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Recommendations for soft boxes - pros/cons
Old 06-07-2006, 10:31 AM   #1 (permalink)
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I am considering purchasing a couple of soft boxes very soon, but wanted to get some input from those of you whom have experience with them, both pro and con. I would be using my Photogenic Powerlight 1250DR and 2500DR's studio strobes with them.
  • Which brand would you recommend and why?
  • Which shape and size do you prefer?
  • Type of stand needed?
  • Ease of setup/tear down?
  • Any other considerations or comments which you may have?
Thanks in advance for your assistance on this.

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Re: Recommendations for soft boxes - pros/cons
Old 06-07-2006, 03:32 PM   #2 (permalink)
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It's easier to start with design considerations and then recommend some brands that meet those constraints.

I'd recommend that you purchase a softbox with a lip so that yout can attach grids and what-not to the front of it. Also, the lip helps contol spill.

I'd recommend a softbox with a removable front face. This allows you the option of lighting with more contrast by removing the front face in the event that you want it. Also, as the fabric ages it discolors. You may never have to worry about it, but it's nice to be able to just replace the front face. A removable internal baffle is also useful for creating even lighting across the surface of the box.

You can get a softbox with a white, silver, or gold interior. Some brands have different colored inserts so you get three in one. White and silver are the most popular and one isn't better than the other, just different. The white ones are less contrasty and the silver ones are more contrasty. Gold is like the silver with the additional property of warming the light coming out of the box.

Size and shape, like interior surface, is a photographer preference. Your needs for shooting motorcycles and automobiles are very different than your needs for shooting jewelry. I like the degree of control I get with large strip boxes when I photograph people, but I also have rectangular boxes in a couple of different sizes for my commercial work. By far, the most popular is a 3'x4' box. It's manageable, big enough for evenly-lit 3/4 length shots, can be used with good effect for full length shots, and is reasonably priced for the size box you get.

General purpose softboxes tend to be square or maintain something very close to a 3/4 ratio of width/length. The other types of softboxes you'll find are octaboxes and strip boxes. Octaboxes are octagonal (duh), whereas strip boxes are much longer than they are wide.

If money isn't your primary concern, Chimera's Super Pro Plus line of boxes is about the best out there. They have a huge range of accessories and modifiers and are very well constructed. They will last you a lifetime through set up and tear down.

Value for the money, Photoflex makes very good equipment. If you're just looking for a softbox with a white interior, the Photoflex boxes are about 1/2 the cost of the Chimeras. For about the same price as the Chimeras you can get a white Photoflex box with silver and gold inserts, giving you three looks in one.

If you're looking for very large softboxes, Elinchrom makes some absolutely wonderful boxes. The quality of light is simply superb. However, some of them can only be used with Elinchrom heads. The Octa light bank is an exception and absolutely kicks a$$.

Any general purpose stand 7' or higher should easily handle a 3'x4' box. You would want something heavier-duty if you have a particularly big box.

Softboxes are a bit of a pain to set up and tear down. Photoflex boxes (there may be others too) have velcro pockets on the front of the boxes that make tear down easier by allowing you to release the rod tension before removing them from the speed ring. Many Elinchrom softboxes collapse like an umbrella, but again you're limited in the non-elinchrom heads you can use.

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Re: Recommendations for soft boxes - pros/cons
Old 06-08-2006, 08:54 PM   #3 (permalink)
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I use the softboxes from Amvona. They are very inexpensive, but are very durable and well built. They come with out a speed ring, so you need to decide which speed ring to add on. I personal bought a Chimera Quick Release speed ring for mine and an adapter for a Novatron Standard head. Total price for the Quick release Speed ring and adapter was $70. The Softbox was $90. By the way the softbox came with louvers, three masks, and with two interior baffles and also has vent panels that can be opened or closed (good for hot lights). The softbox is 4x3 feet. With the Quick release speed ring, I can break it down in about 30 seconds and assemble it in less than 1 minute.
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Re: Recommendations for soft boxes - pros/cons
Old 06-09-2006, 07:14 AM   #4 (permalink)
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Chip, just wanted to say that your description of the various boxes and features was really very well done. If anyone was looking for new softboxes, this info would be really useful to them.

Only one small point I'll add... a white-lined softbox absorbs more light than a silver or gold-lined one. And as you said the light is less contrasty. I favor white-lined softboxes because my personal style for portraits is rather shallow depth-of-field, shooting anywhere from f2 to f4. And it's hard to get that with a silver-lined sb without moving the sb further from the subject. And of course if the sb is moved further away, the quality of the light it produces changes as well, becoming harsher.

Oh, and I've got several Photoflex softboxes and am very happy with them.

Cheers!

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Re: Recommendations for soft boxes - pros/cons
Old 06-09-2006, 10:17 AM   #5 (permalink)
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As a note to Chip And Eldor....you should really talk to Rolando about a cut from my lifetime membership. There's lots of good stuff on G1, but you guys keep paying for my membership over and over....

Thanks for all the good advice.
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Old 06-09-2006, 10:19 AM   #6 (permalink)
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Just got this together:

It was from Amvona via fleabay. $65 shipped, it has an internal baffle and came with the grids and (not pictured) gold and silver internal panels. Also it came with a "universal" aka "fits nothing" adapter but I was able to adapt a sturdy mount out of spare parts I had and what they sent me. Now I have two problems. One I need a big mofo boom arm to put the think on and two where do I put it when not in use? But these are the good kinds of problems to have!
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Re: Recommendations for soft boxes - pros/cons
Old 06-10-2006, 10:58 AM   #7 (permalink)
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Wow I am in love...

with the softbox.

Quote:
Originally Posted by eldor
Oh, and I've got several Photoflex softboxes and am very happy with them.
Cheers!
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Re: Recommendations for soft boxes - pros/cons
Old 06-10-2006, 02:45 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Carpe Imago
Wow I am in love...
with the softbox.
Well, in that case you should know it's a 5' Photoflex Octodome with white interior (this shot aided by a 42" soft-gold Photoflex reflector right below the main light in a sort-of clamshell arrangement.
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Re: Recommendations for soft boxes - pros/cons
Old 06-15-2006, 11:49 AM   #9 (permalink)
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I use two Larson strip boxes 14x48. They have large lips (6" ?). They have nice directional control. Great construction quality. I'd like to get some egg crates for them but $$. I'd like to get a larger one, but for now I use 52" umbrellas.

I've used a 7 ft Photoflex Octadome at a friends studio. It gives a nice soft light that wraps around. You need a high ceiling for this one.
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