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
Rupert Bottomsworth
By Rupert Bottomsworth (Oct 15, 2012)

Great, DPReview are now reviewing white plastic buckets..

1 upvote
KiTrenen
By KiTrenen (Oct 11, 2012)

Take an IKEA - FNISS Wastepaper basket, clear for $1.99 Drill a hole threw the bottom... could even drill additional holes for "Rubber Bands" if needed. Add a flash or two or some continuos lights on the sides and your done. I don't understand some of the insane prices charged by a lot of these companies.. I guess it's because it's more a niche market item and they have to recover the costs of tooling and manufacturing... at least I hope that's why stuff like this is so expensive. I keep seeing things like this in a kind of scary way... I don't know if I could get 150 dollars worth of "Convenience" buy purchasing this item ready made when I could come up with many many home made alternatives that would 1 save me a load of money and two give me more flexibility and most likely a better out come with my finished image. I look at things like this and just scratch my head and wonder... Hey I guess if it makes some one happy... I can't nock it.

2 upvotes
mermaidkiller
By mermaidkiller (Oct 12, 2012)

Indeed I also thought: buy a $2 white plastic bucket, drill or cut a hole in the bottom which just fits a lens of a REAL camera , compact or SLR. Same result, even better photos than instamatic quality phonecam photos.
No rubber bands needed as the lens protrudes through the hole.

0 upvotes
flaviorusso
By flaviorusso (Oct 10, 2012)

For me its like a grip for a kitchen knife to do brain surgery.

0 upvotes
JazzMasta
By JazzMasta (Oct 9, 2012)

After all the negative comments on the iPhone review, this was like pouring gasoline on a fire :)

For the record, I like iPhone and its camera (or 'camera' as some prefer), but this article was kind of weird though.

But every time there's a comment storm, the ad revenues rises, so keep on complaining you iPhone haters out there, it only makes it and this site stronger.

0 upvotes
KodaChrome25
By KodaChrome25 (Oct 8, 2012)

Judging by all the positive comments, that went well.

3 upvotes
Pat Cullinan Jr
By Pat Cullinan Jr (Oct 7, 2012)

Do they offer an adapter for the Hasselblad Lunar?

2 upvotes
88SAL
By 88SAL (Oct 7, 2012)

I feel like all the energy put into smart-phone integrated cameras is completely wasted in comparison to the indepth work done with REAL cameras. Just because everyone has a camera in their pocket these days does not mean they will replace the hardware that most of us come to this website to see. Based on all these gimicks, have any readers been persuaded to go out and buy an iPhone?

2 upvotes
Lawrencew
By Lawrencew (Oct 7, 2012)

It isn't about persuading people to buy an iPhone, it's about persuading iPhone users to buy these gizmos from Amazon...

2 upvotes
primeone
By primeone (Oct 6, 2012)

Tupperware party!

4 upvotes
itsastickup
By itsastickup (Oct 6, 2012)

The touching up with photoshop doesn't allow us to see what the dome can actually do. Apparently the left side of someone's braincell isn't working very well today.

2 upvotes
Lawrencew
By Lawrencew (Oct 6, 2012)

I already commented earlier that this is a poor review as there is no opportunity to compare the with dome and without dome images as all the with images have been cropped and photoshoped. What is the point of that?

2 upvotes
Chris Morris
By Chris Morris (Oct 11, 2012)

I agree. This review is a complete waste of time - both the reviewer's and the reader's. Singularly unlike DPR

1 upvote
Pierre Daigneault
By Pierre Daigneault (Oct 6, 2012)

Just my $0.02 worth.
If I was going to carry this bit of kit around I may as well have a real camera. Why are all the "dome" pictures larger? Is there a close up lens included in the top of the dome?.....I don't get it....

2 upvotes
Bob Meyer
By Bob Meyer (Oct 7, 2012)

This isn't something you'd carry around with you. If you've got a small business selling small objects on ebay, this is a simple, relatively inexpensive way to get pics for your ebay listings. I don't have a use for it, but I'm not the target customer.

I'm not sure why something like this is getting coverage on DPR, though. I don't think we're the target audience, either.

Comment edited 1 minute after posting
1 upvote
Mafoo
By Mafoo (Oct 8, 2012)

What makes the iPhone camera not a "real" camera? I own a 5D Mk II, but that doesn't make my iPhone camera fake.

It still takes pretty good pictures when I need a camera and don't have my DSLR.

1 upvote
The Customer
By The Customer (Oct 9, 2012)

"Real" means "made of atoms", and we all know that phones are not made of atoms.

1 upvote
Earthlight
By Earthlight (Oct 6, 2012)

iCloud dome?

1 upvote
PeterLHughes
By PeterLHughes (Oct 6, 2012)

"..... is a must-have if you plan on taking serious pictures", this is misleading advice. The change this product makes is from awful to mediocre.

3 upvotes
backayonder
By backayonder (Oct 6, 2012)

I notice an influx of accessories and attachments creeping in for this iPhone camera that you have with you all the time. Will there will be an Iphone rucksac to keep them all in

1 upvote
jjlmoose
By jjlmoose (Oct 5, 2012)

Thanks for the review...definitely in interesting piece.

I may not buy one, but it certainly gave me some ideas on how to build something similar. More and more I find myself using my iPad or phone to grab a quick shot and list something on eBay or CL.

has anyone trademarked the name... iFong? ;-)

0 upvotes
vectograph
By vectograph (Oct 5, 2012)

Great! Another big hunk of plastic that'll end up in a landfill... or floating in the giant plastic heap in the middle of the ocean...

8 upvotes
ChrisKramer1
By ChrisKramer1 (Oct 5, 2012)

Oh look, an iphone...

2 upvotes
Scott Eaton
By Scott Eaton (Oct 5, 2012)

So, where did they put the chip to prevent China from making knockoffs?

3 upvotes
guest2007
By guest2007 (Oct 5, 2012)

iBase - a serous tool for serious photography :DDDDDD

1 upvote
andy le anh
By andy le anh (Oct 5, 2012)

"The Nimbus Dome Photography Base is a must-have if you plan on taking serious pictures."

Go buy a serious camera if you plan on taking serious pictures. With 79$ I can buy a decent PnS camera and shoot better than an iPhone.

But by the way, you need Photoshop to edit the picture after using the ... Nimbus Dumb... to post on Ebay... oh man... that's a lot of time.

8 upvotes
gordon lafleur
By gordon lafleur (Oct 5, 2012)

Wow, a new use for my cottage cheese containers, I'm gonna be rich. This is stupid.

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

To achieve this kind of results ( and much better) all you need is two pieces of white paper I make, Cloud Paper, should I sell it to you guys? Good price, just for you.

2 upvotes
Lawrencew
By Lawrencew (Oct 5, 2012)

Seeing as they have priced the Nimbus Cloud Dome at $79, I would think you will have no problem selling your two pieces of paper for say $29
If a mixing bowl with a hole in it can sell for $79, then sure as heck two pieces of paper can sell for $29.
Especially if you include the paper clips as an introductory offer...

Comment edited 2 minutes after posting
2 upvotes
RXVGS
By RXVGS (Oct 5, 2012)

Should name the two pieces of paper 'iPaper' and 'X-paper' to make it sound really high tech!

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

Thanks guys, that's what I make, iPaper and X-paper and Cloud 9 Paper, in a couple of years you also get iPaperS(hit!)! and so on. You will get the most exclusive paper ever made, ultimate luxury, even when landing on the moon and stuff. Just ask me.

Yeah, and I wouldn't think it would be too much to ask, say 20$ for one sheet and 29$ for a Kit of two pieces of paper.

Comment edited 4 times, last edit 5 minutes after posting
3 upvotes
RXVGS
By RXVGS (Oct 5, 2012)

If you want to land on the moon, you'll need Lunar Paper, it would be just like the regular 'i' and 'X' paper, but will be glossy and a different colour and will cost $100 a sheet!

4 upvotes
photosen
By photosen (Oct 5, 2012)

Cool; many of us would be interested in this but with a DSLR and a bit more depth on lighting...

0 upvotes
Mike Perlman
By Mike Perlman (Oct 5, 2012)

The regular size Cloud Dome is designed for DSLRs and other compact digital cameras.

1 upvote
Deleted pending purge
By Deleted pending purge (Oct 5, 2012)

Quite a normal thing for people which forgot or never learned how to improvise (dairy products have been selling yoghurt in similar "devices" for decades).
Watch for the next, collapsible model for the "serious travelling photographer". So why not include a serious camera too?
And all the while the whole World is constantly craving ever more energy and materials where there would be a huge surplus of both, if only some power restricted its application on useless sellware...

1 upvote
Hugo808
By Hugo808 (Oct 5, 2012)

Two questions:

Is anyone actually going to use their phone for this sort of photgraphy?

And when can I get oneof these for my D90?

0 upvotes
Mike Perlman
By Mike Perlman (Oct 5, 2012)

A lot of eBayers are not too savvy when it comes to product photography, nor do they own the equipment necessary to take professional product shots. The Nimbus Dome allows them to use their phone to take better pictures than they would normally.

The regular size Cloud Dome hosts a variety of DSLRs and other compact cameras.

2 upvotes
AV Janus
By AV Janus (Oct 5, 2012)

Gotta love that bluish shadow cat from the semi opaque background...
Useless for decent result... hahaha but a nice try

1 upvote
Paul Guba
By Paul Guba (Oct 5, 2012)

This is awesome. I am wish I had thought of this. It has to better then cutting the bottom off a bleach bottle, and using it.

0 upvotes
hiro_pro
By hiro_pro (Oct 5, 2012)

april fools? no? really, why not?

i like the way it conveniently fits in my pocket and looks way cooler than my d7000 and nikkor 60mm macro. i am sure i wont look creepy talking on the phone with that sucker attached.

1 upvote
Camediadude
By Camediadude (Oct 5, 2012)

doubles as a chamber pot, for those lazy sunday mornings!

5 upvotes
spidermoon
By spidermoon (Oct 5, 2012)

Why so many complains, this accessory is well suited for web gallery of small galeries, just use your phone, take a shot, and post to the web. No need of a F1 for every day travel ;)

2 upvotes
Roberto Peradotto
By Roberto Peradotto (Oct 5, 2012)

Is this serious? I think some hacker managed to get into the DPR servers.

8 upvotes
Yves P.
By Yves P. (Oct 5, 2012)

How about taking a "REAL" camera and proper photo technique to grab a "real" image ...

3 upvotes
Plasmoic
By Plasmoic (Oct 5, 2012)

Maybe its better to suggest some alternative uses, so we can help the reviewer:
1-Growing a plant
2-Washing veggies
3-
4-
.
.

3 upvotes
jira
By jira (Oct 5, 2012)

I don't understand the strong negative reaction to this.

It kind of scratches a need I recently had - to take few pictures for Ebay. Sure I could pull out a tripod, DSLR set up lighting etc (that is actually what I did). But for those several small pictures I needed this thing would save me a lot of time.

1 upvote
D1N0
By D1N0 (Oct 5, 2012)

So how do I mount a dslr on it?

O wait I'll just buy a white semi-opaque bucket fot 1,95 and make a hole in het bottom.

Comment edited 3 minutes after posting
3 upvotes
ManuelVilardeMacedo
By ManuelVilardeMacedo (Oct 5, 2012)

The answer to a question nobody asked.

10 upvotes
dragosc
By dragosc (Oct 5, 2012)

Lately, two things appeared that i haven't got any hesitation about buying . The Lunar and this. I am wondering how could we live without them until now...

5 upvotes
Lawrencew
By Lawrencew (Oct 5, 2012)

Am I the only one struggling to see what the difference is between the with and without pictures?

It seems that the "with" pictures are all cropped - making comparison difficult.
And don't seem to have any improvement other than that which could be done by applying an "autofix" in most editing programs.
And given that the "with" pictures have all been edited in photoshop (who buys an expensive editing program, and then takes photos with an iPhone and a mixing bowl?), I can't compare the results of the Nimbus cloud by itself anyway.

5 upvotes
massimogori
By massimogori (Oct 5, 2012)

Good you guys at Dpreview managed to subcontract lens and camera reviews. Now you have time to chat about the i-paperbin.

5 upvotes
JadedGamer
By JadedGamer (Oct 6, 2012)

Hm, note to DPReview: Use a non-iPhone smartphone next time, the frothing haters are getting restless.

0 upvotes
KAMSA
By KAMSA (Oct 5, 2012)

Cool chatjet for people who don't have the knowhow to use complex D(SLR(T))'s!

But Its amaizing to see that the results are not zo bad, for the purpose I mean ;)

Can't say anything for the last left compare photo, becous after severaltimes pressing F5 and reload this page, I I found out the link to that foto is dead.

reg.

0 upvotes
Alec_c
By Alec_c (Oct 5, 2012)

I'm using DP as a main information source for photography. In the last half year I feel, more and more, pressed to look elsewhere as topics covered or information provided are less and less relevant.
I agree that digital photography covers, literally, all kinds of image capturing but the original ideea of the site is sliding away constantly. I can only simpathise with the site originator as he sees where his creation is going. Hope he got a bunch out of it so this alleviates the pain.

4 upvotes
valtheWU
By valtheWU (Oct 5, 2012)

where did you read that and who is the origiator anyway? thanks.

0 upvotes
hiro_pro
By hiro_pro (Oct 5, 2012)

i have to disagree. while dp has added a few silly reviews like this, they have also increased the number of real articles, started lens reviews and gone into greater detail on real camera reviews. the forums continue to be a great resource too. I am sorry you cannot tell the difference between this article and Barnaby's 42 page d800(e) review covering every possible camera setting or shooting scenario.

3 upvotes
Alec_c
By Alec_c (Oct 5, 2012)

valtheWU - "Digital Photography Review was founded in December 1998 in the United Kingdom by Philip and Joanna Askey.[9] The website continued to grow and, on May 14, 2007, was acquired by Amazon.com." see Wikipedia

Comment edited 39 seconds after posting
0 upvotes
Alec_c
By Alec_c (Oct 5, 2012)

Hiro, this is my personal and subjective perception, although this is based on certain reasons. Will try to summarize and came back to you.

0 upvotes
gurudave
By gurudave (Oct 5, 2012)

Ikea bin with a hole cut in it ..... £4
Old lightbox £0

BARGAIN !

1 upvote
RoelHendrickx
By RoelHendrickx (Oct 5, 2012)

I don't think I have ever seen a more ridiculous accessory.
The results look terrible : whatever improvement over the "without" photo there is, could be done with just a bit of PP.
The product itself looks tacky and cheap, but it probably isn't.
Did this review get screened before being thrown online?

3 upvotes
Alanis
By Alanis (Oct 5, 2012)

Silly. Silly review.

And those silly rubber bands look like an afterthought. Well guys, we made a really cool light diffuser but, hey, whoops! How do we hold the phone in place? I know, glue three cupboard handles on top and wrap a bit of granny knicker elastic round them, that'll be good enough. Don't forget to send one to DPReview, because they seem to review just about anything nowadays.

Oh dear me.

7 upvotes
Aram
By Aram (Oct 5, 2012)

dpreview.... really ?!?!??!
this is about digital photography ?!

5 upvotes
qwertyasdf
By qwertyasdf (Oct 5, 2012)

The "Without Nimbus Cloud Dome in outdoor ambient lighting." photo clearly shows a lack of skills rather than the lack of cloud-dome.
The shadow, the lower magnification...you're trying too hard to make the cloud-dome look like a useful thing.

3 upvotes
qwertyasdf
By qwertyasdf (Oct 5, 2012)

Dpreview,

Sorry, crap product and crap photos.

Truthfully,

qwertyasdf

8 upvotes
love_them_all
By love_them_all (Oct 5, 2012)

For the same amount of money I can buy a light box with 3 sets of light with dimmers. It can be used with any kind of camera. Oh, I forgot to mention it doesn't look like a poo poo stool.

3 upvotes
WilliamJ
By WilliamJ (Oct 5, 2012)

A gadget-device for a gadget-camera. Logical ! And it says a lot about what to expect from a "smart"camphone !

1 upvote
Klarth
By Klarth (Oct 5, 2012)

"...if you plan on taking serious pictures"

Thanks for making me laugh!!!

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

"The Nimbus Dome Photography Base is a must-have if you plan on taking serious pictures."

:)))))!

I just wonder if they named it right, wouldn't Nimbus Clown Dome have been a more appropriate.

7 upvotes
WilliamJ
By WilliamJ (Oct 5, 2012)

Made me laugh too ! A sort of "for unserious photographers taking photographs in all seriousness" designed system !

A Nobel Prize please !

5 upvotes
sprials
By sprials (Oct 5, 2012)

This is a piece of junk and doesn't belong on a site of this caliber. Some of these reviews are really for garbage products by reviewers with questionable judgements.

The iphone 5 review was a pretty decent piece. Technical information, comparisons, studio shots. Actual ANALYSIS and exploration of the technical and the uses and limitations. This review feels cheap, sloppy, and like a shill for the product.

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

"doesn't belong on a site of this caliber"

At the risk of hurting some feelings, I would have to agree with this estimation.

3 upvotes
chadley_chad
By chadley_chad (Oct 5, 2012)

The calibre of DP went down a long time ago ... and more recently again when we started to get mobile phone users telling DSLR users how a Nokia 808 was/is a better solution for photography!

DP should rename their site to 'What Mobile Camera and App Daily ... and a bit about true photography'

Sorry DP but I'm sure I'll get a lot of likes to show this statement is true!

Comment edited 18 seconds after posting
12 upvotes
Total comments: 105
12