Do you struggle to get the white balance just right in your photographs? Do you shoot in AWB (auto white balance) and then spend hours tweaking the colors in your photos? Do you still find yourself questioning whether the color is correct? Last October, a friend of mine, who is a professional photographer, was taking outdoor photographs of my family. During the session, I watched as she covered her lens with a white disc, turned her back to us, pressed the shutter release button, removed the disc, and then snapped a shot of our family. I later learned that she was shooting with an ExpoDisc, a professional white balance filter.
What You Need to Know
There are two ExpoDiscs on the market: the original version and ExpoDisc 2.0. Since I own an ExpoDisc 2.0, this review will focus on the newest version. The ExpoDisc 2.0 has three basic features: you can use it to set white balance, you can meter incident exposure, and you can identify if there is any dust on your camera sensor. To set the white balance on your digital SLR (the ExpoDisc works with all major camera brands) or point-and-shoot camera, simply place the ExpoDisc over your lens, point the camera toward the dominant light source, snap a photo and set the Custom White Balance in your camera.
For most cameras and photographers, this process takes approximately 15 seconds. Remember that the Expodisc does not actually set the white balance on your camera for you. All it does is give you a target that you can take a picture with and then use that picture as a reference for when you set your white balance by going into the menu on your camera. Setting a custom white balance can be quite time-consuming. On a Canon camera, it takes 8 steps.
So while the Expodisc is a great way to set the white balance on a photo, its utility is limited because of how much time it takes to set up for each shot. The ExpoDisc and ExpoDisc 2.0 comes in a variety of sizes. Since you only need one for all of your lenses, make sure to purchase the one that will fit over your largest lens. For example, if your largest lens is 77mm, then buy a 77mm ExpoDisc.
Who Should Invest in an ExpoDisc
The ExpoDisc is most commonly used by professionals and semi-professionals, especially those who shoot hundreds (sometimes thousands) of photos at weddings. Using an ExpoDisc, these photographers are able to cut down on their workflow time. For some hobbyists, like me, it may be quite helpful, too, especially if you shoot frequently and find yourself tweaking the white balance of many of your images.
The ExpoDisc 2.0 costs $49.95, plus shipping on the ExpoDisc website. (Link: http://www.expoimaging.com/product_info.php?cPath=11&products_id=65). Right now, you can order the 77mm ExpoDisc 2.0 on Adorama (Link: http://www.adorama.com/EXWH277.html?gclid=CIXkgeXytr8CFTJo7AodwAIAWw) or B&H (Link: http://www.bhphotovideo.com/bnh/controller/home?O=&sku=1008986&gclid=CPPc-8fGwb8CFdBi7AodIicAUQ&is=REG&Q=&A=details) for $44.95 and receive free shipping. Check eBay for new or used ExpoDiscs. If you want to purchase an ExpoDisc at a store, click here to find a dealer within the United States or outside the United States. (Link: http://www.expoimaging.com/dealer-locator.php)
The ExpoDisc 2.0 is relatively quick and easy to use on a Nikon camera, especially with some practice. The ExpoDisc comes with a user quickstart guide, lanyard (so you can wear it around your neck), carry pouch, four portrait warming filters (2 Portrait Warming Filters (+1); 2 Portrait Warming Filters (+2), and a calibration certification card. The ExpoDisc is small, so it fits easily in your camera bag. Most importantly, the ExpoDisc is very accurate. It produces spot-on color, even in mixed lighting situations.
The only real downside I see is that you have to set the camera to manual focus mode, complete eight steps in the white balance procedure, and then set your camera back to Auto Focus mode before taking a photo. Some photographers I know who shoot with Canon cameras, only use the ExpoDisc for paid assignments, and forgo it while taking personal photos due to the time-consuming and multi-step process.
Input From Reviewers
- David Maynard, an Amazon reviewer, notes this important sentence from Expodisc: “Note. We do not recommend setting a custom white balance while using camera-mounted direct flash if you cannot remove the flash unit to set the custom white balance. The ExpoDisc is an incident tool, aiming the camera at the subject to set a custom white balance may not incorporate enough light from your camera mounted flash, and instead may create a colorcast by incorporating disproportionate amounts of back-lighting or side-lighting.”
- Ken Rockwell's somewhat outdated review of the Expodisc praises its accuracy in blended light conditions.
- Photographer Mindy Newton had this to say about the ExpoDisc: “If you are a photographer looking to reduce your post-processing time and get warmer, true-to-life color and skin tones then I would highly recommend you try the ExpoDisc!”
- Amber Flowers, an Amazon reviewer, noted that the Expodisc just takes too long to setup and use for each shot. Although the product itself is good, she found setting a custom white balance for each shot to be overly cumbersome.
Prepare to be impressed by this white balance filter! You’ll be able to shoot more and edit less, which always makes for a happier photographer.