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on March 31, 2010
I am a big fan of Gary Fong's lightsphere diffusion system despite what people may think of him or the stares I get occassionaly when using his product. It's the only lighting accessory that gives me the look I want, for either close range portraits, macro lighting in a pinch, or for use in small to medium rooms. That said, it has been inconvenient storing and carrying this accessory in the field due to its bulk. Lightsphere II solves this do a degree with its semi-malleable structure that allows for some foreceful folding. Not a solution, but one way to overcome its size.

With the release of the lightsphere collapsable, I wondered if this could retire my 2 year old lightsphere II. Was is it time for an upgrade? Yes and no. Read on for my impressions.

First, the bad:

1) The older lightsphere II is actually smaller than the collapsible in its expanded form. The lightsphere II is smaller because it does not need to collapse like an accordion, allowing it to have thinner and fewer walls, giving it a more curved, bell shape. The sphere II is also mostly transluscent, making it feel smaller because it's less visually intrusive than its cloudy big brother.

2) The lightsphere II is fitted to your particular flash model. This is very valuable for me because I never struggle fitting the accessory, as it comes on and off with ease, one handed, and stays on securely. It takes effort and practice to get the collpapsible on and off quickly, requiring me to use both hands while setting the camera on a table. Perhaps it's more an issue of technique and practice, but it's important to note I never initially had this problem with the lightsphere II. This is a double edged sword however as the sphere II can't fit on various sized speedlites, so if you need it to fit across various sizes, you will have to overlook the fit issue.

3) Light loss is greater on the collapsable compared to the lightsphere II. I estimate it to be around 1-2 stops of light, most likely due to the cloudy material vs. clear on the lightsphere II. While I understand its the nature of the beast using a diffuser, it's light I never could afford to give up when I used the lightsphere II.

4) The lightsphere collapsible is made from a material that is not only more flexible than the lightsphere II, but also stickier for some reason. It's not by any means going to stick to an object or your hands, but I noticed lint sticking to its surfaces having stored it in my cargo pocket. Nothing a quick rinse in a water faucet wouldn't fix, but lint never found its way onto my lightsphere II when carried in the same "linty" pocket.

5) I paid $39.99 for the lightsphere II 2 years ago. At [...], the collapsible is not going to break the bank, but I'm not neccessarily *getting* 50% more by *paying* 50% more if you get my drift. It's arguable however, how much the collapsible feature and one-size-fits-all approach are worth to each individual.

Now, the Good:

1) Same, even, wrap-around light as the lightsphere II. As long as you understand the limitations of light loss with the collapsible, you will essentially get the same, beautiful effect you are used to with other lightspheres. The cloudy material seems to give softer light for close portrait work and was a nice surprise I will surely take advantage of.

2) When collapsed, it folds into a disc about 1 1/2 inches thick. Although easier to store in the bottom of a bag or in a mesh pocket outside your backpack, I still don't like the fact it's noticeable larger in diamter than the sphere II. However a "can of tuna" is always easier to carry around than a tupperware bowl ;) Note: This collapsible factor will probably be THE reason why folks should look to upgrade or choose this product over previous lightspheres.

Final Thoughts:

In conclusion, I am pleased with the lightsphere collapsible's performance, but having a real hard time with of ease of use and dissappointed with light loss. It's not letting me do anything I couldn't before with my old sphere, and frankly, I'm dissappointed about needing two hands to install the diffuser instead of one. However, I don't want to minimize the fact its easier to carry along to a shoot, making this a must buy for those who prize portability but still need soft, diffused light the sphere is capable of in a pinch. Given how much I use Gary Fong's diffuser and how well it performs at diffusing light, the lightsphere collapsible will serve as a compliment to my lightsphere II, rather than a replacement. Both have a permanent place in my gear bag and will see use for years to come.


**UPDATE 6/6/2011

After over a year of regular use of both the Lighsphere II and the collapsible, my opinion of the collapsible has grown more favorable in regards to use. I've come to appreciate it's firm grip as I've found it's much easier to gel the speedlite in the way it fits over the flash head. The portability has been a great benefit as it now travels with me "just in case" when I don't know what my indoor lighting conditions will be like.

My only negative comment is the yellow tint the collapsible has acquired. Thorough washing does not seem to remove the color cast and no longer shares the same color temperature of my Lightsphere II. This is unexpected and makes color balancing between the 2 spheres quite cumbersome. I would like to point out I may be in the minority of those using multiple lightspheres to accomplish different looks.
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on December 30, 2009
I ordered and received the Collapsible Lightsphere to use with a Nikon sb900 flash unit. I read several reports that it did not fit properly, or would not fit at all! Watched several videos from Gary Fong demonstrating how it went on the SB900. Gary was right! Yes, the first few times you put it on the fit is tight (this is a good thing!). A friend has the older version of the Lightsphere and is ordering the collapsible after he tried mine.

Best of all the result speak for themselves...the light "wraps" around your subject and gives a very soft illumination to the subject - say "goodby" to harsh shadows. If you want even more control you can put the sb900 with the lightsphere attached in "remote" mode and use the pop-up flash on the Nikon in "command" mode to trigger the flash without spilling direct light on the subject - allowing you to get very creative illumination.

I've owned two different "three-light" systems and the results with the Collapsible Lightsphere are quite impressive - best money for lighting that I've every spent.

I just uploaded a 16-second video showing a still images using the Collapsible Lightsphere at the request of another person reading this review. Here's the link: [...]
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on May 15, 2011
I very much wanted to write a good review for this. I've owned the Collapsible for six months, which I purchased at the same time as the Puffer (another Fong diffuser). I'm an enthusiastic amateur with a Nikon D300 and SB900 flash. Perhaps due to my lack of skill, my indoor photos routinely had bright shiny faces from the SB900 flash with the built-in diffuser, or halos from the ceiling bounce.

The Collapsible has done a terrific job of creating warm, even light without hot spots or shiny faces. Skin tones look more natural and I have depth which had previously been lost by the flattening of the flash.

BUT...the Puffer was recalled due to a manufacturing defect, and the Collapsible is splitting where the rubber boot wraps around the flash head. I've called the number on Fong's store site 4 or 5 times, and sent 3 e-mails. No response at all. Unfortunately it seems that however well-intentioned he may be, and however useful the products may be, he doesn't have the staff to back manufacturing defects. It's really disappointing, because I want to recommend these. Now I've discovered that there are a variety of alternatives, including an inexpensive do-it-yourself alternative on Instructables.

My recommendation: don't buy the products if you're going to use them regularly. I may have gotten unlucky with my two purchases, but contacting customer service 7 or 8 times without response is just inexcusable.
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on March 3, 2010
I was somewhat skeptical about this device when I got it. After all, $60 is a lot of money for a foldable piece of plastic with a top. I really needed a diffuser, though, so I decided to give it a chance. Once I started using it, I was more impressed. The build quality is fairly good and the results quite pleasing. Although you can always bounce a flash "sans-diffuser" to get a similar effect, straight bounce will give you vertical shadowing under eyes that, while far more natural than a direct flash, still looks quite "indoors". Besides this, in order to bounce you have to be working with a fairly low ceiling, which is quite often not the case if you're working in a large auditorium, church sanctuary, or outdoors. In these situations, the Lightsphere Collapsible is quite useful since it directs the light both up towards the ceiling (if applicable) and in all directions around the camera creating sort of a "ball of light".

That said, don't expect too much from an on-camera accessory. If you turn the camera for a portrait shot, expect shadowing on the opposite side. It doesn't particularly matter if you can rotate your flash as Gary Fong demonstrates in his videos. If you turn the camera, your flash is now 6-10" away from you camera on one side. Unless you keep the flash directly on top of your camera, you will inevitably get a one-sided shadow. Not necessarily a bad thing if you don't have a wall behind the subject, but definitely something to keep in mind.

Overall, I've been very satisfied with this little accessory. The collapsible aspect is nice for packing as long as you have room for it, and the fit is good (although my flash has a smaller head than the Nikon SB-900 and similar) It's not perfect and takes a little getting used to, but is very useful and should make your flash photography much more natural and pleasing.
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on March 16, 2011
The title sums up exactly what I think of this product. It's not really that bad, yet it's not really that good either. I realize the confusion this sort of comment can cause, so let me explain, with the hopes you may come to your own conclusion.

Overall, the concept is great. A portable method of diffusing and improving the lighting in your photographs. After using it for a while, however, I noted a few issues:

- Very awkward, and slightly difficult to install and remove from flash body.
- Light loss (obviously a negative side-effect to any flash diffuser, but still worth noting).
- A little on the beefy side - it makes your camera setup top-heavy, and seems to always want to pull the flash head's angle down. If you already have a heavier camera and lens setup, this will only fatigue your arms more.
- Possibly the initial thought on the mind of nearly every potential buyer of this product: it just looks weird. Some can ignore this, some cannot. Basically, if you aren't one for attention, this will not be the product for you.

In my own testing of the product, I found there to be little to no difference in lighting when compared to other methods, such as bouncing or diffusion through alternate products such as the Omni-Bounce. It's possible I was not testing it the way it was designed, but important to note that I was testing it based on my own uses and shooting style.

I will not bash the product, as I know there are many gifted photographers using the product with great success. However, I will say that it simply was not a viable option for me.
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on October 18, 2011
Before buying this modifier and attaching it to your flash, you should think about where you most commonly take photos and how the lightsphere works. The goal of the Lightsphere is to scatter the light coming out of your flash so that it can bounce off of more surfaces. For an indoor shoot, with the flash gun pointed up, it will kick the majority of the light up onto the ceiling. That light, combined with what you get coming out of the sides of the Lightsphere, produces a pleasing, evenly-lit image. Much more so than you'd get by pointing a strobe directly at the subject. For a few bucks extra, you can buy a TTL extension cord and move the flash slightly off-camera to give a little more depth and dimension.

The downside of this approach is that since light is being scattered everywhere, much more light is required to adequately expose the subject. You'll find that a speedlite that used to be more than capable will be underexposing at full power, or even overheating. There is a "Chrome Dome" attachment for the Lightsphere, which redirects the majority of the upward-firing light back to the sides, but at that point, you're looking at an $85 light modifier that is basically trying to do the job of a bounce card.

The Lightsphere has its place; and that's predominantly indoor shoots where you have a white ceiling and walls to bounce your light off of. A far more economical choice which works both indoors and outdoors is the LumiQuest Bounce series.

Like I said, the Lightsphere is a great idea, but it's definitely not the set-it-and-forget-it modifier that some people are talking it up as. The fact that it collapses so compactly means that you can keep it with you for the situations that it will produce a nice soft shot, but just remember to take it off when it won't be able to help you out.
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on September 9, 2014
The item received is not as pictured. The one in the
pictured does not use a black Velcro strap to secure
to the flash. The Velcro strap does secure to the flash well but it
looks ugly. Another serious problem is the lens
cover in front falls off very easily. Since the rubber groove is
less then 1mm all around in front, it isn't enough to lock the lens,
If you just brush the rubber diffuser, the lens would come flying off.
The one I was expecting to get is the on the one on
the photo which my friend has. It locks on the flash without the Velcro
strap. I am extremely disappointed with this product as
well as the misrepresentation on the listing photo. I have high
expectation with Gary Fong and this is a complete let down.

Update: I have changed the rating from one start to 3 since Gary was
responsive in the refund process
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on January 7, 2011
Out of the box the quality of this diffuser was very poor. The manufacturing molding process left this full of flaws. There were blotches, cracks, and thin spots in the collapsible rubber. The universal mount is very difficult to slip on to my flashes (Canon 550EX, 580EX,430EZ, & Vivitar 285)as the rubber flanges are very sticky and do not slide well. It takes a lot of force to get it on the flash.
But I think the worst part of the Gary Fong diffusers is the amount of flash power that is wasted. About 2/3 of the light goes where you don't need it. If you point the flash at your subject while using the dome, the light is quite well diffused. So much so that you have to use a higher ISO for an acceptable exposure because the dome is very opaque and blocks a lot of light. And the rest of the light goes out the sides of the flash lighting up your feet and the walls of your studio. I mean your flash has to use more power, most of which is wasted. You may as well just take two good batteries and toss them out the window. And if you want to use this thing to light a large group, using the reflector dome and attachment, you need to shoot at ISO 800 or higher.
If you are going to shoot a wedding, or some type of event there are many ways to manage the light from your flash like a bounce card, Sto-Fen Omnibounce or a small soft box diffuser like a Lumiquest, that will let use use a lower ISO. My test photos show I got just as good pictures using other light management methods.
These Gary Fong diffusers, in my opinion are just a waste of light. Even if you use a Quantum battery to power your flash you are still just sending 2/3 of your flash power in the wrong direction. There are photogs that love these Fong Diffusers, I'm not one of them. If you want to give them a try save your money and buy a Lambency diffuser also sold on Amazon. For about $20 you can buy a Fong replica and see if you like it. But in my humble opinion as a photographer since 1970, this thing isn't worth $56.00.
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on November 14, 2010
I had an upcoming photo shoot at a 50th wedding reunion and I needed a new diffuser; I lost my old one. I had tried the LightSphere Collapsible Diffuser and the normal LightSphere (the non-collapsible kind) at a camera store (the store was two hours from where I life) when I lost my diffuser toward the end of a current job. I was not ready to make the purchase then because of the price and I did not have a photo shoot anytime soon; the anniversary gig was a surprise. I jumped on Amazon read the reviews, looked the the Gary Fong website...but still I was not sure about the cost vs benefit of the diffuser. I decided to bite the bullet and ordered the LightSphere (with 2-day shipping). When it arrived, I could not stop playing with it. I LOVE IT. I know some people don't like it. I know some people don't think it does much. I know all these things but I see the benefit and I like the out come. I do not use the flash without using the LightSphere.

When it comes to the collapsible version versus the non-collapsible version, I don't think there is a difference. I chose this model because I need something small as I have a number of lenses occupying much of my bag.

In my opinion I think this is a great buy. It's very user friendly and you get wonderful results. Buy it, try it out, if you don't like it just return it. I don't think you will need to return it though as I am sure you will like the results.
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on February 16, 2011
I should have paid more attention to what was written in the low-scored reviews. When I compare the images I get using the LightSphere diffuser to the images produced with the diffuser that comes with the Nikon SB-700, there is no significant improvement and there is a reduction in the amount of usable light in front of the lens (loss of f-stops). The manufacturer's before and after photos show only the difference between using a Fong diffuser and using just a bare flash; no contest. Although the Nikon and Fong diffusers do produce slightly different images when compared highly magnified, it's simply not worth the price or inconvenience of the bulkier LightSphere in the tests that I made.
Compounding the situation is the loss one suffers if returned for a refund: the Amazon customer service agent said there could be up to a 50% restocking fee even though the unit is good-as-new with all pieces and original packaging. Take away return postage, and your facing a nearly $30 loss (plus hassle) just for the privileged of discovering there may be no apparent advantage over what you already own. I just didn't realize I had it so good.
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