Background: I've been using off-camera flash consistently for a couple of years now, ever since receiving my Cactus V4 wireless flash trigger set in early 2011. Though I'd followed the Strobist blog (and its corresponding group on Flickr), I never had the liquid capital to throw at light stands, umbrellas, and other accessories recommended. For several years, this is how I have obtained photography gear: (1) one or two small/cheap items for Christmas, (2) one or two medium-cost items after our Income Tax Refund, or (3) make it myself.
I finally decided to actually go strobist and use this year's Christmas (and 2014's tax refund, if any) to finally collect a few items that any off-camera flash user should have — according to those who've been doing it a lot longer than me.
There are many brands of umbrella swivels/adapters, each slightly different (and LumoPro carries a few other models: LP626, LP634, and LP679), but the LP633 (see product page) is the one I chose.
As pictured at left, there are four major components to this swivel, starting at the top:
1. The cold shoe. (Please don't call it a "hot shoe". A hot shoe has an electrical contact; a cold shoe doesn't.) This is where you'd attach a flash — or any accessory with a hot foot or cold foot.
2. An umbrella shaft hole. This is where you place the shaft of a standard photographic umbrella. The hole is tilted 10° from horizontal and has a small thumb screw for tightening on the shaft.
3. The geared tooth locking mechanism. With a large knob and spring-assisted operation, this is what allows you to tilt the umbrella — and the attached flash — at just about any angle. The "teeth" hold it in place when you tighten the knob.
4. The mount (bottom). This part attaches to a light stand — or any object with a 5/8" thick protrusion. In case such an object isn't available, the swivel comes with a brass insert (see next photo) that has a 1/4"-20 female thread on one end and a 3/8"-16 female thread on the other, for attaching to any male screw of either size — both are standard thread sizes in photography equipment.
Overall, a relatively simple device that's built to serve a relatively simple purpose. But despite my DIY tendencies, this is something I would have had a difficult time building for myself — and I probably couldn't have done it for less than $20 in parts.
Some other umbrella swivel adapters come with an easily removable cold shoe; this one is solidly fixed in place, though there are two screws. I removed both; they're tiny and non-standard. No other accessory I know of could fit up there, so I suppose the screws are only there in case you need to replace the cold shoe.
The body of the LumoPro swivel is some type of polymer/plastic, as are the handles of all four knobs, while the threads of all four knobs are metal. The cold shoe is painted metal. The product page says the item weighs "1.00 lbs.", but our kitchen scale says it's 5 oz. without the brass insert and 6.5 oz. with the brass insert.
But it feels very solid (more than I would have expected) and of a good quality — as I've come to expect of LumoPro products after buying their LP160 manual quad-sync flash and using it for nearly three years. It easily holds the weight of my heaviest flash, with a radio trigger, and an umbrella — at any angle. And it mounts securely to my lone light stand — and also to my DIY flash brackets.
As with any review of a recently received product, it's impossible to say how long it will last or how well it will hold up to the rigors of constant use. Like I've done with my older reviews, I'll eventually update this one too.
In case this umbrella swivel/adapter ever does bite the dust, I can salvage a few parts from it. The thumb screw that goes into the umbrella shaft hole has a 1/4"-20 thread, as does the bottom screw that tightens on the mount. Both could be used for other photographic applications.
Edited 2014.02.19 to add the following comparison paragraph and image:
When I later obtained a LumoPro LP679, there were several differences, all of which are mentioned in my LP679 review. The most obvious difference was the size:
One thing of note: As far as I can tell. LumoPro products are only available through Midwest Photo Exchange. Generally, it bugs me when a manufacturer only sells through one retailer, but that's a topic for a different day. MPEX is family-owned and operated, and I've ordered from their website several times without issue.
(Note: I do not receive any compensation for mentioning any company or its products in this review.)