LEGO Ultimate Collectors Series: Slave 1 Review

The Star Wars Universe has many unique style of ships.  One of the most unique is Boba Fett’s ship, which is called Slave 1. Of particular note iit lands in a different direction than it flies. It does not get a lot of screen time during the Star Wars series, but it does play an important role in the film as it is the ship that takes the carbonite frozen Han Solo back to Tatooine.

When I notice that LEGO has an Ultimate Collector Series version of this ship  I jumped at the chance to own one.

This is my review of this iconic set.


This set is one of the Ultimate Collector Series, which are the larger sets that LEGO produces.  This set, at 1996 pieces is no exception.  When built, the model is 7” high, 17” long, and 14” wide.  This size puts the ship is at minifig scale, which helps with the sense of play, as well as a more realistic sense of scale.  This will come in handy for us toy photographers.

Being an Ultimate Collector Series set,  it does come with a rather handy stand that can be used for display.

Included Minifigures

The set comes with 4 or 5 minifigures, depending on how you count.  Included is a Bespin Guard, a Stormtrooper, a Han Solo, and a Boba Fett.  The Boba Fett minifig is more detailed than the version of him that comes in other sets. The Bespin Guard and Han Solo are rather plain looking in comparison, but still perfectly cromulent. The 5th item that may or may not be counted as a minifig is Han Solo encased in a slab of carbonite.

Boba Fett casting a shadow
A menacing Boba Fett

The carbonite slab is hollow at the back, and contains a couple studs that the Han Solo figure can grip with his hands, essentially hiding Han behind the slab.  This isn’t over useful for photography, but sort of clever and worth mentioning.

Slave 1 

Slave 1 in space
Slave 1 in space

If you look at Slave 1 you realize that there isn’t a square angle on the thing. It is bulbous in certain places, and cylindrical in others, but never square.   I can only imagine how much trouble this gave the LEGO build engineers as they had to figure out how to recreate this ship.

They pulled it off beautifully.  It is a very complicated build, and uses the concept of SNOT (studs not on top) to an degree I have personally never seen. This allows for the complex shapes and structures that make up this ship. There are studs facing almost every direction.

The ship itself is very detailed.  It sports an expansive cockpit, which swivels to be appropriate for both landing and flight modes. The swivel guns on the tail look very accurate. It sports two hidden compartment on the sides that contain additional weaponry.  The tail contains a cargo door that is especially designed to hold the carbonite slab.

Slave 1 Cockpit
Slave 1 cockpit

Hidden Benefits For Photographers

Unfortunately the base of the ship, while detailed, is not solid.  Consequently, it is not overly photogenic from underneath.  I don’t think this will cause too many problems in practice. The inside of the ship is fairly hollow.  This, combined with the non-solid base, makes it easier to slip small lights inside for that more dramatic photo.

I took this behind-the-scenes shot of my customized light inside the cargo bay of the ship:
And this is the resulting image:

Han Solo, frozen in carbonite, being loaded onto Slave 1
Loading Han Solo onto Slave 1

The core of the ship is incredibly solid. However there are a lot of decorative bricks that come off fairly easily.  For example, while taking the above photo, I had to replace the round bits at the base of the tail several times.  As a result, I would be cautious taking this ship out into the field, however in a studio setting this doesn’t seem to cause many issues.


The Slave 1 model is a master class in creating complex shapes with LEGO bricks. It is a true work of art in and of itself, and is therefore worth adding this to your collection for that fact alone.  The ship’s detail, relative correct scale, and incredibly rugged build means that it will both look good in photos, as well as on the shelf.

I don’t believe this set is a must have for the toy photographer. However, if you are looking for an interesting model to add to your collection that is both a challenging build, and will look good in photos, this ship should be high on your list of sets to consider.

If you’ve made it this far, come continue the discussion over at our G+ community! And while you’re at it, subscribe to our weekly email round up and our shiny new podcast!

Vintage Lenses for Toy Photography

Many folks are familiar with the look and feel of vintage lenses without even realizing it.  Tons of photo editing apps are specifically designed to emulate different effects that were “issues” with old vintage glass.  Some of these old issues such as light leaks, scratches, and weird Bokeh, have been “fixed” with modern manufacturing techniques.

After seeing so many options to add retro looks, I started wondering why is this a thing? Why do we like to add back these imperfections?

I think it’s because the imperfections of old glass added a unique character that has since been lost in the pursuit of perfection.  The older manufacturing processes resulted in different characteristics even between the same lenses made at the same factory.  I have four Vintage lenses that I am constantly using in my photography mainly because of the look, feel, and character they lend to my images.  I’ll give you a bit of a rundown on each of them.

Vintage Lenses I Currently Use

  • Jupiter 37a 135mm f3.5
  • Helios 44-2 58mm f2
  • Minolta MC Rokkor-PF 58mm f1.4
  • Minolta Rokkor 50mm f3.5 Macro

The first is the Russian made Jupiter 37a 135mm f3.5 manual focus lens. I purchased it on eBay direct from a Russian seller for less than $50 shipped. My copy was manufactured in 1982 and has many unique “imperfections”. The glass has small air bubbles near the edges inside the lens element.  This was a manufacturing glitch that makes for interesting blur wide open. What really sold me on this lens was also the fact it has 12 aperture blades that make for awesome circular Bokeh. It’s a bit soft wide open but I like soft if it also includes crazy cool Bokeh!

Mr. Bean Early Blue Hues

The second is also a Russian made MF lens – the Helios 44-2 58mm f2; I have an early copy from the 50s. This lens has some unique swirly Bokeh that deforms on the edges.  I acquired mine about 18 years ago and it came with my first film camera – the Zenit-E rangefinder.  It is built like a tank.  Most vintage lenses are built out of sturdy metals and glass and were made to last a lifetime.  I guess they hadn’t quite discovered plastic or engineered obsolescence.

Hollow Hoth? A Drop Test to Oblivion
No Snow in Sight

The third lens is my fastest – the Minolta MC Rokkor-PF 58mm f1.4.  I attribute about 50% of my shots over the past few years to this one. My copy was purchased at a thrift shop for $10 and my older brother Nathan (IG @talking_tree) carefully disassembled and cleaned all the dirt out of it.  I’ve gotten some of my best Bokeh shots with this lens especially shooting toward the sun in the mornings.

Elvio Diego Josè Francisco de Paula Juan Nepomuceno María de los Remedios Cipriano de la Santísima Trinidad Ruiz… and his Low Ride Scooter
Tar Pit Trap

The fourth and last is the Minolta Rokkor 50mm f3.5 macro.  I picked this lens up at a second hand lens shop for $50.  This lens has the equivalent of a macro extension tube that can be attached for extreme closeup – or removed for standard macro.  It’ll focus about an 1″ away from the lens – so it is perfect for tight situations.  I highly recommend having a dedicated macro lens – especially for smaller toys.

Gives it to Us Raw… and Buzzing!
Enjoying the First Snow – Sparkles and Unicorns

Overall I find myself using my Vintage lenses far more than anything else.  I do have some newer AF lenses in my arsenal that are perfect for capturing my five rambunctious kiddos, but for toy photography you can’t really beat the control and look of old glass.  For the price of one cheap new lens you could have a whole set of awesome vintage glass at your disposal.  All the money I save on lenses I get to use on toys!

~ Joecow

Do you have a favorite lens that you always shoot with? What do y’all think of vintage glass? Do you currently use any old lenses in your toy photography?

In a blind bag bind

Sometimes, you have a bad day and just need to buy a bunch of toys to cheer yourself up. Of course, shops these days are FULL of blind bag/box type toys for ‘kids’ to spend their pocket money on (or Tesco coupons in this case). So, in the interests of finding new things to photograph, I grabbed a whole bunch of different toys.

The sheer number of available blind bag toys at my local supermarket can be seen in the following slideshow of awkwardly taken photos.

  • All the Pop figures and blind boxes.


Take a look below at my mini-reviews to see just what I ended up buying, and whether I would buy them again. Maybe it will help you decide whether these mini toys are worth getting your camera (and wallet) out for!

Continue reading In a blind bag bind

Holding hands – a toy romance

Happy Valentine’s Day!

We have a themed six image narrative for you today. Sometimes you just have to take soppy pictures of your toys, even if you generally avoid the rampant commercialisation of love on February 14.

Space romance


Continue reading Holding hands – a toy romance

Batman Giveaway Winner

It’s time to announce the winner of the Batman Movie Collectable Minifigures Series 2 giveaway.

To help with the voting, Shelly and I enlisted the help of our past giveaway winners, @tomekskog and @shundeez_official. Yep, as well as giving past winner their prizes, we also give them jobs! Continue reading Batman Giveaway Winner

The Foundation Series: What’s Your Story?

I love a photograph that tells a good story, and I try to create images that do just that.  When I set out to make a new image, the first question I ask myself is “what story do I want to tell?”. What do I want the viewer to experience when they cast their gaze upon my image. To put it more bluntly: “What is your point, Dave?”
Continue reading The Foundation Series: What’s Your Story?

Podcast 05 – “Feelings”

Kristina and I are back for another theme episode of the Toy Photographers Podcast!

Like our previous “Play” episode, we will have picked a specific theme to photograph, and taken a photo with that theme in mind. We then jump on Skype, share our photos with one another, and discuss what we see, both literally and in terms of how it relates to the theme we picked. Continue reading Podcast 05 – “Feelings”

Review: LEGO 40236 Romantic Valentine Picnic

Love is in the air, so it’s the perfect time to review the first seasonal LEGO kit of the year: 40236 Romantic Valentine Picnic!

Like last year’s seasonal sets, 40236 comes with a couple minifigures, a few small builds, and a bevy of great accessories! Was Cupid’s arrow successful in making me fall in love with this set? Let’s find out!

Continue reading Review: LEGO 40236 Romantic Valentine Picnic

Inspired by Literature

Have you noticed how many challenges are happening in the community right now? Just for fun we have daily hash tags to inspire you. There is also a Batman challenge to win a complete set of the latest CMF mini-figures in partnership with our friends at the LEGO Group. There is also a G+ Monthly contest on literature. February may be a short month, but there is no shortage of challenges to inspire you!

My favorite of all these different major and minor challenges is the literature challenge currently taking place in the our G+ Community. When Julie Blair first proposed this idea I will admit I was skeptical. I’ve been a mod before and I know how hard it is to inspire photographers to participate in challenges. Especially one that makes you think. But if the first week is any indication this is going to be a fabulous challenge! It seems I’m not the only toy photographer who’s work is often inspired by literature. Continue reading Inspired by Literature

jANTMANuary Photo Challenge Winners!

With February well underway, it’s time to announce the winners of our awesome jANTMANuary contest!

The challenge? Take a photo of AntMan. Not just any photo though! As the original brief stated:

There’s a catch— your figure needs to be involved in day-to-day events – interacting in real world happenings, to scale with the real world. That’s the awesome thing about AntMan he is tiny and therefore works at whatever scale your figure is for, we have dubbed this real world toy photography! Call it an exercise in macro photography. Call it an exercise in FUN!! – Jason Nvrmore (Community moderator)

Everyone seemed to have a LOT of fun with this challenge, and we had over 40 entries on G+, making it a tough one to pick the winners!

Without further ado though, our top four jANTMANuary pictures are: Continue reading jANTMANuary Photo Challenge Winners!