This is going to be a departure from my usual blog posts, as I am not reviewing anything but an expensive piece of photography equipment. That said, it may be worth the investment if you’re a busy product photographer who has been struggling with in-home studio lighting.
Photography for business, especially when dealing with very small products, can be difficult to get right, and while it’s possible to take excellent photos with very little equipment, if you’re looking to grow your business and take extremely high-quality images and even videos to feature in your shop, you might need to invest in a specialized home studio.
One such mini studio is the Orbitvu Alphashot Micro.
The Orbitvu Alphashot Micro is a compact home product photography studio designed with smaller businesses in mind. Powerful and cutting edge in technology, it’s an all-in-one, easy to use option for newer shop owners on the market. It does come at a steep learning curve and even steeper price, which might make it difficult to start out with.
As we know, photography is a rapidly evolving industry. There are new camera-related breakthroughs daily and it’s difficult to keep up with the latest trends in equipment.
Before buying, however, you may want to consider the Alphashot Micro’s history, specifications, and operation.
Automated Product Photography
Orbitvu wants to make it so simple that photographers can just photograph their products without having to do anything else. This means that they are dedicated to creating products that let you insert your subject, select a template, and let the machine do the rest.
Their studios take a slate of photos from multiple angles, as well as a 360-degree video, which can then be exported to the ecommerce site of your choosing, or directly to your computer, in as little as two minutes.
This was the major drive behind the design of their Alphashot studio series.
The Alphashot Lineup
Orbitvu’s Alphashot line features a wide range of studios across several sizing and shooting styles. Allow me to break down some of the more popular ones.
The full line of Alphashot models is as follows:
- The Alphashot Studio XXL
- The Fashion Studio
- The Alphashot XL Pro
- The Alphashot XL Wine
- The Alphastudio Compact Pro
- The Alphashot Micro
- The Alphashot 360
- The Alphatable
- The Alphadesk
Each one is purpose-built for a different kind of photography, and features the same sleek, simple, modern styling both inside and out.
Their Alphashot Micro is specifically designed for small object product photography, mainly jewelry and watches. This is a small machine that has many of the best features of the larger Alphashot systems.
The Alphashot Micro is 83 centimeters or 33 inches wide, 52 centimeters or 20 inches long, and 72 centimeters or 28 inches tall, making it excellent for desk mounting if you’re limited on room.
It weighs 43 kilograms or 94 pounds, and can hold products up to one kilogram or two pounds in weight.
Orbitvu highlights six special features of the Alphashot Micro as its major selling points.
- Spot lamps. The Alphashot Micro includes two spot lamps with diffusors for detailed highlighting.
- USB Hub. The device has a built-in USB station to directly hook up your camera and avoid excess cables.
- Integrated Camera Support. There is a support arm extending from the side of the device on which to mount your camera, again for an all-in-one experience. The angle can be adjusted to accommodate individual shoot needs.
- Cylindrical Lighting. What really sets the Alphashot Micro apart is its lighting system; six LED panels rotate independently within the studio chamber, allowing you to completely control your lighting setup. They emit up to 201,600 lumens, meaning that every shot will be bright and vibrant.
- Interchangeable Tables. Yet another customizable feature, the device offers several platforms that can be switched out to match the product being shot. Included table colors are white, black, and transparent glass.
- Customizable Function Button. This allows you to control lighting, image capture, and several other actions in one place.
Included with the machine are various reflectors, both interior and side, in white, silver, and black, a necklace support, fishing line holder, grey card, and ring fixing kit.
It also has a protractor scale printed along the barrel of the machine, making it easy to precisely repeat shots without hassle between sessions. Which comes in handy when you want to create a series based on the same scene.
The Alphashot Micro comes with an Orbitvu Station professional license and Orbitvu Viewer HTML 5 player license, which is necessary for embedding 360 product photos onto your website or store.
There are a few interesting highlighted features in this built-in software.
- Automatic Background Removal. Orbitvu boasts the “best” background removal technology on the market, functioning with IQ Mask to “[deliver] outstanding accuracy and speed” when it comes to isolating your product for transparent images.
- Super Focus. On top of typical directional focus options, the device has software that allows for super focus, or focus on all objects in the frame.
- Colour Beautifier. This software option allows you to highlight and enhance certain aspects of your product such as metallic finish and gemstone color saturation.
- Auto Retoucher. A slider allowing you to automatically remove imperfections like fingerprints or scratches is included in the software, making it excellent for polished surfaces.
- Templates. Useful for photographers working with repeated similar products, the Alphashot Micro lets you save preferences for your camera, lighting, and post-processing for future use.
The Alphashot Micro’s built-in software has plugins available for various e-commerce sites such as PrestaShop, Woo Commerce, and Magento, as well as social media integrations for Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.
The software for the device is compatible with both Windows and Mac operating systems, making it easy to integrate into your present setup. It can export photos as png, jpeg, tiff, or bmp files, video as mov, mp4, and gif files, and 360-degree video as HTML5, gif, mp4, or mov files.
The machine itself is compatible with most DSLR cameras, but Orbitvu recommends Canon specifically as the best fit. It can be optimized for up to five cameras.
Benefits of the Alphashot Micro
Now that we’ve considered the technical aspects of the machine, it’s time to get down to the actual review. We’ll consider the pros of the machinery first; as high-end as it is, there are many benefits to its use.
Capitalizing on Convenience
This is the top-touted benefit of the Alphashot system; Orbitvu focuses on the idea that you shouldn’t need hundreds of bits of specialized equipment to do one job.
Their Alphashot series is specifically designed to eliminate the need for individual lights, backgrounds, diffusors, stands, and platforms that can make adjusting between shots frustrating.
However, this also removes any creative expression that a skilled photographer is able to achieve.
Because of this dedication to autonomy, it is easy to integrate into an existing setup. Your DSLR camera can be connected directly to the machine for live review of the photographs as they’re taken, you don’t need additional lighting or background equipment, and the software is compatible with the big two operating systems, meaning you won’t have to upgrade your setup much to include it.
Assuming that you already work with a decent camera and lens, and have some experience with photo editing software, integrating Orbitvu’s technology into your product photography workflow is a simple matter of setting up, plugging in, and getting to work.
A Model of Photographic Efficiency
Orbitvu’s crowning achievement is the absolute efficiency of their products.
Rather than spending twenty to thirty minutes on each photo’s setup and settings, the Alphashot Micro lets you take photos quickly and in rapid succession, spending only three to five minutes on each one.
Thinking back to the company’s goal for automation, its IQ Mask background-removal and built-in post-production technology, which can be done live as the photos are taken before exporting, make not only the actual image capture, but the process of finishing photos much faster than traditional methods.
This means that the Alphashot Micro is a perfect tool for companies that have a lot of products to shoot, or rotating rounds of products that launch throughout the year and need to be shot quickly to be marketed early.
An All-In-One Product
Alphashot Micro is a system that’s built to be an all-in-one product for high volume photography. This includes a wide variety of post production options, as well as the ability to shoot up to 30 photos per minute without sacrificing quality.
This is perfect for a company that needs many shots of their products quickly and efficiently without having to hire an outsourced photographer.
Although each product in the Alphashot lineup is tailored to a specific industry, and in the case of the Micro that industry is jewelry photography, the machines can definitely be used for a variety of markets.
The Alphashot Micro makes an excellent studio for coins, small fossils, watches, and, of course, jewelry, along with almost any other small product that will fit into barrel of the studio.
As mentioned above, the system offers customizable, reusable templates in the software to set up shots for specific products, which means you can swap between them rapidly to effectively shoot multiple kinds of products in one sitting.
Real and Measurable Quality
It’s undeniable that the Alphashot Micro provides very real, very high-quality results, and even seeks to threaten our job as product photographers should we ever let our creativity slip.
The images taken with the machine, both in their company portfolio and on the sites of their customers, are crisp, sharp, and as good as we could have done in the studio.
The fact that you can take so many of them so quickly means that you do have the option of sorting out the absolute best of the best to feature.
Because you have the option of editing your photos directly from the machine, you can ensure that whatever minimal flaws there are can be fixed immediately, and, if you aren’t happy with the result, you can immediately reshoot instead of having to go through a second setup, meaning that you can guarantee you have the best images possible of any given product in one session.
Their post-production software also comes preloaded with templates for popular marketplace photograph packages, including one designed specifically for Amazon.
However, we are familiar with the power of Photoshop and it has remained an integral part of our workflow.
Professional and Helpful Support
Orbitvu has an apparently responsive support team with help desks around the world that you can call for local support of your product. While there is no indication about whether this is a twenty-four-hour helpline, their contact form does promise a prompt reply.
Their website also features a blog with not only notable news about the company, but creative solutions to common photography problems including correcting white balance, using a turntable effectively, and how to use shadows effectively in your product photos.
Drawbacks of the Alphashot Micro
Of course, no home software system is perfect. The Alphashot Micro does have a few drawbacks that should be considered before it is purchased.
Understandably, the Alphashot Micro is designed with very small objects like rings in mind. It photographs those very well, but this does present a serious drawback; the machine isn’t suitable for larger pieces of jewelry or other such products.
They simply don’t fit in the studio barrel and it can’t be adjusted to accommodate them, meaning that you are very limited on what you can work with.
On top of this, the Micro, though more compact and easier to place than its larger cousins, is still somewhat unwieldy. Because of the built-in camera stand, it is somewhat inconvenient to place in order to be able to utilize the full range of rotation in your videography.
This isn’t an issue if you are planning to take only still photos, but you’ll need at least a foot of clearance on all sides just to move the camera for video, without accounting for maneuverability for the photographer.
While it is true that Orbitvu offers localized support, it also does not offer much detail about that support. Nor does it offer much detail about any of its products in terms of comparability to other brands.
Orbitvu is also extremely particular about who is allowed to host demonstrations of their technology, meaning that there are few video tutorials available for the Alphashot Micro.
There are few reviews available at all outside of the company’s own testimonials, which makes it difficult to get unfiltered opinions on the technology before purchasing.
Because everything for the Alphashot Micro is built and designed in-house, there is no alternative market for replacement pieces or maintenance; Orbitvu is your only option. This means that they retain full control of the pricing and availability.
While this isn’t necessarily a huge problem, it could cause significant delays in communication and shipping depending on where you are based.
Not First-Time Photographer Friendly
Although advertised as easy-to-use for non-professionals, the Alphashot Micro is a complex piece of hardware with equally professional-grade software to run on.
It also requires multiple pieces of additional professional-grade equipment, from a DSLR or similar camera to a serviceable computer capable of running its software.
In other words, the skilled product photographer that this unit is intended to replace will need a technician to operate it.
This combined with its cost make it more suited for mid-sized e-commerce businesses than individuals or very small businesses who are just starting out.
There are many simpler and cheaper options on the market for taking excellent product photographs on a budget, which our blog thoroughly covers.
Although advertised as a way of saving money and as a low-cost alternative to more complex hardware, the actual cost of the Alphashot Micro system is not listed publicly on any official Orbitvu webpage.
The only way to get pricing for the system directly from the company is to schedule a demonstration. This makes it more difficult to compare to other systems.
According to Atelier Technology, the Alphashot Micro costs roughly €7,900, or $9,586. This is relatively expensive when it comes to the cost of other in-home studio solutions, but, accounting for the inclusion of accessories and software, is reasonable.
Unfortunately, it does make it inaccessible to first-time photographers and very small, very new businesses looking to set up their storefronts on a strict budget.
The actual cost of the Alphashot Micro might be its biggest drawback.
How to Use an Alphashot Micro
If you do decide to opt for the Alphashot Micro as your studio, and if you are already familiar with photography tech, you can begin using the system immediately.
In their advertising brochure, Orbitvu specifies a five-step process that “can be used by non-professionals” with relative ease.
- Place your product. Choose the appropriate accessory for your featured product and mount it on one of the tables inside the device.
- Adjust your lighting and reflections. Adjust the positions of the light panels, spotlights, and reflectors to maximize your product’s appearance.
- Capture the image. They advertise a one-button solution to image capture, focus, and background removal.
- Post-process your images. Utilize the built-in software to remove surface imperfections, color correct, and sharpen the image if necessary.
- Export the images. Orbitvu’s software allows you to export your images in a variety of sizes and file types to match the platform of your choice for publication. Send them directly to your website or save them on your computer for future use.
You can shoot both still and 3D images, as well as 360-degree video with the Alphashot Micro, with a simple switch of the settings.
The videos can be extremely useful in your online store, as they provide customers with as close to an in-person shopping experience as possible online – your customer can examine your product from several different angles like they would in person.
Again, this product is better suited to more experienced photographers, but it’s still relatively easy due to its all-in-one nature if you’ve already mastered the basics.
Orbitvu and Photography: The Company Behind the Alphashot
Orbitvu was founded by professionals who have been in the business of professional photography for 20 years. It came about in 2010, and has quickly become an extremely popular choice for ecommerce.
Their business model is to apply practices from traditional photography to the new, digital landscape to save time and money and simplify the photography process.
Orbitvu was founded by Tomasz and Grazyna Bochenek in Tarnowski Gory, Poland. Tomasz’s goal for the company, he says, is to combine ever-evolving post-production technology and traditional photography methods for a smoother, more refined experience to meet the changing needs for the business photography market.
The company prides itself on keeping all parts of the research, design, and production process in-house, meaning that its systems are created under one of its locations completely, be that in the original company headquarters in Poland or in their North American facilities located in Atlanta, Georgia.
Their stated goal is to keep up with the evolving needs of their clients.
Although outside reviews for Orbitvu are few and far between, they do have a solid reputation as one of the best photography technology companies in Europe.
The company boasts operation in more than 50 countries worldwide. Their products and services have been used by such well trusted companies as Mitsubishi Electric, New Balance, Avon, Puma, Bershka, and Hermes.
The Rest of the Alphashot Lineup
Suppose that you had larger or more specialized products that you wanted to shoot. As mentioned above, Orbitvu has a wide lineup of Alphashot studio solutions for various needs.
The Alphashot Studio XXL
One of the largest studio options in the Alphashot range, the Alphashot Studio XXL is for the largest products, including furniture, musical instruments, household devices, and clothing. It offers a choice for stills, video, and 360-degree imaging.
The Fashion Studio
The only product that is not technically an Alphashot product, the Fashion Studio is designed for clothing photography with both mannequins and live models.
Completely automatic and software controlled, you can let the Fashion Studio do the work while still maintaining control over the artistry and creativity of the shoot.
The Alphastudio Compact Pro: For Medium Projects
The Alphastudio Compact Pro is suitable for both medium and large products, including suitcases and smaller furniture. It has much of the same technology and advantages of the Alphashot Studio XL in a smaller, more compact frame.
The Alphashot XL Pro: For Large Projects
This is Orbitvu’s solution for medium-sized products, from shoes and handbags to laptops, glassware, and more. It features sliding doors for easy access, reflectors and spotlights for lighting control, and a motorized turntable to make it easy to get a variety of angles in one shoot.
The Alphashot XL Wine: Wine Specific
Similar to the Pro model, the Alphashot XL Wine is designed with medium products in mind, specifically wine bottles. With a support built in and laser positioning systems, it’s perfectly suited for all kinds of wine bottles.
The Alphashot 360: For 360 Shoots
This machine is Orbitvu’s other small product specialty. Where the Micro is designed with jewelry and other reflective items in mind, the 360 is designed for cosmetics, glasses, mobile phones, and camera equipment. It’s a slightly smaller studio space, designed specifically for 360-degree imagery.
The Alphatable and Alphadesk: Flat Piece, Stable Photography Projects
These two machines are designed for flat lay photography, which can be difficult to get without a proper surface to work from. The Alphatable is designed for large and medium products, and the Alphadesk is designed for medium and small products. They work well for clothes, accessories, fabrics, and tiles.
Are There Any Alternatives to the Alphashot Micro?
Of course, the Alphashot Micro is not the only home studio solution on the market for jewelry and small product photography. There are a few competitive solutions that can work for you and your company, and may actually be within your budget.
However, these automated product photography systems are very much industrial in nature and intended for high volumes.
Alo Photo Sphere
Italian made and a bit pricier than the Alphashot Micro, the Alo Photo Sphere is another fantastic home studio. What sets it apart is that the Alo Photo Sphere is more compatible with larger jewelry pieces, and the machine itself revolves around the product rather than moving the product itself. The Alo Photo Sphere costs roughly €8,950 or $11,022.
If you are a photographer who needs EVERYTHING, then StyleShoots is for you because it is a complete solution, much like the Alphashot Micro. The equipment has a network upload feature for all of their products. Editing and processing can begin immediately, even if your team is in a different space entirely.
The system is much more user friendly and almost anyone can figure out how to produce good results, but the downside is that it is much more expensive.
Read up on our comparison of Orbitvu vs StyleShoots here.
IconoSys Shutter Stream
If you aren’t in the market for an entire studio, the IconoSys Shutter Stream is an excellent software system to integrate into your workflow without breaking the bank. It includes background removal that is relatively easy to use, but, it is important to note, does not feature 360-degree still photography or video capabilities.
Running at roughly $500, it’s a solid choice if you are happy with the equipment you currently use and want something to streamline your editing.
PicUp Media Gem Lightbox and Turntable Set
Another relatively cheap solution is the PicUp Media Gem Lightbox and Turntable Set. Significantly smaller and compatible with smartphones, this set is an excellent solution for very small or starting out businesses. However, it’s intended for smaller products like jewelry, and doesn’t offer as many features as the larger, more professional equipment.
The Picup Media Gem Lightbox and Turntable Set costs roughly $1,300.
Working Without a Studio
It’s possible to take excellent product photographs without having a dedicated home studio setup. Setting up a plain, white background and using household or natural lighting, you can take decent photos with even a smartphone camera.
Check out our free post on how to do product photography on a budget.
Of course, setting up a completely white background that will not pick up on camera is difficult, and even if you do manage that, you would still need quite a bit of post-production skill in a software like Adobe Photoshop to manually remove background and enhance pictures.
But you should be retouching your product images anyways.
Is the Alphashot Micro Worth It?
The Alphashot Micro is a solid, well-crafted piece of machinery.
It produces high-quality images even before retouching, and also provides the means to retouch the images for the best possible outcome at all times.
Its compact, cylindrical design is vastly different from anything else on the market at the moment, providing it with the advantage of smooth, easily customizable studio performance.
Unfortunately, it isn’t accessible for absolute beginners and will require a technician to run it. It is costly and requires additional professional equipment to function at its absolute best, as well as being difficult to set up for a full range of motion.
Orbitvu also has a full monopoly on repair and maintenance, so the pricing for that is higher than simpler systems or DIY setups.
Overall, if you are able to invest the money in the system initially, and you are planning for a rapid expansion of your business and the introduction of many new products in quick succession, then the Alphashot Micro is an excellent option for your business.
Otherwise, as a smaller business or independent photographer, it might be worth looking into alternative hardware and reading up on our blog for more tips on how to do product photography yourself.