Thursday, September 27, 2007

LAMBENCY Flash Diffuser (Gift from a Buddy)

Flash in photography is definitely a necessity when it comes to tricky situations when there is insufficient light to give a decent exposure (eg. indoors), when a tripod is not available or the use is not possible (eg. space constraint and mobility issues), when subject is hidden by the shadows due to strong ambient light or even when a faster shutter speed is required to freeze actions. There are too many situations that require a flash to aid in getting the "right shot". Despite the prowess of a flash, a flash can also "kill photos". Most people who have used flash while taking a picture should have experienced overexposed faces, reflective oily skin, red-eye, underexposed background and unnatural colours etc. A higher level of photography and completely different area of photography is flash photography, which many photographers fear venturing into. Despite the many technicalities that revolves around flash photography, it is actually a lot about understanding the physics of light and of course, creativity. The reason that I have emphasized on creativity is because once a photographer understands the physics of light, to apply the theory into practise in making the "right picture", lies pretty much in creativity! But before all these are possible, one need to invest in some equipments. I never relied on my on-camera flash, be it my Canon Digital IXUS 40 or Nikon D200. Of course, in order to have more control over the use of flash in photography, an SLR/DSLR system is necessary. I am using an intermediate-level speedlight (flash gun), Nikon SB-600 Speedlight for my Nikon D200. After acquiring these equipments, the terms, "Bounce" and "Diffused" comes into play. These two terms refer to different techniques used to make the "right picture". In conventional direct flash, where the flash is fired directly at the subject, causes all the above mentioned issues. In "Bounce" flash, the flash light is 'bounced' off a surface (wall or bounce card); the light is rather directional. In "Diffused" flash, the flash light 'fired' through a transparent or translucent medium such that the light is 'scattered and 'softened'. In both techniques, the flash is made to simulate ambient lighting.
I have earlier D.I.Y. my own bounce card for "Bounce" flash, mbb-SureBounce MK.I. I have also D.I.Y. a flash diffuser (cloud) for "Diffused" flash, mbb-LightTube ver.1. I have done a simple comparison between direct flash, "bounce" flash and "diffused" flash here.

Both my D.I.Y. projects have proven very useful, except the aesthetics of my mbb-LightTube ver.1. Hence, I have always wanted to get a commercial one, such as the Gary Fong LightSphere II. The LightSphere II is an excellent product for "Diffused" flash and it looks decent. Many professionals have relied on this odd-looking 'inverted bowl' in photo shoots and swear by it. However, this simple invention comes with a heavy price tag. The Gary Fong LightSphere II comes in 2 versions, a "CLEAR" and a "CLOUD". As the name suggests, it refers to the material and without much explanation of the physics, "CLOUD" gives a softer light at around 1.5 stops slower, useful for portraiture. The "CLEAR" version gives a less softer light at around 1 stop slower, useful for general purposes.

As usual, there are usually many after-market "clones" of the photography products/accessories. The famous Gary Fong LightSphere II is also not spared from being "cloned". The clone is the LAMBENCY Light Diffuser. I first saw this product in a local camera dealer operated by the Chinese, but was priced at S$50. However, recently the LAMBENCY Light Diffuser is having a discount at just S$38. I was tempted to get it, but withheld since I had my mbb-LightTube ver.1. My buddy, Laurens, was quite nice to get it for me as an advance Birthday gift (a week before my birthday).

LAMBENCY Flash Diffuser (CLEAR)
P1 for Nikon SB-600/SB-800 Speedlights
S$38 (U.P.: S$50)
A simple box on the outside, complicated folds inside to unnecessarily secure the LAMBENCY Flash Diffuser. The sample photos on the cover and promotional leaflets are disgustingly ripped-off from the LightSphere II website. Seems like the people the LAMBENCY Flash Diffuser, cloned pratically everything from the LightSphere II.

The material used for the LAMBENCY Flash Diffuser is a thick but soft vinyl that can easily fit into appropiately-sized compartments in the camera bag. Both the CLEAR and CLOUD versions come with a translucent inverted dome at the top. From the sizing chart, "P1" is intended for Nikon SB-600 and SB-800 Speedlights.

The LAMBENCY Flash Diffuser fits snugly onto the flash head of my Nikon SB-600 Speedlight. Due to the material of the flash diffuser, it sits tightly on the flash head and is impossible to fall off. Since the flash head is not 'locked' when tilted at any angles except vertical (0 or 90 degrees), the weight of the LAMBENCY Flash Diffuser can easily drag the flash head down. Anyway, there is no need to tilt the LAMBENCY Flash Diffuser.

There is hardly a need to put the LAMBENCY Flash Diffuser with the flash head at this angle (90 degrees), except situations when the inverted dome is replaced with alternative orange-vault (for warm tone) or chrome-vault (stronger cast). Note that the alternative inverted domes are not included.

On-The-Spot Test
I intentionally brought my equipment to test out the differences between the CLEAR and the CLOUD versions. Thanks to my buddy who decided to be my test subject. He loves getting shot at... with what? I prefer not know!
I have used manual settings on my SB-600 Speedlight and D200, to keep the results consistent.
Without LAMBENCY Flash Diffuser, the flash head is set to vertical upright (0 degree) to bounce the flash of the ceiling. The colour rendition is natural as expected. Despite the slightly under-exposure (due to manual settings), the other side of his face is hidden in the shadow of his nose and eye socket.
Left: LAMBENCY Flash Diffuser (CLEAR) - Direct (90 degrees)
When the flash is fire through the translucent inverted dome, the output power is too strong (note that I have kept to the same settings through out the test), causing the face to be slightly overexposed.
Right: LAMBENCY Flash Diffuser (CLEAR) - Vertical upright (0 degree)
The result looks similar to that of the bounced flash, except that the face is more uniformly lighted and exposed without the shadows.

LAMBENCY Flash Diffuser (CLOUD) - Vertical Upright (o degree)
The CLOUD version definitely gave a 0.5 stop lesser light compared to the CLEAR version. The overall image is underexposed. To properly use the CLOUD version, I will need to tweak the flash manually as TTL would give an underexposed picture.

Left: Flash not fired
Right: Flash with LAMBENCY Flash Diffuser (CLEAR) at Vertical Upright (0 degree)
A flash is definitely required to fill-flash and properly expose a subject in a tricky situations where there are two or more different contrasting light sources, such as the background and subject's face. If I had use a longer shutter speed without a flash, to properly expose the face, I would get an overexposed background.

I have shot my PlayStation Portable (PSP) SLIM & LITE with the LAMBENCY Flash Diffuser (CLEAR). I do not have to compromise on slower shutter speeds, faster apertures at expense of DOF and high ISOs to get a properly exposed picture.

SONY PlayStation Portable SLIM & LITE CERAMIC WHITE (PSP-2000CW)
Click on image to read more about it.

With the LAMBENCY Flash Diffuser (CLEAR), I can definitely do more things with flash photography, especially in situations where a bounced-flash does not work well. I must again thank my buddy, also the test subject, for giving me the LAMBENCY Flash Diffuser (CLEAR) as a birthday gift (in exchange, he got a free tub of Gatsby Moving Rubber)! Thanks buddy!

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Laurens said...

looks good enuff for TFCD !!!

Anonymous said...

the owner of this blog...i ask my frens to visit ur blog since they ask me about lambency diffuser,...tqvm


hi anonymous,
i am glad my simple write-up is useful for you and your frens.
thanks for visiting my blog.

linkdelight said...

very thorough review, very useful reference for buying a lambency flash diffuser

Anonymous said...

Hi, can I ask you something. I just bought one of these but how do I know if it's cloud or clear version? It does not state it on the box and I don't know the difference.

Many thanks in advace


Hi Ania,

what I have here is the clear version. It is transparent.

the cloud version is milky white translucent.

Anonymous said...

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