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Review – Generic Inflatable Mini Softbox

I ordered some stuff through eBay and since I didn’t want to waste shipping charges, I thought of giving an item a try. It’s an inflatable softbox small enough to fit over a standard hotshoe mounted flash. I thought that it would go well with the off-shoe ETTL cord that I ordered as direct, un-diffused flash is quite hard even if not mounted on camera. It costs less than a Big Mac meal, so why not?

It looks really funny actually. It looks like one of those kiddie inflatable wing floaters for swimming, to be honest. Let’s see if it works, though.

Here’s how it looked like when I got it from the mail. Not exactly exciting.

After you inflate it (imagine how ridiculous you’ll look if you’re having a photoshoot and you’re inflating this in front of your subjects), it looks like this. You basically insert your flash into the opening and securing the (light) softbox with the garter pieces attached.

If you look at the photo above, you’ll see that the initial layer is actually clear. I’d expect this to be opaque as a clear layer won’t exactly soften the light as the outer layer is just a lightly opaque layer of plastic.

After forcing the kids to be my subjects, here’s our comparison between a bare flash and the “inflated” flash.

Bare flash

Used with inflatable softbox

As you can see, there’s not much difference at all. I think the main culprit is the fact that the layer right in front of the flash isn’t diffused with an opaque material. So I tried to layer a sheet of tissue into the slot, and I got this.

Much better! I forgot to adjust for flash exposure as the diffusing tissue took around 1/3 of a stop from the flash’s power.

I then grabbed some Lee opaque diffusing sheet and layered some into the clear receptacle right (sorry, no photos for this one). The results are very pleasing indeed.

If we bounce it off the wall with the diffuser on, the light is even softer than the usual wall-bounce (bare flash), as you can see how soft the light wraps around the subject.

Overall, I think it’s a good value. It may not work right out of the box (or in this case, envelope), but with a little modification, you can use straight on-flash or off-cam mounted flash with softer lighting for a minimal cost.

Edit: Come to think of it, I should’ve just left the Sto-fen cup on instead of sticking diffusing filters on the softbox arggh.