Tried out my new 60" Photek Softlighter II last night. I give it high marks for both functionality as well as ease of use.

First off, it was incredibly quick and easy to deploy. I had already attached the front baffle to the umbrella before going to my shoot. This made attaching the Softlighter to my Novatron 500ws monolight a piece of cake. Not much more effort than attaching any umbrella. (If you consider pulling the flexible "sock" over the monolight's reflector "more effort" at all.)

BTW, if you keep the baffle attached and, when you collapse the Softlighter, you push the baffle into the umbrella's "innards," you can easily slide it into the handy carrying bag they supply with the modifier. They do give you a 2nd smaller bag for the baffle but I found the unit can easily be packed in the larger bag while remaining assembled.

I compare the light quality produced by this modifier as being on a par with my 5' Photoflex Octodome. Both modifiers are octagonally shaped. Both are nearly the same size. (The Sofltlighter, I believe, is a few inches smaller than the the Octa.) The Softlighter is much easier to set-up and break-down than the Octa and stores in a much smaller bag. Weight-wise, the Softlighter is also lighter than the Octodome.

Since the light produced by the Softlighter is reflected rather than direct (as is the case with the Octa and other soft boxes) the Softlighter doesn't produce a hot-spot in the center in spite of the Octodome having both internal and external baffles. Being "hotter" at the center, BTW, isn't necessarily a bad thing. It can be used to good effect depending on how you position and aim the modifier. The same holds true for beauty dishes which also are "hotter" in the center. The Octodome, as with other soft boxes, also keeps the light better confined and more controlled than the Softlighter does but, since I was shooting on a white seamless, that wasn't much of an issue.

My Octodome has eight interchangeable gold and silver panels which is nice for warming or cooling the light output. The Softlighter II doesn't have this feature but I don't see that as a problem. I can easily gel my light source if I want to warm it or cool it.

There's a big price difference between the Softlighter II and my Photoflex Octodome. If you're a guerrilla glamour shooter like I am and money is an object, the Softlighter II, for many reasons including price, ease of use and more, probably qualifies as a "makes more sense" gear acquisition over a Photoflex Octodome and will deliver very similar results. Many of the product pics of the Softlighter II I've seen online are misleading. The umbrella is much deeper than the photos I've seen seem to indicate.

The pretty girl at the top is Allison from last night. I lit Allison with the 60" Softlighter II as my main light. I deployed a 6' LumoPro Lite-Panel, silver side out, on the fill side. Two kickers, each modified with small shoot-thru umbrellas and placed either side from behind, provided accents, rear-fill, and highlights. Very minimal post.

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