Monday, May 28, 2007

mbb-LightTube ver.1

There are times when bouncing the flash is impossible, such as high ceilings, coloured walls and outdoors. Photographers will then have to rely on a flash diffuser to diffuse the flash. The purpose of a flash diffuser, as the name suggests, is to diffuse or scatter the flash light in multiple angles, hence giving an overall illumination effect. Such an effect suppresses harsh shadows cast by a much more directed flash light. The Nikon SB-800 comes with a standard silicon flash diffuser, similar to that of the aftermarket Stofen Omnibounce. Another famous and well-received flash diffuser used by many professionals, is the Lightsphere by Gary Fong. There are many imitations of the real products, but even if they live up to the original's functionality, the price is still one important consideration. A China-made replica of the Lightsphere can cost around S$60.

I decided to make my own DIY version of a flash strobe diffuser. mimicking the famous Gary Fong's Lightsphere CLOUD. I found any empty squeeze bottle, commonly used in the laboratory or hair salons to dispense chemicals. The one I got was rather translucent which I felt would be ideal as a diffuser. The material is soft and can be easily handled. Here, I give a step-by-step work-in-progress account of making the mbb-LightTube ver.1.

1. Prepare the raw material.
2. Mark out the dimensions of the SB-600 flash head on a piece of paper.
3. Cut out the template and make sure it is the correct dimension.
4. Plan and decide where is the right place to cut the opening to slot in the flash head.
I have decided on cutting at the neck where the hole is smaller than the template.
5. Carefully cut the neck of the bottle with a hobby knife or mini saw.
6. Compare the template with the opening. Mark out the outline of the template and trim to the shape of the template. Fine trimming was done until the opening fits snugly onto the flash head.
7. The LightTube is now complete and its sits snugly and firmly on the flash head.

THE TRIAL
Subject: Revoltech No.025 MEGATRON
Venue: Home studio
SB600 and D200 are set to sync at iTTL.
The levels of all below images are not adjusted.

Left: Direct Flash (Tilt: 0 degree, Rotation: 0 degree)
Right: With Bounce from ceiling (Tilt: 90 degrees, Rotation: 0 degree)

Left: With mbb-LightTube ver.1 flash diffuser pointing at an angle from the right
(Tilt: 0 degree, Rotation: 90 degress right)
Right: With mbb-LightTube ver.1 flash diffuser pointing skywards
(Tilt: 90 degress, Rotation: 0 degree)

THE VERDICT
The mbb-LightTube ver.1 (quite a mouthful, so I will refer it as LTv.1) fits well on the flash head and does not slide down the flash head when tilted at 90 degrees (upright). Direct flash gives very harsh shadows. With bounce flash from the ceilings, the face of Megatron is hidden in the shadows. With the LTv.1, the shadows are more prominent than with bounce flash, but significantly softer compared to direct flash. Tilting and rotating the flash head (with LTv.1) at various configuations, different outcomes can be achieved. It definitely works here, but I will need to bring it outdoors to test it on a human subject before I can pass a firmer verdict.
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