March 18, 2011

Shoot-through Umbrella vs PBL Photo Studio 40" Reflective Umbrella Softbox

I was intrigued by PBL Photo Studio 40" Reflective Umbrella Softbox promise:
  • round catch-lights in the model's eyes;
  • tight light control, just like a softbox;
  • about $30 for two!
The softbox not only delivers on promise, but also offers:
  • more than adequate fit and finish;
  • extremely fast setup - front diffuser is permanently stitched to the umbrella, so all you need to do to set the softbox is to open umbrella and install the flash;
  • full access to flash controls because only the head protrudes into the softbox.
  • light emitting surface is flat thus making light more directional than shoot-through umbrella.
On the downside:
  • When used bare, flash hot spot is way too prominent - I had to use a snap-on diffuser to achieve adequate light uniformity.  As a result almost two stops of light are lost.
  • The stem is unnecessarily long and I almost poked my model when I tried to position the softbox close to her face.  I then had to cut off 5" of the stem.
  • (minor) the stem is round - I really like an octagonal shape of the 43" double fold umbrella which prevents it from rotation.
Here is a comparison of light given off by a 43" double fold umbrella and a 40" umbrella softbox.  The latter, despite having a smaller advertised size, has larger diameter when opened (39" vs 35") because of the smaller curvature.  I am totally sold!  I am ready to pay 2 light stops for tight light control and round catch-lights.


Right before I published this summary I found this video review.
Edit: Check out Zack Arias' Shoot Through Umbrella vs. Softbox

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