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Gear Talk => Lighting => Topic started by: killswitch on November 21, 2012, 05:14:47 AM

Title: Advice on Gray Fong's Lightsphere compared to Sto-fen Omni-bounce
Post by: killswitch on November 21, 2012, 05:14:47 AM
I consider myself a hobbyist and have just gotten into flash photography, and I was hoping to seek some advice and recommendations on portable diffusers for the flash unit. I have a 580 EXII (Sto-fen diffuser attached on head) which at times I need to shoot on or off camera at birthday events or parties (indoors). The events are not professional shoots just family and friends throwing private events. At times circumstances forces me to shoot with minimal gear/equipment, I am usually shooting solo and moving around the venue quite a bit to capture candid shots of adults and kids. Having said that I wish i had something that could soften the shadows like you get when using a shoot through umbrella. But like I said, mobility is an issue for me.

I was checking out the videos and demos of Gary Fong's lightspheres. Are they any good in terms of softening the harshness of the shadows while at the same time illuminating the subject nicely? Few problem I often run into are high ceilings or non-white colored walls, hence cant bounce off off them. I am looking for a diffuser or anything that is practical and portable, preferably something that can be mounted on the flash head to take nice portrait shots at parties events mentioned above.

If it helps, I currently have a lightstand, 40" shoot through umbrella, a pair of radio triggers.
Title: Re: Advice on Gray Fong's Lightsphere compared to Sto-fen Omni-bounce
Post by: M.ST on November 21, 2012, 06:12:49 AM
You get amazing results if you use two or three flashlights to form th light.

Put the Sto-fen diffuser on all the heads and then attach a small softbox on all your flashlights.
Title: Re: Advice on Gray Fong's Lightsphere compared to Sto-fen Omni-bounce
Post by: Marsu42 on November 21, 2012, 07:31:51 AM
I was checking out the videos and demos of Gary Fong's lightspheres. Are they any good in terms of softening the harshness of the shadows while at the same time illuminating the subject nicely?

A photog I know has it, and while the ightsphere does what it's supposed to do he says it's too heavy and large (it sits on top of the flash after all) ... and a lot of $$$ for a piece of plastic. So if you have the opportunity test-mount it on your flash in a shop.
Title: Re: Advice on Gray Fong's Lightsphere compared to Sto-fen Omni-bounce
Post by: neuroanatomist on November 21, 2012, 08:05:39 AM
The bigger the light source, the softer the light.  A StoFen works well but is designed for bounce flash - it diffuses the light a bit, but doesn't soften it much or at all when used direct.  The LightSphere is a little bigger, and that means a little softer, but it still sends a lot of light up - lost power at best, and with low colored ceilings you'll get a color cast

One option that I've used successfully is a Lumiquest Softbox III - it has an 8x9" surface which provides decent softening of the direct flash. It's about the biggest modifier that you can attach to your flash head and still move around with it (as opposed to a light stand with remote triggering).  You'll still want to get it off-camera with a flash bracket and OC-E3-type cord.  If it would help, I can take a pic of the setup I'm talking about...
Title: Re: Advice on Gray Fong's Lightsphere compared to Sto-fen Omni-bounce
Post by: Marsu42 on November 21, 2012, 08:18:28 AM
One option that I've used successfully is a Lumiquest Softbox III - it has an 8x9" surface which provides decent softening of the direct flash. It's about the biggest modifier that you can attach to your flash head and still move around with it (as opposed to a light stand with remote triggering).  You'll still want to get it off-camera with a flash bracket and OC-E3-type cord.  If it would help, I can take a pic of the setup I'm talking about...

* I can imagine what it looks like, and it's just the setup I have in mind - could you please share some insight about differences in ettl-cords (if any, but 3rd party is 1/3 price of canon) and what flash bracket to get, it needn't be the most expensive one but should still be sturdy & flexible?

* Does using an add-on diffuser really make a difference for bounce (the flashes have a pop-out diffuser after all)?
Title: Re: Advice on Gray Fong's Lightsphere compared to Sto-fen Omni-bounce
Post by: killswitch on November 21, 2012, 09:08:41 AM
The bigger the light source, the softer the light.  A StoFen works well but is designed for bounce flash - it diffuses the light a bit, but doesn't soften it much or at all when used direct.  The LightSphere is a little bigger, and that means a little softer, but it still sends a lot of light up - lost power at best, and with low colored ceilings you'll get a color cast

One option that I've used successfully is a Lumiquest Softbox III - it has an 8x9" surface which provides decent softening of the direct flash. It's about the biggest modifier that you can attach to your flash head and still move around with it (as opposed to a light stand with remote triggering).  You'll still want to get it off-camera with a flash bracket and OC-E3-type cord.  If it would help, I can take a pic of the setup I'm talking about...

Neuroanatomist, that would be awesome if you could share a photo of the setup. I think that is exactly I would prefer on the flash head, a mini softbox that I can point directly at the subject off camera and yet pick up softer shadows. Thanks yet again for the suggestion.
Title: Re: Advice on Gray Fong's Lightsphere compared to Sto-fen Omni-bounce
Post by: Viggo on November 21, 2012, 09:52:43 AM
Light stand and oc-e3 cord is the fastest way do send your flash to the floor, the cable is to short and stiff, and when you try to move around with your eye in the VF, it will tip over.

The bigger light the softer the light, BUT remember this is appearant light size, meaning a smaller light can look soft by moving it VERY close to the subject. That is why the biggest light source of them all, the sun, gives very harsh shadows, it looks tiny for us. So in other words, how soft light you can get depends on how close the light is and how big it looks to your subject.
Title: Re: Advice on Gray Fong's Lightsphere compared to Sto-fen Omni-bounce
Post by: triggermike on November 21, 2012, 10:41:01 AM
Lumiquest also makes this thing which broadens the apparent lightsource size - its OK . . .
http://store.lumiquest.com/lumiquest-pocket-bouncer/ (http://store.lumiquest.com/lumiquest-pocket-bouncer/)

As neuro pointed out, it is imperative you get the flash off the camera hotshoe and onto a bracket so the small lightsource is not in line with your lens/subject angle. This eliminates red-eye (which can still occur with these small modifiers) and changes shadow appearance beyond. Several other techniques to bear in mind - (1)choose your position carefully, when you can, so there is a great expanse behind your subject where no shadows can appear in the photo, (2)bouncing is always best, when there are no walls/ceilings sometimes people with white shirts/dresses can serve as the bounce surface! (Done this many times) (3)I frequently skip the bracket and simply hold the flash in my hand tethered to the hotshoe cable and hold up the flash to the right or left without having to flip a bracket or the camera orientation (4)always shoot in manual when using a flash - set exposure for the background (and within flash's synq range - may require an ISO adjustment). Sometimes a half-stop of underexposure works well to seperate subject and background. The ETTL of the flash will automatically set exposure for subject. With camera set for background exposure, you will find you can move about and the background exposure within a given venue will vary little - and slight variations in background exposure value can usually be ignored.
Hope this helps!
Title: Re: Advice on Gray Fong's Lightsphere compared to Sto-fen Omni-bounce
Post by: PackLight on November 21, 2012, 11:24:34 AM
Soft boxes, off camera lighting and several lights are always the best way to go.

Comparing the Gary Fong to a soft box, the lightsphere is much more portable. You can take the lightspere many places that hauling around even the smallest soft box may be problematic. A soft box will generally do a better job, but it sometimes it isn't about the best lighting it is about the amount and size of the gear you can take.

Comparing the lightsphere to the Sto-fen, the lightsphere is much nicer and usable. It can produce a fairly even soft light. For what it costs it is worth the money. It is large mounted on your flash.

I own the Sto-fen, the Lightsphere, several soft boxes both small and large. The Lightsphere has its place and is worth owning, I use the Sto-fen's very little since buying it.
Title: Re: Advice on Gray Fong's Lightsphere compared to Sto-fen Omni-bounce
Post by: Dylan777 on November 21, 2012, 11:39:54 AM
The bigger the light source, the softer the light.  A StoFen works well but is designed for bounce flash - it diffuses the light a bit, but doesn't soften it much or at all when used direct.  The LightSphere is a little bigger, and that means a little softer, but it still sends a lot of light up - lost power at best, and with low colored ceilings you'll get a color cast

One option that I've used successfully is a Lumiquest Softbox III - it has an 8x9" surface which provides decent softening of the direct flash. It's about the biggest modifier that you can attach to your flash head and still move around with it  (as opposed to a light stand with remote triggering).  You'll still want to get it off-camera with a flash bracket and OC-E3-type cord.  If it would help, I can take a pic of the setup I'm talking about...

I guess you are not kidding about the size ;D
Title: Re: Advice on Gray Fong's Lightsphere compared to Sto-fen Omni-bounce
Post by: kbmelb on November 21, 2012, 12:10:57 PM
For softer shadows, like Neuro said, flash on a bracket with a decent sized directional diffuser and get close. Even a large diffuser will make hard shadows from far distances. Soft shadows are created by proximity. Even a bare flash can be soft close and at lower power.

I don't like Sto-fen or Gary Fong. They send light all over and you end up with color cast.
Title: Re: Advice on Gray Fong's Lightsphere compared to Sto-fen Omni-bounce
Post by: BL on November 21, 2012, 12:35:32 PM
the lightsphere works great in certain conditions, but has limitations that you'll find annoying.

* it dumps a LOT of light and therefore inefficient for bounce, making it only useful in small/med size rooms (depending on the GN of your speedlite).

* it's large and a bit heavy, so if you're not careful, flipping between vertical/horizontal orientation can cause it to fall off

* cumbersome to store and travel with due to size.

that said, i use it primarily for family pictures indoors, where the ceilings are always "white" and the rooms are small enough for even a 430ex to bounce a bit.  for this purpose, it works in spades!

(http://farm4.staticflickr.com/3325/3308637214_18fc7e0fd5.jpg)
Title: Re: Advice on Gray Fong's Lightsphere compared to Sto-fen Omni-bounce
Post by: neuroanatomist on November 21, 2012, 01:28:25 PM
* I can imagine what it looks like, and it's just the setup I have in mind - could you please share some insight about differences in ettl-cords (if any, but 3rd party is 1/3 price of canon) and what flash bracket to get, it needn't be the most expensive one but should still be sturdy & flexible?

* Does using an add-on diffuser really make a difference for bounce (the flashes have a pop-out diffuser after all)?

No experience with 3rd party E-TTL cords, but I imagine they'd work just fine since they're just contacts and wires.  Only concern might be the durability of the flash end - a 580/600 flash with small softbox is a reasonable load.  But then, the Canon OC-E3 is mostly plastic, although the 1/4"-20 threads on the flash end are metal, obviously.  One other consideration is that the Canon OC-E3 maintains the weather sealing of the 580/600 flashes, likely not a concern for indoor events, but I also use mine with a Better Beamer and 600 II for birds, in all sorts of weather.

What do you mean by 'pop out diffuser'?  Most flashes have a wide panel for WA shots, that just spreads the light more, actually making bounce less effective.  The 580/600 flashes also have a catchlight panel, which directs some of the light forward to the subject.  I prefer the StoFen in that situation - the catchlight panel is designed to be used with the head pointing straight up (so a little light is bounced 90° forward), and that also means the main flash illumination is straight up.  I prefer to angle the flash head toward the subject (45-60° up, depending on distance) which directs more light to the subject, and in that case the StoFen will throw some of the light forward (at many angles) vs. the catchlight panel which would be directing it more downwards.

Comparing the Gary Fong to a soft box, the lightsphere is much more portable. You can take the lightspere many places that hauling around even the smallest soft box may be problematic. A soft box will generally do a better job, but it sometimes it isn't about the best lighting it is about the amount and size of the gear you can take.

FWIW, the Lumiquest Softbox III folds flat into an 8x9" size that's about 0.5" thick, and fits easily in a photo backpack, etc.

Neuroanatomist, that would be awesome if you could share a photo of the setup. I think that is exactly I would prefer on the flash head, a mini softbox that I can point directly at the subject off camera and yet pick up softer shadows. Thanks yet again for the suggestion.

Below are two sets of images of a bracket-mounted Lumiquest Softbox III.  It's attached to the 600EX-RT with a Lumiquest Ultra Strap (so I don't have to stick velcro pieces to the head, since those get in the way of the StoFen,  Canon gel holder, etc.).  Both are quite handholdable, I just mounted them on a tripod to take the pics of them.

The first set is a Really Right Stuff setup - an RRS B-91QR bracket, without and with the FA-QREX2 extender.  The extender gets it further off-axis (and is shown retracted - it can be extended another 4").  The bracket is connected to the camera with a MPR-CL II rail that connects to the L-bracket for the correct plate orientation (with a collared lens, the rail isn't necessary).  The mount on the ring can be easily slid around so the flash is above the camera in portrait orientation.  It's convenient, sturdy, and stable...but expensive. 

The second set is a Manfrotto 233B bracket with a Giottos MH1004 mini ballhead on the end.  I have a Wimberley C-12 clamp attached to the 233B bracket for a quick release connection to the L-bracket, but the 1/4"-20 screw on the bracket could be directly connected to the tripod socket.  The bracket has a telescoping arm, which is shown both retracted and fully extended.  It can be adjusted so the flash is above the camera in portrait orientation, but it's more work than the RRS setup, and a third hand would help.  The setup is slightly less sturdy than the RRS, sticks out a bit more, but is stable...and much less expensive.

Hope that helps!
Title: Re: Advice on Gray Fong's Lightsphere compared to Sto-fen Omni-bounce
Post by: Marsu42 on November 21, 2012, 02:09:35 PM
I prefer to angle the flash head toward the subject (45-60° up, depending on distance) which directs more light to the subject, and in that case the StoFen will throw some of the light forward (at many angles) vs. the catchlight panel which would be directing it more downwards.

Wow, great information, thanks again so much :-) - and concerning the catchlight panel (I erroneously called it pop-out diffuser) you caught me not reading the manual :-p and I'll try a real diffuser for the 45-60 degree shots which are ~90% of mine.
Title: Re: Advice on Gray Fong's Lightsphere compared to Sto-fen Omni-bounce
Post by: triggermike on November 21, 2012, 02:23:07 PM
I too have the Manfrotto 233B bracket which neuro shows in his second set of photos. It is reasonably priced and offers many adjustments/orientations. Love the mini-ballhead addition Neuro!
One word of caution with the Manfrotto 233B bracket - it has several points of adjustment and all of them must be securely tightened else the bracket can "droop" in a myriad of directions. The thumbscrews are plastic and sometimes I get a little nervous when I have to torque one down!
Title: Re: Advice on Gray Fong's Lightsphere compared to Sto-fen Omni-bounce
Post by: Chris Burch on November 21, 2012, 03:00:47 PM
I'm an event shooter, so I use flash all of the time in situations you are talking about.  My criteria for a modifier is as follows (kind of in priority order):


I have a plethora of flash modifiers collecting dust and the one I have consistently stuck with for the past 4 years or so is the Demb Flip-it.  It allows me to adjust the ratio of ceiling bounce to foward light, effectively increases the relative size of the lights source by 4x over the bare flash, provides very wide-spread lighting coverage with no fall-off, and it's very portable.  I even use it outside because of the size increase and because it eliminates the light fall-off that bare flash can give you.

For comparing the Sto-Fen to Lightsphere, they are essentially doing the exact same thing.  Both are designed to throw light everywhere, and if you're indoors that can lead to reflections that soften shadows.  The Lightsphere will give you a larger relative light source and probably does a better job with the light distribution, but not by a lot.  Both are totally useless outdoors by the way.  The exception to that is having the lightsphere with a dome on top pointing straight forward -- that only gives you a little larger relative light source.  I do occasionally use the Sto-Fen if I am in a tight crowd or if I am shooting into an umbrella/softbox to get a wider spread of light.  To me, the Sto-Fen is close enough to the Lightsphere that the extra size and tupperware looks just aren't worth it. 

Neuro's setup is no doubt better than any of the about as far as quality of light, but I would never consider mounting the to my on-camera flash.  I own one and don't even feel confident mounting to a flash on a stand because it's heavy and forward on the flash.  One rapid turn and I can't imagine it flying off into a crowd of people.  If you've made that work for you, I'm impressed, but I wouldn't be so brave.

The people who are talking about external lights on stands with umbrellas and such don't shoot events.  Great if you want to make a portrait station, but worst idea ever if you plan to be portable.  I actually do use that setup when I am shooting on location portraits (like posed wedding shots and such), but once I am shooting candids, everything has to be on camera.

Since someone brought up flash cords, I'll give a big endorsement to third party brands if only because they can be so much cheaper.  For instance, B&H makes a brand called Vello and you can get their off-camera cords for about $15 (pretty much identical build quality as far as I can tell).  The Canon version is about $70.  That means you can get almost 5 Vello cables for the price of the Canon version.  If the Canon cords lasted forever, I would say stick with the name brand.  The problem is they don't...at all...mine last about a year.  Maybe the Canon cable will last longer than the Vello, but it certainly won't last longer than 5 of the Vellos.  Plus the Vello brand comes in a 1.5ft model, which is perfect for a flash bracket.

Since I'm plugging gear...ProMediaGear brackets are awesome!
Title: Re: Advice on Gray Fong's Lightsphere compared to Sto-fen Omni-bounce
Post by: PackLight on November 21, 2012, 03:41:57 PM
FWIW, the Lumiquest Softbox III folds flat into an 8x9" size that's about 0.5" thick, and fits easily in a photo backpack, etc.

Yes, but not in the front pocket of my hoody. :P

Personally I could see a use for all three, the little soft box, the lightspher and the Sto-fens.
Title: Re: Advice on Gray Fong's Lightsphere compared to Sto-fen Omni-bounce
Post by: Marsu42 on November 21, 2012, 04:42:51 PM
I have a plethora of flash modifiers collecting dust and the one I have consistently stuck with for the past 4 years or so is the Demb Flip-it.

Thanks, that makes sense - exactly what diffuser do you have: http://www.dembflashproducts.com/flipit/ (http://www.dembflashproducts.com/flipit/)

The Manfrotto 233B might be sturdier than it looks (and I'll try it in a shop), but my first thought when I saw it was how some screw came loose and my flash turned into a chain and ball, hitting a bystander :-o ... and really sturdy brackets are just too expensive for me atm.

One question though: I'd like to have a nicer flash reflection in the eyes than the rectangular "bare" flash, esp. on macro shots - how does the demb-type diffuser do here (If it is available in Europe at all)? Thats seems to be one advantage of the Lightsphere - it's round.
Title: Re: Advice on Gray Fong's Lightsphere compared to Sto-fen Omni-bounce
Post by: etg9 on November 21, 2012, 05:29:40 PM
I have the GF Lightsphere Collapsible and really like it plus it doesn't take up very much room in my bag. It's a nice defuser for what it is. I like that you can just pop the top out and fold the deal down to go back to normal flash without taking it off the flash. I also mount the dome different ways for different uses. because the dome sits in the cup it's easy to put a tissue in there to have it give off a much softer light.

 I agree with everyone above. Nero's setup is great but you can't move that bad boy around easily enough for me. I couldn't do it for events.
Title: Re: Advice on Gray Fong's Lightsphere compared to Sto-fen Omni-bounce
Post by: pwp on November 21, 2012, 06:23:05 PM
I also shoot a lot of events and have tried just about all the diffusers...it's a little like the search for the holy grail. I have a couple of Gary Fong Lightsphere Collapsible diffusers; they are OK in the right environment but because they spray light in every direction, they chew up the power at a crazy rate, and usually require big apertures and high iso settings. You definitely need external power. I have the unbustable Quantum Turbo T3 with the twin outputs http://www.qtm.com/index.php/products/2012-05-17-18-18-59/turbos/turbo-4 (http://www.qtm.com/index.php/products/2012-05-17-18-18-59/turbos/turbo-4)

The most technically reliable and configurable Gary Fong I've had is the now discontinued, brittle, bizarre looking Whaletail http://www.garyfongestore.com/whaletail-studio-complete-system.html#.UK1eDoZvrng (http://www.garyfongestore.com/whaletail-studio-complete-system.html#.UK1eDoZvrng) But bits fell off, the mounting cracked up and it was quickly retired. Pity...

The Lumiquest http://store.lumiquest.com/lumiquest-softbox-iii/ (http://store.lumiquest.com/lumiquest-softbox-iii/) looked like a good thing on paper, but was soon sent off to the landfill. I found the quality of the light highly unattractive, the unit was bulky and for reasons I cannot explain, my flash exposures were all over the shop.

Stofen's are occasionally useful in a room with low white ceilings, and has the advantage of being so light, unbreakable and compact that it can have a permanent place in the camera bag. Still, it's very limited.

Ah ha! So is there a holy grail? Maybe in mythology, but in the real world plenty of photographers are discovering the very useful, configurable, light weight products from Joe Demb. The Flash Diffuser Pro http://www.dembflashproducts.com/diffuser/ (http://www.dembflashproducts.com/diffuser/) is the best yet. It wins on price, ability to instantly configure to suit the shot, energy efficiency and of course the quality and shape of the light. So until someone invents a better device, I'm a Joe Demb fan.

-PW
Title: Re: Advice on Gray Fong's Lightsphere compared to Sto-fen Omni-bounce
Post by: neuroanatomist on November 21, 2012, 06:27:31 PM
FWIW, the brackets (either) with the softbox are also great for macro - the extensions let you get the softbox out over the subject at 1:1.  That's why I got the Manfrotto bracket to begin with, in fact (the RRS was for use with the supertele).

Two bumps for the Demb - might have to give that a try.  I'd likely still use it on the RRS ring to move it further off axis and allow landscape/portrait shifting.  Thanks, Chris and PW!
Title: Re: Advice on Gray Fong's Lightsphere compared to Sto-fen Omni-bounce
Post by: killswitch on November 21, 2012, 08:19:28 PM
Wow, some really good inputs for everyone. Thanks neuro for the photos of the bad boy. Have you faced any AF assist issue since the softbox is partially blocking the assist beam senser on the flash unit?

Chris, I am looking at the Demb units Marsu42 has given links to. Which one are you using? Any photos taken with the Demb products would be cool, saw some samples on their websites and it looks pretty neat.
Title: Re: Advice on Gray Fong's Lightsphere compared to Sto-fen Omni-bounce
Post by: killswitch on November 21, 2012, 08:23:27 PM
Interesting review of the Demb Flip-it!

Demb Flip-it Review (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qKwYlTzkj8w#)
Title: Re: Advice on Gray Fong's Lightsphere compared to Sto-fen Omni-bounce
Post by: neuroanatomist on November 21, 2012, 08:31:17 PM
Wow, some really good inputs for everyone. Thanks neuro for the photos of the bad boy. Have you faced any AF assist issue since the softbox is partially blocking the assist beam senser on the flash unit?

No issues...other than the softbox blocks it so the AF assist doesn't work.  ::)
Title: Re: Advice on Gray Fong's Lightsphere compared to Sto-fen Omni-bounce
Post by: pwp on November 22, 2012, 12:24:31 AM
This thread has triggered me to buy another Demb Flash Diffuser Pro plus an extra Mega Flip-it! Panel http://www.dembflashproducts.com/order/index.html#accessories (http://www.dembflashproducts.com/order/index.html#accessories) for expanded versatility.
BTW the international shipping costs are incredibly low...$8.00

-PW
Title: Re: Advice on Gray Fong's Lightsphere compared to Sto-fen Omni-bounce
Post by: wickidwombat on November 22, 2012, 12:28:11 AM
i just bought a couple of wing lights when they arrive i'll see how they go. I'm hoping they are as good as their press suggests
Title: Re: Advice on Gray Fong's Lightsphere compared to Sto-fen Omni-bounce
Post by: gjones5252 on November 22, 2012, 12:43:44 AM
I am doing the same event photography and I use the lightsphere all the time. It works excellent for 15 feet and under. Large groups or further distance and  the light gets to soft and to dark to use. It's amazing and far softer than any bounce flash. I am using it with a 580 ex ii.
Title: Re: Advice on Gray Fong's Lightsphere compared to Sto-fen Omni-bounce
Post by: neuroanatomist on November 22, 2012, 07:32:29 AM
I am doing the same event photography and I use the lightsphere ... far softer than any bounce flash.

Light 'softness' is determined not by praise for a product, but by the size of the light source relative to its distance from the subject. For your statement to be true, you must either have the LightSphere right in the subject's face, have a custom-made beachball-sized LightSphere, or ceilings the size of a postage stamp.  Just sayin'...   ;)

Actually, since the LightSphere sends most of the light up, I suspect you're really talking about LightSphere plus bounced flash, and the results would not be as good with high and/or dark ceilings.  If you compare direct flash with a LightSphere on the head to bare flash bounced off a low white ceiling, the latter will be a lot softer. The point of the LightSphere and the StoFen is to bounce most of the light while throwing some forward to the subject.
Title: Re: Advice on Gray Fong's Lightsphere compared to Sto-fen Omni-bounce
Post by: jm345 on November 22, 2012, 08:34:29 AM
I have the GF Lightsphere Collapsible and really like it plus it doesn't take up very much room in my bag. It's a nice defuser for what it is. I like that you can just pop the top out and fold the deal down to go back to normal flash without taking it off the flash. I also mount the dome different ways for different uses. because the dome sits in the cup it's easy to put a tissue in there to have it give off a much softer light.


I use the Lightsphere Collapsible with the dome installed and insert a 3x5 white card or even aluminum foil at the backside of the sphere to prevent "wasting" light away from the subject. It also focuses the light a little more forward, reduces battery drain, yet still produces a nice soft light (in a room with ceilings).
Title: Re: Advice on Gray Fong's Lightsphere compared to Sto-fen Omni-bounce
Post by: Chris Burch on November 22, 2012, 12:10:42 PM
Thanks, that makes sense - exactly what diffuser do you have: http://www.dembflashproducts.com/flipit/ (http://www.dembflashproducts.com/flipit/)

One question though: I'd like to have a nicer flash reflection in the eyes than the rectangular "bare" flash, esp. on macro shots - how does the demb-type diffuser do here (If it is available in Europe at all)? Thats seems to be one advantage of the Lightsphere - it's round.

I use the Big Flip-it.  I tried the Pro kit with the little diffuser and didn't find it to be useful, so I just stick with the Flip-it by itself.  I have a friend using the Mega and I am going to do some comparisons at some point soon, but I don't think it softens the light much more. 

For catch lights, the Flip-it gives you a larger source that is close to square.  When you're using a source that small, I don't think you'll be able to discern the difference in any of the on-camera modifiers.  Even with large softboxes, catch lights are quite tiny.

A while back Joe Demb contacted me after I was talking up the Flip-it and he actually posted my endorsement on his site and had me build a gallery of images shot with the Big Flip-it, so you'll see lots of examples from event shoots and even some portraits. 

http://chrisburch.com/Portfolio/DembFlip-it/ (http://chrisburch.com/Portfolio/DembFlip-it/)
Title: Re: Advice on Gray Fong's Lightsphere compared to Sto-fen Omni-bounce
Post by: digital paradise on December 05, 2012, 10:10:25 AM
Lot's of good info here. I'm going to pipe in here because this is by far one of favourite topics.   

Light is simple physics which all products are governed by and there is nothing anyone can do about it. Light is energy which are called photons. This I think is the first most important thing for people new to flash to learn. Light travels in strait lines. There is no way of bending light to curve it around an object to reduce shadows, even if it is as small as persons nose.

I'm going to use a little off the wall explanation. Think of light photons as salt granules. We have a light bulb full of salt. If the light bulb explodes the granules are sent hurling in all directions. Same thing happens when we turn on a light bulb. Remember that the photons from the light bulb travel in a strait line. We may not be able to bend light but we can deflect it off a surface and send it in a different direction.       

Second most important thing to learn. Creating soft light is all about the size and distance of the light source to your subject. Again this is physics and there is nothing we can do about it.

Here we are using a 2' by 4' softbox. In the first illustration we moved it 50 feet away from the subject. Now I know a strobe, etc will not have the power to do anything from that distance but just go with it for this demo. I can draw lines from the light source all day and not be able to get light around the head to eliminate shadows on the wall.

In the second illustration we moved the softbox so it is 5 feet from the subject. Now light from the outer edges of the softbox can eliminate the shadows behind the head.

The third illustration is just about bouncing light.           

(http://i33.photobucket.com/albums/d74/Zenon1/Light-2.jpg)

The lightsphere, Sto-fen and other such devices are bounce adaptors. They need surfaces to bounce light off surfaces and objects to be completely effective. It is what they were designed to do. They do a great job in a 10 by 10 by 10 room painted white. I would argue I can do just as well bouncing my flash of those walls. This is why I don't consider them as diffusers as compared to an umbrella or a softbox.   

What if you are outdoors or in a huge arena? Remember the light bulb explanation. Light is sent in all directions. What percentage of the light from a dome like device is actually reaching your subject. 10 - 20%? And how much larger is this 10-20% surface area of the dome that is illuminating your subject compared to the surface area of the flash head itself. How much difference does a dome like device make to direct flash in this situation? It is a little larger so will make some difference but is it worth it to you to waste the other 80% of light? If it works for you in this situation great but it does not hurt to take the time to think about this. I have in this situation shot direct flash on a bracket and achieved decent lighting shooting people.   

Bouncing light is my favourite method. I always keep my subjects away from walls and put my back to them. Corners are even better. Always pray for for a white ceiling at an event. If I have use this method which is a little wasteful but it solves the shadows under the eyes problem when bouncing off a ceiling if I have no walls behind me. One of my favourite methods.     

(http://i33.photobucket.com/albums/d74/Zenon1/p837681728-4.jpg)

I just purchased two big flip it's from Joe Demd. When I had no other choice I would shoot direct with the flash on a bracket and above the camera. The flip it is lighter and has more options so I will try it out.

So I'm not saying you should not use dome devices but I think it is important to understand what they are designed to do. They are another tool and all tools have their place.

http://russellspixelpix.blogspot.ca/2008/11/flash-diffusers-no-need-to-spend-big.html (http://russellspixelpix.blogspot.ca/2008/11/flash-diffusers-no-need-to-spend-big.html)
Title: Re: Advice on Gray Fong's Lightsphere compared to Sto-fen Omni-bounce
Post by: Marsu42 on December 05, 2012, 10:21:00 AM
I just purchased two big flip it's from Joe Demd.

Thanks for the idea that bouncing in a corner is best! And let us know how the flip-it do for you, you seem to have tried just about all other available options out there.
Title: Re: Advice on Gray Fong's Lightsphere compared to Sto-fen Omni-bounce
Post by: digital paradise on December 05, 2012, 11:43:35 AM
I spent a lot of money and wasted a lot of time trying to find the latest and greatest. But I guess that is part of the journey. I took a lighting course, gave all my gizmos away and simplified everything. I did not understand diffusion but the word alone is mysterious and it hooked me.

Forgot to mention something about that reverse ceiling bounce method. First off there is no spill from the flash itself onto your subject. Also I have turned the flash to the left and right and achieved some very pleasing results.

This is my flash guru. He is a advocate of the no spill off the flash touching your subject.

http://neilvn.com/tangents/flash-photography-techniques/ (http://neilvn.com/tangents/flash-photography-techniques/)       

Black foamy thing.

http://neilvn.com/tangents/2009/11/21/the-black-foamie-thing/ (http://neilvn.com/tangents/2009/11/21/the-black-foamie-thing/)

Of all products I see recommended by pros Demb seems to be near the top of the list. Not that pros don't use other products. I'm an each to his own person so this is not meant to be "this product is better than that one". I just believe in educated purchases. I look forward to give the flip it a try. I like how easy it is to flip it out of the way when required. Been a long time since I have had any modifier on my flash :)

Oh regarding that informative video. Another way to reduce shadows under the eyes if you bounce your flash off the ceiling is to tilt it forward and insure the bounce angle is not less than 45 degrees so you need to step back from your subject. Here is where the black foamie thing would come in handy.   

A few more helpful links.

http://www.talkphotography.co.uk/forums/showpost.php?p=1382030&postcount=17 (http://www.talkphotography.co.uk/forums/showpost.php?p=1382030&postcount=17)

Ratings at the bottom of page.

http://photo-tips-online.com/review/best-flash-diffuser/#demb-flash-diffuser (http://photo-tips-online.com/review/best-flash-diffuser/#demb-flash-diffuser)       
Title: Re: Advice on Gray Fong's Lightsphere compared to Sto-fen Omni-bounce
Post by: RustyTheGeek on December 05, 2012, 11:45:43 AM
This is why I read this forum.  To learn new things.  My immediate reaction to the OP post was...

Moving event photography OR Still portrait tripod based?  How do you shoot, wide and close or long and far away?  All this makes a big difference!

I'm with Chris Burch on this, his points are my points too.

My input will be a bit redundant but here goes...

I use a StoFen most often for convenience and decent bounce/diffusion (for my use) most of the time.  It's a no-brainer purchase for anyone's first basic diffuser.  I use the Lumiquest Softbox III off camera and Gary Fong collapsible Lightsphere on camera with Custom Brackets flash bracket (and off camera flash cord) in small indoor spaces when I'm rarely doing controlled portrait stuff.  When I am doing more "important" shoots like Eagle Court of Honors in a church sanctuary, I pound the crap out of my poor 580EX-II using a Gary Fong collapsible lightsphere (using the flash bracket) with whatever bounce I get based on the environment.  I have also been known to modify these diffusers with foil, etc to change power and light distribution.  I like many of the lumiquest products but I don't own a lot of them only because I haven't had a big need.

Don't restrict yourself reading marketing and only buying expensive products.  Lots of things will work for manipulating light.  White foam core and plastic, white plastic bags, car windshield shades in different colors/reflectivity, napkins, etc.  Even just white index cards in a pinch.  Heck, sometimes your hand or your fingers splayed out over the flash can get the look you want.  All very inexpensive and portable.

NOW THAT I'VE READ THIS THREAD HOWEVER - I think I might have a look at the Demb products and consider using that instead of the Gary Fong.  The lightsphere is pretty heavy so I have to be careful, esp when it's on the flash bracket.  In most cases however when I'm on the move, the Sto-Fen will do fine for my needs.  I keep the small SunPak RD2000 with Sto-Fen+foil on my camera most of the time anyway stopped down at least -1 or more and drag the shutter a lot with Av priority.  I like the look of mostly ambient with just a bit of fill.  But then, I shoot wide and up close most of the time so that works.  If I shot long across the room, this is worthless.

I just learned a lot from everyone and I thought I already had some good experience of my own.  Cool!!
Title: Re: Advice on Gray Fong's Lightsphere compared to Sto-fen Omni-bounce
Post by: RustyTheGeek on December 05, 2012, 11:50:50 AM
BTW, I LOVED reading digital paradise's common sense post.  (The MacGyver light bounce post.)  Great job!!  When you understand the fundamental concepts, you can do anything and make anything work for you.  Improvising is what makes it fun and keeps it interesting!!
Title: Re: Advice on Gray Fong's Lightsphere compared to Sto-fen Omni-bounce
Post by: RustyTheGeek on December 05, 2012, 12:08:16 PM
I spent a lot of money and wasted a lot of time trying to find the latest and greatest. But I guess that is part of the journey. I took a lighting course, gave all my gizmos away and simplified everything. I did not understand diffusion but the word alone is mysterious and it hooked me.
I think digital paradise is all over this with some great posts!  He is the man!  Way to go!  However, I'll say this... eBay is a wonderful place to buy a LOT of cheap knock-off flash gizmos to try out and learn without spending a ton of money.  You  could buy about $50-$100 worth of all the different styles and kinds of stuff to learn how it works, how it throws light, etc and then later buy the "good" stuff when you have developed a style and decided what works best for YOU.  There are knock-off chinese versions of EVERYTHING for only a few dollars.  Once your research is done, go out and buy a piece or two of your favorites in high quality that will produce better results and last longer.  The most valuable part of this venture is what you will learn working with all the different tools to see how they differ and how the light is changed using them.

Like this... http://www.ebay.com/itm/7in1-Flash-gun-adapter-Kit-f-Canon-580EX-II-Nikon-SB24-25-26-Nissin-Di622-CA-7A-/180914424142?pt=Camera_Flash_Accessories&hash=item2a1f57094e (http://www.ebay.com/itm/7in1-Flash-gun-adapter-Kit-f-Canon-580EX-II-Nikon-SB24-25-26-Nissin-Di622-CA-7A-/180914424142?pt=Camera_Flash_Accessories&hash=item2a1f57094e)

I think you get the idea.  Have fun with it and let us know what you choose and what you learn!
Title: Re: Advice on Gray Fong's Lightsphere compared to Sto-fen Omni-bounce
Post by: digital paradise on December 05, 2012, 12:26:08 PM
Thanks but I did not figure this stuff out myself. There are  a lot of smarter people than me out there. I just happen to really enjoy this so I invested some time to it. I purchased the flip its for a specific reason. I'm finding the bracket just more cumbersome to use so I will work with them when I have absolutely nothing to bounce off. I will experiment with some ceiling bounce since I have them. As for looking for other modifier, thanks to the link however I'm not going down that path again. It is like a drug. You get one but you always wonder if the next one will be better. Well I used to anyway.
Title: Re: Advice on Gray Fong's Lightsphere compared to Sto-fen Omni-bounce
Post by: jonathan7007 on December 05, 2012, 04:01:03 PM
Lumiquest made a 5"x7" speedlite softbox for direct attachment whose shape at the bottom allowed the Canon sensor to measure the scene. Velcro on the head needed as with so many other modifiers. I have one. It folds into a very compact 5x7x0.5. Easy to throw in my bag.

The rectangle seen in the attached photo embedded in the white front panel is designed to better diffuse the light coming out of the head. I have opened panels on this ti allow light out the side or top, but rarely.

I do not know if this is still sold.

jonathan7007