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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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