Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Flash Diffuser Shootout

Pictures taken with Nikon D300s + Tamron 17-50mm/2.8 + SB600
Aperture priority mode @ F5.6. Flash on TTL mode.
No EV compensation, no FV Compensation, Auto WB.
Auto-ISO base 200, max 1600, min shutter speed 1/80s.
All pictures are shot in JPEG(Basic) straight out of cam, resized with no adjustments.
All pictures © all rights reserved.
Click pictures to see large.

I have been asked on several occasions on my take on the flash diffusers on the market. Flash diffusers, like many other camera equipment or accessories are more of a personal choice. It is also a little hard to describe how the final result will be for the differing products. So I decided to do a quick unscientific comparison between the ones I have, and see how they stack up.

Here are the three diffusers all cuddled up with Mr Beetle. From left to right: Gary Fong Lightsphere II, Demb Flip-it Jumbo bounce card and Lambency Cloud diffuser.


First I start off firing the SB600 direct without any diffuser. Hmmm... not very nice.

I then fired the SB600 straight up towards the ceiling. This is also known as the traditional bounced flash. Result looks good, but there is some slight shadows under the nose of Mr Beetle.

Gary Fong Lightsphere II

Next up is the famous Gary Fong Lightsphere II (GFLS2). The way to use the Lightshpere is to fit that humungus thing onto the top of the flash and point your flash and the opening upwards towards the ceiling. The result, I have to say, is quite pleasant. Compared to the bounced flash, the shadows under the nose are lifted very slightly, and the light is a little more even.

I added the white cap to the top of the GFLS2. Mr Beetle definitely got more light, but this is at the expense of light that is a good bit harsher.

Lambency Cloud Diffuser

Now it is Lambency Cloud's turn. Lambency is a cheap brand from China. I would say it is definitely trying to look and work a lot like the Gary Fong Lightsphere Cloud but at a fraction of the price. Anyways, I fitted it and shot it open, pointing towards the ceiling. The result is nice and soft but slightly stronger than the GFLS2.

Following the same flow, I added the white cap to the top of the Lambency. Result is very similar to the GFLS2 with the cap on. Brighter but hasher light.

Demb Flip-it Jumbo

Now the final contestant is the Demb Flip-it Jumbo bounce card. It is attached to the top of the flash using an elastic velcro strap. The angle of the bounce card can be adjusted according to your needs. In the first try, I left the bounce card totally vertical. This push more light forward. Although brighter, it is not as harsh as the Lambency or GFLS2 with the caps on.

According to the Demb instructions, the most optimal for nice diffused bounced light, is to bend the bounce card back very slightly around 10-15deg. When I did this, the result gave me very nice soft diffused light, with enough forward fill. Beautiful light.


So there you have it. As I have said before, each photographer have to determine what works for them. So take a look at the pictures and see which diffuser suits you better. If you ask me what I have in my bag on event shoots, I will tell you I use the Demb most of the time. Why, you might ask? It is simply because it stores flat and is a lot lighter than the other two UFOs flying ontop of my speedlite.


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