Inside a Chinese photographic lighting factory

Where are your studio lights made? We were invited to the factory of Shenzhen Nice Photographic Equipment Co., Ltd., better known as Nicefoto, to see how their products come together.

The firm is the original manufacturer of the innovative N-Flash series of battery-powered studio lights. As well as selling products under their own name, the company also works as an original equipment manufacturer (OEM) with international distributors rebranding the gear in different markets.

N-Flashes in production

Based in Buji town, one of Shenzhen’s industrial districts, Nicefoto are a stone’s throw from a number of rival Chinese lighting makers. The factory spans three floors, each one more or less designated for making electronics, hardware or lights, plus offices on each level for designers, engineers, managers and so on.

Triggers and circuitboards

Production line

The feel of the place is not quite as sterile as a high-end microchip plant like you might see in Silicon Valley, but it is far from the images of Chinese “sweatshops” used by big brands and presented in the news. In fact it probably reminded me more of the British factory where I did work experience while at school in England.

Monolights in production

Here are some Nicefoto studio flashes being assembled and lined up neatly, ready for the next step of production.

Completed studio flash heads

Despite what you might expect from your own experiences with low-cost Chinese-made products, there is actually some quality control going on here! All the units on the shelves here are being tested, with flashes going off every few seconds.

Quality control: finished flash units being tested

Interestingly Nicefoto make their own metal cases and hardware from raw materials rather than buying ready-made ones from other companies. The man below is making brackets for photographic backdrops.

Metalwork

Here you can see the workers making reflectors, spigots and tilt brackets for studio lights. Notice the assembly instructions overhead.

Reflectors and spigots

These circuit boards are destined for the insides of flash heads. When I poked my head around the door of an engineer’s office, I could see the amount of planning that goes into creating new products. In my review of the Nice N-Flash, I praised the thoughtful design features, but now that I have seen the processes of how they are made, I appreciate it all the more.

Completed circuitboards

It turns out that the brand name Nicefoto isn’t as cheesy as it sounds. It actually comes from the factory’s original Chinese name, 耐思 (Nài Sī), which does not really mean anything in English but is phonetically similar to the word “nice”. You can find out more about the company on their web site. We can hope to look out for further improvements to the N-Flash location lighting line in the future.

Thanks to Cindy Huang for making this visit possible.

  • http://www.speedlighters.com Angus Thomas

    Nice to see that these lights seem to be made in a decent working environment

  • http://ranger9.net Ranger 9

    Workers hunched over benches on stools with no back supports, open-toed sandals, no eye protection around metalworking equipment… well, that’s how you get to be the low-cost producer. Capitalism in action!

    • Remedy

      Dude are You 12 or something? Eyes protection for this kind of assembling? Are You fking serious? Oh and of course they need heavy duty shoes, because a polar bear might attack their feet all of a sudden. Dude, get some sense to your head. This looks EXACTLY the same in Germany, Holland, Poland or Italy. None of the ridiculous nonsense you mentioned is required for this kind of job.

  • Eric

    耐 (Resistance / long lasting)
    思 (Think/ Thoughts)

    耐思 probably to the chinese have some sort of underlying meaning for Long lasting thoughts…. Hence the thoughts and planning as you suggested.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=610343195 Sandeep Murali

    Had a chat with one of their customer care guys today and he was as courteous as one could be. Even when I mentioned that I own a product from one of their rivals, he didn’t resort to mudslinging. He actually praised the competitor and the product (Which is actually very good). He also knew a ton of stuff about their own products too. If you’re in the market for a studio strobe, I highly recommend their products.

    My only wish is that they’d launch an updated version of the n-flash with remote power control capabilities. I tried one of the Cononmark models with this feature and it didn’t impress me one bit.The n-flash on the other hand is built solid and performs wonderfully.This may be a pipe dream, but if they could licence PocketWizard ControlTL for their built in radios, that would be the best thing since sliced bread for the budget concious photographer.

  • http://kispix.com Juan

    Thank you for sharing this! If they continue to do a great job and take the custumer service seriusly no doubt they will be a great brand.

    I think the N-Flas is quite revolutionary: Studio strobes without cables or heavy packs!.

    I would like to hear more experiences with the N-Flash from other users.

  • Stuart

    Looks much like some of the lower tech military electronics I knew in the UK back in the 80/90. Looks like they keep costs down with smaller batches allowing leaded components to be hand soldered rather than IR reflow soldered with SMT components – but then with large voltages the physically larger components are probably a benefit. The place would not need to be as “sterile as a high-end microchip plant like you might see in Silicon Valley” as dust/moisture etc is not going to affect already encapsulated components. But there are no antistatic straps in place unless their foot wear is conductive.
    To Ranger9 above – I don’t know anyone who uses a back rest when soldering, but agree with you on eye protection.
    Its good to see this article and nice to see China in action helping to facilitate amateur togs like me get a foot hold into an otherwise expensive pro market.
    Cheers
    Stuart

  • JMerkle

    Plus, they have local in-warranty service facilities all over the world.

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