Saturday, August 20, 2011

One Speedring to Rule Them All: One Set of Modifiers for Speedlights and Strobes

[OK, if you're a longtime reader of this blog you know I've used that headline before.  It was just too tempting... :) ]

Are you new to studio strobes or are thinking of getting strobes in the future?  One of the issues with moving up to studio strobes is the modifiers.  You may already have modifiers for speedlights.  Do you really need to buy a whole new set of modifiers for a studio strobe?  Not if you plan ahead.  Details after the jump.

BTW, this post is part of a series called Toys for Big Kids, where we discuss modifiers for setup shots, when considerations of time, convenience, and/or cost take a backseat to emphasis on control and getting the best result possible.

Except perhaps for umbrellas, modifiers for speedlights usually differ slightly from modifiers made for studio strobes.  However, there are modifiers out there that can be used with studio strobes, speedlights and even some battery-powered strobes (Quantum, Sunpak, and Armatars).  This can not only save you some money, but it will also make it easier to haul around just one set of modifiers.

The key to making this work is this flat type of speedring:

"Flat" speedrings (AlienBees and Bowens mounts shown)

At a minimum, you'll need a Bowens-type flat speedring, another flat speedring for your studio strobe, and a CowboyStudio bracket (see #1 in the list below).

1. CowboyStudio Bracket
This bracket for your speedlight will allow you to use modifiers for strobes.  See our review here.  So far I've only seen a bracket for Bowens modifiers but that's going to be fine even if your strobe is not Bowens, because you'll be using this bracket for your speedlights, Quantum, Sunpak or Armatar.

2. flat Bowens speedring
To get a flat Bowens speedring, you can get the Lastolite EZybox Bowens adapter.  Alternatively, you can buy one of the modifiers below that uses a flat speedring, and choose the version that's made for Bowens.
CowboyStudio bracket with flat Bowens speedring
3. flat speedring for your strobe
Lastolite makes flat speedrings for several strobes.  Again, you can instead get one of the modifiers below with a flat speedring, and select the type for your strobe.
AlienBee with flat speedring

Once you have the minimum gear, you can choose among these modifiers that will be compatible with your speedlights and strobes.

1. Speedlight Softbox (Foldable)
These softboxes are made for speedlights.  They fold flat and popup easily when you're ready to use them.  See the Softbox review.
Usually, these softboxes come with their own speedring and bracket.  However, they also work with flat speedrings:
24" speedlight softbox with original speedring
24" softbox with flat speedring (AlienBees mount)

2. Traditional or octagon softbox: EZ-Pro
Unlike the foldable softbox, traditional softboxes have curved sides (instead of the straight sides on foldable softboxes).  Traditional softboxes usually have speedrings, to which you attach tension rods that hold the assembly together.  See this youtube video of a typical softbox being assembled:

An octagon softbox takes even longer to assemble because it has 8 rods.

The EZ-Pro is a newer type of softbox that instead opens up like an umbrella.  Here's a video of one being setup (octagon softbox shown, but the concept is the same for a rectangular EZ-Pro softbox):

The cool thing for our purposes is that the EZ-Pro softboxes use flat speedrings.  The EZ-Pro does cost significantly more than traditional softboxes but at least you won't need separate softboxes for your speedlight and strobe.  Plus it deploys much more quickly.

(BTW, we will be reviewing the EZ-Pro on this blog.)

3. Beauty Dish: Fotodiox
Many entry-level (i.e. cheaper) beauty dishes have interchangeable speedrings.  However, not all of the speedrings can be used as flat speedrings.  A couple of beauty dishes I found to have such a flat speedring are the Fotodiox 18" and the Fotodiox 28".  (Note: gridded versions are also available)

Left: a speedring used in some beauty dishes; right: a flat speedring used with the Fotodiox 18" beauty dish. Note the wider lip of the flat speedring

The speedring used in other beauty dishes won't necessarily be compatible with modifiers that use flat speedrings
To use a modifier with your speedlight, Quantum, Sunpak or Armatar, just use the CowboyStudio bracket and your flat Bowens-type speedring.  To use a modifier with your studio strobe, use the flat speedring for your strobe.  It's that simple.  So there you have it -- one set of modifiers for your speedlights and studio strobes!

The Fotodiox 18" beauty dish used with a Nikon SB-800 speedlight
The same Fotodiox 18" beauty dish used with an AlienBee B1600
Coming posts in this series:
- EZ-Pro 48" Octagon Softbox
- Fotodiox 18" Beauty Dish
- AlienBees ABR800 Ring Flash
- Paul C. Buff MoonUnit
- White Lightning X3200 Monolight
- Vagabond II
- Do you need a flashmeter?
- Paul C. Buff CyberCommander
and more.  Meanwhile here are some RELATED POSTS:
Toys for Big Kids
Toys for Big Kids: Speedlight Softbox
Toys for Big Kids: CowboyStudio Speedlight Bracket
Toys for Big Kids: Quantum Flash


  1. The contents of this post are quite distant to my interest in studio strobes, but I must congratulate you on the opening shot, the idea and the lighting is nicely done, care to explain how you did it?

  2. Thanks I started writing an explanation but it got too long. I'll just do a quick post instead!

  3. Where can this flat speedring be purchased?

    1. Hi! I believe this will work for AlienBees (but to be sure call Fotodiox first -- they're very friendly):

      Best regards,


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