 4 HDR, in indoor ambient lighting. With Nimbus Cloud Dome, iPhone 4 HDR, in indoor ambient lighting, touched up in Photoshop.
With Nimbus Cloud Dome, iPhone 4 HDR, in indoor ambient lighting. With Nimbus Cloud Dome, iPhone 4 HDR, in indoor ambient lighting, touched up in Photoshop.

Summing Up

The Nimbus Cloud Dome does succeed in providing even light, which is its primary purpose. Shots taken without the Nimbus Cloud Dome were riddled with reflections, shadows and uneven lighting. Artistic background paper and dramatic backlighting can be added, courtesy of the Photography Base. I recommend using very cool temperature LED lights if you plan on lighting the Nimbus Cloud Dome externally or from underneath the Photography Base.

Overall, I was impressed with the performance of the Nimbus Cloud Dome after I got the kit dialed in. However, certainly with the iPhone 4 that I used for this test, I found that it was necessary to do a bit of tinkering to find the ideal lighting setup. Also, while the price may seem a little steep for a smartphone accessory, it's very cheap for a portable studio setup, and produces good enough results for web display and online auctions. Avid eBayers, online jewelry store clerks, Craigslisters and any other sellers or retailers who deal with small items should take note.  

What we like: Impressive and evenly-lit images, simple to use once configured properly, travel friendly (miniature studio in a bag), a huge variety of lighting and background possibilities abound.

What we don't like: Lots of trial and error runs needed to achieve ideal lighting, requires Photoshop editing for optimal results (although this is partly a consequence of smartphone image capture).


Mike Perlman is a freelance photographer and writer, based in Bar Harbor, Maine. After a spell reviewing camcorders at Camcorderinfo.com, Mike moved to infoSync World as the Senior Photography Editor, before taking up a role at TechnoBuffalo.com as the head of the Photography department. These days, Mike runs his own photography business and contributes to dpreview between shoots.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions held by dpreview.com or any affiliated companies.

Comments

Total comments: 105
12
jeerzz
By jeerzz (Oct 5, 2012)

life is just so hard this day

0 upvotes
happypoppeye
By happypoppeye (Oct 5, 2012)

Hahaha ...so many people here have no problem spending thousands and thousands of dollars on an accessory for their SLR and complain about DPR not reviewing them yet when someone with a different camera buys an accessory it's utterly ridiculous?

2 upvotes
Caleido
By Caleido (Oct 5, 2012)

You mean, like, a pin sharp portrait lens or a backup camera for professional use?

Yeah, that's crazy impulsive behaviour, compared to this ingenious piece of equipment that doesn't make you look like a complete dork.

3 upvotes
chadley_chad
By chadley_chad (Oct 5, 2012)

Oh god, another $50 camera owner (and no doubt jewellery maker!) joins the site and suddenly becomes a photographer!!!

0 upvotes
JadedGamer
By JadedGamer (Oct 6, 2012)

Why not? Is an 80-year old Indian tandoori master with his clay oven less a cook than someone fresh out of a two-month cooking class with a computer-controlled induction stove? It's not always about the equipment.

0 upvotes
HDF2
By HDF2 (Oct 5, 2012)

Tough crowd!

3 upvotes
Pat Cullinan Jr
By Pat Cullinan Jr (Oct 5, 2012)

Yes, but we're tough guys, unless we are women, in which case I wouldn't know what to say without jamming my foot in my mouth.

1 upvote
W Sanders
By W Sanders (Oct 4, 2012)

I have an iPhone and it is teh envy of all around me. I would much rather pay $80 than have its immaculateness sullied by taking pictures through a hole in the bottom of a bucket.

Comment edited 39 seconds after posting
0 upvotes
Caleido
By Caleido (Oct 4, 2012)

Come on. This is down right ridiculous. The idea, the look, the results. Everything.

12 upvotes
Eike Welk
By Eike Welk (Oct 4, 2012)

No this is a great idea! It is a tripod and a light tent at once. However you could make it yourself out of a large yogurt or ice cream container.

0 upvotes
DaveMarx
By DaveMarx (Oct 4, 2012)

Wow! A product so special that folks forgot to say bad things about the iPhone.

Is a smart phone unsuitable for posting small product images on eBay? They have more than enough resolution for a web catalog image, and have several advantages when it comes to getting those images up online quickly.

This thing isn't intended for photo pros. If you know any craftspeople or collectibles dealers, ask 'em how they deal with their catalog shots, and whether they're satisfied with them. Ask how many hire a pro with a Linhof (ok, Hasselblad) and a studio full of gear. Mostly, it's DIY, and this is something that can make their work a bit more polished. That translates to competitive advantage, even on eBay.

As to photographers judging any product by the cost of materials? I hope the price of your exhibition prints is a whole lot higher than your paper costs.

7 upvotes
zigi_S
By zigi_S (Oct 4, 2012)

As i wrote in the earlier iphone article. More info(ads) on cr@p for the iphone. Everyone is trying to milk the iphone hysteria.

3 upvotes
bfarwell
By bfarwell (Oct 4, 2012)

"Well, once I figured out the optimal configuration, I was able to capture some impressive images."

Perhaps you should have posted them.

Seriously, universe. I know you have a hammer, but not everything is a nail. Your phone is not the right tool for the job, if you want great product photos. Or even mediocre product photos. Get a cheap camera, a tripod, and some continuous lighting.

13 upvotes
kwa_photo
By kwa_photo (Oct 4, 2012)

Sorry, but I just can't see spending more than a few bucks on an accessory for my iPhone. I love it as an "always with me" camera in case I don't bring along something else, but this one is just nuts IMO. The things people will spend money on boggles my mind.

2 upvotes
Flash Hat
By Flash Hat (Oct 4, 2012)

Cameras in cell phones are a feature, not a substitute for cameras used by people serious about their photography. Photographing jewelry with a cell phone is a ludicrous idea. But articles like this generate a perception that cell phone cameras are capable of things they simply aren't suited for.

The vast majority of people using cell phones wouldn't have a clue about lighting controls and this is not a "portable studio setup". As already noted it's essentially a $5 DIY project involving a cheap mixing bowl, a drill and some rubber bands.

Not that cell phone cameras are useless. A cell phone camera is a purpose built feature that best suits spontaneous low quality photos. Not a bad thing but let's not elevate them to a level a performance they simply can't achieve.

Are you sure this article wasn't supposed to be published on April 1st? One hundred fifty dollars!!! What's that old phrase? Oh yeah... There's a sucker born every minute.

2 upvotes
Vitruvius
By Vitruvius (Oct 4, 2012)

DPREVIEW - Can you please order this and shoot your test scene so that we can all have a good laugh as you throw away $150. Meanwhile I will post my dogs old neck cone on ebay as a Numbnuts for $99.

8 upvotes
Rage Joe
By Rage Joe (Oct 4, 2012)

But, maybe, if you fill the holes you can still use that nimbus as a portable toilet. Comes very handy on a photo shoot.

5 upvotes
RXVGS
By RXVGS (Oct 5, 2012)

Would be better suited as a portable toilet because it's a s!#t accessory!

3 upvotes
Simon97
By Simon97 (Oct 4, 2012)

Come on folks. It is a photo accessory. It is supposed to be priced ridiculously.

Mom wants her mixing bowl back. Oops has a hole in it now.

Comment edited 2 minutes after posting
1 upvote
lifeispixels
By lifeispixels (Oct 4, 2012)

I'd prefer a Nimbus 2000

;)

5 upvotes
mediman30
By mediman30 (Oct 4, 2012)

Firebolt is even better!!!

2 upvotes
Palimpsest
By Palimpsest (Oct 4, 2012)

This reviewer recently described a clunky Manfrotto bag as "scintillating."

'Nuf said.

3 upvotes
Alec_c
By Alec_c (Oct 5, 2012)

About the Buffalo guy: "Mike Perlman grew up in Nintendo Land and developed a relationship with all things electronic and nerdy early on in his childhood career. Today, Mike covers digital imaging, mobile technology and other various forms of peculiar gadgetry to the best of his gumshoe-like ability for TechnoBuffalo. In his spare time, Mike rides motorcycles, plays Nintendo, ice hockey, drums, and dances around in neon green as Lazer, captain of the world's #1 renegade dance troupe, 123 Party!"
Great, man! Keep up the good work!

Comment edited 26 seconds after posting
0 upvotes
Alec_c
By Alec_c (Oct 5, 2012)

And some folks provide for that ;-)

0 upvotes
GordonAtWork
By GordonAtWork (Oct 4, 2012)

Dammit, I dropped my iphone !!.. those rubber bands are useless. Seriously, what a piece of junk, might as well use a large ice cream container. I might review my 50 denier soft focus filter, yours for only £40 with free rubberband to hold it to your lens or you could cut a foot off and just drop your phone into it.

Comment edited 3 minutes after posting
2 upvotes
pmow
By pmow (Oct 4, 2012)

Is there a reason we're comparing two different crops for a product review?

If not cropped, do the "right" pictures still have a light falloff? Wouldn't the whole point of the review be to show that the product helps in this respect? It just seems misleading because the cropped photos will always look better than having to squint your eyes.

2 upvotes
Mike Guffin
By Mike Guffin (Oct 4, 2012)

That is terrible.

7 upvotes
goblin
By goblin (Oct 4, 2012)

"...These days, Mike runs his own photography business and contributes to dpreview between shoots..."

I would understand the presence of such a review here only if said business includes buying Nimbus stock.

Seriously, DPR, you are the sole responsible for keeping this site free of scams and from not making it the next "As seen on TV".

Did any of you actually look at the product, what it is and its price ?

A bucket with a rubber band, $80 ? Really, guys, are you OK ? Was there some major fire on a major pot field anywhere in your area, with wind blowing in your direction ?

7 upvotes
Rage Joe
By Rage Joe (Oct 5, 2012)

I'm sure Mike uses this Nimbus Clown Dome every day to achieve serious pictures. It's a must-have for every serious photographer.

1 upvote
Pat Cullinan Jr
By Pat Cullinan Jr (Oct 5, 2012)

Ron Popeil sells a better one of these. "Just pay for it and forget it."

1 upvote
William DeBlase
By William DeBlase (Oct 22, 2012)

but wait, order now and get a second order free, just pay shipping and handeling fees!

Comment edited 50 seconds after posting
0 upvotes
Suntan
By Suntan (Oct 4, 2012)

I'm sorry, how much money do they want for a small mixing bowl with a hole drilled in it?

Oh... ...well it has a hair band clipped on top? That makes a big difference.

-Suntan

Comment edited 2 minutes after posting
13 upvotes
ranalli
By ranalli (Oct 4, 2012)

Forgive my harsh response but that is junk. Those look awful. I mean I guess it's okay for people who like to put things on Ebay and don't want to buy a DSLR but let the idea of using a camera phone for things that should be done with a real camera die already.

1 upvote
Total comments: 105
12