interfit honey badger

Battle of the Round Modifiers

Does the shape really matter? Does diffusion help?

When you think of modifiers for your photo studio lights, what comes to mind first? Softboxes? Octaboxes? What about umbrellas? I will be at WPPI 2018 next week presenting about keeping it simple in the Interfit Photographic booth. I will be there on Monday afternoon at 1:30 and will primarily be talking about working with umbrellas. Think simple and inexpensive.

Yes, softboxes and octaboxes are everybody's favorites. But back in the "good old days" when I got started umbrellas were the go-to modifier. Some photographers were starting to build their own softboxes out of wood or foamcore, but there weren't any commercially mass produced boxes. Over the years it seems that umbrellas have fallen out of favor or have become 2nd class or even 3rd class options for modifying lights.

Like most everyone else, I've been using rectangular and roundish boxes for the past few years. But I have also maintained my relationship with one set of umbrellas, the Photek Softlighters in three sizes, 36-inch, 46-inch, and 60-inch. If I could only have one modifier, it would be the 60-inch Photek Softlighter. But having only one modifier is a scary fantasy notion, so let's not think of that any more.

How different are they from each other?

While preparing for my presentation I started thinking of the differences between the various modifiers. Do they really make that big a difference in comparison to their prices and their ease of set up and use? So I set up my tripod, and a remote shutter release this morning then started a series of selfies with a variety of round(ish) light modifiers. I grabbed these seven items and got to work: Westcott Apollo Orb, 36-inch Photek Softlighter, 41-inch silver metallic umbrella, 46-inch Photek Softlighter, 41-inch white satin umbrella, a 43-inch white shoot-through umbrella, and a 36-inch Paul C. Buff folding octabox (modified with a Bowens S-mount speedring). I mounted each of these in succession on an Interfit Honey Badger and you can see the results below. Use the slider over on the right side of the photos to drag left to reveal which modifier was used for each image. Each row is different modifier or different arrangement of the modifier with the full frame on the left and a close in crop on the face on the right to better see the catchlights in the eyes. Can you identify each modifier before dragging the slider?

I metered each modifier setup to read f/7.1 and kept the camera (Canon EOS 6D with Canon 100mm f/2 lens) on the "Daylight" white balance. As you can see, some of the modifiers have a strong influence on the color. The shoot-through umbrella was quite blue--maybe it doesn't have a UV coating? The Buff 36-inch octa was quite warm. The rest of the modifiers were much closer in color to each other.

Comparing the Photek Softlighter with and without diffusion

I was especially interested in seeing the comparison between the 46-inch Photek Softlighter on its own (without the diffusion panel), with the diffusion panel, and with 2 layers of diffusion panel. So here is that comparison. What do you think?

The image on the left below is the Softlighter with one layer of diffusion. The image on the right has two diffusion panels layered over each other.

So, how did you do on identifying each of the modifiers? Let me know in the comments here or join my lighting group on Facebook.



Chasing the elusive spot light

I WANT IT! aka "GAS" (gear acquisition syndrome)

UPDATE: September 2018: I found the Bowens S-mount optical spotlight on Amazon: (Affiliate link, I will be compensated if you purchase via this link).

UPDATE: March 2019: Here is another one from Ali Express for around $250. I have not seen or tried it yet myself, but the it looks good in the advertisement. It also has the option of an Elinchrom or Profoto mount as well as the Bowens S-mount. I like that it appears to have a helical (twist) focus on the lens. If you get one of these please comment below about it. Thanks!

I've had this lust for a spotlight for some time. I've kept a web alert in place for a Norman TriLite that I could convert to work with a Speedotron pack. I have a Speedotron Shakespeare optical spot light and a Light Blaster (both available for sale). I saw Zack Arias talk about a new device with a zooming fresnel lens and I got one of those (photo of it appears below). And there is the tried and true snoot.

Profoto SpotSmall

Profoto SpotSmall

But the holy grail for me has been for a small optical spotlight. Profoto has one called the Spot Small that sells for around $1,000. Though it comes with a Profoto mount, I found that I could easily replace the mount with a Speedotron or Balcar mount and probably some other mounts. But the price was out of my range for the amount of use I expected to get out of it.

Bowens Universal Spot

Bowens Universal Spot

Elincrhom MiniSpot

Elincrhom MiniSpot

Then I discovered that Bowens had what appeared to be an identical product they called the Bowens Universal Spotlight Attachment. It cost only $575 and I wouldn't have to change out the mount to fit my lights. I considered it for a while, but still couldn't justify the cost--I kept on saving my pennies, though. Then one day I noticed that it went from Available to Backordered and to Special Order over a few days at two of the big online camera stores and that got me worried a bit. Another day or two later things got clearer as word came out that Bowens was shutting down operations. Now it is listed as Discontinued. There went that opportunity.

NOTE: It sounds like Bowens made the Profoto SpotSmall and now that Bowens is in liquidation the Profoto spot is no longer available.

That got me looking again and I found the Elinchrom Mini Spot Projection attachment for $500. But I couldn't find one to see in person to figure out what it would take to change the mount to fit any of my studio lights. And $500 was still a bit pricy for something I knew I wanted but didn't know where or when I was actually going to use it. But it did include a few gobo patterns in the price...


One day in August I somehow typed in the right combination of words in Google and was taken to the Aliexpress site. There I found an optical spot made in China for around $230 -- and it had a Bowens S-mount that would work with my Interfit lights. That was tempting, but I still kept on procrastinating. Finally, I decided my birthday was coming up in September and I would buy the thing for myself. I typed in all my info and pressed the buy button and my credit card was declined. Got a text from my bank immediately asking if it was really me making this purchase in China. I said yes and they said OK, try it again. I did, but accidentally used the wrong credit card and was again declined. But this time the site came back with a "others who looked at this item also purchased..." list that had the same spotlight from another vendor for $160 including shipping. And while the original vendor said it could take up to 30 days for delivery, this vendor said it would be about a week.

UPDATE: Now available via Amazon at

Chinese optical spotlight attachment

Chinese optical spotlight attachment

Got out the right credit card, placed the order and waited a day or so for it to process from Alibaba to the vendor. Then I got the shipping notification and I saw it. A typo in my address. I left a number out. The vendor wasn't much help in getting the address corrected, but once it was in the hands of UPS they were able to correct the address (whew!). I watched it track from China to Japan to Alaska, to Kentucky, and finally to Seattle a day earlier than promised.

The item was well packed and arrived in perfect condition. It includes a gobo holder and a few different gobos. It also has a set of 5 plexiglass filters (red, green, amber, yellow, and blue). No instructions are included, but it is a simple device and pretty obvious how to use it. My only "complaint" with the device are that the gobo holder is not standard. It doesn't look like any standard size gobos from various manufacturers will fit in it. They would have to be trimmed down, which is easy to do. As I will be using the spotlight attachment with Interfit strobes which have LED modeling lights that don't get hot, so I can make my own gobos out of black card stock (don't even think about trying this with your 250-watt quartz-halogen modeling lamps) or thin sheets of metal. 

So, does it work? Yes! Here are some images comparing a spot on the background using the optical spotlight, a snoot, a snoot with a grid, and the fresnel device Zack introduced me to. Of those the spot light and the snoot were the most effective for this use. The fresnel just doesn't seem to be tight or narrow enough for what I wanted. Let's go to the photos...

The optical spotlight attachment with 3 sizes of circle gobos and with no gobo

The snoot by itself on the second row (same distance as the optical on the left, moved in closer on the right) and with a grid on the end of the snoot in the third row (again moved in closer on the right)

The NG-10X zoomed out and then in on the second row and moved in closer in the third row

Here are a few more images all made with the optical spot and a variety of gobos and filters.

Gobo patterns and color filters on the optical spotlight on the mannequin and on the background of the selfies (main light on the selfies is a 2x3 Interfit softbox).


UPDATE: Added the three images above which were lit with the three lights. The main light is an Interfit Honey Badger with the Chinese optical spotlight. The kicker light is another Honey Badger with a 7-inch metal dish reflector and a red gel. The spot on the background is an S1 with a snoot and a yellow gel. I also joined Interfit as one of their Creative Pros and you can get a 10% discount on purchases directly from Interfit by using the code CORNICELLO10 (all caps) on the checkout page.

Now to figure out how I am going to integrate the spot light into more of my projects. Do you have GAS? What photo gear are you lusting after? Let me know in the comments below.

And, did I mention the LED modeling lights in the Interfit S1 and Honey Badger strobes? No more burnt fingers or overheating when using enclosed attachments like snoots with the modeling lights turned on. 


LED Modeling Lights In Studio Flash

It's not about the watts!

With the announcement of the new Honey Badger studio flash from Interfit Photographic I've seen some comments about the brightness of the modeling light in these flash units. I think the confusion comes from using the term watts to describe the lights. Watts is a measurement of energy used and doesn't tell us anything about the brightness of the light. Please note that this discussion is about the modeling lamps, not about the flash power (which is even more confusing, but watt-seconds is a topic for a different post). I picked the Einstein for comparison because it uses a typical 250-watt modeling lamp and I had one available when I decided to write this. You can substitute just about any other light that uses the same 250-watt bulbs. Paul C. Buff has also recently released a new Alien Bee lamp head that uses an LED modeling lamp that has the same advantages as the Honey Badger.

The Honey Badger and the Einstein

The Honey Badger and the Einstein

LED modeling lamp on the left, quartz modeling lamp on the right

Mr. Heat Miser

In the past, studio strobes have used tungsten modeling lamps that could range from 25 watts to 300 watts or more. Some units use standard household bulbs. Higher end units use quartz halogen lamps. These share some common features. They are on the warm end of the Kelvin scale at around 2500 to 3200 degrees Kelvin (yellowish compared to daylight color). They are also very hot to the touch. I measured the 250-watt quartz modeling lamp on an Einstein flash with a laser thermometer and got a reading of 210 degrees F on the 7" reflector and above the scale on the bulb itself. You don't want to touch the reflector when the bulb is on or for a while after turning it off.

The cool kid on the block

The Honey Badger comes with a 60-watt LED lamp. The key here is LED. LED lights are much more energy efficient. The 60-watt LED puts out as much light, actually a little more, than the 250-watt quartz light.

Daylight balance LED Honey Badger on your left, tungsten balance quartz Einstein on your right. You can see that they are similar in brightness, but the Honey Badger uses 60 watts and remains relatively cool to the touch vs the 250-watt bulb that will burn you if you touch it or the modifier.

Daylight balance LED Honey Badger on your left, tungsten balance quartz Einstein on your right. You can see that they are similar in brightness, but the Honey Badger uses 60 watts and remains relatively cool to the touch vs the 250-watt bulb that will burn you if you touch it or the modifier.

Here are my comparison measurements of the Honey Badger and the Einstein:

250-watt quartz halogen modeling lamp
Tungsten white balance
Temperature over 200 degrees F (93.3C)
Modeling lamp metered at 39" (1m) = 1/15 second @ f/6.3 at ISO 100
Flash metered at 10-feet (3m) f/20 (640 watt-seconds)

Honey Badger
60-watt LED modeling lamp
Daylight white balance
Temperature 86 degrees F (30C)
Modeling lamp metered at 39" (1m) = 1/15 @ F/9 at ISO 100 (brighter than the 250 watt  quartz bulb)
Flash metered at 10-feet (3m) f/16 (320 watt-seconds)

Why LED?

Some advantages of the LED technology include the mentioned fact of it being a lot cooler and safer to work with (yes, I have had a small softbox catch on fire from the heat of the modeling lamp). It is easier to change modifiers without getting burned. You don't have to worry about accidentally touching the modeling lamp (even when it is not on) and causing damage to the lamp from the oils on your fingers. You can use the modeling lamp for a longer time period when using modifiers that enclose the light, such as a snoot, barn doors, or grids. You can use the modeling lamp for video without heating up the room. And on the Honey Badger you can turn the flash tube off via a switch on the back to make sure it doesn't accidentally flash when you are doing a video session. The lower overall operating temperature of the unit should help prolong the life of the internal components of the flash.

Get a discount!

If you are interested in purchasing Interfit lighting equipment I urge you to visit your local independently owned camera store who really needs your support. However, if your local dealer cannot get these for you, as an Interfit Creative Pro I can offer you a 10% discount if you order directly from Interfit by using the code CORNICELLO10 (all caps) when you order.  And yes, I do get a small commission if you use this code, thanks!