Monday, January 10, 2011

For Photographers: Lastolite TriGrip vs. Photogenic Eclipse umbrella vs. Westcott Apollo

For Photographers : 30" 1-stop Lastolite TriGrip vs. 45" Photogenic Eclipse umbrella vs. 28" Westcott Apollo review.

    After hearing Kenya beg me time and time again to write some gear reviews for our blog, I think I'm ready to take a shot at it. I really was hesitant to blog about this kind of stuff, and I'll tell you why. Basically I was worried that other photographers would see what we used and how we used it and then "steal" our ideas. I figured this wouldn't be good for us because we have only been marketing since the middle of June 2010 and we haven't had a chance to make a name for ourselves and stand out as different. I mean come on, we shot two weddings at the end of 2009 with limited gear and then went to Mexico for half a year. That meant we weren't hear to book weddings for 2010 (although we second shot at one wedding).
    Well, Kenya kinda-sorta put my fears to ease by letting me know that it doesn't matter what gear anyone else has or how they use it, they are still not us and we have our own "natural style" that nobody else can duplicate. So I began to think about all the other photographers in the valley (there are a ton!) and how nice it would be if instead of being "competition" we can be colleagues and help each other out. With that in mind I decided to start writing about what we do, how we do it , and the gear we use to do it with. Basically we decided to "share the love because love is knowledge".  
    So, if you are a fellow photographer and you are reading this, please let me know if it is helpful. Heck, you can even ask questions if you want and Kenya and I will try to answer them (just expect me to do the same:)  Keep in mind that this review is only my opinion and I'm not saying that it is the best way to go. So with that said, let's continue.

    Fortunately for me, I had a very beautiful model - Kenya's Abuelita.  She was so cute beforehand, telling me she wasn't "done up" enough for a "professional photo shoot", but as soon as the shutter started clicking she was hamming it up for the camera! Oh yeah, never mind the white napkin in the foreground -remember this was just a test :)

    The gear (I LOVE gear!!) I chose to use was a Canon 5D Mark II camera and a Canon 50mm f1.2L lens. For the off camera light I set up a single Canon 430 EX II on a light stand which was about four feet from Abuelita. 
   Now of course I needed some kind of light modifier to "soften" things up a bit, so I decided to start with a Lastolite TriGrip diffuser to shoot the light through since we often have one or two with us on every shoot we do. We have been debating for some time on using these diffusers to modify strobe light instead of umbrellas or soft boxes. The reason is that if they work good we were thinking that we won't need to bring extra light modifiers like umbrellas and soft boxes since we have to pack everything with us for shoots.  
    Anyhow, this first image shows the results of the 430 EX II/ TriGrip combo. I think the light has a "flatter" look to it, which I'm not necessarily a fan of. I expected to see a "hot spot", but the light seems to be quite diffused. I think the flash could have been turned up about 1/3rd to 2/3rds stop though, which probably would have rendered more of a "hot spot". I didn't use the 48" TriGrip diffuser because I figured the difference in light wouldn't be that different seeing that the flash is only about 8 inches away from it.

   This second image is the 430 EX II/ Photogenic Eclipse umbrella combo (this is a reflective umbrella, not a shoot through). You can see there is a definite difference between this and the light quality of the first image. Although the umbrella definitely has a "hot spot" in the center of the light pattern (you can see on the right side of her face on her cheek the light is brighter) I kinda like it for this type of shot. 

    Lastly we have the image shot with the 430 EX II/ Westcott Apollo combo. The Apollo isn't quite a true "soft box" since there is only one piece of diffusion fabric instead of the two that a real soft box would have, but for our intents and purposes I call it a soft box. The quality of the light is quite soft and diffused, but still sculpts her face rather nicely. You'll notice too that there isn't quite the "hot spot" as there is with the umbrella. By the way, I had to up the power on the flash by about 2/3rds to 1 stop to compensate for the light being bounced through the diffusion fabric. Oh yeah, this is the 28" Westcott Apollo and not the 50" Westcott Apollo (that thing is HUGE).

    I should mention that the difference in light patterns between these light modifiers will be more noticeable if the subject to light distance increased. I think I will probably do a test just to show the differences for a future post.

    Man, I can't believe how long this post is. I guess thats what happens when you get me talking about gear. Did I tell you I LOVE gear? Anyhow, I hope at least one fellow photographer found this blog post informative or helpfull. If you did please let us know. Oh yeah, if you would like a more in-depth comparison between the 28" and 50" Westcott Apollo or the 45" and 60" Photogenic Umbrellas (reflective and shoot through), let us know and we will do it. 

PPB (Yes I did get teased about my initials in school, what's worse is that Kenya is rolling on the floor right now teasing me about my initials. Some business partner, huh?)  


  1. Peter,

    Love the review, very helpful. I don't think I favor one image over the others, all three have a unique look. I guess it's nice to have as many tools in the toolbox as possible! My wife liked the look of the TriGrip the most.

    With this test there was quite a bit of difference between the ambient light and the exposure of your model - do you notice much difference when the two are closer? When you are using the light modifier just as a very subtle enhancement? I'm especially curious about the catchlight in the eyes. I prefer the softbox over an umbrella for catchlights, but have never tried a TriGrip - do you notice a difference?

    Would love to see a comparison of the 28" & 50" - is that thing too big to take on shoots? Also, is one flash enough, or do you need at lest two to make it sing?

    All these questions ;-)

    Thanks again,


  2. Hey JT,

    I must admit when I saw that one person responded to this post I was pretty stoked, so thank you! As far as the catchlights go I do notice a difference with the TriGrip, but I'll post some 100% crops of her eyes so you can make your own call on the difference between the modifiers.

    If the exposure values were closer for ambient and flash then I think the differences would be less noticeable. I will try and do a comparison outside during the day just using the flash as fill light to show the difference.

    The difference is quite noticeable between the the 28" and 50" Apollos. A review is coming :)

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