Can you guess what the title alludes to? No, it’s not a well trained puppy, it’s something a bit more photography related. Not even a guess? Guess I just have to tell you then, if you decide to keep reading.
The item in question is a new softbox; it’s soft, offers much more controlled light than an umbrella and is surprisingly portable. I was too lazy to take any product shots this time so you’ll have to make due with some quick tests I did with myself as the lovely model (you know you like it so don’t give me that look). The name of the new addition is the Lastolite Ezybox (54 cm).
Some background: I’ve been wanting a soft light source that’s more controlled than an umbrella. With an umbrella, especially when shooting in a relatively small room, you get light everywhere. You don’t always want your key light to spill over on the background, in fact you usually want to light the background separately. If you want to cover large areas with light, an umbrella will probably be a better, and much cheaper, solution. However, if you’ve been following my photography a bit, you should know that I like to control my light, hence the need for a softbox.
As always, I did a lot of research before my purchase to make sure I got what I needed, as cheaply as possible without compromising too much on the quality. In the end it boiled down to two choises: the Lastolite and the Westcott Apollo. The Apollo is certainly an attractive option, being cheaper and faster to set up than the lastolite. However, the umbrella frame construction it’s based on made me a bit cautious, it just doesn’t come off as very sturdy. Since I’ll eventually be using this outdoors (when the snow and rain stops, not going to happen for a while) and possibly even travel with it, I wanted something that I could handle and pack without worrying about it breaking – the Apollo may be cheaper but it’s not exactly throw-away cheap. A couple of other considerations was that with the Apollo, the flash is inside the construction, meaning that you have to open the front if you want to make changes to the settings, something that could prove annoying in the long run. Finally, the Lastolite also has the option of adding a grid, giving you even more control over the light. This last point was very important for me and I’ll definitely buy a grid as soon as I can.
I wanted to talk a bit more about the sturdiness of the Lastolite. Its frames are made from flexible plastic so there’s virtually nothing that can break. This is also what makes it so portable, you just twist the whole thing together and put it in the included carrying case. As I’ve understood it, it’s now sold with a bigger carrying case because some people had trouble packing it in the old one. The one I got is the old one and I don’t have any problems with it at all. It’s packs so small that I could put it in my wife’s handbag if I wanted to.
Those were my considerations, your preferences might be different. The final factor that actually got me to decide on the Lastolite was that I found a used one in good condition. It even came with a Manfrotto light stand and a very nice and sturdy swivel head, so I got a good deal. The only negative thing was that the previous owner was a smoker, so it has a bit of a smell to it. Hopefully some time on the balcony in the fresh air will remedy that eventually.
So, what about the light quality? It’s really good, definitely an improvement over the umbrellas as well. Granted, the umbrellas are bigger light sources, and big is soft, but the Lastolite is double diffused, which means that there is a lot less hot spots from it. In the test shots I’ve posted here the Lastolite is the key light (with a YN560) from camera left and rim light is a LP160 in a small Lumiquest III softbox. Of course the light is also very easy to feather, so no worries keeping it off the background.
Definitely a good purchase and once I’ve added a grid I’ll have just the kind of soft, controlled light I’ve always wanted. Expect to see it used in some more shots to come pretty soon.
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