Soft Light Modifier w/ Speedlite

Discussion in 'Lighting Equipment' started by k_meade, Jan 9, 2013.

  1. I am brand-new to digital photography (SLR film camera previously), and I now have a Canon EOS 6D with a 600EX-RT Speedlite. I want to start using off-camera flash and have been reading the strobist blog. I think I now have an okay handle on the basic equipment that I'll need to get started, but I have a few specific questions as well as am having difficulty narrowing down which modifier I want and would like some input.
    The strobist website recommends the Compact OCF Jump Starter Kit ($110) from Midwest Photoexchange which includes: Westcott 43" Collapsible Umbrella with Removable Cover, LumoPro LP605 7ft. Compact Light Stand, LumoPro LP633 Umbrella Swivel w/ Flash Shoe Adapter, and Hot shoe Universal Translator kit w/16ft. Mini-mini cable.
    I was also interested in and read good things about the Photek Softlighter II umbrella, 60" ($95) and 46" ($75). Here are my main questions:
    1. Is the Photek Softlighter II that much superior to the Westcott umbrella or do they perform the exact same function and I shouldn't waste my money on the Photek Softlighter?
    2. What are the considerations when choosing the size of the umbrella, between the 60" and 46" for example? Will the 60" light a larger group of people when doing portraits or does it just provide softer light?
    3. If I did go with the 60" Photek Softlighter II, would my 600EX flash be enough for that large of umbrella? Also, would the LumoPro 7ft light stand be able to hold a larger umbrella such as the 60"?
    I have never done off-camera flash before and have been trying to learn about it for the last 2 months before I make a decision, so any other considerations I'm not thinking of would be appreciated.
  2. The softness of a light source is dependent on its appearant size to the subject. This is controlled by 2 things, the size of
    the light source and its distance to the subject. The larger and closer the light, the softer and less contrasty it will be.

    I recently purchased an Impact 60" convertible umbrella, it works fine on my LP605 stand. I can't, however, tell you much
    about using the 60" umbrella. I'm still experimenting with it.

    1. I wouldn't look for two umbrellas of the same basic size and design to really be that different from each other. Maybe
    you get better build, but your camera can only see the light, so a 43" white convertible from any manufacturer should be
    indistinguishable from a similar product.

    2. Back to the softness of light, a larger light source allows you to move it farther back and keep it soft. This can help
    with large groups.

    3. Your flash should be plenty for that light source, but if you get it too far from your subject, you may notice a lack of
    power, and it will work with that stand, but outdoors if you have any wind that giant sail will give you problems.

    My advice, I would just get the kit and really get to know it well. Wait until you have a decent grasp on the one light
    modifiers capabilities and limitations, then use your experience to guide you through your next purchase. Otherwise it
    just turns into gear acquisition syndrome.
  3. The Photek Softliter II (I have one) is a different animal than the umbrella with removable cover. The Softliter is like a triple-threat. You can shoot into it without it's front diffuser like you would with an umbrella. You may remove its black outer cover, turn it around, and shoot through it. Or, you shoot into it with the diffuser on the front and it works like a circular softbox. It sets up much faster than a softbox, which is important if you're shooting on location. I have the 46" Softliter, and routinely shoot family portraits of 4-5 people with it. It's also great in the studio.
    So, in response to your question #1, I would skip the umbrella and get the Softliter. It does everything the umbrella does and something that the umbrella cannot.
  4. Get the Photek as it is more versatile. If your camera doesn't have a built transmitter to wirelessly connect wiwith the off
    camera flash get the 33 ft long camera to flash cable sold by (Canon version). Works great. I also recommend Avenger, Lowel, Manfrotto, or Matthews stands.
  5. It does depend on how professional you want to appear and what your budget is ... I organised a simple set-up for a freind starting out and also fell into a trap of how I placed the light relatively to the camera as illustrated in second photo. Of course being film I didn't appreciate the problem of a too high placed light until it was processed.
  6. Thanks everyone for your suggestions. I went ahead and bought the 46" Photek Softlighter II; however, I'm still having decision paralysis for the umbrella swivel/light stand. I was going to get the Standard OCF Jump Starter Kit recommended by the strobist website: LumoPro LP606 8ft. Air Cushioned Light Stand, LumoPro LP679 Umbrella Swivel w/ Flash Shoe Adapter, and Hot shoe Universal Translator kit w/16ft. Mini-mini cable (decided against the compact light stand). This starter kit is about $100 and comes with a Westcott 43" Collapsible Umbrella with Removable Cover as part of the package too.

    My concern with this is the LumoPro LP679 umbrella swivel. In the description it states, "SB-900 flash users should look at the LP633". I don't know anything about the SB-900 and have a Canon 600EX-RT, but I want to make sure these combinations will be sturdy enough to hold my flash and my softlighter. There seems to be a lot of possible combinations with this set up that I can get, but I don't want to buy something that won't hold my equipment well. I'm open to other brands/combination for a set-up too. Thanks.
  7. I have both a 46 and a 60 and I usually chose which side to use based o if it will fit in the room I am in or if outside, the wind. In a small space or on a windy day, I always use the 46. Although a 60" will do a better job lighting a group, if I could only have one, I would choose the 46. I wrote a full blog post with samples outlining my experience with the miraculous modifier!
  8. At 4 years distance, is it really worth adding anything to this thread?

    However, an umbrella is only effectively as large as the light-source that shines into it. By that I mean it's fairly pointless using a 5 foot umbrella if the speedlight used can only illuminate a 4 foot diameter circle within it.

    Remember, the OP asked about using a brolly or softbox specifically with a speedlight, not a monolight head.

    IME there are very few speedlights that can efficiently fill an umbrella of much over 43" across. Even when set to their widest zoom setting and dangling on the very end of the brolly handle. Very unweildy.
    Last edited: Mar 19, 2017

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