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Author Topic: Advice on Gray Fong's Lightsphere compared to Sto-fen Omni-bounce  (Read 10935 times)

Chris Burch

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Re: Advice on Gray Fong's Lightsphere compared to Sto-fen Omni-bounce
« Reply #15 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):

  • HIGHLY portable.  Needs to be able to move around everywhere I go without slowing me down or getting in the way, plus it must be rapidly adjustable.
  • Effective. For me that means it softens the direct light, provides diffuse lighting to boost background lighting, and it must provide light to the full frame of the image (no obvious fall-off at the bottom of the frame).
  • Can't look ridiculous.  To me the Lightsphere is pushing the envelope...if I am going to walk around with large tupperware on my flash it damn well better be worth it.  This isn't a pride thing...I need to look professional, so pie plates, and portable bounce walls just won't do.
  • Flexible.  I may not always want direct light...may want to bounce from only above or behind me.  I don't want a modifier that requires me to disassemble things every time I need to get creative.

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!
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Re: Advice on Gray Fong's Lightsphere compared to Sto-fen Omni-bounce
« Reply #15 on: November 21, 2012, 03:00:47 PM »

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Re: Advice on Gray Fong's Lightsphere compared to Sto-fen Omni-bounce
« Reply #16 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.

Marsu42

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Re: Advice on Gray Fong's Lightsphere compared to Sto-fen Omni-bounce
« Reply #17 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/

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.

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Re: Advice on Gray Fong's Lightsphere compared to Sto-fen Omni-bounce
« Reply #18 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.

pwp

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Re: Advice on Gray Fong's Lightsphere compared to Sto-fen Omni-bounce
« Reply #19 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

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 But bits fell off, the mounting cracked up and it was quickly retired. Pity...

The Lumiquest 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/ 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
« Last Edit: November 21, 2012, 06:26:18 PM by pwp »

neuroanatomist

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Re: Advice on Gray Fong's Lightsphere compared to Sto-fen Omni-bounce
« Reply #20 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!
« Last Edit: November 21, 2012, 06:30:17 PM by neuroanatomist »
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killswitch

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Re: Advice on Gray Fong's Lightsphere compared to Sto-fen Omni-bounce
« Reply #21 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.

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Re: Advice on Gray Fong's Lightsphere compared to Sto-fen Omni-bounce
« Reply #21 on: November 21, 2012, 08:19:28 PM »

killswitch

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Re: Advice on Gray Fong's Lightsphere compared to Sto-fen Omni-bounce
« Reply #22 on: November 21, 2012, 08:23:27 PM »
Interesting review of the Demb Flip-it!

Demb Flip-it Review

neuroanatomist

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Re: Advice on Gray Fong's Lightsphere compared to Sto-fen Omni-bounce
« Reply #23 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.  ::)
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pwp

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Re: Advice on Gray Fong's Lightsphere compared to Sto-fen Omni-bounce
« Reply #24 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 for expanded versatility.
BTW the international shipping costs are incredibly low...$8.00

-PW

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Re: Advice on Gray Fong's Lightsphere compared to Sto-fen Omni-bounce
« Reply #25 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
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Re: Advice on Gray Fong's Lightsphere compared to Sto-fen Omni-bounce
« Reply #26 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.

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Re: Advice on Gray Fong's Lightsphere compared to Sto-fen Omni-bounce
« Reply #27 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.
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Re: Advice on Gray Fong's Lightsphere compared to Sto-fen Omni-bounce
« Reply #27 on: November 22, 2012, 07:32:29 AM »

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Re: Advice on Gray Fong's Lightsphere compared to Sto-fen Omni-bounce
« Reply #28 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).

Chris Burch

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Re: Advice on Gray Fong's Lightsphere compared to Sto-fen Omni-bounce
« Reply #29 on: November 22, 2012, 12:10:42 PM »
Thanks, that makes sense - exactly what diffuser do you have: 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/
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Re: Advice on Gray Fong's Lightsphere compared to Sto-fen Omni-bounce
« Reply #29 on: November 22, 2012, 12:10:42 PM »