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Reasonable Large Softbox for Alien Bees AB800

Adrian Byng-Clarke , Dec 11, 2009; 04:29 p.m.

I have some Alien Bees Strobes (AB800s) and have gotten by happily with umbrellas and large (DIY) diffusion panels . I find myself in the market for a large softbox (looking to use my light more efficiently with less waste/spill and quicker setup) but finding it hard to come to a decision..
While I have been really happy with the Alien Bee lights, I see mixed reviews about their light-modifiers particularly their softboxes. Also Paul C. Buff has recently discontinued his line of non-folding softboxes. I need to find something that works well for the price but also won't fall apart after a few sessions. The ABs seem like the cheapest thing around in part because they include the speed rings -- otherwise $29. A Giant 30x60" Foldable Softbox goes for $159 + shipping. But I'm concerned about quality and heard that the foldable boxes can oclude some of the light with the inner supports therby casting a shadow. Any advice? I've been very happy with my 'Bees.. i'm just not sure about the softboxes.. Are there any softboxes that provide as good bang:buck ratio as my AB800. I'm willing to spent a bit more .. but only for a tangible reason.

Responses

Matt Laur , Dec 11, 2009; 04:33 p.m.

I just bought a folding unit from Buff. I was pleasantly surprised by the quality, the ease of use, and the effectiveness of the optional grid. I don't see the strut shadow issue as an issue at all.

I also have one of his older non-folding units. I like the folding design better, actually.

These are heavier than umbrellas, of course, so make sure you've got a stable stand, including a sandbag or two if you're going high-altitude.

Charles Webster , Dec 11, 2009; 04:49 p.m.

I use both kinds of Buff softboxes and see no difference in the light from the folding one. I like the folding ones because you can use it with the front diffusion panel off for a harder light, but still more constrained than an umbrella offers.

I don't see much quality differences between PCB products and others in similar price ranges. I don't use my equipment on location very often, so I don't encounter durability or toughness issues at all.

<Chas>

Ken Yee , Dec 11, 2009; 06:43 p.m.

Bought a folding large AB SB recently and was surprised at the build quality. I don't get why people say these are bad :-P
Took a few test shots w/ the inner baffle in place and it looks pretty smooth to me...and I don't see the struts...
It's surprisingly hefty even hooked to a bee...

Bob Bill , Dec 11, 2009; 09:56 p.m.

Photoflex 3x4 medium softbox. Mine came with louvers, circle and strip covers. Louvers keep light off the back ground. Want a round catch light, a stip light, a window(add cross of gaffers tape for window panes) all in one. Has velcro at front to make assembly easier.

Ken Stoecklin , Dec 12, 2009; 10:30 a.m.

I also have the Buff soft boxes (folding) and haven't had any trouble, although they are pretty stationary. I have had both for over a year and they are holding up just fine.

Devon McCarroll , Dec 12, 2009; 05:58 p.m.

I recently got a Buff medium folding softbox, and a Photoflex small (because Buff doesn't make a small one anymore). The Buff looks like it will hold up just fine. I did add the internal baffle on mine, because the silver lining produces a more crisp light than a white-lined softbox. Took about a minute to set up.
The Photoflex is also very nice, and has a more robust shell, though I believe that both of these will hold up over time. Also, I prefer Buff's somewhat lighter shell for larger sized softboxes since it cuts down on the weight.

M. P. , Dec 13, 2009; 09:38 p.m.

I use Photoflex and Amvona.com products.
Amvona has large octogons with grids for cheap.

Adrian Byng-Clarke , Dec 15, 2009; 09:40 a.m.

Thanks all.. I'm going to give the Alien Bees a shot. I'm interested in that silver interior baffle.. will look into that.

Phil Branson , Jun 09, 2010; 08:41 p.m.

My FSB3060 giant foldable giant softbox lasted a total of 30 minutes from the first time I set it up until it literally fell apart. Very cheap manufacturing. Uses a twisted piece of wire to hold the inner supports to the speed ring.

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