Monday, January 28, 2013

Silver umbrellas made obsolete by new octagonal softboxes

I was looking for a silver umbrella, but found out they are pretty much obsolete. That's because of the Westcott Orb and similar octagonal softboxes on eBay, Amazon, and elsewhere.  In this post, I review the CowboyStudio version of this octagon softbox.  In a first for me, the review will be in video form.

The video will cover these topics:
- Why you might want one for your lighting gear.
- Comparison with other octagon softbox designs.
- Demonstration of how the octagon softbox is mounted with a regular umbrella adapter, a speedlight bracket, and an Alien Bee.
- Advantages of the octagon softbox.
- Disadvantage of the octagon softbox and how to remedy it.
- Demo of its usage.

Here's our video review (

Here are the sample photos I took.

Click on the pictures to zoom in.  I did not deepen the shadows in post.  Note that the wall was only about 3-4 feet behind the subject yet looks very dark.  That speaks well of the control afforded by the octagon softbox (here of course I was using it more as a silver umbrella -- if I had used the diffuser I would expect more spill on the background).

Additional notes:
  • The umbrella's ribs don't look very sturdy.  I think they could bend or break if a wind blows down the light stand.
  • Longer studio strobes such as the White Lightning might not fit into the softbox, but the modifier can still be used as a silver umbrella.
  • At this point in time, these Apollo Orb clones are available only in one size -- 80cm (31.5 inches), whereas the Apollo Orb is available as a 36-inch or 43-inch version.
  • The Apollo Orb can use a grid.  At least one version of these clones can use a grid as well.  However, mine cannot (the velcro is too narrow to accommodate anything other than the diffuser).  If that's something you would like, be sure to check with the seller if their softbox can use a grid.
  • In the video I said, there is no hotspot because the bulb is not facing the "camera".  I meant to say the subject.
  • The camera I used for the shots was the Fuji S5, not the D300S.
I'm a newbie at video editing so if you have any suggestions for that or anything else pls. let me know in the comments or via email.  Thanks!

If you are interested in this product, you can support our blog by buying it through our Amazon affiliate link below.  At this time, Amazon offers the lowest price on this product ($26 with free 2-day shipping for Amazon Prime).

UPDATE:  Found this similar product on Amazon, except it has a grid.  If I were to need another silver umbrella or small octagon softbox, this is what I would probably order instead.

Family Portrait Walkthrough (with actual usage of the octagon softbox)
How to get a black background without a backdrop


  1. Replies
    1. Yeah, I was impressed too, I've only heard his voice once, but now I know how my co-author looks and sounds like live. :-)

      Hey Mic, hello from very far away, a mail heading towards you soon.

    2. Lol. Hey guys. Yeah, so that is me. Normally I can be self-conscious and would be hesitant to do a video but I guess last night I was just too tired/sleepy to be. Anyway, being in front of the video camera is not so hard after a while so perhaps I'll do more of these videos. If I can only master this (&%@! video editing software...

      Best regards,

  2. That second amazon link you posted... I don't get what the grid is for, and why would you buy that instead??


    1. Hi there! Light modifiers have varying degrees of "spread". On one hand, you have a shoot-through umbrella or a bare bulb. Light sources like that send light in virtually all directions. On the other hand, you have light sources that have a very narrow spread because the light rays are parallel ('collimated'), such as a gridded beauty dish or Paul Buff extreme silver PLM. With these latter light sources, the beam is very directional (goes in only one direction), and therefore you can more easily where the light goes and *where it doesn't*. That is what I meant by "control" in the sample shots of this octagon softbox.

      What the grid would do is narrow the light even further, making it more directional. At the same time, when I don't need it to be so directional, I still can use the diffuser instead (make it a softbox instead of a silver umbrella). Therefore having the option of a grid greatly increases its versatility.

      I am working on a post that will be comparing different light modifiers that can hopefully illustrate this. So check back, or better yet subscribe anonymously through Google Reader or subscribe by email (we don't ever sell our list of subscribers to third parties).

      Best regards,

  3. Thank you very much, Mic.

    1. You're welcome! Stay tuned for the light modifier comparison that I'm working on...

      Best regards,


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