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Westcott 43 inch Apollo Orb Speedlite Kit 2340
|Price:||$149.90 & FREE Shipping. Details|
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- Adjustable Shoe Mount Umbrella Bracket
- Lightweight Black Light Stand
- 43" Apollo Orb
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|Item Dimensions||4.2 x 6.2 x 36 inches|
|Shipping Weight||4.9 pounds|
Built on an umbrella frame
Top customer reviews
This review is just my honest opinion based on using the Orb in my business. I do not work for and am not affiliated with Westcott or Amazon. I have not been compensated to write this raving review either. I'm just a photographer looking for good equipment, and these are my thoughts for anyone interested in reading them. :D
A couple months ago I ordered two 32" (80cm) Portable Octagonal Reflective Umbrella Softboxes from China through eBay. They took two weeks to get in and I have used them on almost every location shoot I've been on. I love them so much that when I saw that Westcott was releasing a 43" version on a similar design, I just had to have it.
I ordered this as a kit, because the Orb is currently sold out everywhere unless you buy it with this kit stand/bracket. That's understandable since it was just released and there is a lot of hype amongst Strobists.
* Big - Measuring in at exactly 43 inches wide by 24 inches deep, this is about as big as you want to go with a speedlite driven modifier.
* Soft - The light is delicious. Nice soft shadows - like throwing a cloud of window light at your subject(s). Yes, it would be nice if there were grid attachments available, but for what it is, think of it as a super-compact octobox without the hotspot.
* Efficient - Much more efficient than my 36" or 60" Photek Softlighters. More efficient than my 24" Lastolite EzyBox.
* Round Catch Lights - This is probably important to some people. If it is... yes, they are round. :)
* Zippers - You get enough of a tilting angle to satisfy most needs. If you need more, use a boom. I have and can recommend the Paul C. Buff Baby Boomer Arm. Some people might also recommend the PhotoFlex Compact LiteDisc Holder as well.
* Compact - It folds up to 36" in length.
* Bounce - Doubles as a very efficient bounce umbrella for more of a fashion, glam look.
* Shaft Length - The umbrella shaft is not long enough to stay in when you collapse the umbrella. So everytime you close it, the shaft falls out of the center. When you go to set it up, you need to line up the shaft with the center piece again. A huge annoyance. There is a solution for this in the TIPS section below.
* Hollow Shaft - Just like their double fold umbrellas, the shaft is hollow at the tip. This type of design can collapse when you crank down on an umbrella holder bracket. There is a solution for this in the TIPS section below.
* Top Collar - The top most part of the umbrella tip is not clamped onto the shaft. It allows for the umbrella material to slide up and down freely. None of my other umbrellas or Softlighters have this. They are all glued, riveted or clamped into place. The DIY fix for this is a zip-tie or gaffer tape.
* 1/4 inch Wooden Stick - I bought a 3 foot long wooden dowel from Home Depot for $0.98 this morning on my way to a photoshoot. I inserted it into the hollow shaft as far as it would go. I then closed the umbrella and marked the length I needed to keep the center collar in place. I cut off the excess and crimped the shaft with pliers to anchor it. Now the shaft is long enough and protected from collapsing in on itself. The dowel ends up being about 2 inches short of touching the outer diffusion panel. Perfect! I do need to give credit for this solution to a photography blog created by Scott Eccleston where he reviewed the Apollo Softbox. Thanks Scott for sharing your knowledge!
* 14mm Diffuser - Use the wide angle pull down diffuser thingy. On my Canon Speedlites, it changes the focus of the flash to 14mm and fills the whole umbrella perfectly. This will get rid of the hotspot in the middle. You will loose a little power, but the light is so much more efficient it probably makes up for it.
* Horizontal Mount - Get the flash head as close to the center of the umbrella as possible. I use a home made solution involving velcro and a halved rain gutter, but you can buy more professional "horizontal umbrella brackets" online for $20-50. A great option to consider would be the Pocket Wizard AC7. Getting closer to the shaft gives you more even, centered light.
* Sweet Spot - Set your camera to ISO100, shutter speed 1/200, aperture F11 and your flash to 1/16 power and snap a picture of the front of the softbox. Chimp your camera for a hot spot in the center of the softbox diffuser. Now adjust the distance separating the flash head and the back of the umbrella. Take another photo of the front of the softbox. Chimp again. Adjust your bracket distance. Keep doing this until you have the most even light spread. Then mark the shaft of the umbrella with a magic marker so you can quickly set it there in the future.
* TTL Flash Triggers - I want to be buried with my Pocket Wizard Flex TT5's, TT1 and AC3 controller. Remember that with the Apollo Orb, your flash is velcro-ed out of sight. So every time you want to adjust the power setting, you'll need to un-velcro and re-velcro the front diffuser. With the Pocket Wizard AC3 zone controller, all adjustments can be made from the camera. My AC3 stays in manual mode about 90% of the time. Another option might be a long TTL cord.
* Spill - If you are concerned about light spill, velcro the diffuser in as far as you can. This will create an outer baffle to control the light similar to the design of the 28" Apollo Softbox.
Compared to the smaller eBay version that hit the market a few months prior, they look identical from a far. I do like the size of the Westcott more. The light is softer and absolutely beautiful. As far as construction goes, the eBay version is more solid. The shaft is long enough where it doesn't fall out of the center everytime you close it. The outer material and inner reflectance is identical, but the smaller version does a better job seam stitching and protecting the umbrella tips. Oh, and the price. I bought two of the 32" softboxes for $90 with shipping included.
All-in-all, the 43" is the most efficient soft light modifier I have ever used with my speedlites. It's light is unmatched by anything else I own. The 32" umbrella softbox makes a great monopod topper for my voice activated light stand. But it's a different look with sharper shadows. And when you pull the front off, it acts very much like a beauty dish.
Would I recommend the Westcott 43" Apollo Orb? Absolutely yes, but it requires a few tweaks (see my comments above). Oh, and the light stand & bracket that comes with this softbox kit is great too. :D
Just wanted to post an update. I am changing my 5 star review to 3 stars. I have used this umbrella on maybe 10-15 shoots a month for about five months. It is at the point now that I cannot continue using this on photoshoots. I am so afraid of it breaking.
* Restitched a couple of seams where the ribs meet the umbrella material.
* Restitched a few spots where the spokes are tethered to the umbrella material.
* Restitched 2 of the spots where the end of the spoke meets the outer edge of the umbrella.
* Unbent the ribs of the umbrella 3 times when they folded on themselves
* Still the softest light modifier I have ever used on a speedlite.
* Fit perfectly inside my Habuka lightstand shoulder bag.
* The shaft looks pretty banged up from all of the crimping I've done to secure it to my umbrella stand bracket. Keep in mind that I inserted a wooden dowel into the hollow shaft for strength. I can only imagine what the shaft would have looked like by now had I not done that.
* The scrim is just not quite the same size as the opening of the umbrella where it is supposed to Velcro to. This is not a deal breaker, just a finishing touch that would've been nice.
MY HUMBLE OPINION:
Would I still recommend this? Yes, but not to a professional photographer. If you are a hobbiest looking for big soft light, this is great. If you are someone being paid to meet a client's needs, you might want to buy two of these so you have a back up, or find something else entirely.
I have spotted a 48" no name version of this umbrella box from the same ebay seller that sold me the two 32" versions. It is a third of the cost of the Westcott and 5" in diameter bigger. I am very happy with my 32" umbrella boxes. They have served me without fail for about 8 months. I have never had to repair anything on them. It looks like I will be buying the 48" version to see if I can replace my Westcott Orb. :(
Sturdier- fabric-feels thicker and more durable than the 28" Westcott softbox and Westcott umbrellas. Zipper feels stronger, Velcro is wider and softer.
Solid Shaft - My version has a solid metal rod inside the shaft, contrary to what another reviewer stated. The end of mine is plugged with a metal insert inside the hollow shaft. So far, it doesn't appear to collapse easily like the 28" Westcott soft-box, but I've only owned it for a day, so time will tell.
Versatile: Folds like an umbrella, results like an octobox (think catch-lights), can use bare or with the white cover.
Huge: Makes my 28" Westcott softbox look inadequate. The Big Mama 50" softbox looks far too big, so this is perfect with the portability of an umbrella. Huge equals softer light.
Stand: Good value getting the stand included for a few additional bucks. It's sturdy and goes up pretty high, more than my Manfrotto stand.
Strobe Bracket: Good Quality, but cumbersome. The part that tightens the shaft uses a very small screw and is hard to properly tighten and loosen, unless you have some calloused muscle fingers.
The arms are single duty, unlike the 28" softbox, which has a pair of arms per side. However, the arms are a bit more solid, so this may not be an issue.
The arms have proven to be much weaker than the 28" Westcott softbox (I've dropped this several times without damage, due to wind or other factors). The orb softbox and stand tilted over and fell to a well-padded carpet floor from about 4 feet high. The result were 3 very bent umbrella supporting arms. Luckily, I was able to (mostly) reshape them however, my advice would be to make sure you're very careful with this thing.
Shaft is still short. Not sure why they didn't make it longer, but not deal breaker by any means.
I ordered a tri-bracket do enable the use of up to 3 580exII's with Pockwizard Flexes to fire them all. One will work, but seems marginal for an even spread of light.
the connectors at the top of the inside soft-box just couldn't handle it and broke off.
I had to tape the thing to keep it functional, Light quality of it is not bad.
but certainly pay a hundred more and get a more professional one.
don't take it outside, one fall and be sure it will fail on you.
-Build quality is horrible, fabric is falling apart, metal connectors are a mess.
-Light is good, but not a 150$ worth it. You can get the same exact light with other cheaper stuff.