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Author Topic: Advice on Gray Fong's Lightsphere compared to Sto-fen Omni-bounce  (Read 10541 times)

killswitch

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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.

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Re: Advice on Gray Fong's Lightsphere compared to Sto-fen Omni-bounce
« Reply #1 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.

Marsu42

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Re: Advice on Gray Fong's Lightsphere compared to Sto-fen Omni-bounce
« Reply #2 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.

neuroanatomist

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Re: Advice on Gray Fong's Lightsphere compared to Sto-fen Omni-bounce
« Reply #3 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...
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Marsu42

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Re: Advice on Gray Fong's Lightsphere compared to Sto-fen Omni-bounce
« Reply #4 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)?
« Last Edit: November 21, 2012, 08:25:36 AM by Marsu42 »

killswitch

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Re: Advice on Gray Fong's Lightsphere compared to Sto-fen Omni-bounce
« Reply #5 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.

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Re: Advice on Gray Fong's Lightsphere compared to Sto-fen Omni-bounce
« Reply #6 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.
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Re: Advice on Gray Fong's Lightsphere compared to Sto-fen Omni-bounce
« Reply #6 on: November 21, 2012, 09:52:43 AM »

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Re: Advice on Gray Fong's Lightsphere compared to Sto-fen Omni-bounce
« Reply #7 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/

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!

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Re: Advice on Gray Fong's Lightsphere compared to Sto-fen Omni-bounce
« Reply #8 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.

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Re: Advice on Gray Fong's Lightsphere compared to Sto-fen Omni-bounce
« Reply #9 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
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Re: Advice on Gray Fong's Lightsphere compared to Sto-fen Omni-bounce
« Reply #10 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.
« Last Edit: November 21, 2012, 12:13:02 PM by kbmelb »

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Re: Advice on Gray Fong's Lightsphere compared to Sto-fen Omni-bounce
« Reply #11 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!

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Re: Advice on Gray Fong's Lightsphere compared to Sto-fen Omni-bounce
« Reply #12 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!
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Re: Advice on Gray Fong's Lightsphere compared to Sto-fen Omni-bounce
« Reply #12 on: November 21, 2012, 01:28:25 PM »

Marsu42

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Re: Advice on Gray Fong's Lightsphere compared to Sto-fen Omni-bounce
« Reply #13 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.

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Re: Advice on Gray Fong's Lightsphere compared to Sto-fen Omni-bounce
« Reply #14 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!

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Re: Advice on Gray Fong's Lightsphere compared to Sto-fen Omni-bounce
« Reply #14 on: November 21, 2012, 02:23:07 PM »