Saturday, 24 April 2010

Hotshoe Action: Apollo vs Ezybox (clone) Comparison

Reasonable hotshoe softboxes only really come in 2 favours - the Westcott Apollo or the Lastolite Ezybox (incl the ebay clones). When I was trying to decide between the two, there wasn't really much consolidated information, so here's the science - Apollo 28" vs Ezybox 60x60cm (24") single diffusion panel clone.

The Basics

The Westcott Apollo 28"

The Apollo 28" box is based on an umbrella frame with the strobe sitting enclosed in the middle of the silver lined box. The SB unit faces into the back of the softbox and the light is bounced around the silver interior and softened, removing any direct hotspot - the softbox uses a standard umbrella adaptor, such as a Manfrotto 026, to mount to the lightstand.

The Apollo's diffusion panel measures 65x65cm. The top side is stitched to the softbox body, with the remaining (left, right, bottom) sides attachable via velcro. The panel sits recessed within a 14.5cm lip.

Closed down, the Apollo is about 91cm in length.

Due to the umbrealla frame mounting for the softbox, more than one flash can be used - double/triple SB umbrella brackets are available (DIY and not) which can be used to provide higher light output.

A little more of my initial thoughts are here, including thoughts on getting more tilt.

The Ezybox 24" (clone)

The Ezybox 60x60 box on the other hand is shoot through, with the strobe sitting at the back, outside of softbox and shooting into the silver box - the softbox uses its own adaptor/ballhead to mount it to be used on the lightstand. The softbox is mounted on the ring shown below with the flash pointed through it.

The Ezybox's diffusion panel measures 50x50cm. The entire panel is removable and attached to softbox body via velcro. The panel sits recessed within a 8cm lip.

Closed down, the Ezybox is a small collapsible reflector-like shape and size of about 22cm in diameter - much more transportable than the Apollo.

Some Ezyboxes come with an internal diffusion panel, but if only a single panel is available, a stofen-like diffuser dome/cap can be used.

Due to the mounting ring for the softbox, only one flash can be used.

The two are shown side by side below:

Light Output

Since the two softboxes differ in the way light is distributed, a comparison of the numbers is useful. Below, a Minolta IVF is used to meter the output a 5 positions on the diffusion panel - the same SB80dx unit is used for all the tests and powered to 1/8th. Furthermore, output was measured at a typical working distance of 6ft from the diffuser panel at 1/8th and full SB power output - the guide number for the SB80dx is given as ISO100, 35mm, 125ft/38m.
Summary of the SB80dx output when used with different modifiers provided here as reference.


centre: 11

..TL: 11
..TR: 11
..BL: 16
..BR: 11.5

..6ft @ 1/8: 2.0.3
..6ft @ 1/1: 5.6

Apollo (with double adaptor)

The use of double adaptor, as used to achieve extended downward tilt.
centre: 11

..TL: 8.8
..TR: 8.9
..BL: 11.6
..BR: 11.4

..6ft @ 1/8: 2.0.3
..6ft @ 1/1: 5.6

Ezybox, no diffusion cap

centre: 22.8

..TL: 11.7
..TR: 11.5
..BL: 11.4
..BR: 11.9

..6ft @ 1/8: 4.4
..6ft @ 1/1: 11.4

Ezybox, diffusion cap

centre: 16.3

..TL: 11.2
..TR: 11.2
..BL: 11.3
..BR: 11.3

..6ft @ 1/8: 4
..6ft @ 1/1: 8

Numbers Summary

The output is more efficient from the Ezybox but this is expected due to the shoot through nature of the light path.

Its interesting to note that the Apollo's light spread is not even - the light was aimed at the back of the softbox (where the shaft starts at the back) but we see that the upper part of the box actually has less light with this positioning. This suggests that pointing the light at the top of the box may help with more even distribution of light.

The Ezybox is clearly helped with the diffuser cap on the strobe in avoiding a cross-shaped hotspot.

Light Quality

Although numbers are useful, its really the practical use cases that matter - I tend to shoot single person/small group portraits and so will compare the effect of the light on people. A consistent set of parameters need to be established:

The lighting diagram is representive ofthe setup, with the softbox being feathered onto the subject as described below.

To provide a set of consistent parameters, the subject is shot 4ft in front of a background and the subject 3ft from the softbox. The softbox is initially at 45degrees to the subject but is turned towards the background such that the light is feathered onto the subject. The diffuser panel perpendicular to a pointed 4ft behind the subject - the softbox is 6.48ft from the background.

The closest edge of the softbox panel to the subject is kept at the same distance (2.61ft) to ensure the same amount of light hitting the subject - remembering that the diffuser panels are different sizes. This translates to the 3ft subject-diffusion panel distance being at 25cm (centre of the smaller sized panel) from the panel edge.
For those of us who still remember geometry, we have an obtuse triangle with edge sizes: a->b 4, b->c 3 and c->a 6.48, with angles B 135 (at subject), C 25.88 (at softbox). The numbers means the centre of the diffusion panel is at 64.12 degrees to the subject.

The bottom edge of the diffusion panel is at the same level as the subject's chin and the diffusion panel is parallel with the background (no tilt).

The subject is exposed/metered at the same level, via Minolta IVF, for the tests and the power output from the SB80dx presented.

Further to the same SB unit being used as the single light source for all tests, the images are shot from the same body, lens, and WB.
The one caveat is that given the parameters to this test, we know that the Apollo will provide a larger effective light source due to its size over the Ezybox but we accept this fact.

Furthermore I am not aware of the maths that will tell me how to position/distance two different sized light modifers such that they have the same comparable effective light size.

The aim of this setup is to determine the quality of light in this configuration and also the level of wrap/fall off.

Light Quality - Images

(very large composite version here)

Both images were taken with camera on a tripod and after the softboxes were positioned as described above, the light was metered to ensure same subject exposure (f/2.8) for both frames.

Looking at the images, it is readily apparent that the Apollo image is less specular and provides more wrap (see the shadow on subject right) and provides a warmer light. Looking at the large Ezybox clone image we can see it is slightly, but not significantly, cooler.

The Apollo's less specular light could attributed the double softening of the light (bouncing off the interior and then through the diffusion panel) and there is more wrap due to the larger light source. However, on both frames although the amount of wrap/fill on may be contaminated due to the subject's white shirt.

A further observation is the perceived hotspot from the Ezybox and from the previous sections we know that the light across this front panel is not as smooth/even as the Apollo.


So, I'm sure at some point, there will be the question "which one is better?". Unfortunately, I'm in no position to say - I like both for slightly different reasons.

However, given the test results, I know which one is more efficient, which is more compact, which one provides a larger light source, which one can have more lights powering it, which one provides more wrap ... but as to "which one is better" I don't know - but that was never the intention of this post.

All we can conclude is that the provided information should allow others to make the own judgement and conclusions for their own intended usage.


Ken said...

Interesting...almost looks like the ezybox is hotter as well, but you metered the same so it shouldn't be that way.

The larger 28" apollo is probably what is causing the softer shadows...

Bill Wisser said...

Thanks for the test. In the portraits, did the EZ box clone have either a second diffuser or a stofen-like cap inside?

Ray said...

Bill> The ezybox had no internal baffle/diffuser attached. I've previously compared images with/without and never really noticed a difference although for completeness I should have shot an image with both.

Bill said...

Thanks so much for this detailed comparison.

I like the light from the Apollo better, but have read that it's shorcomings are difficulty to tilt up or down, without modifications, having to open the front and go inside the soft box to adjust your flash, and since the flash is inside the material, it's harder for non-radio triggering to work - ie flash signals from a master on a Nikon or the infrared signals from the SU-800.

For the time being, I have purchased two shoot-thru umbrellas, mostly for the portability and ability to hand-hold if needed. For a smallish softbox using my speedlight, I'm looking into a Chimera Super Pro Plus 24x32", or possibly the 36"x48". It's probably harder to put together and take apart, and less portable than either the EZbox or Apollo, but I'm drawn to the quality, ease of modifications, and I like a rectangle more than a square. We'll see.


Michael said...

Thanks for this comparison.

In terms of the real world test I can't help but wonder what the comparison would have looked like if you made the apparent size of the light the same by moving the Ezybox clone in closer?

Obviously the hotspots in the Ezybox clone would still be there, but the transition from light to shadow would have been less pronounced, and may have made for a more meaningful comparison. (Or maybe not!)

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