I preface every review with the same disclosure. I am not a professional. I do not shoot test charts. I do not try every lens with every camera. All opinions are my own, and are only based upon my own experiences with the gear. I haven’t had a ton of gear, or all of the expensive gear. I won’t list every specification or test for every specification. My review is not meant for professionals – if you are a professional, you shouldn’t need a review from an amateur. The information below is simply my own observations while doing normal photography, and is for other car enthusiasts and amateurs like myself.
I purchased the 30-inch octagon-shaped softbox from Cowboy Studio to be able to mount 3 Nikon SB-800 flashes on radio triggers, and get a controlled light output. I wanted something that folded up small, was easy to mount, and had diffusion and a grid. It needed to be able to mount on a very lightweight light stand, but also be usable on a boom arm later.
I knew that I did not need a large softbox, since I was using flashes instead of studio strobes or monolights. Since I already have a Rouge Flashbender with the diffusion panel, I knew that I did not want a small softbox, and instead wanted a portable solution to use with 1-3 flashes. I also already had a lightweight light stand and umbrella kit, with (2) shoot through umbrellas, and (2) reflector type umbrellas. That just left the needs of a softbox.
I didn’t like the idea of fumbling around with a softbox that would need rods put into it, so I knew that I wanted a brolly setup, and I knew that I wanted to be able to focus the light with a grid, as I already had a shoot through umbrella for when I wanted a large spread of light. Those factors made the softbox the obvious choice.
Quite honestly, the softbox is pretty weak and looks easy to damage, but at such a low price, I figured that it was worth the risk. It’s not super-strong, but it doesn’t look like it will fall apart for awhile either.
The zipper in the bottom of it concerns me the most, and I keep a careful watch on it when I use it. The stitching seems ok, and able to hold.
I’ve used it on a couple of shoots and it has held up quite well on them. Nothing broke, but I try to be gentle with my equipment.
Ease of Use
It’s really easy and quick to setup. Not much to say about it. It’s just a deep umbrella, that you then velcro on the diffusion cloth, and then velcro on the grid. You can use it with either the diffusion cloth or the grid if you wish. It’s definitely versatile.
I had no trouble using up to three SB-800s in it, mounted on a triple mount. The silver background without the diffuser works well for a contrast inducing light, and the diffuser softens the light correctly.
I would suggest that you consider getting an extra piece of diffusion cloth from a fabric store if you want even more diffusion. There is a large edge of extra material on the umbrella, which means that with a few clamps and an extra cloth, you could increase the number of diffusion cloth layers on the umbrella.
The grid works well. It simply velcros on after the diffusion panel, and is thick enough to direct the light.
Update 12/4/2015: I have used the softbox with my FlashPoint Rovelight 600ws strobe also. It worked fine. I’ve only used the strobe and softbox once together though.
I’ll need a while to test it in a variety of locations, but it seems like a good purchase so far. I’ll come back and list any problems that I might encounter with it. So far, I have shot with it both indoors and outdoors, and it has worked well.
For my use, I put three SB-800s on YN-622N triggers on a triple mount inside it, and mount it on a lightweight light stand with casters, so that I can roll it around where I need it quickly.