July 19, 2013

review: Westcott Rapid Box – 26″ Octa Softbox

Don’t you just hate it when something you use becomes obsolete? Well, you’d think that lighting equipment have a long lifespan. A softbox is a softbox. Well, if you can’t replace a damaged part of it because the manufacturer discontinued that part, then you’re stuck.

My preferred softbox is (or has been), the Lastolite EZYBOX 24×24″ softbox (vendor). I have three, since I use them for my photography workshops. But with use, the outside baffle tore loose from the velcro with two of the soft boxes. No big deal; entropy will have its way. But now you can’t replace these baffles. I tried to order two, but was eventually notified that Lastolite discontinued making the baffles. Great. Well, not really that great. I now have two nifty softboxes that were rendered less than useful. So I had to look at other options.

The Westcott Rapidbox – 26′ Octa Softbox (vendor) caught my attention, even among the huge variety of light modifiers available for off-camera speedlights. I bought one of these softboxes to try out at the most recent on-location photography lighting workshop in New York. And I like it a lot!

Just look at the awesome light on Anelisa, one of our models at the workshop!
1/250 @ f/5.6 @ 100 ISO
1st image:  TTL flash via the Westcott Rapid Box.
Nikon D4; Nikon 24-70mm f2.8G AF-S (vendor)  @ 40mm

The comparative shot at the same camera settings, shows exactly what impact the light had in the final image. For me, there’s just the right amount of contrast with wrap-around light.

 

features of the Westcott Rapid Box series

The Westcott Rapidbox – 26′ Octa Softbox (vendor), is compact when it folds up, and comes in a handy carry bag. (Lastolite changed from the compact bag to the large triangular pouch. A big minus.) The carry bag has enough space for a speedlight and your favorite set of wireless triggers.

The Westcott Rapid Box is also easy to set up, with no rods and speed-ring like traditional softboxes. It folds open like an umbrella. Similar-ish to the Westcott Apollo (vendor), but simpler. And unlike the Apollo, you can actually reach your speedlight to adjust it, since it sits on the outside.

The Rapid Box also feels sturdy and well-made.

One potential negative of the Westcott Rapid Box series, is that the shaft and mechanism that unfolds the softbox, blocks some of the light of your speedlight.

 

 

Now we get to an interesting feature of the Westcott Rapid Box Octa Softboxes – you can take the outer diffusion layer off, and add a Westcott deflector plate for Rapidbox (vendor) which turns this into a beauty dish. The images at the top were with the diffuser over the front of the Rapid Box, which made it a proper softbox.

 

The image below was with the diffusion cover off, and with the Deflector Plate in position. The light is definitely less diffused, but this works for me too!

1/250 @ f/5.6 @ 400 ISO  … TTL flash at -0.7 FEC
Nikon D4;  Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8G AF-S (vendor)  @ 19mm
1st image: TTL flash via the Westcott Rapid Box, and Deflector Plate.

And with that, the Westcott Rapidbox – 26′ Octa Softbox (vendor) is a very versatile light modifier for an off-camera speedlight. The ease of setting it up, and that is so portable, and being light-weight yet sturdy, all means this is going to be the softbox I use for my flash photography workshops in future. Oh, and as light modifiers go, it is quite affordable.

Also check out thoughts on using a beauty dish (light modifier).

 

Westcott Rapid Box range

 

photo gear (and equivalents) used in this photo session

related articles

 

a little bit of homework

Why did I have to dial down my FEC to -0.7 for the last sequence of images shown here?

 

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{ 56 comments. } Add a Comment

1 Ken Chong July 18, 2013 at 6:11 am

Great photography as always Neil.

I would expect TTL to handle the flash exposure ‘correctly’ but for the buildings behind. TTL will meter a dark background and increase power to compensate thus over exposing the model. TTL flash isn’t 100% perfect.

Another thing, Octa’s tend to beam soft light in a tighter manner and the usual soft boxes. I can imagine edgier light with a diffusion plate in place sans diffuser. In this case, it pops the model against the urban background nicely.

Dropping 0.7 stop gives it better flash to ambient balance exposure but honestly, I would prefer a softer, focused wrap round. It may mimic a beauty dish but somehow it is not the same. Still, it offers interesting possibilities as it appears to have a second character between a soft box and beauty dish.

Would you suggest metering by hand under this lighting situation?

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2 Neil vN July 18, 2013 at 6:25 am

Manual flash will always give more consistent results when your subject is standing.

This time I used TTL to get the results faster, but it did take two test shots to nail it.

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3 Roy Barnes July 18, 2013 at 7:27 am

That fourth image (with model) from the top is totally awesome. That wide angle, the lighting, and that back-drop is brilliant!

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4 Michael Becker July 18, 2013 at 9:34 am

Neil – I purchased the Lastolite softboxes after attending one of your workshops and they are great (as are your workshops!). However, I sometimes want a round catch-light and also purchased the Apollo Orb for this purpose. Unfortunately, while Westcott has been great in providing replacements – they are simply too flimsy and break even though they provide great light. In my search for a comparable unit, I came across the Photek Umbrella Softlighter II, which is available in 60″, 46″, and 36″. I got the two larger ones and they are great and very portable. Perhaps a bit larger than the Rapid Box, but the larger unit makes the light even softer.

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5 Neil vN July 18, 2013 at 9:37 am

I have Softlighters, but what I don’t like about them is that the flash is hidden … or you have to have a way of restraining the “sock” from pulling back over the flash’s head.

Or perhaps I am skipping a beat here and not using it properly?

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6 Mel July 18, 2013 at 9:50 am

Homework… Cause you were restricted for space on the roof and had to have the soft box closer than you wanted?

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7 Neil vN July 18, 2013 at 9:53 am

Mel … keep in mind that it isn’t your distance to the subject that matters with off-camera flash. It’s the flash-to-subject distance that matters.

I used TTL here just so I could work faster than manual flash would’ve allowed me. I just needed a few photos to post as examples on my blog, so I let a bit of laziness slip in. If I needed longer sequences of images, and needed them to be exposed exactly the same, I would be shooting with manual flash.

The FEC was dialed down to -0.7 after looking at the test shots. With Anelisa so small in the frame, and off-center, the camera’s TTL metering didn’t cope as well as it usually would with a central subject. So it needed some nudging to get to where I needed it to be.

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8 Daniel Reno July 18, 2013 at 9:57 am

Almost went with this as well but thought of all the umbrellas I have crushed on windy days and decided to go with Profoto 24 x 24 and Kacey Bracket..Super tough and indestructible. I know people say well there so hard to break down….but I never break down,it stays together in backseat of my car and carry it everywhere. On top of the fact to break down is 4 small poles in 4 holes..takes seconds ..Thanks so much for all your free education!!

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9 Stephen July 18, 2013 at 10:04 am

Hi Neil,
Was the Lastolite outer baffle that was discontinued this item?

If your original problem was not being able to order the Lastolite baffle, doesn’t the Westcott have the same problem? It only has one outer baffle (Westcott calls it a “diffusion panel”), but it doesn’t look like that part can be ordered separately. Granted, it’ll be a while until the Westcott wears out for you and you like it for additional reasons, but you would likely run into the same problem in the distant future.

If my Lastolite softboxes gave out, I’d probably look into the cheaper Impact softboxes you reviewed a while back.
http://neilvn.com/tangents/review-impact-quikbox-softbox-24-x-24/

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10 Neil vN July 18, 2013 at 10:10 am

I checked with Westcott, and a rep replied that they do sell spare diffusers.

Of course! We actually sell extra parts for the majority of our products. Customers are always welcome to call us with any product concerns as we can usually repair or replace products with spare parts – whether under warranty or at reasonable prices. Replacement diffusion panels are around $20 depending on the box it is for.

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11 Neil vN July 18, 2013 at 10:28 am

Now, about the Lastolite diffuser you linked to there. It’s unfortunately not the diffuser that came with the softbox orginally. This thing sits like a floppy condom on the outside of the softbox. It looks ugly … and floppy.

The spare Lastolite diffuser that I ordered is exactly the same as the one that came with the Lastolite 24×24 .. which is different than that one you linked to. It’s not easy to discern from that image.

In this photo, do you see that splash of sunlight on the right-hand side there on the column? It’s not the sun. It’s direct flash from where the one corner of that outer diffuser flopped away from the edge, and direct flash hit the pillar. In this instance I could get away with it, because that spot of direct flash looks like something else – a spot of sunlight. But I can’t work with this. I can’t work with gear I can’t rely on.

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12 David Chin July 18, 2013 at 11:05 am

It looks like the Rapid Box produces slightly harder light than the Ezybox. Given the choice, would you prefer one over the other or would that depend on the type of shot/look you’re going for? I ask because I’m interested in the Rapid Box but I’m a fan of nice soft light that could be pushed to do full-length and small group shots.

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13 Neil vN July 18, 2013 at 12:56 pm

David … there’s the possibility of course of using the Deflector Plate and the diffuser. I’m pretty sure this could give the softer light you want, than just the diffuser in the front. Worth a try.

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14 Bob Harrington July 18, 2013 at 1:59 pm

Hi Neil,

I love, love the Rapid Box. I got mine at WPPI this year and have been loving it.

For all who get one, here’s a great tip:

First, get the central disk. I install it and leave it on even when the diffuser is on.
Second, take a dab of Blue or Red Loctite and put it on the screw that attaches to the disk. If you don’t, it always came apart on me when I disassembled it.

Great post,

Bob

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15 Cameron July 19, 2013 at 12:21 am

So what is Lastolite planning to do? Is there a product update in the works that would lead to the discontinuation of the part? Or was it just economics that it wasn’t worth it to manufacture the part at the rate most users are using the gear?

I’m also curious whether a good seamstress (seamster?) would be able to repair the baffle and sew back on the velcro?

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16 Eric July 19, 2013 at 2:00 am

How many people would this provide light for in a group shot do you think? Awesome work BTW.

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17 parv July 19, 2013 at 3:41 am

Neil, what is the length of the (Westcott 26 in octagonal) softbox when fully collapsed?

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18 Andre July 19, 2013 at 9:14 am

Thanks Neil,

This looks really appealing, mainly when it comes to travelling to shoot weddings. The Ezybox is nice and all, but it doesn’t fold away into a very convenient travel size. If it’s not an imposition, can you show what this collapses to and how large for the sake of packing it for interstate flights?

Many thanks

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19 Stephen July 19, 2013 at 9:53 am

Hi Neil,
Thanks for replying to my post. It’s good to know that I pointed to the incorrect baffle on B&H. That saved me a lot of future headaches.

I’m glad to hear that Westcott will sell parts from its products and seems to support its customers actively. I will look at their softboxes once my Lastolite softboxes bite the dust.

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20 Larry July 19, 2013 at 11:49 am

I bought the 26″ as well and love it.

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21 Frank Solle July 19, 2013 at 6:55 pm

Neil, Cheetahstand makes both a 24″ and 30″ soft box similar to the Lastolite but much less expensive yet very sturdy and come with both grid and circular covers. Also their new CL-180 and CL-360 bare bulb flashes look to be great products with powerpacks and remotes.

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22 Stephen July 19, 2013 at 9:35 pm

Cameron,
In my past dealings with Manfrotto, Lastolite’s U.S. distributor, Lastolite doesn’t sell spare parts for every product they sell. For example, I know Lastolite never sold the small, inner baffle for the Lastolite 24×24 Ezybox Hotshoe softbox when I called their support number a year ago.

If Westcott is able to sell spare parts for their products, I’m certainly inclined to look into buying their product in the future. Sooner or later, most of us are going to lose one piece to a product, and often we have to buy the entire item again. This strikes me as pointless and wasteful.

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23 Kat July 26, 2013 at 4:31 pm

Hi, Neil,

1. It looks like this diffusion panel is flush with the box’s edges, unlike the EzyBox and QuikBox which are set in a few inches to create a sort of flag along the edges. How much of an issue would this be, in terms of controlling the light and avoiding flare? Also, since it’s not set in, it looks like there are no plans by Westcott to make a grid for this? Did you find yourself using the grids much on the EzyBox and QuikBox, and will you miss it on the RapidBox?

2. With any of the “lollipop” style brackets, is there any way to replace or modify them and use something like a Lastolite TriFlash bracket instead of a single flash? Or, is the only option for multi-flashes the type of boxes with a slit in the bottom, through which the bracket is placed?

Thanks for all your great articles!

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24 Neil vN July 27, 2013 at 12:42 am

I don’t think that lip to the Lastolite Ezybox is hugely important, although I am sure it helps a bit in controlling spill.

What would make a difference in controlling the light, would be the Grid for the Lastolite 24″ Ezybox. But I never used one. So for my on-location work, the difference between the Quick Box, and the Lastolite Ezybox would be minimal in terms of light spill.

And nope, you can only use one speedlight on the Quickbox.

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25 mike July 30, 2013 at 2:50 pm

can the octa softbox be used with a 900 or 910 AND a flex tt5??? is the bracket adjustable enough so the flash is in the center of the box?? thanks Neil.
ps if you had to choose between this and the lastolite 24×24 which is your first choice??

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26 Javier E July 31, 2013 at 4:24 pm

Hi Neil,
Just found out about your website and I am hooked! will be getting your books soon too! Do you think this Westcott Rapid Box – 26? Octa Softbox is a new starter softbox? I am learning and have umbrellas but now I want to get a softbox and I am looking for one. Just not sure on the size and price of course.

Thanks and very inspiring work!

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27 Neil vN July 31, 2013 at 6:41 pm

I would definitely recommend this as a starter softbox. It is easy to set up, and versatile.

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28 Javier E August 1, 2013 at 8:28 pm

Thanks again Neil for the quick reply. I’ve just purchased Off-Camera Flash Techniques for Digital Photographers from amazon. What a great book! thanks for sharing your experience and for the inspiration!

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29 Michael Warren Jr August 5, 2013 at 1:21 am

Lighting looks nice & soft just like the lighting that the 24″ EZbox produces.

I know that you said that the white baffles have gotten messed up overtime but I imagine that it might be easy to find a replacement for both baffles all that you would need is some white cloth and some Velcro attached to it I’d imagine.

Thanks a lot for introducing me to the ezbox though, you’re the reason why I switched to ezboxes as my main/fill light on, on location photoshoots.

All the best to you and your business.

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30 Neil vN August 5, 2013 at 1:41 am

It’s quite possible that you could source the velcro strips and the diffusion material (that doesn’t introduce a weird color cast), and that you have the equipment to sew it all together … and the time to source this and slap it together.

And when you add up all that effort and time, and consider the Westcott Rapid Box is $170, then it could be validly argued that it is cheaper to just buy a new softbox.

Not dismissing the DIY crowd at all, but I honestly am too busy to spend time fixing this.

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31 vaenka August 5, 2013 at 7:16 am

Thanks for the article Neil, Would this also work for a group of 4 or 5 people ?

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32 Joseph Francis September 15, 2013 at 10:48 pm

I like in the first image how you feathered the octobox away from the wall instead of aiming its face straight at the model. It lights the wall and model so nicely. Very educational image.

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33 Bryan September 16, 2013 at 9:41 am

Yet another other great article Neil. I was thinking of finally getting the Lastolite 24 x 24, as my first softbox. But if I pick one up now, I wonder if I’ll be setting myself up for trouble. I really like the fold flat idea, and the small Lastolite bags.

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34 Neil vN September 16, 2013 at 12:31 pm

That the 24×24 Lastolite folded up into such a compact pouch, was a big plus … however, they did away with that, and you’re now stuck with a large triangular bag. And with that, the RapidBox’s bag is much more compact in comparison.

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35 bill taylor September 16, 2013 at 5:27 pm

concerning the -fec, am i wrong thinking that while in iTTL a switch to spot meter on the subject would help?
or does it not work that way?
great photos BTW! and post!

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36 Neil vN September 18, 2013 at 11:33 pm

Bill … not necessarily. However, Flash Exposure Lock (or however they call it on a specific system), will help in giving more consistent exposures with TTL flash.

In the wide-angle example posted, that is typical of TTL flash with a wide-angle lens where the subject is smaller in the frame.

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37 Tony October 25, 2013 at 2:18 pm

At a similar price point, wouldn’t the Apollo Orb provide a significantly nicer/softer light?

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38 Neil vN October 25, 2013 at 6:58 pm

Tony, the Apollo Orb would be a great choice, with less light loss than the Rapid Box.

The one disadvantage of the Apollo Orb is that you don’t have immediate access to your speedlight, if you’re using a wireless trigger that doesn’t allow you to control it directly from the camera.

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39 Roger Marken November 7, 2013 at 1:51 pm

Neil:

With the Lastolite 24×24 you mentioned the following: “Since the PocketWizard flash triggers elevate the speedlight too high for the regular bracket (or lollipop) holding the actual softbox, you will need the Lastolite hotshoe mark2 bracket (B&H) to bring the flash and trigger to the correct height for the throat of the softbox.”

Is the same true with respect to the Rapid Box?

Roger

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40 Neil vN November 7, 2013 at 1:52 pm

The RapidBox easily takes the additional height of the speedlight if you add the TT5

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41 Bill November 8, 2013 at 9:14 am

Neil,

Regarding the softlighter, I now use the Lumopro LP180 as my primary location speedlights, and because they allow you to mount the flash horizontally the sock on the softlighter is no longer an issue. The head just goes straight in and leaves the controls outside the sock. AS for when I was using a softlighter with studio strobes or traditionally-mounted speedlights, I just cut the sock out of the softlighter diffuser. The light was just as soft, no hard light spilled out, and it made the softlighter MUCH easier to use! Just like the old balcar umbrella with the diffuser front had no sock, just a hole in the middle.

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42 Phil January 7, 2014 at 3:04 pm

Neil,

Your help for the many students of light over the years is most appreciated.

Is there any way to remove the back mounting plate and DIY another speed ring in its place? Just thinking about a little more beef in daylight with an Elinchrom Ranger or Quadra and a VAL. This looks like a great alternative to hauling a large beauty dish. The 24″ Ezybox seems a little too small and not sturdy enough. The 43″ Orb seems a little too large for mobility at weddings/events but the reflected light is beautiful.

Thanks again for the inspiring articles!

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43 Neil vN January 7, 2014 at 7:23 pm

The speed-ring is part of the mechanism on which the softbox folds open.

Other than that, I am sure you could DIY it to another system.

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44 Rick Castillo January 11, 2014 at 2:09 pm

Neil,

Thanks for your site and your willingness to always share your in-depth knowledge and detailed information. My Quantum system, which replaced Nikon SB900s, is due in large part, to your use of the Q-system. I have T5d-R (2), Turbo 3 (2), Pilot Controller & FW7Q Receivers.

My newest piece is the Quantum 26″ Octagon Softbox. I know lots of folks say it’s way over priced at $287.00, but it is built like a tank using thick rods and the “lollipop” speedring. Also, it assembles and breaks down in just a few minutes and packs-away nice and neat in its own little 15″x 5″x 2 3/4″ bag, which also holds the speedring and bracket. Perfect for travel. The Q Octa replaces a 26″ Westcott Apollo Kit (w/ stand), which due to it’s umbrella-construction and weak materials, broke after only a few uses and is NOT repairable. Also, like you mentioned, having a flash inside the box, doesn’t allow easy access. I really like how the Qflash mounts on the bracket, which sits completely outside the Octa, allowing only the flash tube to enter the Octa through the speedring (no weight at all on the Qflash).

In summary, the Apollo Kit was $129, and rendered unusable after a few shoots. The Q-Octa does not come with a stand, but that’s not an issue because I am more interested in a high quality, durable and reliable core product, for which I don’t mind at all paying top dollar. Plus, I took advantage of Quantum’s $75.00 rebate, which brings the actual cost of the 26″ Octabox to $212.00. Poor man pays twice!! BTW, I also have the Norman 17″ Octabox, which mounts directly onto the Qflash; it also has a quality-build.

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45 Randy B February 18, 2014 at 2:34 pm

Neil,

Very straightforward review. I am planning to get this and the Westcott 10×24 strip for my speedlites. The set is pretty pricey compared to some other cheaply made softboxes. Altough I think it’s pretty much worth it.

Thanks!

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46 Baart1980 March 6, 2014 at 6:19 am

Hello Neil,
Is it make sense to use grid with Rapid Box ? Is it possible ?

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47 Neil vN March 6, 2014 at 8:33 am

I’m not aware of a specific grid available for the RapidBox?

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48 John March 25, 2014 at 3:05 pm

Neil,

Does the Wescott Rapid Box 26″ work when you are using a wireless flash trigger receiver paired with an SB900? Does it in effect raise the flash too high?

Thanks?

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49 Neil vN March 25, 2014 at 3:57 pm
50 Vlado Krempl May 12, 2014 at 1:48 am

Hi Neil,

Another informative review.
Just curious, could this soft box be used for “the formal photos” of a wedding?

Thanks for any response.

Kind regards from Leura (Blue Mountains, Australia)

v.

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51 Neil vN May 12, 2014 at 4:20 am

Yes, you could, but ideally you need a larger light source for a larger group.

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52 Vlado Krempl May 12, 2014 at 7:33 am

Thanks for going out of your way to reply, I’m actually quite impressed.
Kind regards,
vlado

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53 Arto Lehikoinen June 1, 2014 at 5:40 pm

Howdy

The center deflector plate looked awkward to me. The plate seems to collect the flash light rays together and bounce them back at the flash unit.
I went to Westcott web page to see which way round the deflector has to go on. Yeah.. try mounting it other way round.

Thank you a million for extremely informative and professional site. Big thumbs up !!

– Arto

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54 Neil vN June 1, 2014 at 6:38 pm

Arto … you are entirely correct. Having the center plate with the scooped side to the back, isn’t as efficient.

To illustrate this with detail shots of the softbox, I used the images from B&H’s site – and that’s where they have it this way around.

That said, I have found that if you want to use the RapidBox without the diffuser, then it might make sense to have it this “wrong” way around. Check this article on using the RapidBox as a beauty dish – I found that if you put the deflector plate the way you have it, then too much direct flash gets on your subject and you get more of that ‘halo’ around your subject.

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55 jeremy meier September 21, 2014 at 8:40 pm

Why is it that 99% of everyone that installs the reflector plate has it backwards???? Test for yourselves at low power, the textured side should face outward and the smooth side toward the speedlight peeps….

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56 Neil vN September 21, 2014 at 11:12 pm

Jeremy … check my comment right above yours.

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