Andrew Sydenham puts the Westcott Apollo Orb through its paces
Westcott Apollo Orb at a glance:
- Weighs less than 0.5kg
- Price: £135
- Website: www.fjwestcott.com
AT a first glance, when folded, the Apollo Orb is almost identical to a standard black/silver photographic umbrella. Weighing less than 0.5kg and the size of its golfing brethren, it instantly unfolds into a deep-profile octagonal softbox, topped off by attaching the diffusion panel. It’s the ease of assembly that really impresses me; I’ve always hated rushing to construct softboxes on location – struggling to bend fragile glass-fibre poles that never seem to fit where they should.
Once the umbrella bracket and speedlite are mounted on a stand, the Orb drops over through a four-way zip opening in the fabric, which closes to help stabilise the structure – and it’s really as simple as that.
You can use the Orb without the diffusion panel to produce a crisper, focused light with defined shadows. With the diffuser in place there is a softer, even spread of light, flattering in portraits, similar to a traditional softbox. The diffusion panel can be recessed further on the Velcro fringe to control light spill and to prevent lens flare. The octagonal design means you will get a pleasing catchlight in your subject’s eyes and it’s easy to clip flags or extra diffusion if you want to manipulate the source further. Although primarily designed for speedlites, you can use it with small monoblock and studio flash heads, and location flash kits like the Elinchrom Ranger and Profoto B series are accommodated easily. My only criticism is that the umbrella shaft is quite small so it can be a little tricky to open and close, and mount on some smaller stands. Also, the zip design means you can’t point the light downwards to use the edge falloff from the light.
There is no bag or sleeve supplied with the Orb so you would need something to protect and store it if you’re going to use the kit regularly and expect it to last.