The Lumiquest SoftBox III is a small, highly portable softbox that attaches easily to various speedlights. Deployment is greatly enhanced by the use of an optional speedstrap. It’s ideal for close portraits where you need a soft but controlled light, especially if you can place the light near the subject (which is comparitively easy, since it’s much smaller than an umbrella). Its size limits its usefulness on-camera, especially on a rangefinder.
Size & Weight
Folded flat, the softbox measures 7½″ × 9″ (19 cm × 23 cm) and is about ¼″ (.65 cm) thick at its center. Unfolded and attached to a speedlight, it projects 4″ (10 cm) forward. It weighs approximately 2.75 oz (78 grams).
I can easily slip the folded softbox in the back of my Billingham Hadley Small camera bag.
The Lumiquest SoftBox III arrives with self-adhesive Velcro®, which you fasten to a speedlight to provide attachment points for the softbox. We find that the adhesive on this type of Velcro® can get gummy in very warm weather, providing an unreliable adhesion. It’s also difficult to remove if you change your mind & want to use a speedstrap later.
The softbox folds flat, so you can tuck it in your camera bag, backpack, purse, or satchel. Its small size also makes it less likely to be blown over in high winds when used with a light stand. It’s very easy to attach: just unfold it and attach the 4 velcro tabs to the 4 sides of your speedlight, either to the provided self-adhesive Velcro® or to a speedstrap. Reverse the procedure to remove it.
You’ll lose about 1¼ stops when using the Lumiquest SoftBox III; if you use gels, you’ll lose more accordingly. The large (aproximately 20× the size of a typical speedlight flash head) surface area creates very soft shadows, although the light is still somewhat brighter in the center. It’s also big enough to block autofocus assist and interfere with auto-exposure, unless you employ TTL metering. I don’t usually use on-camera flash, but I sometimes have to resort to it in small venues when photographing performers: you know the type, where the bass player is standing in the corner, completely in the dark. If I can’t prop the light up against a speaker and use a wireless trigger, I’ll stick it in the hot shoe as a last resort. Well, forget about using the Lumiquest SoftBox III, because it completely blocks the viewfinder (and any external viewfinder you might be using) on my rangefinder, making it impossible to frame or focus. Sure, you can flip it out of the way, frame and focus, flip it down, and shoot blind, but who wants to do that? Most rangefinder enthusiasts will prefer to use this softbox for off-camera shooting, only.
We recommend you purchase the Lumiquest UltraStrap speedstrap. The UltraStrap is an elastic neoprene strap that stretches around the speedlight and fastens to itself by a small piece of Velcro®; more velcro around the exterior provides an attachment point for a gel holder (such as the LumiQuest FXtra) and a variety of light modifiers, including the Lumiquest SoftBox III.
Care & Maintenance
The softbox is made of heavyweight plastic, probably vinyl (PVC), judging by the smell and the material’s flexibility. If it becomes soiled, just wipe it down with a damp cloth. Mild dish soap should be okay, too. We don’t recommend using harsh cleaners, but you can hand-wash it in a sink or basin and air dry it if it gets particularly dirty. You probably don’t want to store it anywhere that gets very hot; definitely don’t leave it in the car in warm weather.
We recommend you use a speedstrap, either the Lumiquest UltraStrap or the Honl Photo Speed Strap, with the Lumiquest SoftBox III. You should also consider using a gel holder; we like the LumiQuest FXtra. The Strobist has written a great introduction to using gels.
The PVC is pretty heavy duty, but the hinged folds and “welded” seams are somewhat thinner and can be expected to tear or wear out eventually. For most users, that will be many years in the future. A semi-flexible material is sandwiched between the PVC layers as a stiffener.
- Small, light, portable
- Easy to deploy
- Produces soft, controlled light
- Can be used very close to subject
- Well constructed
- Unlikely to be blown over by high wind, unlike larger modifiers
- Somewhat expensive (to be fair, the price range on small softboxes is quite wide)
- Needs accessories for ideal deployment
- Blocks viewfinder on rangefinder cameras
I like the size, weight and ease-of-use of the Lumiquest SoftBox III, getting good results in a variety of situations as long as I use it off-camera. The costruction is good enough to ensure years of use for most photographers, and the price, while no bargain, is reasonable. I recommend the Lumiquest SoftBox III to the photographer looking to add a good, portable, general purpose light modifier to his or her kit.
Full disclosure: LumiQuest provided my review copy of the Lumiquest SoftBox III gratis.