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Elinchrom Octabank substitute

Frank Gross , Nov 27, 2006; 09:35 a.m.

I'm looking for a low budget/economical alternative to the Elinchrom Octabank. I want to use a large, evenly spread, single source, light for location portraits. Space is always cramped so it's a balance and a compromise between size, depth and portability. The larger the better though in terms of the the soft, smooth, wrap-around look achieved. These two famed shooters both say they use the Elinchrom Octabank http://www.greenfield-sanders.com/ and annie leibovitz.

thanks for any suggestions, Frank


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Ellis Vener , Nov 27, 2006; 09:52 a.m.

lots of high end portrait shooters use the Elinchrom Octabank, the light really is different than from other designs that look similar. BAsically the difference is that the Octabank is similar to an umbrella with the light source pointing into the bowl and that bounced light then comes out through the diffuser. You can get a similar effect by using a large softbox or umbrella (by large I mean about 72" in diameter) with a larger diffusion screen in front of it -- but that isn't as movable and you need at least two extra stands and grip heads in addition to the diffusion screen and frame --and it still doesn't quite look like Octabank light. Proximity to subject is a factor too.

I have read accounts by a former Leibovitz assistant where he talks about how Annie will have her assistants shoot tests a few days before a portrait session where for particular shots they would experiment with single, double and sometimes triple layers of diffusion n the Octabank that she uses with her Profoto heads. If they are going to that much trouble my guess is that they would also try different types of diffusion material as well. Ms. Leibovitz's sessions are similar to large budget film shoots in terms of meticulous thinking, planning, organization, preparation, crew and execution --and budget.

Brooks Short - Tampa, Florida , Nov 27, 2006; 11:05 a.m.

The Timothy Greenfield-Sanders portraits in the link above (thanks Frank) certainly make the point that a large diffused light source, such as the Octobank can produce a VERY DRAMATIC lighting.

Frank Gross , Nov 27, 2006; 11:22 a.m.

Thanks Ellis, I agree that it's the fact that it bounces first and then comes through the diffuser (or additional/alternate diffusers) that gives it that smooth and soft quality. The challenge softbox makers have is to get the light to spread evenly acroos the box, and bouncing first certainly helps achieve that. Of course the more you bounce and diffuse the light the more flash power you need in order to get a decent f-stop. My thread title should have been something like "which large soft boxes (other than elinchrom octabanks) first bounce the light within the box". Maybe I'll try that. I cant believe they're the only one...no wonder they sell for such a high price. Frank

Ellis Vener , Nov 27, 2006; 12:02 p.m.

The Plume Wafer softboxes produce very even light from center to edge are are very efficient as well: you get what you pay for with Plume . Evenesswith any softbox also depends o nthe flash head design. A baretube head produces the most even light in any softbox.

The Octabank is very efficient

Frank Gross , Nov 27, 2006; 01:28 p.m.

Thanks. I think you're right that you get what you pay for and there is probably no cheap substitute for the right thing. I'll try and check out the Plume wafer. Also I see that there is a Westcott http://www.fjwestcott.com/products/octabank.htm and also a Photoflex Octodome. I assume these 3 are "copies" of the Elinchrom Octa bank and also have the naked head inside the unit bouncing prior to exiting the diffusion panel. It wouls be great to see or read a side by side comparison - the dealers in this neck of the woods dont carry such a variety and the manufacturers sites arent always that clear.

d g , Nov 27, 2006; 06:56 p.m.

60inch photek softlighter II should simulate the same thing

Frank Gross , Nov 27, 2006; 08:24 p.m.

Thanks. The Softlighter II does indeed look interesting - anyone know what the light fall off is at the edges? It's a fraction of the cost of the elinchrom octa bank or the plume wafer....any comments on what you're losing out on?


Ellis Vener , Nov 27, 2006; 11:19 p.m.

60inch photek softlighter II should simulate the same thing

I've got two of those. I like them a lot but the light quality is different from the Elinchrom Octabank: I 'd describe it has harder edged and more focused. The EWestcotts aare a very different design. The heads face forward (towards the diffusion screen.

Stephane Bosman , Nov 28, 2006; 05:58 a.m.

Lastolite Umbrella Box?

They make them in very large sizes, like 80" and 150". Should give an interesting light. Not expensive.

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