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52 of 55 people found the following review helpful
Verified Purchase
Bottom line: All the "less good" things I mention are just nits. This reflective umbrella softbox arguably better and certainly more light for only a little more than the cost of an umbrella.

These are better than Umbrellas for a few reasons:

- The light has less Chiaroscuro. First, I didn't know what this word meant until I read the description in the (remarkable) Speedliter's Handbook: Learning to Craft Light with Canon Speedlites. Second, it's "better" if you are looking for a softer, more directional light whose shadows have more gradual transitions between light and dark.

- The light is brighter. A lot brighter, maybe as much as 2 stops. With an umbrella you have a lot of light spilling out the back or going off the sides. Thanks to the internal reflective coating it has no place to go but where you are point it.

- They (remember, you get two) come with nylon storage bags. The inexpensive umbrellas I've seen come with clear plastic storage tubes.

They are less good because:

- You don't have the option of moving it close to your subject. The light is mounted at even with the diffuser and then you have about 12" of umbrella shaft sticking out beyond that. And you can forget about putting this on a boom all together. (This is an area where a "real" softbox would be better as well.)

- It traps heat. Since the light source is running inside a mostly enclosed area it can get a bit warm. It's certainly no problem with flashes or CFLs. However, if you're using incandescent lighting I would be careful about running things for too long.
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27 of 28 people found the following review helpful
on July 30, 2010
Verified Purchase
I have been wanting a softbox solution for Strobist-type applications for a while. For the price of these umbrella softboxes, it was a no brainer - it is really a two-for-one deal. I use a Nikon SB600 and the opening is clearly meant for monolights, but using the built in zipper and cinch, it is no trouble at all to get the material to securely close around the strobe and avoid light leaks. The diffusion material itself is a nice, clean white, and the interior is a silver reflective coating, so there is very little light loss despite two levels of diffusion. First tests, doing some self portraits, were excellent. Light quality in images is great; nice and soft, excellent sharpness/detail, and offers great control in terms of focus and direction of light compared to a standard umbrella.

Build and strength wise, it is worth noting the interior stretchers and ribbings don't have much strength to them. It'd be no trouble at all to break them or at least compromise their integrity - if your light stand takes a tumble, don't be surprised if the umbrella takes a bit of damage. I don't plan on roughing up my equipment and I make sure to weight my stands, but just a forewarning to those looking for durability (you get what you pay for).

Despite this, I'm still giving the product 5 stars, as the value versus price paid is unbeatable. The seller shipped fast too (it probably helps I live in the same town though) and buying through Amazon was a breeze as always.

For those curious about how pragmatic this setup would be for them, the light source size is equivalent to a small studio softbox (24x32), making it good for mid length portraits, close-ups, and most still lives. You'll get small, oblong circles for catch lights, as the shape of an umbrella would suggest. If you're doing full lengths or large still lives (say, a motorcycle), this is likely too small (a large reflector umbrella is a better bet). Compared with any other umbrella, you can expect it to take up the same amount of space as other 40" umbrellas. The good thing is the shaft itself only extends about a foot from the diffusion material, so unless you're in a narrow hallway, this is actually still okay to use in close quarters situations. Obviously, a shoot through can get even closer, but I don't see that as necessary unless you want huge catch lights or need that much more power.

Overall, a highly recommended item, and an invaluable asset for any Strobist on a budget.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on May 7, 2010
Verified Purchase
These umbrella soft boxes are absolutely amazing. I use them with speed lights (SB 900, SB 800, Quantum Q Flash). In my opinion, the quality of light surpasses any traditional soft boxes that I have used...and I've used a bunch. If you want better light quality, you would have to go to a beauty dish. I have compared these side by side to both bounce and shoot through umbrellas. The light quality from these is noticeably better. These are very portable and quick to set up. They do take just slightly longer than a standard umbrella due to positioning the flash head through the opening and pulling the draw string. Very minor, but the payoff is HUGE.I'm not sure how they would do for larger groups, but for portraits and smaller groups, these can't be beat. Biggest bang for the buck you will find.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on March 1, 2012
People please read the description, how can you give a poor review when you didn't read what you were buying? Even the title says reflective umbrella softbox... nothing says anything about lights, or stands included. And then there is a person stating they can't get their speedlight into the hole? What are you working with? I use these with professional studio flash
units and they fit fine.

These units offer excellent lighting control at a fraction of the cost of an Octabox or Softlighters...
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on May 20, 2011
Verified Purchase
I have been wanting to get some soft boxes for some time now, that would be easy to set up, and would not break my bank account. These serve the purpose. They are easy to open and set up like an umbrella and gives me the soft light as a soft box.

They arrive today and I was impressed with how easy they were to set up and the soft light it gave off. I do feel however that I will cut 6 inches or more from the stem on the umbrella as it is too long and will prevent me from moving it very close to my subject. Other than that I will buy this item again if need be.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on August 4, 2011
Verified Purchase
I read a few reviews around the web before deciding to pick these up: the PBL 40" umbrella softboxes are well liked and produce beautiful images.

The build quality overall is surprisingly good. The internal umbrella frame seems to be pretty heavy duty, sturdier than a standard umbrella. The silver backing looks substantial. The stitching is just OK, but I don't think it will unravel on you anytime soon. They seem tough enough for frequent use. The umbrella shaft is solid, and extends about 7" from the opening; it would have been great to have a shorter shaft, but this is a pretty minor complaint. Two nylon sleeves are included, to keep them covered when not in use.

Setting them up is pretty easy, just as easy as any other umbrella. Breaking them down takes a little more effort, as the diffusion material puffs out a bit when you collapse them. Not a complaint, just an FYI.

I've tested these umbrella softboxes with hot shoe flashes and my 300W/s monolight, and they produced soft, even light every time. I had no problem using the 150W modeling light on my monolight, although I doubt if it's hot enough to cause much damage. The 7" reflector fit right into the opening and the zipper and drawstring allowed me to close the whole over it. Because the opening is adjustable, I had no problem getting my hotshoe flash, wireless trigger, and stand adapter inside; and even though it was off-center, the light filled the entire box evenly. No need for angled adapters, IMHO.

The light quality is soft and very directional, like a softbox, but has a bit of contrast. I like the look of the pictures I've taken so far and I can see using these frequently.

At $25 for 2, they are a great addition to any budget photographer's toolbox. I highly recommend them!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on February 9, 2012
Verified Purchase
So, I've been dabbling with Silver, Gold and Shoot-through umbrellas, but was getting annoyed at the light loss from them.

After reading some reviews here, I figured these softbox umbrellas would be a great way to optimize the Light usage from a flash head. I found it produces about the same amount of light as a Silver Umbrella (Westcott 43" Silver/Satin), a Westcott 43" Halo and a 33" Shoot-through.... To my surprise they all roughly metered at F6.3 @ iso100 from 5ft.

By comparison I picked up a Neewer Silver (and a Gold one too) 33" umbrella and that meters in at F11.

My Lighting knowledge is limited, but I'm guessing the increase in size 33" compared to 43", intrinsically decreases the power of the light (as bigger=less focused). So my expectation were wrong, the product however does everything it should.

They come as a pack of 2, and are worth every penny. The Light from them is brilliantly soft (compared to my silver umbrellas), somewhere between a Shoot-through and a Large Softbox.

As other's have stated, the stem is rather long, and prevents its positioning near subjects. This is my only complaint (hence the 4stars).

Final Words:
If I was in the market for a budget umbrella or softbox, I would definitely stock up on these. They are perfect for Battery Powered Strobes (I'm using my Yongnuo YN560, Vivitar 285hv and my Sony F43AM on them). I can how they would also fit Studio Stobes (there is a Zip-up slit, and a Draw-string to allow for various sizes).
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on July 23, 2011
Verified Purchase
These are awesome, great quality and quantity of light. I was shooting my kids with them and I had to try to take a bad picture. The light is just so soft. I used these with my Yongnuo 560s at like 1/64 power and had plenty of light for portraits. I'd give it 5 stars if the shaft was shorter. I came across a 60" similar to this with a short 7mm shaft so I know it can be done. But I may just figure a way to cut the shafts on these myself...Also, rebagging is pretty easy, you just have to pay attention to the way they are bagged when you first open them. I highly recommend these...
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on March 11, 2011
The umbrella softbox has greatly simplified my life. Instead of struggling to assemble and disassemble a conventional softbox when going on location, I just bring these umbrellas, set up my lamps, open the umbrella, fix it over the reflector -- and I'm in business. And I have a quick, easy, reasonably large, and effective softbox that distributes soft even light. A bonus -- the catchlights in a model's eyes are round rather than square, as with a traditional softbox. And, did I say they're cheap! A decent value. I'd buy then again.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on March 2, 2010
Verified Purchase
Faster to setup, more compact, and cheeper than traditional softboxes with very nice soft light. Worked great with monolight strobe (has zipper and draw string so it should fit speedlights as well). Doesn't seem any more flimsy than any other umbrella, but even with the white difussion material it probably won't stand up to any real wind (I tried opening once on a windy day, and I was afraid it might snap open anyway). In anything but windy conditions it's fast and easy to setup and takedown with great results.
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