Friday, 19 July 2013

Speedlight Beauty Dish for the Masses?

The beauty dish is probably up there as an amateur's holy grail of lighting modifiers after they've exhausted the various umbrellas, softboxes, grids and bedsheets.

However the hotshoe speedlight beauty dishes tend to be a very limited for the speedlight/hotshoe market except for David Tejada's infamous plant pot dish or Todd Owyoung's 'chinatown special'. The professional/non DIY beauty dish market is ruled mostly by Kacey and Mola as speedlight enabled options, discounting the no name ebay pans/S mount mods.

But now LumoPro provide their 22" beauty dish offering - how does it fare?

Generic blurb out of the way first - it's a 22" dish made of metal that allows speedlights via their dual hotshoe adaptor and, at time of writing, Elinchrom or Bowens lights via a different adaptor. The reflector plate is a ~6" metal dish and the beauty dish has a 7.5" depth from the front edge to the rear mount which is ~5" wide. A further nuts and bolts review (it's physical characteristics) of the LumoPro dish can be found at flashhavoc.

More important to me was the light quality of the LumoPro beauty dish at your 'typical headshot-beauty dish' distances - generally a guildeline suggests 1.5-2x the diameter of the dish, so roughly 2-4 ft away. The descriptions for beauty dish light characteristics and quality tend to include words like "silky", "punchy", "creamy", "help carve out facial features" - all words that don't really give me a good sense of the actual light. I want to see if the LumoPro dish could show me how the quality of light translated on my subjects when using speedlights.

All images are as-is: none have had curves/toning/etc applied so these can be considered accurate representation of light quality

Hmmm. Not convinced. Also not convinvced with the very distinct internal shadow the center reflector is generating.

speedlight, bare 22" dish

speedlight, socked 22" dish

Still not convinced.

After a few weeks of shooting kids and myself I still wasn't overly convinced that this beauty dish gave me light that was overly different from a smaller softbox. So the classic hunt for "softbox/umbrella/octabox vs beauty dish" article started. All the images that came back definitely had something that made me think "not a softbox or umbrella" so why was this LumoPro different - user error?

After much more shooting with it I came to the conclusion that perhaps the speedlight - since it's not barebulb even with a diffuser cap - wasn't throwing the light into the right places in the dish.

top row 1x light vs bottom row 2x lights

Things didn't look so right. Whilst we expect a smaller donut/dark spot area, what the LumoPro gave was quite different to any resource I'd seen previously.

Backing the light back to 6ft or so helps reduce the dark spot but it's still not giving an illumination pattern like the other BD which I believe to be giving my people shots a un-beauty dish type of light. Perhaps it was user error in my positioning of the speedlight?

After many variations (with diffuser, without diffuser, reflector plate pulled back/pushed forward, SB pulled back, pushed forwards) I was still getting strange lighting artifacts.

Certainly the Kacey dish looks different when shot with a Canon speedlight - no donut blackspot. Similarly, when the Lumopro is used with a studio strobe/not a speedlight, no donut blackspot.

In fact, when the Lumopro is used with a studio head, the look apepars to approach BD light. Gone are the strange lighting artifacts and very bright speculars.

studio strobe, unsocked 22" dish

studio strobe, socked and unsocked 22" dish comparison - white reflector below

Unfortunately, all this points to the fact that the (unsocked) LumoPro 22" beauty dish is not really a suitable option for me when it comes to finding a hotshoe beauty dish since the light is too unique. The dish may be fine with barebulb flashes/studio strobes but with regular speedlights like SB80dx I've found that it does not provide a light that I would equate to beauty dish light.

Ultimately this is disappointing and a shame as the build and price are certainly attractive to the amateur market (or Europeans that have huge import duty costs on a Mola or Kacey) but in the end the LumoPro 22" dish is a speedlight beauty dish for the Masses?that ultimately misses.

1 comment:

Hamish Gordon said...

Hi Ray, I know this is an old post. I just got a beauty dish today and played around with the set-up using a speedlight. I inverted the interior reflector plate (dome side towards the flash) and put a tube of tinfoil around the flash and brought this extended opening to about 1 inch from the reflector plate. This makes the light very even for my beauty dish. Before I did this I got the same shadow you have here. I have a 40inch collapsible dish and Godox 860iis speedlight, I also put tinfoil on the reflector plate for a bit more reflection.
I think by doing this set-up no light is lost through spillage, i.e. all the light was being rejected off the reflector dish. Before I did this I could see the flash head which meant direct light rather than reflected light would spill all around the reflector dish.

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