By Pete Wright, M.Photog.Cr.
Off Camera flash is all the rage right now and the tools used to alter quality of light are countless. Flashpoint jumped into the game with their introduction of the Glow HexaPop 20 and 24 speedlight reflector diffusers—a product that melds the aspects of a parabolic reflector with a soft box. The HexaPop gives photographers the ability to adapt their speedlights for more of a studio light feel that’s less harsh than a speedlight alone.
The Glow HexaPop comes with a carrying case, a mounting bracket that attaches the parabolic reflector and diffuser with the flash, and a stand adapter for mounting the entire setup on a light stand. If you don’t want to use the tilting stand adapter, the mounting bracket comes with its own male cold shoe for stands that can accommodate them.
This portrait was taken with a Quantum Q Flash T-5dR on manual at 1/16 power. The camera was a Canon EOS 5D Mark II with a Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L lens at 165mm. Exposure: 1/80 second at f/4, ISO 400.
The HexaPop assembles relatively simply. The metal rods on the mount bracket fit into the slots on the speedring of the umbrella. Once in, the entire assembly can be slipped up and down and tightened in place to accommodate the height of a variety of flashes. The same mounting bracket has a female cold shoe that slides back and forward in a channel and then tightens into place to further accommodate flashes. The umbrella itself has 6 hinged rods that connect to the speedring and go to the diffuser end. They pull back into adjoining slots, then click and lock in place. After popping all six rods into place, the entire assembly is ready to mount onto the tilt bracket and place on a stand.
Note, for those shooting with a flash that requires a triggering device, you will either need to purchase an additional cold shoe to screw into the track or find another way of mounting it, as only one cold shoe is included in the package. Now that you’re set up, mount your flash and you are basically ready to shoot—the setup is quick and easy.
Improvements in few areas of concern could have made the HexaPop an even stronger purchase and could potentially be addressed in future versions. First, the front diffusion panel is permanently affixed to the softbox which prevents opening the front to access the front of the flash. This is a concern primarily for people who shoot with a Quantum type flash that requires the front bulb to be removed from the flash from a front access. Also, having the option to remove the front panel and use the HexaPop solely as a reflector would be a nice touch to add versatility.
Secondly, there are many key areas on the box where there are metal-to-plastic connections, which while secure, may over time weaknen and tend to have a little bit of flex and play. Switching the entire assembly to metal may add a minor amount of weight to the box and probably a few bucks to the price tag, but having the security of knowing you are purchasing a well-built, long-lasting product would be worth it.
My initial feeling about the buttons that release rods for collapsing down the entire box, was that they were a little too hard to pull for release and that the resulting thud when pressed was a little disconcerting. However, after working with the HexaPop for a while I was actually glad that it was a strong setup and required a little more effort to collapse. I realized I wouldn't want it to collapse by itself because of a weakness in the production or because someone accidentally tapped a button on it. So this actually became a strength in the product to me.
Overall, I think the product is actually pretty solid. It’s easy to use, quick to set up, and creates a very nice light when photographing. The hexagon-shaped silver reflector umbrella with the front diffusion panel gives a pleasant, round catch light in the eyes, which is certainly a plus for portraits. The areas that I felt could be improved don’t affect its performance, but could improve the Glow HexaPop if they are addressed. With a street price of $139.95 for the 24-inch version and $109.95 for the 20-inch, it is a safe investment if you want to turn your speedlight into portable studio-style flash.