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Mini Portable Lightbox Review

Photographing our scale models can feel like a black art at times, and it can be a frustrating process for those of us who post images of our work for public consumption, whether that be online, or in books and magazines. Often, our photos simply don’t do justice to our lovingly-crafted creations.

I experience this very struggle myself, and am constantly on the lookout for ways to improve my results. One of the secrets to quality miniature photography (or any photography, really) is lighting, and I recently stumbled across a portable lightbox that seemed ideally suited to photographing small assemblies and parts:

Being a mere AU$12 on eBay, I figured I had nothing to lose by trying one out—especially after seeing Matt McDougall’s post about a similar unit he had purchased. The thing that really appealed to me about this bit of kit, however, was that it comes with built-in USB-powered LED strip lighting! A USB cable with integral switch is supplied:

It has a standard USB plug (USB-A) at one end, while the end that plugs into the lighting strip features a micro-USB plug (micro-B). Here’s what the LED strip lighting looks like:

Now, I already have a large photo table with studio lights on each side, but I wanted something that would allow me to take quick in-progress photos of small sub-assemblies, such as engines and cockpits, where the light source is closer to the object.

The unit comes as a folded flat-pack, tucked inside a carry sleeve of sorts. I found it awkward to release the unit from its folded state (confession: I had to get my wife to do it!), but once extended, the sides come together in three layers, and are clipped together with a press-stud arrangement.

The unit appears to be made from some kind of PVC plastic, and while durable enough, it’s a little flimsy once assembled, and the sides on mine curve inwards, rather than being stiffly upright. I may try to affix something stiff to the external sides to keep them perpendicular.

The lightbox itself has a small footprint, being 23.5cm high and 22cm front-to-back. Width is also 22cm. So, it’s not really suitable for taking photos of completed aircraft models, or particularly large assemblies. It would comfortably handle figures and small-scale armour, however.

You also get five coloured inserts to use as backdrops for your photos—red, blue, green, black, and white:

These inserts only cover the floor and rear of the lightbox, so whichever colour you use, the sides will still be white. I like to photograph against as light a background colour as possible, generally, so I put the white insert into my unit for these test photos. The other colours are too strident for my liking.

On Test

As I’ve already noted, the LED strip lighting is USB-powered, so something like a phone charger is an ideal power source—provided you can set up near a power outlet! Luckily, I had something better: a portable USB power brick:

It’s basically just an external battery that is charged, and provides charge, via USB. Very handy!

Here’s what the unit looks like powered on:

Unfortunately the combined weight of the USB cable and switch has conspired to pull the right corner down a little bit, but this did not interfere with testing. You can see in the photo above just how severe the sidewalls curve in, and this is definitely blocking a small amount of light from reaching the work surface.

For testing, I used Quickboost’s 1/32 F4U-1D resin engine (QB 32 036). Here’s the initial photo, uncropped and unedited in any way, other than to reduce its dimensions:

It’s relatively dark, and has a mild blue/green cast. This is as much a function of the deficiencies of my camera than anything else. There’s also an odd pattern of overlapping lines in the foreground, which I suspect are caused by shadows from the curved sides. You can also see that the the lower rear corners have gaps through to the outside world, which limits the width of any object you can capture cleanly, without having to resort to editing out the background.

As I always shoot in RAW these days, it becomes a simple task to correct the while balance and exposure levels on images like the one above, so the image below shows the result of this editing, along with cropping out the unwanted corners:

Much better, and more than acceptable! I think there’s still a slight green cast in the part itself (along with some JPEG artefacts), but I don’t see this as an issue.

Sadly, I don’t think it’ll replace my larger set up for small parts any time soon:


So, what do I think? Well, it’s a very cheap solution, and it shows in places. Even while preparing this review, the double-sided tape holding the LED strip lighting in place started to let go (thanks to me leaving the USB cable dangling from it). The bending in of the sides is also annoying, but I will seek to address that somehow, and will re-test the unit if I do. A couple of my backdrops arrived with dents in them, too.

But for AU$12, I really can’t complain. While no substitute for my full photo rig, this unit will certainly allow me to take in-progress photos away from it, such as at the workbench itself, or even at a fellow modeller’s house.

The real value of a unit like this, however, lies in the utility it offers modellers who wish to improve their in-progress photography without having to invest in a large and potentially expensive studio set up. Sure, you’ll outgrow it quite quickly during the progress of any large build, but it’s a handy little unit all the same. If I’m able to fix the issue with the collapsing sides, I’ll test it again a publish the results.

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Announcing Our First Build Guide!

We’re pleased to announce that the first title in our Build Guide Series is well under way! Written by Karim Bibi, it will cover the Wingnut Wings 1/32 AEG G.IV ‘late’ kit. Not only does it feature a detailed step-by-step guide to how Karim produced his fabulous model, but also dedicated tutorials on biplane rigging, and painting wooden propellors. Also included will be a set of walkaround photos featuring the Mercedes D.IVa engine located at the Royal Museum of the Army, in Brussels, Belgium.

Below are a couple of teaser images of the build to whet your appetite!

Keep an eye out on the website, or our Facebook page, for more information about Building the Wingnut Wings AEG G.IV Late in 1/32 Scale. We’ll bring you updates as soon as we have them to hand.

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Announcing Our Second Title!

Hot on the heels of our debut release, Building Brick’s Sabre in 1/32 Scale, comes our second title, also by Eric Galliers, entitled Building Mac’s Birddog in 1/32 Scale: A Scale Tribute to Macaulay “Mac” Cottrell.

Mac spent 47 years in the RAAF, but in 1968, he found himself seconded to the USAF in Vietnam, flying the O-1 Birddog as a Forward Air Controller (FAC). On 10 June 1968, Mac was involved in an action directing USAF F-105 & A-37 aircraft, an action that resulted in him being recommended for the Silver Star, and ultimately being awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.

In this book, master modeller Eric Galliers takes the Roden 1/32 scale O-1 Birddog kit, and builds it to represent the aircraft that Mac flew on this mission. The book will include Eric’s detailed build guide, along with material supplied by Mac himself. Negotiations are also under way for another set of exclusive walkaround photos.

There is no set ETA for this new title at this stage, but we’re hoping that the remaining elements will come together quickly, and that it will be available soon. I’ll be posting some sample pages closer to its release.

Please stay tuned for more information as it comes to hand!

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Our Debut Book, “Building Brick’s Sabre”, is Now Available!

So, after what seems like an eternity, the gestation period for our debut book has finally borne fruit, and Building Brick’s Sabre in 1/32 Scale: A Scale Tribute to K.J. Bricknell, by Eric Galliers, is now available!

The book is a 104-page eBook in PDF format, and not only features Eric’s amazing conversion of the Italeri 1/32 F-86F kit to represent Brick’s Avon-powered CAC Sabre, but terrific anecdotes from Brick himself, and an extensive walkaround of the real thing. And all priced at what I think you’ll agree is a very reasonable 15 Aussie pesos (that’s 15 Australian dollars, for everybody north of the border).

Check out the sample pages below, and if you like what you see, you can purchase it from our online shop!

I’d like to thank Eric Galliers, Kevin Bricknell, Mark Jessop, Greg Meggs, and Dan Cooper each for their invaluable contributions to this book. If you like it too, please leave a comment or review; we’d greatly appreciate it!

Kevin Futter


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“Building Brick’s Sabre” Sample Pages

With our debut book nearing completion, I thought I’d share some sample pages with you, to whet your appetite. We may miss our original goal of having it ready for launch by the end of the month (June), but it shouldn’t be by too much. Fingers crossed it will be available soon!




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“Building Brick’s Sabre” to Include New Walkaround Section!

I’m pleased to announce that our debut book – Building Brick’s Sabre, by Eric Galliers – will now include over 30 walkaround images of the Temora CAC Sabre, taken by Mark Jessop of Aviation Spotters Online. Mark is one of Australia’s premiere aviation photographers, and his Sabre photos showcase the airframe in exquisite detail.

The book is in the final stages of development, and I hope to have it ready for release by the end of the month.

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Welcome to KLP Publishing!


KLP Publishing was born out of my desire to somehow capture and preserve Eric Galliers’ amazing build of K.J. “Brick” Bricknell’s CAC Sabre, including the terrific commentaries from Brick himself. The build thread on the Large Scale Planes forum remains a classic, but like many forum threads, is full of diversions, tangents, off-topic banter, and general noise. I wanted to distil Eric’s scale tribute to Brick into an easily-digestible format, and so came the impetus for our first eBook title, Building Brick’s Sabre in 1/32 Scale: A Scale Tribute to K.J. “Brick” Bricknell.

This book is in its final stages of development, and should be available in the next few weeks (though there’s no official ETA yet).

Why eBooks?

I knew when I started this venture that one of the first and most common questions I would be asked would be some variation of, but can I buy a print version? Many of us prefer the tactile nature of physical books, no doubt. But if you’re anything like me, your bookshelves are already bulging at their metaphorical seams, and space for any more is at a premium. As scale modellers, we all know the constant battle to find room for our burgeoning collections of books, magazines, and unbuilt kits, not to mention the display space for our precious finished models.

For this reason, I made the switch to digital versions for most of my own book and magazine purchases some time ago, but quickly became frustrated at the lack of modelling-related digital book content. Sure, most of the well-known modelling magazines now have digital versions available, and I partake of them with wallet-stripping regularity. But where are all the build guides? Some of the recent, heavyweight tomes on modelling techniques are indeed available as digital editions, but these are generally derived from the print versions, and are not designed from the outset to suit small electronic screens. Focussing on eBooks allows us to take a different approach.

Without the cost-driven page-count limitations imposed by the printing process, we’re free to use larger type sizes that are friendlier on aging eyes, and to make images larger than typically found in print. In fact, Eric’s Sabre book features no more than three photos on any given page, making them large enough to avoid having to zoom in to see them properly.

That said, if you run a print shop and can offer cost-effective printing solutions, I’m happy to consider it. Please feel free to contact me!

The Future

With our debut title imminent, more titles are being planned and developed, though most are not far enough along to confirm publicly. We’re planning three separate book series: a Build series, a Technique series, and a Build Special series. Eric Galliers’ Building Brick’s Sabre in 1/32 Scale will be the first in the Build Special series.

Build Series

The Build Series will effectively consist of build guides, and focus on less mainstream kits and subjects, such as resin kits, short-run kits, and esoteric subjects. But don’t worry if that’s not your bag; mainstream injection-moulded kits of interest will also be covered.

Build Special Series

The difference with the Build Special Series is that the featured builds take things further in some way. For example, Eric’s Sabre book includes Brick’s biography, and many of his anecdotes. It’s as much a tribute to Brick as it is about how to build the Italeri Sabre. While we don’t have any more of this series planned yet, suitable topics would cover major conversions, kit-bashing, scratch-builds, and anything that goes beyond a straightforward kit build with a sprinkling of aftermarket products.

Technique Series

The Technique Series seems self-explanatory, but the aim is to take small elements of the hobby that many of us struggle with, and provide detailed guides and solutions that are as comprehensive as possible, and cover every practical angle and approach. Each of us tends to prefer to do things in our own way, so the goal here is to provide plenty of options, and no guesswork.

No matter which series the book belongs to, our aim is to work with word-class modellers to bring you the best in scale aircraft modelling. If you have any ideas, requests, or proposals, I’d love to hear from you!

And So It Begins…

I hope you’ll check out our first publication when it launches in a few weeks, and perhaps hang around to see what else we have in store. You can create an account with us in readiness at any time, though we’ll support guest checkouts too. You can also follow us on Facebook if you’re a member. I look forward to your company!

Kevin Futter
Founder & Publisher