Lastolite’s 24″ Ezybox Hotshoe Versus Westcott Apollo’s 28″ (Recessed) Softbox
If you regularly use your flashguns or speedlights off-camera, you may have thought about using or buying a softbox diffuser to help soften the light. I have always used brollies and softboxes on my studio lights but to work with my Speedlights, Pocket Wizard Flex 5 and Mini TT1’s, I was looking for something simple to use that was also highly portable.
After reading various reviews, I opted to try out the;
- Lastolite Ezybox Hotshoe 60 x 60 cm ( 24″ x 24″) – £94.50 at Amazon (not £106 as stated in the video), and the…
- F J Westcott 2334 Apollo Recessed Front 28inch Light Modifier – £121.50 at Amazon (not £125 as stated in the video…sorry : )
What I was looking for was something portable, easy to set up and effective to use as there are times, at weddings for example, where time is at a premium.
Westcott Apollo 2334 Recessed 28″ Softbox
I had read some good things about the Westcott Apollo and had seen various YouTube videos (standard unboxings and set ups) so I thought I would give it a go and ordered one from Amazon. It arrived within 5 days and to be honest, as soon as I opened the box I was a little disappointed.
Note: I have very little patience when it comes to products that I pay good money for and want to be impressed and motivated to actually use it from the off.
I have an old softbox for my studio flashes and after a few years of setting up and folding away, the foil used inside has started coming away from the softbox due to the nature of the material and the way in which it is constantly opened and closed. I immediately felt that the Westcott Apollo could suffer the same fate due to its similar design and materials used.
As I folded it away, it gave off that crinkly sound of the material rubbing and creasing which further enhanced this feeling.
There was no carry bag of any kind so if you wanted to take this with you on a job, you either had to buy a third party case/bag or just use the box it came in which looks pretty tacky to a client.
Because I already have various flash accessories, I opted for the version that came with no additional clamps, mounts or attachments, I simply received the softbox which resembled an umbrella.
In the past, I have liked this style but now feel it is a little dated.
Setting up the Westcott Apollo was initially like opening an umbrella…simple and much better than all the poles and frames that come with conventional studio softboxes of old! Then it came to placing this over the speedlight (which I had already set up on a stand) which is where it got a little trickier.
You have to place the softbox over the flashgun through the zippered slits provided so that the speedlights and part of the stand are placed inside the actual softbox. Then you need to thread the metal pole of the softbox (similar to that of an umbrella) through the cold shoe where your speedlight sits.
All simple enough but there are a couple of problems here.
1. The central pole of the softbox is loose and needs to be threaded through the central frame of the softbox rods during set up.
2. If you tighten the supporting screw on your cold shoe to hold the softbox in place, you are in danger of damaging and compressing the hollow steel pole.
3. This tightening and placement of the central pole is the only way in which the softbox is attached to the cold shoe which leads me to believe that it is only a matter of time before this gets bent or damaged (like a couple of my standard brollies have in the past).
Taken from an Amazon Review: “Unboxing the unit was my first disappointment – no cover – if you buy a $5 normal umbrella to guard against the rain, it comes with a cover, and considering this one is $120… that soon became the smallest issue.. I used the Westcott 28” only once, during the shoot the Manfrotto light stand tipped over and the box landed in the soft grass, the umbrella structure collapsed and broke, I was totally amazed that the product was made of such substandard materials that one single small fall would break it – I don’t understand why a company would use materials, I know manufacturing, and an umbrella like this could not cost more than $20 to make – an added $5 in cost would have secured Westcott a great reputation and more customers to come..unfortunately, my recommendation is DON’T BUY until the manufacturer has fixed the engineering. “
4. The way the Westcott Apollo is designed means that you lose flash power, therefore you will need to use your speedlights on full, manual power for best results.
Now that you have everything in place inside the softbox, make sure that you set the speedlight settings, power and output to exactly what you need because once you close the front flap, the only way to access the speedlight controls again is to go through the zipper openings on the base of the softbox, or by opening up the front panel (diffuser material) again.
The latter will clearly, over time, wear the Velcro down in my opinion…
You also need to go through all this if you need to replace batteries.
The other issue I found was that when everything is set up, manoeuvring and directing the light from the softbox got a little difficult due to its design as you saw in the video. Tilting the Westcott Apollo is doable but needs some tweaking and messing about.
Lastolite Ezybox Hotshoe
If you have used Lastolite reflectors in the past, you know how easy they are to set up (pop open) and that they fold away to a highly portable state.
My initial reaction couldn’t have been more different to that of the Westcott Apollo when I opened the Lastolite. The Lastolite Ezybox came in the familiar carry bag with all accessories inside.
The version I bought for £94.50 came with two diffusers, a cold shoe and plate for attaching the cold shoe to the softbox and setting it up was quick and simple.
Firstly, the main softbox pops open like the Lastolite reflectors and as you can see below, the reflective material is (in my opinion) far superior to that of the Westcott and I think it will last a lot longer…
The Lastolite Ezybox also has a sturdier feel to it which fills me with confidence.
Next, you take the included plate and attach it to the softbox:
Which then slides into place on the included cold shoe:
Next, and as you see in the image below, you attach the speedlight and Pocket Wizard Flex TT5 to the whole set up. The system is designed so that you can adjust the height for use with or without Pocket Wizards.
You will also see that the speedlight fires directly through the centre of the softbox for even illumination and is placed outside of the softbox for easy access, change of settings and replacing batteries etc:
Finally, attaching the two Velcro based diffusers to the softbox is a breeze and done in seconds and once attached, they don’t need to be removed until you have finished the shoot. When that time comes, disassembling and putting the Lastolite Ezybox away is as quick and easy as it is setting it up.
You have three modes for shooting with the Lastolite Ezybox:
- No diffuser for high contrast, straight flash
- Internal diffuser for less contrast and diffused effect
- Internal plus external diffuser for minimum contrast and best diffusion
A major difference that I noticed between the two softboxes was that when used with an adjustable cold shoe (see image below), the Lastolite Ezybox can be easily tilted backwards and forwards with no problems. I forgot to add this in the video (oops) and simply used the light stand for a static set up.
If I appear a little biased towards the Lastolite as opposed to the Westcott, it’s because I am. I have no affiliation with either product but simply love buying and using products that work straight out of the box (and which are cheaper in this case).
I tested both softboxes, albeit hurriedly, and could not get the light from the Westcott Apollo to match the output and quality of the Lastolite Ezybox (probably due to the fact that the Lastolite was front firing as opposed to the Westcott’s rear-facing, reflective shooting style) and that was a major factor for me.
I had fresh power packs in both speedlights but only the Lastolite worked flawlessly with great results.
Like I say in the video, please take this quick comparison with a pinch of salt and as I mentioned above, this was only a very quick 20 minute test but I always go by my initial gut feeling. When a product feels good and works so well after such a haphazard and rushed set up, then that is exactly what I am after, especially for weddings!
My last point, and one that may appeal to you with regards to the Lastolite Ezybox, is that it can be easily used with a hand held boom pole for greater flexibility on an outdoor shoot. I have just ordered the new 30″ Lastolite Ezybox Hotshoe Softbox to replace the Westcott Apollo which was returned to Amazon yesterday.
Items used in this review can be bought through Amazon below (which is where I buy 90% of my gear) and please note that I am an affiliate for Amazon which means I get paid a small commission to help with the upkeep of this site should you buy through these links.
Interfit Strobies Umbrella Holder with Hotshoe Adapter STR117 (Cheaper and lighter than the Manfrotto equivalent…good for prolonged hand-holding)
Air-Cushioned Light Stand (Air cushioned sections are best to prevent lights crashing down due to loose connections when erecting the stand)
Pixel Pro External Flash Battery Pack for Canon 580EX II 580EX 550EX MR-14EX MT-24EX (Nikon also available)
Lastolite Extending Handle For Ezybox Hotshoe for Hand Holding the Softbox
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