Deeppara90 "Parabolic reflector" and central focusing pole thoughts and mini review

Started 9 months ago | User reviews
Scrollop Contributing Member • Posts: 781
Deeppara90 "Parabolic reflector" and central focusing pole thoughts and mini review
2

I bought this "Deep parabolic" reflector on sale, decided to test it out to compare it to other modifiers, and am sharing the results to anyone who is interested (it's long and maybe pointless).

"Parabolic" reflectors have been discussed here before:

Glow 28" deep parabolic softbox

Godox P120L -
A long discussion , including a good description by MayaTlab0

The conclusions are typically that there is no such thing as a true parabolic reflector for photography, though they can be very versatile and useful (especially for edgier fashion looks that have more definition that beauty dishes).

I can imagine that a "perfect" parabola shaped reflector wouldn't be that useful for photography - the light would be very hard (similar to light from the sun, also essentially parallel rays) (Karl Taylor, who uses 3 Broncolor Paras, usually doesn't use them "focused" due to the harder quality of the light, but slightly defocused), and, instead, the current models available (including these "deep parabolic reflectors") may be more useful for photographers (so no need to criticize these for not being "perfect" parabolas, though one could criticize the manufacturers for using incorrect terms and confusing buyers).

They can be expensive:

https://www.parabolixlight.com/product-page/parabolix-35-reflector $399

http://www.brieselichttechnik.de/en/tungsten/products-overview/focus/focus-85.html POA - I think it's over $6000 (can't find an accurate price)

https://www.adorama.com/bcb3348200.html $2000 reflector only

The Deeppara90 appears to be the Godox Godox P90L 35" Deep Parabolic Softbox. It usually sells for around £260 (I bought it on sale).

The construction of the softbox appears robust. Assembly can take a bit of time if the rods escape the ringlets within the reflector (though one would make that mistake once, I'd say). The 16 rods click into place and are otherwise quite quick (a couple of minutes).

The central pole and bracket are of good quality, thought there is a bit of movement when assembled on a stand where the mount is attached to the bracket.

A major design issue of the central pole/bracket, is that the focusing rod only allows the light to move aprox 20cm from the apex of the reflector. When viewing videos of the para 88 in use, the light is able to be moved quite close to the apex - closer to the theoretical focal point of the reflector. Here's a calculator to calculate the focal distance for a parabola.

Luckily, the back of the focusing rod can be screwed off, then two screws can be removed from the movable rod and the light can then be moved to within 10 cm of the apex.

AD600 remote head on the central pole in an extended ("defocused") position.

AD600 head on the modified central pole in a fully retracted position.

The deeppara90 appears to approximate a parabola near the apex.

Did they make it "deeper" intentionally to create specific light patterns for certain looks, or because it's difficult to design a closer approximation to a parabola (not that that is necessarily an ideal for practical photography)?

My purpose here is to give light pattern examples of this reflector compared to others in use for anyone considering purchasing it.

Karl Taylor has a useful 1.5 hour tutorial on "parabolic reflectors", specifically the Broncolor Para range. He swears by them over softboxes and beauty dishes for his type of fashion work.

Following are photos of the deeppara90 in use in different configurations, compared to softboxes and a beauty dish.

The stand is 225cm from the wall. Strobe is an AD600, using the remote head.

Light meter used (at the center of the painting) to change the strobe power to achieve F4 at a constant 1/250 ISO 100.

1. deeppara90, light as close as possible to "apex", aprox 10cm, Strobe power at 1/64. Compare with the broncolor para 88, below.

2. Aprox 12cm from the apex, strobe at 1/64 +0.3

3. aprox 15cm from apex, strobe at 1/32

4. 18cm, 1/32 + 0.7

5. 23cm, 1/32 + 0.7

6. 27cm, 1/16

7. 32cm, 1/16 + 0.3

8. 42cm, 1/16 + 0.7

9. 51cm, 1/16 + 0.7

A. Screen capture from a Karl Taylor video: Broncolor para 88 "focused"

B. Screen capture from a Karl Taylor video: Broncolor para 88 "defocused"

C. Screen capture from a Karl Taylor video: Broncolor para 88 "defocused" more

10- Deeppara90 not reversed (ie. mounted "normally" with the AD600 facing the wall at 1/256 +0.7

11. 120cm Bare octabox with no diffusion panels fitted (AD600 head facing the wall at 1/32 + 0.7 (F4)

12. 90cmx60cm Bare softbox (no diffusion panels) vertical position with the AD600 head at 1/32+0.7

13. 55cm white beauty dish at 225cm from the wall, AD600 head at 1/16 0.3

14. 13. 55cm white beauty dish at 127cm from the wall, AD600 head at 1/32

15. 13. 55cm whte beauty dish WITH GRID at 225cm from the wall, AD600 head at 1/8 + 0.7

16. 120cm Bare octabox with the AD600 head reverse mounted (using the pole and bracket from the deeppara90), fully in, aprox 9cm, AD600 head at 1/16 + 0.3

17. As per 16, though at 19cm from the apex of the octabox, 1/32 + 0.3

18. as per 17. though at 28cm, 1/32 +0.3

The beauty dish plus grid gives the most similar appearance (on the wall) to the "focused" deeppara90. It would be interesting to compare the use of these two on live subjects, of course (the final purpose of this long comparison, which I haven't done yet), though if we assume that the deeppara90 produces a proportion of parallel light beams near the centre of the light (as seen before), is it similar for the beauty dish and grid? Likely not (as the grid is removing rays that are more scattered, so, theoretically, not many of the rays may be parallel, just at the right angle to pass through the grid - though please correct me if this is incorrect). The most important test is how they compare on people, and how they dfine shadow falloff/contouring etc.

Also, to achieve the same aperture centrally, the beauty dish and grid requires approx 2.3 stops more power than the deeppara90 focused (and the falloff is wider with the deeppara90).

In Karl Taylors tutorial he gives an example of a pair of sunglasses that he photographed for a client with a Broncolor Para:

He emphasises the double shadow seen of the arms of the glasses, which spreads out as the reflector is defocused.

Broncolor Para focused from photo left; a bit difficult to see the sharp double shadow.

Broncolor para defocused, from photo left. THe shadow is spread out.

I've tried to duplicate this effect as below (even though it may be ridiculous to compare a £200 modifier to a £4000 modifier and that this test may not mean anything).

1. Beauty dish with grid from photo left; Double shadow of the glasses' arm; AD600 head at 1/64 +0.7

2. Deeppara90 "focused" at 10cm producing a simialar effect (a bnit further away and slightly different height as I had to tinker as it's much larger than a beauty dish)' AD600 head at 1/256 + 0.7

3. Deeppara90 at around 15cm 1/128 + 0.3

4. Deeppara90 at 32cm 1/64 +0.3

5. Deeppara90 at 43cm from the apex, 1/64

This specific effect is similar for the beauty dish and "focused" deeppara90, and the "defocused" deeppara90 effect is in the same ballpark to that of the Broncolor, I would say.

I'm not claiming, of course, that the deeppara90 is a true parabolic reflector (there aren't any, as per the previous discussions), and also that it's in the same league of quality of light as the expensive versions, however, it does seem to be an interesting modifier (even without testing its uses as a softbox).

From what I've found in my limited, sterile, non-scientific scenarios, my beauty dish with grid gives the most similar light falloff on the wall to the "focused" (I know it's not really focused) deeppara90 - it appears that the beauty dish has a more tightly definied main light pattern, with the deeppara90 having falloff that falls further, however the central area is brighter than that of the beauty dish and it uses 2 stops less power for the same central f stop.

Need to use it and compare it on live subjects, of course, as everything I've written here is more theoretical than practical, though it's a start.

From what I've seen, it seems that this modifier may be interesting to use in scenarios where you need more directional light, that it may sculpt features more than other modifiers (one or the reasons Karl Taylor preferred paras, not that this is quite the same), and that being able to defocus it may provide versatility (that I need to experiment with).

I haven't used it enough to give it a rating but am forced to so am recording an arbitrary 3.5 stars.

This post is likely full of holes, though I hope that it gives some information for people interested in the product.

Scrollop's score
3.5
Travis Burnside Regular Member • Posts: 277
Re: Deeppara90 "Parabolic reflector" and central focusing pole thoughts and mini review
1

Thanks for this.  I find this kind of thing really interesting.

I’m not surprised by your results vs. the beauty dish.  A grid’s purpose is to increase specularity / reduce diffusion by collimating the light.  A focused silver reflector will do the same thing in terms of collimation.  I do like the idea of these silver “paras” because you can easily vary the amount of collimation and light spread.  I’m planning to give one of the Glows a shot very soon.
I love large, collimated light sources - my old extreme silver PLMs got a lot of use.  You still get soft shadows, but higher contrast and more surface detail. Too much diffusion just turns everything into mush.

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OP Scrollop Contributing Member • Posts: 781
Re: Deeppara90 "Parabolic reflector" and central focusing pole thoughts and mini review

I had low expectations going into this as pretty much all discussions on this reflector concluded it's "not a true parabola" - I think people were hung up on "parabolic" modifiers having to be perfect parabolas otherwise they're not useful, which, when you think more about parabolas, may not be useful for photography in their pure forms (I've read that the reflective lining in the Broncolor paras are intentionally not super reflective as this doesn't produce as nice an effect vs the slight irregularities in their version - maybe more specularity).

I'm also going to compare the 120cm octabox with the head reverse mounted and 2 layers of diffusion to see if the light is softer (it should be more even, I imagine), though the more I learn about modifiers, the more I agree with you and some teachers in that soft box light is too bland (mushier as you say), and punchier, contouring light gives you more options to practice lighting as an art (although, these guys also tend to use good looking women with skin and features that can take hard light sources).

Might also remove the deflector plate from a beauty dish and reverse mount a head and compare the output vs the deflector version.

I'm interested in combining key sources: saw one Karl Taylor video where he had a defocused Broncolor para 133 around 2 metres from a model, quite high at 45 degrees, and in front of it a smaller source (possibly a reflector with grid) aimed at her face and giving a "kick".

On the other hand, on reading more on this model, this reflector is advertised as a "parabolic softbox", not as a "parabolic refelctor " (my mistake in the original post), and the deep aspect (and "parabolic shape") is to theoretically aid it's use to direct light when used with the diffusion layers (which wouldn't make much sense), though why reverse mount the head as you do in a parabolic reflector? Anyway, the parabolic nature near the apex seems to give it qualities similar to the expensive models (whether this is intentional or not) once you modify the central rod and bring the light source closer to the focus point (something the manufacturer didn't intend, it seems).

I first started looking for such a modifier after viewing a few videos by Felix Kunze, who uses a deep softbox with a reversed head and two layers of diffusion, feathered only, resulting in very soft yet directional light that appears painterly. Very, very different to the edgy high fashion work of Karl Taylor, blasting 800ws strobes via para 133s directly at a model.

Maybe I can one day afford a £2000 para and I'll dust off the deeppara90 and compare them haha

ronscuba Contributing Member • Posts: 697
Re: Deeppara90 "Parabolic reflector" and central focusing pole thoughts and mini review

I think many are particular about terminology and mfrs. using those terms loosely in marketing.  I tend to focus on whether or not the modifier does something useful and different than my other modifiers.

Discussions like this are very informative.

Nixon Glenn Contributing Member • Posts: 587
Re: Deeppara90 "Parabolic reflector" and central focusing pole thoughts and mini review
1

Scrollop wrote:

I had low expectations going into this as pretty much all discussions on this reflector concluded it's "not a true parabola" - I think people were hung up on "parabolic" modifiers having to be perfect parabolas otherwise they're not useful, which, when you think more about parabolas, may not be useful for photography in their pure forms (I've read that the reflective lining in the Broncolor paras are intentionally not super reflective as this doesn't produce as nice an effect vs the slight irregularities in their version - maybe more specularity).

Well, for some (small percentage) photographers it might very useful if :

a. they wanna have option of focused hard light, either it's their lighting style or they need it occasionally. If they wanna get less hard or soft light they can change the setting, add diffuser etc. The key here is "option"

b. they need to save lighting power by positioning the modifier further from the objects, especially for outdoor shooting.

Nixon Glenn Contributing Member • Posts: 587
Re: Deeppara90 "Parabolic reflector" and central focusing pole thoughts and mini review
2

Non parabolic umbrella vs Paul Buff PLM umbrella

Nixon Glenn Contributing Member • Posts: 587
Re: Deeppara90 "Parabolic reflector" and central focusing pole thoughts and mini review
3

Close to parabolic vs less parabolic "parabolic" modifier.

Travis Burnside Regular Member • Posts: 277
Re: Deeppara90 "Parabolic reflector" and central focusing pole thoughts and mini review

Really illustrative.

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Travis Burnside Regular Member • Posts: 277
Re: Deeppara90 "Parabolic reflector" and central focusing pole thoughts and mini review

For the life of me I can't figure out the point of putting diffusion in front of anything like a para or any other more specular source.  The whole point is to have light rays travelling vaguely all in the same direction, and diffusion just undoes all that.  You can have pretty "messy" light sources behind diffusion and it all comes out the same.

On the other hand, if you only want to lug one modifier around, I can see turning your specular source into a softbox-like thing for versatility.

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MayaTlab0 Senior Member • Posts: 2,982
Re: Deeppara90 "Parabolic reflector" and central focusing pole thoughts and mini review
1

Travis Burnside wrote:

For the life of me I can't figure out the point of putting diffusion in front of anything like a para or any other more specular source. The whole point is to have light rays travelling vaguely all in the same direction, and diffusion just undoes all that. You can have pretty "messy" light sources behind diffusion and it all comes out the same.

On the other hand, if you only want to lug one modifier around, I can see turning your specular source into a softbox-like thing for versatility.

That's one of the reasons indeed.

Also, Broncolor sells diffusers with varying strengths. The lighter ones scatter light a little bit but not enough to completely eliminate the modifier's directionality.

The heavier ones, because of their design / construction, make for a very circular and even catchlight, a bit like some softboxes I've seen with a circular black mask on the front diffuser.

MayaTlab0 Senior Member • Posts: 2,982
Re: Deeppara90 "Parabolic reflector" and central focusing pole thoughts and mini review

Scrollop wrote:

(I've read that the reflective lining in the Broncolor paras are intentionally not super reflective as this doesn't produce as nice an effect vs the slight irregularities in their version - maybe more specularity).

The material of the larger ones may have changed but from what I've seen so far the 88 and 133 have a silver material that scatters light a little more than the larger ones.

The goal is to try to avoid, to some degree, this one modifier turning into, in practice, multiples sources of light, which can create multiple shadows. This is the same thing as with Paul Buff's older distinction between soft and extreme silver PLMs :

@PaulCBuff. Extreme vs Soft silver PLM. The top scatters light less, but acts, in practice, as 16 elongated light sources in a radial position, which can create multiple, stepped shadows.

Near the in focus position the paras 88 and 133 should look somewhat like the lower PLM above from the subject's point of view.

Nixon Glenn Contributing Member • Posts: 587
Re: Deeppara90 "Parabolic reflector" and central focusing pole thoughts and mini review

Travis Burnside wrote:

For the life of me I can't figure out the point of putting diffusion in front of anything like a para or any other more specular source. The whole point is to have light rays travelling vaguely all in the same direction, and diffusion just undoes all that. You can have pretty "messy" light sources behind diffusion and it all comes out the same.

On the other hand, if you only want to lug one modifier around, I can see turning your specular source into a softbox-like thing for versatility.

The "versality" of para modifiers, we can have multiple options other than focused hard light

Travis Burnside Regular Member • Posts: 277
Re: Deeppara90 "Parabolic reflector" and central focusing pole thoughts and mini review

Nixon Glenn wrote:

Travis Burnside wrote:

For the life of me I can't figure out the point of putting diffusion in front of anything like a para or any other more specular source. The whole point is to have light rays travelling vaguely all in the same direction, and diffusion just undoes all that. You can have pretty "messy" light sources behind diffusion and it all comes out the same.

On the other hand, if you only want to lug one modifier around, I can see turning your specular source into a softbox-like thing for versatility.

The "versality" of para modifiers, we can have multiple options other than focused hard light

If you've ever shot with something like an extreme silver PLM (sadly no longer made) you understand that you can have focused but very soft light.

If you're talking about the traditional definition of hard vs soft light, that's determined by the modifier size in reference to the subject.  That affects shadows.  Specular vs diffused determines what's happening on the subject itself, mostly in surface detail and contrast.

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Travis Burnside Regular Member • Posts: 277
Re: Deeppara90 "Parabolic reflector" and central focusing pole thoughts and mini review

Yep, had an old-school extreme silver PLM and can confirm the shadow structure.  May or may not be an issue depending on what you're doing, how far the background is, etc.

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Richard Hopkins
Richard Hopkins Regular Member • Posts: 221
The best thing...
4

The best thing about parabolics is that they look amazing in the studio and impress the heck out of paying clients - especially when you can wax lyrical about the 'focused softness' and 'enhanced micro-contrast' that 'brings your skin to life' and then tell them how much they cost. Ditto that 7ft octa and the Hasselblad/s.

And these things are very important to professionals, but to the rest of us? Hocus-pocus.

Interesting thread tho

Simon Barker Contributing Member • Posts: 835
Re: Deeppara90 "Parabolic reflector" and central focusing pole thoughts and mini review

MayaTlab0 wrote:

Travis Burnside wrote:

For the life of me I can't figure out the point of putting diffusion in front of anything like a para or any other more specular source. The whole point is to have light rays travelling vaguely all in the same direction, and diffusion just undoes all that. You can have pretty "messy" light sources behind diffusion and it all comes out the same.

On the other hand, if you only want to lug one modifier around, I can see turning your specular source into a softbox-like thing for versatility.

That's one of the reasons indeed.

Also, Broncolor sells diffusers with varying strengths. The lighter ones scatter light a little bit but not enough to completely eliminate the modifier's directionality.

The heavier ones, because of their design / construction, make for a very circular and even catchlight, a bit like some softboxes I've seen with a circular black mask on the front diffuser.

Indeed, although like everything that's associated with the Para system they're not cheap.

There's a pretty good deal to be had from Adorama at the moment for a used 88 kit with a full diffuser set, assuming the reflective interior is in good condition it's a nice little $2k saving. If not for shipping and customs fees making it ridiculously expensive I'd have snapped it up already.

Travis Burnside Regular Member • Posts: 277
Re: The best thing...

I’ve always suspected this is the REAL reason they get used. 😂

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Nixon Glenn Contributing Member • Posts: 587
Re: Deeppara90 "Parabolic reflector" and central focusing pole thoughts and mini review

Travis Burnside wrote:

Nixon Glenn wrote:

Travis Burnside wrote:

For the life of me I can't figure out the point of putting diffusion in front of anything like a para or any other more specular source. The whole point is to have light rays travelling vaguely all in the same direction, and diffusion just undoes all that. You can have pretty "messy" light sources behind diffusion and it all comes out the same.

On the other hand, if you only want to lug one modifier around, I can see turning your specular source into a softbox-like thing for versatility.

The "versality" of para modifiers, we can have multiple options other than focused hard light

If you've ever shot with something like an extreme silver PLM (sadly no longer made) you understand that you can have focused but very soft light.

If you're talking about the traditional definition of hard vs soft light, that's determined by the modifier size in reference to the subject. That affects shadows. Specular vs diffused determines what's happening on the subject itself, mostly in surface detail and contrast.

I have the extreme silver plm.

I don't consider it "very" soft light, but less hard light (compared to bare head strobe) or more pleasant look

These the samples of extreme silver plm at about 80 inches/ 2 meters from the model.

Jacques Cornell
Jacques Cornell Forum Pro • Posts: 12,590
Unique qualities of paras
1

Good on ya for doing this kind of careful testing and sharing the results. I'll just add a couple of considerations that seem missing.

First, the "hardness" of light is largely determined by the size of the source as seen from the subject's position. Thus, a large focused para in close can create soft highlight/shadow transitions, despite the collimated nature of the light. I use a 5' Paul C Buff PLM this way for portraits. The light, as you say, does look "sunny", i.e. contrasty, due to the shiny silver surface of my PLM. But, it also looks soft, thanks to the large size of the PLM. This makes a fairly unique look. You don't often see contrasty and soft together, at least not indoors.

Second, one nice benefit of a focused para is that the inverse square law doesn't apply (well, hardly), because the light doesn't spread much with distance from the source. As a result, a subject 6' from the source gets almost exactly the same intensity of light as one 3' from it. This is handy with group portraits where the light is off-axis, since the people at varying distances from the light get the same exposure.

Finally, as with a conventional mod with a grid, the off-axis focused para enables you to substantially limit spill on a backdrop positioned some distance behind the subject(s).

The PLMs are dirt-cheap and very effective. Anyone who wants to explore the unique qualities of paras would do well to get a large silver one.

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ronscuba Contributing Member • Posts: 697
Re: Unique qualities of paras
1

I have a hard time distinguishing the difference between soft and diffused.

I have a 32" softbox that has 2 layers of diffusion, a grid and a deflector plate. The softness is the same regardless of the mix of the options ? The biggest differences I see are:

- bare, no diffusion, no grid, no deflector

- bare with the deflector

- double diffused with grid

- double diffused no grid

Double diffused is the most flattering. I would normally say the softest. I guess this is the wrong terminology ? Adding the grid keeps the light off the background and adds some contrast to the subject.

What is the correct terminology for the differences I see ?

Softness is about shadow transition and diffusion is about skin texture ?  So for less than ideal skin, diffusion is the key ?

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