Together with the LumoPro LP604 5-Section Lightstand I reviewed a little earlier, the Westcott 43″ collapsible soft-silver umbrella was also a purchase made with portability in mind. This umbrella can be purchased from the good folks in Midwest Photo Exchange.
Unlike standard umbrellas that has a solid center pole, the Westcott has a two-section center column and the umbrella itself has collapsible stems that allows the umbrella to fold down to a measly 15″ compared to a normal umbrella’s 30+ inches.
Here we can see the physical size difference of a standard 33″ silver umbrella and the Westcott 34″ collapsed umbrella. The overall length is almost half of the standard umbrella.
The center locking mechanism is nicely made with a hard plastic switch and a decent knurled handle that locks in place really easily.
This is the center joint lock that allows the stem of the umbrella to collapse from 30″ to 15″. You can see how the umbrella folds up just like any everyday foldable umbrella.
Here’s the center column of the Westcott, it’s made of a thick, hollow aluminum and I’ve read from other sites that you can strengthen the pole (to prevent it from getting pinched by the umbrella holder) by just adding a standard hexagonal pencil with glue inside the tube.
The silver surface of the Westcott has a more “satin” finish than a standard silver reflective umbrella, the result is in between a white reflective and a silver reflective umbrella in terms of contrast and light fall-off.
Based on real umbrella experiences (the ones we use in the rain), collapsible umbrellas are more likely to break than the solid-post ones, there’s no getting around the fact that the thin joints will not withstand to as much handling abuse as thicker ones. However, if you plan to pack your photography umbrella, a shorter length umbrella will have less tendency to bend and break in a bag than a longer one strapped to the edge of a camera bag. Photography umbrellas aren’t that sturdy in the first place, regardless of brand, so just take a little care when packing and using the umbrella, it should serve you well for quite a while.
The Westcott 43″ soft silver collapsible umbrella has a good construction design, compact size, soft but efficient reflective coating, and a black back to prevent spill, just what you need from a silver umbrella that’d fit in any medium sized camera bag.