I first came across the SMDV Diffuser-50, part of their range of ‘speedboxes’ at the Coex Photo & Imaging tradeshow (on again this April) in 2012, and it has become a stape piece of kit for me now. I’m impressed. For it’s size, it produces really great light. It also makes for a great ‘light on a stick’ if you attach it to a monopod. For run and gun food shooting or portraiture, it is a great little softbox – and it will fit in a normal sized backpack with your gear. So, let’s take a look at the good, the bad, and the breakable.
The first thing you’ll notice about this softbox as how easy it is to set up and tear down. The box is a single piece, with the arms attached to the speedring with hinges. Pull these out and lock them, and you have the box set up – 50cm wide and ready to shoot. On the speedring are two switches that release the locks for the arms, automatically folding down the softbox. It makes quite a pop, espiecally if you’re in a small enclosed room. Warn people you’re going to break it down.
The next is that there are two layers of diffusion. This produces a really even light considering the flash is pointing to the front of the softbox unlike boxes such as those from Westcott. By putting the dome diffuser on your flash you will add a third layer and produce a really nice light.
The other thing I love about it is being able to unscrew the cold shoe from the flash mount and attach a radio trigger in its place. This makes things so easy – no wires dangling around with triggers attached to them.
Finally, the swivel mount that comes with the box makes a great ‘pistol grip’ so an assistant can hold it wherever you might want to have your light. This was really useful when traveling as I didn’t want to take a stand or monopod just to hold my flash when I chose to use it.
Firstly, the price seems to scare people off a little. Compared to other products in the class, this is not a cheap investment. Comparing the features, size, and price of other offerings might be a good idea before settling on this as your portable softbox.
Next up, the construction. Everything is plastic, and it feels it. So far, I haven’t had any problems, but the contruction does feel flimsy in places. Especially the knob that allows you to swivel the softbox on a stand feels like it will give way when you turn it – and it slips occasionally when a flash is attached. Tighten it as far as you dare.
Although mine has been okay so far, I have heard a few reports from other users that the arms are fairly brittle and break easily. These can be replaced, however.
Overall, I’m very happy with this little softbox and will continue to use it for travel and run and gun shoots. It produces a great light, and is quick and easy to set up and tear down. All of the photos below were made with the Diffuser-50. SMDV has recently also released a slightly larger and deeper Diffuser-60, which I look forward to seeing at this year’s trade show.
Note: SMDV have been a part of my workshops here in Seoul for Flash Light Expeditions for some time now, and thus this softbox was given to me as a test piece so I could give feedbackNote: about another of their products.