Most photographers love Octabanks. The light quality if amazing! Unfortunately, they are not easy on the wallet or easy to transport either. Usually rather heavy, they require a specific speed-ring to use with your lights and a large light stand to support them.
But if you are looking for an alternative because of size of the incredible soft light the Octabank offers, you’ve got to check out the 7ft Parabolic Umbrella. The 7ft Parabolic is a staple piece of gear and it’s guaranteed to flatter an subject you put in front of it, and large enough of remain soft when used at a distance.
The Octabank Alternative
An awesome alternative is the 7ft Parabolic Umbrella. Its just that, an umbrella, so setup is easy and it can be attached to just about any umbrella bracket you already own. Whats great too is it can be equally as useful when combined with small flashes as when used with a studio strobe. This versatility and affordable price makes them an obvious choice for someone like myself who likes to travel light and still produce great results.
Now they come in 3 different variations so I get asked a lot which one I recommend if you had to choose only one. Versatility being the key – my recommendations is the 7ft Silver Parabolic umbrella plus the new front diffusion panel. Here‚’ why:
The unique shape of a parabolic vs a normal reflective umbrella is designed to gather and focus the light output rather then just bounce it back in all directions. Because of the highly reflective silver interior and this parabolic focusing power, you actually gain 2 full stops of light output vs the White/Black or the White Diffusion versions. This extra 2 stops is kinda a big deal when you’re shooting with small flash and every ounce of energy counts. Even on the high end, extra light is good light.
A silver interior while providing more reflection also creates a harder more spectral highlight. This not be ideal for some dreamy soft portrait work, but for men or more contrasty images the silver produces a nice crisper punch in the highlights and the transfer to shadow.
Well what if the point of purchasing such a large light modifier was to create that beautifully soft wrapping light for portrait work? Well that’s where the accompanying diffusion panel comes in. Once you attach this panel the power output of the Silver Parabolic and the White/Black Parabolic becomes nearly identical. So that extra output is sacrificed, but it brings it back in line with the other parabolic and as a result we get a large even surface of soft light. Much like the 7ft Octabank with half the weight and a 10th the price.
More importantly though is the 100% more usability of it when heading out to shoot. One word of caution when shooting with anything this size is to secure your light stands. A 7ft Parabolic umbrella can very quickly become a 7ft sail and will take your stand, lights and modifiers for a ride in even the slightest breeze. Invest in some sandbags or a good friend to hold the thing down down for you. Happy shooting!