Callum McInerney-Riley tests a selection of the best softboxes designed specifically to be used with hotshoe-mounted flashguns
Price: Around £40
Rogue specialises in making accessories for flashguns. One of the company’s most popular products is the Rogue FlashBender, which is a flash reflector that uses two built-in manipulable rods to adjust the direction of light. The Rogue Softbox Kit includes the same FlashBender light modifier, as well as a diffusion panel that attaches to the FlashBender quickly using Velcro. The centre of the diffusion panel has an extra piece of material to further diffuse the light and spread it more evenly.
When the diffusion panel and reflector are separated, they can be folded completely flat for great portability. The great thing about the FlashBender is that because its design is flexible, the light can be sculpted a little to make it harder or softer.
The Braun Una softbox is the smallest on test, with the front measuring approximately 9x9cm. When collapsed, it is small enough to fit into a shirt pocket, but it also packs away inside the softcase that is commonly supplied with many flashguns. The softbox has an elasticated cuff that slips over the flashgun, giving a distance of around 10cm between the flash and the diffusion panel.
When compared to a Stofen plastic-moulded diffuser, I found that the light produced by the Braun Una was much softer. However, this softbox does not give the same quality of light as many of the other softboxes on test, although it does offer a very portable way to diffuse a flash in a situation where it’s needed. It can discreetly fit into any camera bag and will be practically unnoticeable.
Price: Around £65
Like the Westcott The Rapid Box Octagonal, the Interfit Strobies softbox doesn’t pack away flat. Instead, it has a large case that houses the whole set-up. This includes the softbox, a diffusion panel, a ball-head bracket and an attachment ring that screws onto the bracket.
The softbox packs away like a photography reflector, being twisted and folded into three separate circular layers. The frame is flexible but rigid, which makes it pop up during set-up. This frame is rigid enough to support attachment rings, which nestle between the frames without much movement.
The light produced from the softbox is very good, with the only slight downside being that the bracket is too small for larger flash triggers. The Westcott The Rapid Box bracket is approximately 1in longer, allowing much more space for a wireless flash trigger.
Westcott The Rapid Box 26in Octagonal
As this softbox’s name suggests, the Westcott The Rapid Box 26in Octagonal is very quick to assemble as it features a framework like an umbrella. A fully adjustable bracket is supplied with the kit and this attaches to the frame at the rear of the softbox.
The silver lining featured inside The Rapid Box does a good job of spreading light evenly, even over large areas, while the removable diffusion panel softens the light brilliantly. An optional deflector plate can help to further diffuse the light and prevent hotspots by bouncing light back into the softbox. This simply screws into the centre of the umbrella frame. Also, with the diffusion panel removed and the deflector plate attached, The Rapid Box can double as a beauty dish. This light modifier is particularly useful for portrait photography.
Price: From around £88
Five different rectangular softboxes are available in the ProFoto RFI softbox line-up, ranging from 30x40cm up to 120x180cm. Various adapters are sold separately, which allows the RFI softboxes to be used with monolights as well as flashguns. I tested the 40x60cm version, and found that it softened a single flashgun very well, giving an even distribution of light. This is aided by the high-efficiency silver coating featured on the inside. As well as a detachable front diffusion panel, there is also a removable inner diffusion panel that helps to further soften the light.
Overall, the build quality of the RFI softboxes is exceptional – undoubtedly the best on test. Designed for durability, the robust materials used to make the softbox will withstand daily assembly and disassembly. When collapsed, it packs down flat into its own supplied bag.
Price: From around £25
Metz’s flashgun softboxes attach to the head using an elasticated strap secured with Velcro, and the Mini requires no assembly whatsoever. The silver-lined material between the flash and the diffusion panel simply concertinas inwards to fold flat, while the rim of the diffusion panel is rigid enough to keep the material under tension when in use.
The Mini gave a noticeably even spread of light, although it is not as soft as many of the others on test. For softer light, a sewn-in inner diffuser can be used, again attaching it via Velcro.