Figure review – Kotobukiya Belldandy

After setting up my new lighting table, I decided to give it a workout by taking some nicer shots of the Belldandy figure I picked up at Katsucon. Compared to the initial photos I took of her, the new ones came out much nicer. The new lighting has smoothed out some of the shadows and gave an overall warmer color to the figure.

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Old vs. New

With that out of the way, on to the review. This figure started life as a resin cast kit released by Kotobukiya back in 2001. From the look and style, she appears to be roughly styled after the movie rendition of Belldandy. Six years later, a preassembled and painted figure was released. Quality and detail is very high (as expected of any Kotobukiya figure), however there are a couple of visible flaws.

IMG_1512Close up showing off the facial features and jewelry

IMG_1496Another angle with the earrings and necklace

IMG_1498Low angle shot showing details below the dress, particularly like the rings and bracelets

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Visible seams in the gloves and flaws in the hair

Despite the little flaws, overall quality on the figure is excellent. I’ve spent a lot of time looking for a good and well priced Belldandy figure for my collection so I’m really happy to have picked this one up. Now it’s just a shame a real one won’t come out of my mirror to grant me a wish… ^.^

Additional photos (pre and post lighting changes) can be found here.

New lighting setup

I picked up a couple of interesting photography tips today from comments over at DannyChoo.com about various ways to do lighting for figure photography. I’d recommend checking out this tutorial for some hints on constructing a cheap lighting setup.

Good photography is good lighting. A lot of people think that good lighting is expensive. Wrong. The best light source for photography is free. The sun! If you’ve got a backyard use it. Shoot in the morning or an hour or two before the sun sets for the prettiest light. Those looking for the quickest and easiest way to take pics of your figs, well there you go. But if you’re in the city or in an apartment and feel a little too funny about taking a half naked anime babe outside for a photo shoot while people walk by wondering what kind of freak totes a half naked anime babe out in public, this means you’re shooting inside.

It takes a little setup, but really all you need for an indoor lighting setup are two desklamps, a couple of big sheets of construction paper in different colors, a cardboard box, some tracing paper, and some tape. Many of you have tried the desklamp thing and gotten results you weren’t that happy with, but if you use them right, you can get some good results. The best type of easy indoor lighting is a daylight balanced (aka, full spectrum) light source, because it’s close to daylight in color and it burns relatively cool, which is a plus when shooting PVC. You can use normal lights, but just watch for overheating your figures and calibrate your camera’s white balance settings accordingly.

With that in mind, I hit the local Target for supplies. I picked up some tissue paper from the gift wrap section, some tape, a $10 desk lamp, a large white piece of craft board, and two 6500k fluorescent bulbs (one 60w equiv, the other 100w equiv). I’d also picked up some thumb tacks so I could finally hang up the flat sheet I was using as the table cover to make a uniform background. Once I all the stuff home, I found a medium sized box and set to work. The setup itself was fairly easy. Taking a couple sheets of tissue paper, I taped it to the ends of the box to create a diffuser.

IMG_1517 The end setup (opened up a bit to see properly)

I’m pretty happy with the results. The only tweak I’ll have to make is with the bulb size, as the 100w bulb I used for the main lamp is a bit too bright for such close proximity. I’ll need to step it down to a 60w and also take the overhead lamp down to 40w. I should also cut the craft board in half for a smaller reflecting surface to make it easier to manage and shoot around. In total, everything cost me under $30, with the bulk of the cost being for the desk lamp and the bulbs.

Katsucon Loot

 

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For those who have been following my photo album uploads, you probably noticed that I’d been uploading albums of figures that I’d gotten at Katsucon. Since I finally got to doing photo shoots of the rest of the figures, I decided to put together a short summary of the things I’d picked up.

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First up are the first Figmas in my collection (from left to right: Shana, Saber, and Tsuruya). The first time I saw a write up about them on DannyChoo.com, I didn’t really understand them. Posable figures seemed a bit odd to me, and the ball joints made them look kinda odd. However, when I saw the Kagami Figma from Lucky Star, I figured I’d get one to see what it was all about. That and I wanted my own to take to random places for pictures. It didn’t take me long to find my first purchases, Saber and Tsuruya-san. Once I got them back to the hotel and cracked open the boxes, I was instantly hooked. They weren’t cheap or flimsy as I’d originally expected, but rather well put together. The bendable “cloth” bits were actually made of a soft pliable plastic and all the parts are very solid. Each one comes with different faces for various expressions, hands for different poses, a stand, accessories, and a small ziplock bag to store the extra pieces in.

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Unboxed figmas and accessories
 

I was so impressed that I went back to get the Shana Figma I saw earlier in the day. I think she and Saber will be having sword fights.

IMG_1256En garde!

In addition to the Figmas, I’d found several other gems that I decided to bring home.

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Click on each image for full album

From upper left to lower right: Sakura Matou from Alter, Belldandy from Kotobukiya, Tohsaka Rin from Kotobukiya, Ropponmatsu from Yamato, and Kasumi from Kotobukiya. I’ll probably do more in depth reviews later for each figure, so I won’t bother to do anything in depth here.

Although I managed not to get anything that was on my buy list, I still managed to spend a lot of money. I did, however, come close to buying the Gift Saber that was on my list. I saw her at one of the sellers booth but hesitated on price (she was marked at $140). Since I thought the tag was a bit high, I decided to come back later. By the time I came back, she was gone – I’d apparently missed her by a couple of minutes. Even though I knew the price was too high, I was a bit disappointed that I didn’t have the opportunity to make the decision on my own. So I did the next best thing. As soon as I got home, I put in the order to HLJ to have it shipped to me. In total, the figure cost me 8609 Yen, which is around $92. In the end, someone saved me $48 by buying her before I got the chance to! ^.^

Kokoro unboxing

Special thanks given to ravnel at DannyChoo.com for giving me the opportunity to own this figure.

I got out of work a little early today so I could enjoy the sunshine. When I got home, I found a nice surprise in my mailbox. The Kokoro figure that I’d bought from another user on DannyChoo had arrived! Each unboxing is a special event, and this was no different. Since she was still new and unopened, she still had that new figure smell.

IMG_0952Kokoro in the box

Once I’d removed her, it was time to take some photos. She comes with several options, so there was room for experimenting! At first, I had her positioned in front of a window to get the natural light effects.

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The cast off pieces are pretty easy to remove. She comes with extra ribbons to complete the swimsuit look, as well as a strap for the top. Additionally, she comes with an umbrella and a base. All of the parts are extremely detailed and very well made.

Then I realized there was a far better place in the room… the wall opposite of the window. In order to get the best light, I had to act fast, as the sun was setting.

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Pictures came out a bit yellow, but adjusting the white balance gave a much better look
 
For more photos, click through to the album. She even had a special guest join her for this occasion!
 

The girls (and cats) of ARIA

Today I decided to pull out the nicest (and hardest to find) set of figures in my collection to date. Meet Akira Ferrari, Alicia Florence, and Akari Mizunashi from ARIA. Toysworks had done a 1/6 scale series of figures coinciding with the release of ARIA -The Natural- and in total feature all 6 of the main undines. I’m very impressed with the quality on these figures and they’re the only ones that come preassembled to the base and are actually mounted with screws:

IMG_0903Two screws hold the feet down

I was lucky enough to find Alicia and Akira up on eBay while Akari came from a dealer at Animazement two years ago.

I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves!

It’s a matter of scale

I’ve been taking a look at some of my figures lately and noticed something interesting. It seems that different manufacturers have different measurements of scale. Take a look at these photos…

IMG_0851 Figures labeled as 1/8 scale

IMG_0855 Figures labeled as 1/6 scale

While the differences between the 1/8 figures aren’t very noticeable (they seem to fit well together), the differences in height on the 1/6 figures is pretty significant. Some of the differences don’t even make sense. From left to right, the character heights are: Akira – 168cm, Onda Aka – unknown (but is fairly petite), Belldandy – 165cm, and Tohsaka Rin – 124cm (Fate/Zero), 159cm (Fate/Stay). No matter how you look at it, Akira should be tallest figure, followed by Belldandy, then Rin. Somehow, Rin is completely oversized and Belldandy is far too small.

But it doesn’t stop there. Even among the 1/8s, there is some discrepancy.

shana Max Factory (left) and Beat (right) Shana

Here are two 1/8 scale figures of the same character (different manufacturers). If you were to pull the right figure upright, she would come out to be taller than the one on the left. All these differences make me wonder how the figures are made, and how they’re sized… Is it arbitrary?

Breaking in the new camera

Over the past week, I’ve done a decent job experimenting with the new camera and seeing what it can do. It’s the first camera I’ve had with so many buttons and settings, so it’s taken some time for me to figure out what everything does. I’ve also done some more experimenting with Photosynth and I think I’m really starting to get the hang of it. The most recent attempts have been scoring 90%+ Synthy, with 2 of them at a nice 100%.
 
These are a couple of synths that I’ve done so far:
 
Each synth has a corresponding album with other shots in the photo gallery. Check it out!

New Camera!

Yesterday marked the arrival of my new camera, a Canon PowerShot SX10. It’s far more feature rich than the PowerShot SD1100 it’s supplementing, including adjustments for manual focus, aperture, and shutter speed. It also has a really neat face-detect self timer, which sets the timer as soon as an additional face is detected (useful for giving the photographer time to get into a group shot).

What better way to break in a new camera than to do a photo shoot? Check out a sample of the pictures taken here. My personal favorite is the one with Alicia-san and my cat. She managed to sit up there on her own and it took a good 15 attempts to get one that actually looked decent. Cats can have very low attention spans and can be easily distracted by camera shutter clicks…