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Phottix Raja Deep 80cm Softbox Review
by Michael Sewell
Softbox First Impressions
The Phottix Raja Deep Quick-Folding Softbox 80cm is not your bog-standard, use-every-day kind of softbox, and it certainly wasn't bought with the intention of using it for all and sundry. No, I had a very distinct idea as to how and when I would use this lighting modifier, which I will come to later.
If you own any of the Phottix Raja range of softboxes, I'm sure you are familiar with their quality. My previous experience with their 30x140cm stripbox, the 105cm and 150cm Hexa left me with no doubt as to what I would be receiving. However, for those of you yet to pull the trigger and experience a Phottix Raja softbox first hand, allow me to explain my enthusiasm for these particular modifiers.
Out of the Box
Lets discuss the case. A lot of softboxes are supplied in a bag, often nylon and quite thin. I always found they wore through quite quickly where the speedring/mount would rub when it was tossed into the boot of the car or across the studio floor. Certainly not really suitable to be described as a case. The Phottix offering is a very high-quality, padded, double-skinned affair, with a good quality zip. It has an adjustable shoulder strap that runs the length of the case, making transportation a doddle.
I know I've mentioned it before, and I'm going to say it again. I cannot emphasise enough, just how useful it is to have the type and size of modifier clearly marked on its case. I have a couple of dozen modifiers in cases, and when I'm picking through them for a shoot, it makes it an awful lot quicker when you can spot what you want from ten feet away.
Also attached to the strap, is the label containing some very useful information.
The outer skin is very high-quality nylon, with contrasting grey seams. The fitting around the mount is spot on. On most of the collapsible modifiers I have owned, the skin of the softbox invariably creeps along the rods as you slide it back into its case, or even as you handle it. This can cause issues with rods coming free from their securing pockets and generally making it a pain to set up as you have to faff to relocate the rods etc. The movement is invariably down to a very loose fit around the speedring or mount, allowing the skin to slip towards the front of the rods.
Every single Phottix softbox I own has not once had the skin slip from the mount, or allow a rod to become loose. Bearing in mind I've had some of them for over three years and they are used most days.
Moving to the front, the softbox is supplied with a honeycomb. Again, this is a high-quality item that's a dead fit across the front. I'd also point out it's identical in material and finish to the honeycombs supplied with my other Phottix boxes. Not one has frayed in three years of constant use. I've had cheaper honeycombs start to “string” within six months.
The diffusion panels are of nice quality, with excellent stitching to the hook fabric around the outer edge. The outer panel is secured around the full circumference, whilst the inner panel has sixteen anchor points. You can also see the centre of the inner panel has a double density circle of fabric, which helps mitigate the “hotspot” sometimes seen in softboxes.
Here you can see the locking collar in detail. The collar is quite a large sphere with a release button. Much easier to handle then the traditional umbrella “blade” lock. With the collar being quite substantial, it's much easier to erect, as you actually have something you can get a grip of, and lean on with the larger modifiers that have a lot of resistance due to the tightness of the skin etc. The large release button is also a real boon, as you can simply reach in, grab the locking collar and squeeze. You can't fail to have your hand over the release button, and there's a very satisfying pop as it lets go.
Remember the card attached to the case, that carried some useful information? The card details how much light output is affected by the diffusion panels and honeycomb. Normally I do my own light tests on a new softbox, but I've found the stated figures with previous Phottix boxes to be correct, and see no reason to doubt these figures.
- Light loss in stops
- Inner diffuser only +1.6
- Inner and outer diffuser only -1.4
- Grid only +1.1
- 1x diffuser and grid -0.2
- 2x diffusers and grid -2.0
I really should light test it without any diffusers or honeycombs, as I think I basically have a huge high-intensity reflector here.
Softbox In Use
As I mentioned previously, I had a very specific use in mind for this modifier. The light control is very tight, especially with the honeycomb. It means I am able to pool the light exactly where I want it, with anticipated results being bang on.
This is Mark Felix, who represents England in the World's Strongest Man contests, amongst others. Here, he models the bespoke shirts of Diamond Theory (manufacturer of fitted clothing for strength athletes and bodybuilders).
Whilst this is a product shoot, there were additional factors to be taken into account. I had to capture the fit of the shirt (obviously) and Mark's muscularity. I also needed to capture that simmering “Can Do!” attitude that is seen on all athletes when competing.
It's a very simple one-light setup. I placed the Deep 80 frame right and high. Basically just outside the top right corner of the image. The light pools very nicely around Mark, and allows the wall behind him to under expose by at least 1.5 stops.
I used an Elinchrom ELB 500 TTL, firing at an output of 3.0, equivalent to 50Ws. The camera settings were 1/125th sec f5.6 and ISO400
This is Wesley Grant on the same shoot for Diamond Theory Clothing. Again, just the one light, allowing me to isolate Wes from the background, but bring in enough detail so that it didn't look like he was sitting in a black hole.
The Raja Deep 80 is frame left, and again very high, giving that classic Rembrandt lighting with the splash of light across his left (frame right) cheek. Just picking up the detail of his left eye.
Same light settings with the camera at 1/160th sec f6.4 and ISO400
Here again, we have the Deep 80 very high frame left, but slightly further forward than the previous shot. This allows an increase in light falling across Wes' left cheek and eye. The height and angle of the light give excellent definition to the fit of the shirt across his pectorals and deltoids.
Same camera settings as the previous image, with the Elinchrom ELB 500 turned down to an output of 2.0 (Equivalent to 25Ws), due to it being much closer to Wes.
Both these images were shot in quite tight environments in a busy gym in Clitheroe. The narrow profile of the Deep 80 made it a little easier to get into awkward spaces and direct the light as I needed. There was just no way I could have managed even with a marginally larger softbox, such as the Phottix Raja 105cm Hexa. There just wasn't the room.
A quick change of subject.
My wife, Helen, photographs Dance and Performing Arts. Her concept was to have a painterly, renaissance feel for an image of one of her dancers. The Phottix Deep 80 was ideal, for exactly the same reasons I had used it with the DT product shoot.
I didn't want it to be quite so contrasty when compared to the DT images, and I also wanted to ensure we had detail in the far side of Laila. The Deep 80 was placed high frame left, which illuminated her exactly as we had hoped, but it needed just a lift from frame right, as her hair disappeared into the background. I used a Phottix 30x140cm strip with honeycomb frame right to bring up the detail in her hair, and just add a bit of lift to her skirt.
Deep 80 with ELB 500 head at 4.0 (Equivalent to 100Ws) frame left high
Stripbox with ELB 500 head at 3.0 (Equivalent to 50Ws) frame right.
Camera at 1/125th sec f8 ISO200
The quality of the Phottix range of softboxes speak for themselves. From the case to the outer fabric and the diffusers to the honeycomb. There is just nothing to fault. Not to mention they are extremely quick to deploy, and even quicker to take down, which saves quite a bit of time. And as we all know, time is money!
I bought this box because I knew what I wanted it for, and the type of images I wanted from it. And it just does not disappoint.
Unfortunately, because of the ease of use, it's lightweight packability and the fact my Mrs. is really quite taken with it, I can see myself having to buy another.