I have a new best friend…at least as far as Speedlite modifiers go. The gang at F.J. Westcott Co. sent out a couple of their recently-announced Apollo softboxes for my Advanced Speedliting workshop. I immediately took to the Apollo Orb (as did everyone in the workshop).

In case you’re not familiar with the Apollo line, here are a few factoids:
• they open and close like umbrellas–think “quick to set up, easy to transport”
• you connect your flash to it with an umbrella swivel adapter (which you likely already have) rather than a $pecialized $peed ring
• the flash mounts inside and fires backwards into a silver interior, so there’s no need for a power-eating inner-diffuser
• you can load in several Speedlites inside of an Apollo, which makes for very fast recycle times
• Apollos are affordable (as far as most softboxes are concerned), about $130

Comparing the Orb to the Original Apollo 28″

As you can see below, the Orb has eight sides and the Apollo Medium (aka: original 28″ Apollo) has four. From the side, it casually appears that the Apollo Medium is deeper, but that’s because it has a 5″/13cm lip around the diffuser panel. The Apollo Orb has a shallow edge and actually has more depth behind the diffuser panel.

Front view of Apollo Orb (left) and Apollo Medium (right)

Side view of Apollo Orb (left) and Apollo Medium (right)

The bigger difference is how they modify the light. Check out the pix below. As you can see, the Apollo Orb has a broader throw than the Apollo Medium–due to it’s larger size. What surprised me was the brighter appearance of the light from the Orb. I’ll chalk this up to the broader, flatter back in the Orb which (I’m thinking) throws more light straight forward.

Apollo Orb

Original Apollo 28" (now the Apollo Medium)

The Look of The Orb

Because of its 42″/106cm diameter, the Orb has a much wider spread than the Apollo Medium (formerly the Apollo 28″). I have loads of great students shots made with the Orb during my Advanced Speedliting workshop to share next week. For now, here is a snapshot comparison between the Apollo Orb (left) and the Apollo Medium (right). The flash power between the two shots remained the same. Beyond the broader spead of light from the Orb, many will fall in love with the round catchlights that it creates.

Left: Apollo Orb. Right: Apollo Medium (aka: Apollo 28")

No surprise, the Apollo Orb creates beautiful circular catchlights in the eyes.

Mounting One, Three, or ??? Speedlites in the Orb

The Canon Speedlite system provides a great advantage over other brands when shooting Apollo softoboxes (so much so, that most who love Apollos shoot Canon). The big advantage is that an EX II Speedlite can be controlled from the LCD of a Canon camera. So there’s no need to: put your camera down, walk over, open the diffuser panel, make an adjustment, close the diffuser panel, and walk back to your camera. Instead, you connect your Speedlite to your camera via a long ETTL-compatible cord and then make all the changes from your camera without taking a single step. [Read the details on how to do this here. For the extra-long ETTL cords, check out my little garage-based venture OCFGear.com.)

For a single Speedlite, I use a metal Manfrotto 026 Swivel Adapter (buy here) to hold the Apollo and thread the 33′/10m ETTL cord onto the metal spigot.

It’s very easy to use multiple Speedlites inside of an Apollo. My favorite way is to use the IDC Triple Threat bracket (buy here) on the shaft of the Apollo. The rest of the rig is the same as above: Manfrotto 026 Swivel Adapter and the OCF Gear 33′/10m cord. Again, the cool thing about the Canon Speedlite system is that I can control the entire master/slave system from the back of my camera.

There are two reasons to use multiple Speedlites inside of an Apollo. The first is that several Speedlites firing together means that each fires at lower power — which shortens the recycle time significantly. This is a huge advantage if you in the midst of a fast-paced shoot. The second reason is that three Speedlites fill out the light a bit more evenly. As you can see below, the light is a bit more even with three Speedlites than it is with one Speedlite. If you have only a single Speedlite, don’t sweat it. I’ve created incredible light with just one flash and an Apollo many times.

Apollo Orb firing with three Canon 580EX II Speedlites

Apollo Orb firing with one Canon 580EX II Speedlite

Order the Apollo Orb

I expect the Apollo Orb to become the most popular of all the Apollo softboxes. The supply line is just beginning to fill. If you have to wait, know that your patience will be rewarded.

Apollo Orb at B&H Photo Video

My prediction: the Apollo Orb will become the heavyweight among Speedliters.

 

24 Responses to Meet My New Best Friend Among Speedlite Modifiers…the Westcott Apollo Orb Softbox

  1. Mark says:

    Very cool! Glad to see they're doing other size/types. Love the apollo, now you're making me think how I can incorporate it into my architectural & resort photography (oh, I'll find a way)!

  2. Nicolas says:

    Nice review, now I need it :-)
    I need to look for a retailer in Europe.

  3. paulcjones says:

    One of the problems I always had with the original Apollo was that the entry slit for the stand wouldn't let you tilt the softbox down very far – it's why I ended up with Cheetah QBox's instead – does this Orb have anything to help with that? If so, I'm sold – if not, I'm still right on the edge of being sold!

    • Syl Arena says:

      Paul – My solution with Apollos is to tilt them with impunity…meaning that I just tilt the way I want and let the box deform as needed. I've never found that the light pattern was adversely affected. In the studio, a C-stand with a 40" grip arm makes the tilting problem go away. I'm still drooling over the light that the Orb creates.

    • Vic says:

      They sell a Westcott "L" brackett for this problem.. Works well..

    • David Dorn says:

      I solved the tilting problem by using a Manfrotto
      122B adjustable extension between the Manfroto 026 bracket on the stand and another 026 on the extension to hold the flash and Apollo. I can then tilt the Apollo from the lower 026 with having unzip the box opening to allow for tilt.
      The extension also can allow extra height and reach.

  4. Vivian F says:

    Hi Syl– What is meant by a "40" grip arm"…? Is it the same as a boom? I also have problems with tilting the Apollo. A boom stand is a bit too heavy for me to carry around on location shoots. Will the new Orb tilt easier than the original 28" Apollo?

    Also, wanted to let you know that I absolutely LOVED your lessons on Kelby Training! Awesome stuff! I hope they have you back for more segments. One question: During one of your KT videos you showed us a small boom-type-thingy you made by (I think) combining two umbrella brackets. Could you please give more information on how exactly you did that? I have re-played that small part of the video several times to try to get it, but I'm still not sure what you used to do that. I think it is such a great idea to off-set the flash away from the stand. Could you please elaborate on this rig?

    Thx much for everything you do!

  5. Mark says:

    What about the strip bank as well? I am considering the octo but what about the difference in the ability to feather the light?

  6. Improve angle freedom for this great kit!
    This Soft light is very convenient for price, use, and results.

    The Wescott is light in weight, quality is good and is almost an all-around softbox.

    However, there may be a lot of frustration when you set up the Wescott 22631 28 inch Apollo Flash Kit for the first time.

    Basically, you find yourself all stuck up when you discover you can not angle the softbox. There is some relevant restriction in movement- specifically – when you try to face it downward and you simply can’t do it!

    Voilà! I used a little trick to solve that problem, please read on…
    That “glitch” in design can certainly be overcome very easily with the addition of an accessory: an offset arm.
    Paul C. Buff’s Baby Boomer(tm) [...]
    is not only convenient but cheap and – combined with this kit – offers a wider range of motion for this softbox/ flash combo.
    Full review here:
    http://shutterbugcl.blogspot.com/search/label/WES

    • Scott W says:

      Great idea, Alfonso! It's a cheap fix too. I saw a review on Adorama demonstrating the tilting issue you describe http://www.adorama.com/alc/article/Westcott-28-Ap… (at the 3:20 mark). Their fix was to just route stand through the diffuser at the bottom. I like your idea better. I would buy on Orb right this second if they were available. Looks like a great product.

  7. Scott W says:

    Has anyone come across a grid for the Orb?

  8. I am concerned about the durability of an umbrella design (having already damaged a Photek Softlighter that toppled in the breeze). Is this more or less durable than, say, a Lastolite Ezybox?

  9. kidcounselorrkf says:

    Ordered the Orb (actually the kit from Adorama that included the Orb, the flash bracket and an 8' light stand) along with the 33' sync cord. Both were on backorder. The Orb kit arrived earlier this week… so, just playing around with it, wondered if the Canon ST-E2 transmitter would work.. Guess what – in the studio it works regardless of the angle from the camera to the side of the Orb – tried if from 20' – still works. I have not tried it outdoors – but plan to this weekend. I am impressed with the results so far and would recommend this to anybody who wants that 'professional' lighting in the studio or in the field.

  10. Wedges says:

    Does it have the same tilt issue like the apollo medium?

  11. Bill says:

    Do you have to use a corded or radio trigger with this? I'm guessing that not enough light can get into this thing for wireless flash or IR controllers. Does anyone have any experience with this?

  12. diego says:

    any grids for the orb?

  13. Perry says:

    On the second picture showing the inside setup, you have some type of adapter that connects your ETTL cord to IDC Triple Threat. What is it? Right now I have to use tape or move the softbox very slowly. thanks

    • Syl Arena says:

      Perry — Thanks for asking. It’s a threaded adapter that OCF Gear will put online in a week or two… a great, simple solution for the problem you describe.

  14. Paul says:

    Hey Syl, love the Orb. I heard it mentioned somewhere that by raising the front diffuser panel it can be used like a beauty reflector. I like the light the Kacey BD and Mola produce outdoors when overpowering the sun, using AB800/1600s.

    Have you tried to use the Orb this way and is it comparable, especially when using multiple 580 EXlls? If so, maybe I wouldn’t need to spend the $$$ on a Mola.

    (Hope to see you in DC!)

  15. Harry Who says:

    The limited tilt capability was my reason to return this item back. I am eyeing the Larson 22×22 with the Fuzzy adapter, because I mostly work solo.

  16. Soulman says:

    I own the Westcott Apollo 28″ and it is fantastic. Now I absolutely need this Apollo Orb. ;-)

    Thanks for your review, you are doing a great job!

  17. [...] doing the same job to the same Group. For instance, when I use multiple Speedlites inside an Apollo softbox, all of those units are assigned to the same [...]

  18. Tess says:

    Hi Syl,

    I just purchased your OCFGear Ettl chord to use with my Apollo Orb set up….very sweet chord! As a punk rock guitar player, I have a deep respect for a solid, durable chord/cable that does the job. For Speedlighting off camera, I am beyond psyched about this OCF Ettl chord and can’t wait to do new shots of my band. Also, thank you for generously sharing your knowledge and experience–the little info book sent with the chord is, in a word, amazeballs! I hope you do a seminar in LA sometime! Thanks!

  19. […] Orb and the Apollo Medium, two 8′ light stands, two swivel brackets, and a carrying case. Click here to read how much I loved the Orb when it was introduced three years ago. This amazing deal won’t last […]

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