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New toys :) – Photek Softliter II

March 9, 2008

So I was getting decent portrait results with the single-speedlight-bounced-off-a-white-wall kind of thing, but unfortunately it was quite limiting in terms of flexibility, especially with being locked into E-TTL by the 420ex (which has no manual control…), and obviously needing a wall at the correct angle and distance from the subject.

I figured well let’s start out with an umbrella, that’s as basic as one can get. After looking around I opted for the Photek Softliter II (sometimes spelled as Softlighter, in case you want to look it up), which is essentially an umbrella but with a covering to diffuse the light to simulate a softbox. This thing is quite versatile, you can use it in so many ways:

Use it as is to bounce light off of,
Use the silver or gold inserts to change the light characteristics,
Add the diffusion cover to soften the light, with or without the inserts,
Remove the black cover and use it as a shoot-through umbrella.

Furthermore, the bottom half of the shaft is removable, so you can get your light even closer to the subject! Good stuff.

For only 60 bucks from B+H, it’s a no brainer for me!

I also got a manual flash, the Sunpak 383, and all the ancillary equipment one needs: light stand, umbrella bracket, PC cord, hotshoe-to PC adapter cause the 400D has no PC sync port. For now I figured that was enough, I’ll add things as I go along. Trying to keep the budget low 🙂

So here is the softlighter, everything comes in a nice easy to carry bag; the silver and gold inserts are shown on top, rolled up. Below that is the umbrella itself, which has its own cover. Below is the carrying bag for everything, and below that is the diffusion cover.


Here it is put together, without the inserts or the diffusion cover:


And here it is in action!


hmm, I know it’s angled but the light doesn’t seem to fill the umbrella completely. The umbrella is at the end of the shaft, and the Sunpak 383 does not zoom out. Now here it is with the diffusion cover on, lighted:

Okay, seemingly better fill, but in actuality it’s still hotter towards the middle than the periphery, as seen in this comparison; the pic on the right was taken with a much smaller aperture.


Well, good enough for government work as they say:)

Overall, this thing is really fun to use, and very easy to set up. I’m still trying to optimize the light and trying to figure out the best way to position the flash, how deep it should go, etc.

Of course, you need to see sample pictures 🙂
Next post 🙂

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