By Betsy Finn, M.Photog.Cr., CPP
When you’re working on location, sometimes it's really nice to rely on speedlights. They're compact, portable, and the TTL features are handy. But when it comes to diffusing the light, it can be tough to find a soft box that is similarly portable and of good quality. That’s where the Ezybox Speed-lite comes in. Lastolite has created a compact softbox for speedlights that’s both lightweight and compact when collapsed. The Ezybox is a soft box with an 8.5-inch square front diffusion panel, which attaches to the softbox with Velcro. An inner diffusion panel further softens the light (one stop for each panel); it attaches via four Velcro tabs. Once the panels have been put in place, you can leave them attached when collapsing and opening up the soft box.
The Ezybox is designed to securely mount to most speedlights, regardless of brand. As an aside, if you’re interested in the Ezybox Speed-Lite Kits, they include a foam handle with spigot and cold shoe mount and a coiled 1-meter (Nikon or Canon) off-camera cord. If you already have an off-camera cord, or the ability to use your speedlights wirelessly, you may find the add-ons superfluous.
The Ezybox Speed-lite comes with its own storage bag, which is good because it doesn’t stay completely flat of its own accord. It's pretty slimline though at just over 1.5 inches when stowed flat. It easily unfolds and pops open, ready for use. You just need to mount it to your speedlight with three elasticized bands.
One band acts as a baffle to direct the light into the softbox—simply stretch wide enough to insert the end of your speedlight. Then there are two sets of Velcro tabs that go over top. The first is elasticized and has non-slip grips that rest against the flash unit. After you secure that set of tabs, the non-stretchy Velcro tabs secure the softbox to your speedlight. It’s definitely secure; I had no concerns about the Ezybox falling off while using it.
I used the setup with the built-in wireless triggering that comes with my Nikon SB-800 AF Speedlight and well as a cold shoe mount that secured my speedlight to a light stand. Here are two views of the soft box, when fully assembled. The Ezybox is approximately 11 x 11 x 7.5 inches uncollapsed.
Overall, I was quite pleased the Ezybox Speed-Lite. The light quality is excellent, and it performed well during my tests (see TEST SHOTS below). It’s is one of the sturdier small soft boxes that I’ve used, and I foresee it outlasting many an off-brand model. This is one of those cases where you get what you pay for. I’m not sure the Kit is something I would personally find useful, but it could be for others depending on what lighting accessories you already own and whether you need a coiled cord and handle.
The Ezybox worked great in conjunction with my speedlights’ wireless triggering capability for off-camera lighting. I chose a subject with a wide-brimmed hat for this review to demonstrate the quality of light. These images were taken with the camera about five feet away from the subject and the speedlight with Ezybox Speed-Lite placed at a similar distance.
First, here is a control image -- taken with the speedlight on camera. Note the harsh shadows.
I was really pleased with the change, even when used on camera. Now, onto the off camera version. By simply moving the Ezybox to my left about 3 feet (hand-held on a monopod), I ended up with this version.
And for comparison, here’s the same angle with the naked speedlight. Note how much more crisp and pronounced the shadows are, particularly the shadow of the glasses the shadow cast on the wall.
Being able to hand-hold this light, whether on a monopod or with the accessories included in the Ezybox Speed-Lite Kit, resulted in a flourish of creativity and a variety of different lighting effects. Here are a few additional shots:
Betsy Finn, M.Photog.Cr.,CPP, has a portrait studio in Michigan; she blogs at BPhotoArt.com.