Softbox for Flash / Speedlight
I'm looking to get a softbox for use with my portable flash units.
I'm looking for something that's easily portable, but also want something that will provide a good quality light. I heard that octogonal shaped soft box provides better lighting than square ones. Also, I understand that the size of the softbox is important in that bigger box gives softer light.
It looks like the SMDV units are hexagon shape and seems to be a compromise between the octogon and square shaped softboxes. I'm wondering how much difference that makes.
Also, there's two different sizes for the hexagon shaped softboxes. Wondering how much difference that makes. 50cm (21") vs 60cm (23") size. Or for that matter 23" vs 30".
Here are some that I'm considering. The SMDV softboxes are very interesting in that they seem to be quite taut (compared to the square ones), so may be better in outdoor setting with breezy outdoor settings. Also, setting them up seems to be easy and quick.
I'm also considering these two.
Comparing them to these two below.
Any ideas? If someone actually has photographs comparing different size softboxes and different shape softboxes, that'd be great!
Thanks in advance for your advice.
When you talk about softbox/octogons for speedlights there are 2 kinds, both with its pros and cons:
Those that connect through the back, as a normal softbox (your first, third and fourth photo)
Those that connect through the bottom and point to the back of the softbox/octogon and reflect back (second photo)
Pros: You can tilt it easily with a normal stand and umbrella connector. Generally you can use them with studio lights (with adapters).
Cons: Its hard to make them constant with a speeflight and generally have a bright spot. There are softboxes that add fabric in the middle, but still it can have a bright center. If not, the bright center will be a lot more obvious.
Pros: as it reflects in the back, doesn't have the problem of the bright center spot.
As the stand goes through the bottom of the softbox, you cant tilt it. You can i you have a bigger C stand, that tilts the stand, but then that will become less transportable. They don't play that well with studio lights, unless they are really huge, and still can have some problems with heat.
About these particular brands, I cant tell you , I never seen them. The last two specially looks very nice in construction, but a bit small. Specially with small softboxes you will want to tilt them. There are a lot of bigger chinese knock offs but cant comment on the quality.
I have a couple of these softboxes:
Here's a review I wrote:
If I'm not mistaken Impact is B&H Photo's house brand, and that softbox is cheaper at B&H than at Amazon, but still twice as expensive as the Interfit. The Interfit doesn't have an inner diffusion panel, but a trip to the fabric store for a piece of white ripstop nylon can solve that. (The softbox itself has hooks for an inner diffusion panel).
I don't have experience with those specific boxes but I do have experience with similar units.
I've used a Lastolite 21-inch square softbox (or 24 inch depending on marketing) the drawback is that the box is connected to the flash bracket with friction and it can droop (more of an issue with my Quadra). Nice light though.
I also have a 43-inch Apollo Orb, which is similar to the internal mount 30-inch softbox you mention. As a previous poster mentioned, it isn't as easy to position as the others -- but a breeze to use with a C-stand or some sort of extension arm. The light is fantastic though the Westcott's are also more or less glorified umbrellas in terms of durability. I've read that the third-party version you note may be more durable than the Westcotts.
The other advantage both of the above boxes have over your other choice is there is a lip to mount external fabric grids for extra light control.
The other two boxes you have look really cool and appear to be significantly more durable than a similar box I own, the Aurora Firefly (I own the 20-inch, which has a bounce-back patch sown into its diffuser cover, I've read the 26-inch one doesn't). In any event the Firefly is a glorified umbrella construction and folds up similar to the other two boxes.
The ribs on those two SMDV boxes extend like an Elinchrom Rotalux speedring and appear to be more durable than umbrella ribs (two plusses) and it looks like you've got both the internal and external diffusion cloths.
Downside, is there's no way to attach a grid.
If you don't need one, that's not much of a downside though. (If I'd seen them I'd have bought either instead of the Firefly -- the other boxes I can mount my Quadra heads on (though not wel on the Lastolite as noted) and were bought with that in mind as well.
There are other more expensive options, for example Photoflex has a speedlight attachment kit that can be used with its small boxes and Chimera has one for its Octa 2 beauty dish (currently my favorite modifier).
Good luck in your choice!
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For me, it's all about the quality of light.
All of these will have a hot spot in the center. If you add an additional diffusion panel, that helps, but cuts down on the light from a relatively not very powerful speedlight.
I think the light would look better from an umbrella bouncing the light back.
I have plenty of softboxes and octobanks, but I use them with my barebulb strobes which fill the softbox and are powerful enough to give me all the light I need despite the diffusion panel.
You can buy a 80x80cm softbox from E bay for $66
Like this one
I have it it is just good enough, absolutely usable and very cheap. Make nice soft light and 80x80cm is a big one.
If you use a wide angel diffuser and the second inner diffuser there is no hotspot.
The inner diffuser does only tóakes away about 1/4 stop of light not that bad. (the front one takes away almost a full stop...)
They are just great. Umbrella is also good but if you want a visible reflection on a product the umbrella is not very nice and more difficult to control....
Square, rectangular, or round catchlight look most natural to us since we ar used to seeing those shapes from windows, light bulbs, and the sun. Octagonal is a close approximation to circular and pretty much acceptable. Hexagonal is sort of an orphan shape and I wouldn't want it myself.
The Apollo softboxes have a great reputation for good soft even light. Westcott has square, rectangular, and now a strip hot-shoe softbox. They are well worth checking out.
The biggest drawback to the Apollo type softbox is that when the hot-shoe flash is mounted inside the softbox you have to open it up to make power changes on the shot-shoe flash. The way to overcome that is to use a RF triggering system that will let you change the power of the hot-shoe flash remotely. Of course that eliminates the choice of using budget priced manual power controlled hot-shoe flash units.
The hot-shoe softboxes like the Impact/Interfit ones where the flash mounts externally need an inner diffuser, and possibly a wide angle diffuser or Sto-Fen type diffuser, to give you even light but they do make the back of the flash available. All these diffusers reduce the light available from the hot-shoe flash unit.
With some of these softboxes you can buy grids. Grids tend to be more expensive than the softbox its self but they are becoming more reasonable. If having a grid is important to you then shop every carefully.
Another option you should consider, and my personal favorite, is the umbrellabox. One well know example is the Photek SoftLighter II. These umbrellaboxes can be used with either hot-shoe flash units or studio strobes with excellent results.
The Lastolite 8-in-1 Umbrella is an interesting concept too. Sort of a Swiss Army Knife of umbrellas.
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