Saturday, December 5, 2009

Early Christmas! I heart Lastolite Ezybox ... a review

Lastolite Ezybox Demo-9851For months, I've been searching for a portable softbox that would work well with my speedlights. I looked at the Creative Light setup. I looked at Lastolite. I looked at crap Ebay stuff. I went back to working with my umbrellas just to make sure that they were truly annoying me. They were. And I kept searching.

After a month of hemming and hawing, I narrowed it down to two systems: Lastolite Ezybox Hotshoe and Creative Light's system. Both looked really good on paper and both came with good marks from people on the Internet that I follow and trust (David Hobby and Joe McNally). Joe is a fan of the Lastolite equipment. It's prominent in many of his videos and photographic grip lineups. David recently expo'd the Creative Light stuff on his blog.

The big differentiator between the two is that the Ezybox Hotshoe appears to only have two sizes: a 15" and a 24" square box. The Creative Light system is a speedring that has a cold shoe on it and fits any of their strip boxes, softboxes, and other setups. Plus they have a wider range of sizes and shapes. With a speedring, that also meant I could still use the Creative Light softboxes if/when I purchased some Alienbees (or something beefier) just by purchasing the appropriate ring attachment.

Not so much with the Ezybox Hotshoe. It's designed to work with their specific speedlight speedring (which is made of plastic, by the way).

So what did I end up with? The Lastolite Ezybox Hotshoe. I looked long and hard at the Creative Light system and the most significant down-side was that you just can't get the speedlight speedring right now. No one has it. Everything appears back ordered with no timeline for getting it back in stock.

It arrived at our doorstep today and when I got home, I immediately tore into the B&H box. Lots of happy little packing pillows cradled my lovely little light modifier of happiness.

The Ezybox Bag

What's in the bag?

For some reason I expected the bag to be smaller and more portable, something I could hook onto my camera bag and just carry everywhere. Not so much. It's manageable but will be awkward, so I'll keep it in the photo box and pack it with me when I know I'll need it. Looking in the bag, I found that I had received not one, but two of the 2414 flash brackets. I don't know if this is normal or not. If not, merry christmas to me!

The Ezybox Hotshoe flash holder

The bracket assemblies pretty easily. It's plastic, but feels solid enough. I had no problem putting an SB-800 on it with a stofen. The SB-900, being larger, was a tighter fit and more awkward to get in place, but I think that will become easier as I get used to working with it.

Hotshoe flash holder built.

Close up of the shoe mount
The softbox itself is a foldable setup. It looks like four Lastolite Tri-grips sewn together. The internal structure seems pretty solid. I'm not sure if it's metal or steel, but it's certainly thick. The box is stiff and doesn't really lay flat by itself when folded up. When it pops open, a quick squeeze of the opposite corners gets it nice and squared up. The inside of the box is layered with a silver lining to help increase the efficiency of the light.

The ezybox folded up

Opened more ...

Unfolded ..
Pop goes the weasel ...

The opening in the back side of the softbox is just large enough to accommodate the SB-900 with a bit of maneuvering room to spare.

Opened Ezybox

The diffusion panel is held on by velcro on all four sides. Mine seems just slightly larger than the opening at the front of the softbox, so it's fairly easy to get on and off.

Ezybox with the Diffuser

Next, we attach a flash to the flash bracket. It's sturdy. I would avoid overtightening the two screws. The one that holds the ring to the shoe needs to be snug but not so much that it starts flexing the bracket. Mine already has a slight indentation on the groove of the ring part where I over tightened. Also, the pin holder where you'd attach the bracket to a light stand is all plastic. I was careful not to overtighten this part for fear of splitting the collar.

Shoe with a flash on it

The ring doesn't really attach to the softbox as much as it slips inside the lip of the rear of it. The softbox boning is fairly sturdy back here, but gives you enough slippage to spin the softbox around the circumference of the ring with ease. I could adjust it one handed with no problem.

Flash mount attached

And here's a test shot with the softbox in view.

Tada!  Finished product

I was working with iTTL CLS while playing with this (which is still a new thing for me being used to working in manual mode with Pocket Wizards). I was finding that I had to push the flash exposure up by 0.7 to 1.0 EV to get something that wasn't under exposed. I'm not sure if that was just me not yet fully understanding CLS or the conditions under which I was playing.

Here's a second photo. Softbox to the left and behind the wine bottle with an SB-800 in it. To camera right was a large sheet of floppy paper with an SB-900 bouncing into it to provide a bit of fill from the right. Uber light control. I like it.

Ezybox Demo with wine bottle

Overall, I love this thing. The 15" softbox was a good investment and a great addition to my lighting gear. I'll be putting it through further paces to see what problems I might encounter with it.

For those looking to purchase, I just got the basic Lastolite LL LS2438M2 Ezybox M2 Hotshoe (15-Inch x 15-Inch) from B&H Photo. Adorama and B&H have the same price on it right now ($140).


Anonymous said...

Nice! I'm looking into getting softboxes and such, but since I've already got a AB, I think I'd rather wait for the Creative Light system to become available.

Can't wait to see what you start working on!

Travis Campbell said...

Yeah, if I had some AB's I would have gone the Creative Light route and just gotten the speedring for the speedlights later. But this is fast and portable, so I'm good with that for now.