The past few weeks have been my photographer’s paradise for portraiture. I thought the subjects of zombies, the undead, and the Day of the Dead characters would be ideal subject matter for my review of the Westcott Rapid Box 26″ Octa.
The evolution of how I’ve used lighting at events has really changed over the years. I have been wanting something to diffuse my light for a long time. I wanted that “studio” look for my events. I have tried several flash attachments, but have not been satisfied with any of them until now with the Westcott Rapid Box 26″ Octa. This softbox has gotten me really excited about using my Speedlites to achieve that “studio” look with a mobile setup. Using the 26″ Octa for my one Speedlite work is awesome. It gives me the ability to be very mobile, plus get the “studio” look that I have always wanted in my event photography.
The Rapid Box 26″ Octa is very well made with good strong nylon material and metal parts. The unit is pretty light and is easy to set up and take down. It pops open like an umbrella and has a silver interior. What makes this modifier very appealing is that you can use it as a soft light or a hard light. The kit comes with a removable diffuser panel to use as a softbox and achieve soft light. If you wish to have a little harder light, you can add the optional reflector disk, leave off the diffusion panel and use the unit as a type of beauty dish. The mounting bracket attaches to a standard light stand and is adjustable for different sized flash units. I use my Canon 580 EX II flash unit with a Radio Popper JRx radio triggering system. I really like to be able to control my flash output from the camera position, since the flash is usually a few feet away from the camera.
Using this setup is easy. Constantly moving around as a mobile event photographer was simple, as this setup is pretty lightweight. My only complaint was when I was walking around a large crowd of people with the light stand in my hand, I would hit people with the light stand legs, or I could not see where I was going. Also, the people walking around and not paying attention would trip over the legs or walk into my light stand. It’s a little cumbersome, but well worth the effort.
I have only used this softbox for three events, so I don’t have a full knowledge of what this modifier is capable of. For my events, I used the modifier with the diffusion panel attached. I placed the softbox anywhere from 3 feet to about 6 feet away from the subject (depending on how dark the area I was shooting in was). Using the Speedlite with this modifier, I could tell there was a little hot spot in the middle with very nice light falloff around the subject. This is perfect for lighting one to two subjects from a head shot to three quarter shots. This light was perfect for zombies and the undead, not too hard and not too soft–perfect gradation from highlight to shadow.
The retail for this softbox is $199, but you can find it on sale right now for $169. The photo to the right shows everything that’s included except for the carry case.
All the portrait shots in this review are shot in a bar or out on the city’s streets at night. The camera was set with a ISO of 400 and hand held at 1/8-1/20th of a second. The aperture changed from F/2.8-f/5.6. I rely on the flash duration to freeze the movement or action of the subject.
I am now wanting to try this Octa out on regular portraits and head shots. I think this Octa will find a permanent place in my mobile Speedlite setup. I am definitely going to use this softbox more often. I highly recommend the Westcott Rapid Box 26″ Octa. Now my only question is, should I get a 20″ or another 26″ Octa plus a strip to make a 3 light setup? For more information about the Westcott Rapid Box, check out their site: www.fjwestcott.com.
Below are a couple of lighting diagrams of how I use the Rapid Box. I just match the ambient light with my flash to get really good dramatic lighting effects. With most of my lighting setups, I use the light at a 45 degree angle from camera position (about head height or above head height pointing down).
If you have any questions or comments, please leave them at google.com/+TimBreaseale. Enjoy!