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Archive 2013 · Name brand vs Non - Soft boxes
  
 
maxx9photo
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p.1 #1 · p.1 #1 · Name brand vs Non - Soft boxes


I need some opinion on soft boxes, is there really big difference on the outcome for soft boxes like Chimera, Lastolite, Plume, Photoflex vs Non brand that sells for rather cheaper on eBay/BhPhoto/Adorama etc?

Edited on May 01, 2013 at 08:24 AM · View previous versions



Apr 23, 2013 at 02:26 AM
Sheldon N
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p.1 #2 · p.1 #2 · Name brand vs Non - Soft boxes


The super cheap ones can often have fabric with UV/optical brighteners in it that will give you a less than pleasing color rendition. Some might also not be quite as evenly lit across the face of the softbox.

Could you pick the photos out of a lineup and match them with which softbox made them? Probably not.

The biggest differences will be with durability/ease of use/fit & finish, with some smaller differences in the quality of light.



Apr 23, 2013 at 04:08 AM
aborr
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p.1 #3 · p.1 #3 · Name brand vs Non - Soft boxes


My softboxes are all the same brand - and consequently the same color temp.
They also match the color temp of my "naked" (Elinchrom) lights pretty well.
Mine are Photoflex, but I'd expect that you'd get this with any decent brand.
I'm not sure that you can count on this with the no-name or house-brand stuff from eBay.

Photoflex also sells front diffusers and other parts as replacements for
any that get damaged or discolored, and the prices are quite reasonable.
I imagine that some other brands do this too, but what are the chances of getting
replacement parts for eBay no-name stuff a few years down the road?

IMHO, name brand "middle of the road" stuff from a well-known full-line manufacturer often ends up cheaper in the long run than the lowest priced items on eBay.

Al



Apr 23, 2013 at 11:02 AM
John Skinner
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p.1 #4 · p.1 #4 · Name brand vs Non - Soft boxes


I have both types of modifiers here. The more 'brand specific' units were purchased back when I was thinking too hard, or availability of a certain size/shape towards what I was doing.. I'm, going to say that boxes are boxes, sans build quality.

But I could replace a set 4 times over for what I would have paid for in the 'brand specific' models. Taking images has become WAY too equipment critical,and full of pixel peeping types IMHO. I'd rather have 36 images of what I've really worked on, than 2000 images of something no one will ever see. If there WAS a difference in color temp. It's taken care of in post (batch) because I use a Color Checker Passport every time I hit the shutter.



Apr 23, 2013 at 02:24 PM
RDKirk
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p.1 #5 · p.1 #5 · Name brand vs Non - Soft boxes


A big problem is that most of even the big names are using Chinese suppliers, and the quality control of Chinese suppliers is all over the map. The importers must exercise extreme and constant diligence to ensure that a diffusion fabric sold today is exactly what they specified, and exactly the same as diffusion fabric they sold five years ago.

Maybe the biggest companies do that up front to make sure they never sell anything out of specs...but it takes a level of quality control within the factory during manufacture that none of the mid-tier companies can practice...and I have my doubts about the big guys.

What probably happens more IMO is that the big guys do more spot checks of the incoming items--opening more of the boxes as they come into the warehouse from China--whereas the smallest companies may depend more on complaints from customers to alert them to supply problems that they then hasten to make right.

And even then, can even the big guys ensure that an undisclosed spec change (which Chinese suppliers do a lot) that doesn't show up as a deficiency in a new item won't end up in reduced quality later on? How do they check in the warehouse for an undisclosed spec change that will cause premature fabric yellowing?

Maybe I have had a high-end softbox for ten years that has never yellowed in that time, but that doesn't mean one from the same company bought today will not yellow in three years.

Yes, you have to check yourself, and frequently.



Apr 28, 2013 at 03:42 PM
316shooter
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p.1 #6 · p.1 #6 · Name brand vs Non - Soft boxes


Really depends a lot on the type of work you do. I work on location more than studio, and there is a huge difference in the speed of assembly/tear-down between the major brands on the cheaper lightbanks. Hands down, Chimera is the best for location work in my opinion. I won't get long-winded here, but I've seen countless examples of ridiculous designs that either break easily and/or are terrible to set up. That said, if you're setting it up in studio and not on the road with it, the light quality will be essentially the same. But for me, it's worth a few bucks to use a product that lasts for decades and is easy to work with.


Apr 29, 2013 at 12:10 AM
jzucker
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p.1 #7 · p.1 #7 · Name brand vs Non - Soft boxes


yes, there's a big difference. The larson softboxes for example have a very specific look which is due to the flatness (narrow depth) and the feathering of light you get out of them is very different than the bell shaped softboxes. The larson softboxes have a very large light difference based on whether you take a reading in the center vs. the edge and for portraits, this translates to a really nice feathering of light compared to the flat look you see with a bell shaped softbox. The bell shapes are probably better for product photography but the larsons are great for portraits.


Apr 30, 2013 at 02:44 PM
PeterBerressem
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p.1 #8 · p.1 #8 · Name brand vs Non - Soft boxes


jzucker wrote:
The larson softboxes have a very large light difference based on whether you take a reading in the center vs. the edge


This happens when you remove the inner baffle from common boxes. On a side note, all major mfgs proudly accentuate the evenness of their products.



Apr 30, 2013 at 03:40 PM
jzucker
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p.1 #9 · p.1 #9 · Name brand vs Non - Soft boxes


PeterBerressem wrote:
This happens when you remove the inner baffle from common boxes.


not to the degree that the larsons do because of the geometry of the box itself.

On a side note, all major mfgs proudly accentuate the evenness of their products.

Right but that's flat lighting and for classic portraiture, you don't want flat lighting. For product photography yeah.

I was just at a workshop with Darton Drake and he mentioned that he's tried every 4x6 softbox on the market and none of them have the degree of gradation as the larsons do and I respect his opinion very much.



Apr 30, 2013 at 04:52 PM
basehorhonda
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p.1 #10 · p.1 #10 · Name brand vs Non - Soft boxes


I have experienced this in umbrellas. I first bought some cheap umbrellas. I think they were Impact. They didnt last me a year they were built so poorly. I then purchased some Westcott umbrellas and they have lasted me 4 years and counting. I dont see any difference in the quality, but just the fact that they are holding up is worth it to me.


May 01, 2013 at 01:16 AM
 

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johnvanr
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p.1 #11 · p.1 #11 · Name brand vs Non - Soft boxes


It's all about durability and ease of use. I'd rather buy good quality second-hand then so-so quality new. The good stuff retains its value and performs well.


May 02, 2013 at 02:23 AM
aborr
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p.1 #12 · p.1 #12 · Name brand vs Non - Soft boxes


jzucker wrote:
not to the degree that the larsons do because of the geometry of the box itself.

Right but that's flat lighting and for classic portraiture, you don't want flat lighting. For product photography yeah.

I was just at a workshop with Darton Drake and he mentioned that he's tried every 4x6 softbox on the market and none of them have the degree of gradation as the larsons do and I respect his opinion very much.


A conventional softbox of high quality produces a very even light, as Peter notes. The traditional way to use a large softbox is to place it quite close to the subject and angle it away from the model. This results in anything but 'flat' lighting on the model. The near side of the subject is more strongly illuminated by the leading edge of the softbox, and less strongly lit by the far edge of the light source. This gives a smooth gradual 'feathering' of the light on the model from bright to shadow, which is a very pleasing effect for some subjects. If you start with a good even source, the transitions on the subject from light to dark are very smooth and gradual.

This is the modern version of what a lot of 'classic' portrait painters tried to do. They would choose a studio with big north-facing windows so that that they had a large even source of indirect sunlight illuminating their model. They would then pose the model at an angle to the window, varying the angle to get the degree of soft 3D 'wrap around' light they wanted to paint.

'Normal' softboxes aren't the only way to light a portrait, but they're a good tool to have in your kit.

Al



May 02, 2013 at 05:54 AM
jzucker
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p.1 #13 · p.1 #13 · Name brand vs Non - Soft boxes


I don't agree. The reason the feathering is so beautiful on larson is because of the difference in output from the edge to the center along with the length (on the 4x6 at least). On a soft box that's evenly lit you won't get the same gradation of tones. The classic portrait photographers used window light. Go take some measurements of window light at the edge of the window, 1 foot before the window, right at the edge, one foot into the window, in the center, etc. It won't be the same reading at all positions. *THAT* is what a big softbox should do (for portraits at least).

And check out darton drake who knows a thing or two about doing portraits and softboxes....

aborr wrote:
A conventional softbox of high quality produces a very even light, as Peter notes. The traditional way to use a large softbox is to place it quite close to the subject and angle it away from the model. This results in anything but 'flat' lighting on the model. The near side of the subject is more strongly illuminated by the leading edge of the softbox, and less strongly lit by the far edge of the light source. This gives a smooth gradual 'feathering' of the light on the model from bright to shadow, which is a very pleasing effect for
...Show more



May 02, 2013 at 10:54 AM
aborr
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p.1 #14 · p.1 #14 · Name brand vs Non - Soft boxes


The most popular large softbox for full figure beauty/fashion work is (probably) the Elinchrom 74" Octabank. Elinchrom claims it's output is within 1/3 f-stop from edge to edge. I don't own the big Elinchrom Octa, but I've rented it on occasion, and can verify that it's at least as good (even) as the specs claim.

I've got a (much less expensive) Photoflex 4x6 box, which measures within 1/2 stop from edge to edge, which is pretty good for a box that's so much longer than it is wide and uses a front-facing flash head.

Darton Drake seems like a very capable portraitist. His work is very impressive. But, he's not here to explain what he did or didn't tell you about Larson boxes, so I won't try to debate his views. (Larson seems to be one of the sponsors of his workshops, so I assume he knows a lot about their products.)

I don't know much about Larson - They seem to be a smaller company that sells direct to consumers rather than through dealers like Adorama or B&H. But, if you visit their web site, notice how often they use the word "even" in describing the light output of a softbox: http://larson-ent.com/soft_box.php There's nothing I could find on their site that suggests to me that their 4x6 box is designed to be any less even than boxes from the more well-known brands.



May 02, 2013 at 01:15 PM
jzucker
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p.1 #15 · p.1 #15 · Name brand vs Non - Soft boxes


darton explains the details in his videos. The larson is more even if you use the internal baffle. This is true of most softboxes but the bell shaped boxes produce more even light from edge to edge even without the baffle. The larson is designed slightly differently and doesn't produce the same light characteristics. Anyway, a good photographer can feather any softbox's light and get the results they want but the larson product is unique in the feathering it produces and the design is specifically aimed at *NOT* being even, edge to edge.

I have not used the elinchrom 74" but I have used their 53 and 39 deep octa products and loved the light they produced though I've since switched to buff and I like the buff PLM modifier's a little more for a number of reasons which I won't get into here...


aborr wrote:
The most popular large softbox for full figure beauty/fashion work is (probably) the Elinchrom 74" Octabank. Elinchrom claims it's output is within 1/3 f-stop from edge to edge. I don't own the big Elinchrom Octa, but I've rented it on occasion, and can verify that it's at least as good (even) as the specs claim.

I've got a (much less expensive) Photoflex 4x6 box, which measures within 1/2 stop from edge to edge, which is pretty good for a box that's so much longer than it is wide and uses a front-facing flash head.

Darton Drake seems like a very capable portraitist.
...Show more



May 02, 2013 at 02:07 PM
hugowolf
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p.1 #16 · p.1 #16 · Name brand vs Non - Soft boxes


jzucker wrote:
Go take some measurements of window light at the edge of the window, 1 foot before the window, right at the edge, one foot into the window, in the center, etc. It won't be the same reading at all positions. *THAT* is what a big softbox should do (for portraits at least).

I just tried that and got less than two-thirds of a stop difference from one side to the middle.

Brian A



May 02, 2013 at 05:18 PM
jzucker
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p.1 #17 · p.1 #17 · Name brand vs Non - Soft boxes


hugowolf wrote:
I just tried that and got less than two-thirds of a stop difference from one side to the middle.

Brian A


try it one foot before the edge of the window. That's what the larson is trying to replicate. If you do that you should get close to 2 stops difference between the middle and the extreme side. And of course, you need a north facing window that's not seeing direct sunlight.



May 02, 2013 at 05:37 PM
Deezie
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p.1 #18 · p.1 #18 · Name brand vs Non - Soft boxes


The conversation of this thread considers which modifier brands excel at creating definitive lighting on a subject. Darton Drake has some beautiful work on his site, but when you add so much post post processing as he does such nitpicking of beautifully rendered light becomes completely irrelevant.


May 03, 2013 at 02:39 PM
Deezie
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p.1 #19 · p.1 #19 · Name brand vs Non - Soft boxes


Double post - deleted.

Edited on May 04, 2013 at 05:45 PM · View previous versions



May 03, 2013 at 02:39 PM
Beni
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p.1 #20 · p.1 #20 · Name brand vs Non - Soft boxes


I dunno, if you start with good results then you have better stuff to work with in the post, can allow the post work to be more subtle. Especially with lighting.


May 03, 2013 at 03:03 PM
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