By Betsy Finn, M.Photog.Cr., CPP
While soft boxes are great for providing soft lighting, most of them are not very easily portable. Many photographers have to weigh the pros and cons of taking one on location. Does the benefit (light quality) outweigh the hassle (teardown/setup time/bulkiness)? Are the soft boxes you use with your studio lights compatible with your location lighting? Many are not designed for use with speed lights.
Glow ParaPop 28", part of Adorama's exclusive light modifier collection, solves all these problems. It’s a soft box that's hassle free in setup and takedown, and you can swap out the standard-issue speedlight mount for a studio strobe mount if needed. This parabolic soft box has a unique 12-sided shape and provides a 105-degree light spread. Opened, the Glow ParaPop 28" has a 28-inch diameter and is 19.5 inches deep.
The speedlight mounting method is not brand-specific, so you can use the mount with a variety of different speedlights. Simply lock your flash into the coldshoe on the mount and slide the soft box up or down on the metal arms until the light fits through the speedlight opening.
I had to turn the ParaPop upside down (as evidenced by the logo) in order to fit my Nikon SB-800.
The nice thing about this mounting bracket is that the speedlight doesn’t bear any weight. The soft box is held up by the mounting bracket, so there is no stress on the speedlight.
You can attach the mount directly to a light stand, tripod, even a hot shoe, using the various attachment options. Initially, I didn’t realize that the folded-under tilt attachment was there, and I screwed my lightstand into the threaded screw that secures the hotshoe in place. Interestingly, when folded closed like that, there is a coldshoe mount that you could use to attach the whole shebang to your camera’s hotshoe mount. I wouldn't recommend it, though.
Assembly of the soft box is very simple. Collapsed, the soft box stores much like an umbrella, with one key difference. There is no center pole. Instead, you click the rods of the soft box into place up by the mounting plate. This image (below) shows an in-progress view; the ones on the left have not yet been locked into place, and the one on the far right has been.
The construction is very well thought out, and I had no issues with unwanted collapse during use. For teardown there are two sets of “auto close buttons” on the back of the soft box near the mount plate. Each set of buttons releases half of the soft box so it can collapse down.
To collapse the soft box, you need to squeeze the buttons together. I found it a little difficult for my small hands initially, but my husband was able to leverage the buttons with ease.
Another plus for the ParaPop? I love that there is no need to fuss with Velcro fabric panels; everything is attached and ready to go, and it all folds down intact. That said, if you want to remove the front diffuser panel, it does attach with Velcro. The interior diffusion panel is held in place with snaps, so you can remove that, too.
While the ParaPop offers a convenient portable soft box option for location photographers, one thing that isn’t quite as convenient is the mounting plates. If you want to swap out the speedlight for a studio strobe, you’ll need to unscrew three tiny screws on the edge of the mounting plate. On the plus side, at least it can be swapped out. Below is the mount ring for my AlienBees strobes.
In the image below you can see how I used the light in my studio for a client session. The ParaPop was used as the main with a 4x6-foot soft box for fill. At this point, I was testing out the studio strobe mount option, so you’ll notice the ParaPop is attached to my AlienBees light rather than a speedlight.
And here is an image from the session:
Overall, I have been really happy with this product. The soft box does a great job both in the studio and on location, and because it collapses easily, I have no qualms about taking it on location. I do wish that you could fold down the metal arms on the speedlight mount for storage or travel. On the flip side, I love that the speedlight mount does not put any stress on my speedlight; many speedlight soft boxes attach directly to the flash and can add undue stress.
The included carry bag is a nice feature, and if you’re carting a lot of gear around, you’ll appreciate the shoulder strap. Just be aware that you’ll need to find another place to stow the tilting speedlight mount; I couldn’t get it to fit in the case. Collapsed, the Glow ParaPop 28" measures 21x6.5x6.5 inches.
The Glow ParaPop 28 is available with either speedlight or studio strobe mounts. It has a base MSRP of $275. Strobe mount rings are sold bundled or separately ($35).
Betsy Finn, M.Photog.Cr.,CPP, has a portrait studio in Michigan; she blogs at BPhotoArt.com.