Registered: June 2006
Location: Dunstable Bedfordshire UK
Review Date: Fri July 25, 2008
||Would you recommend the product? Yes |
Price you paid?: £12.50
| Rating: 8
Versatility - price - value for money
Gives so many options it will take time to get the best from it - no instructiuons /guide - might not be significantly better than alternative diffusers in general use
Lambency Whaletail copy v Gary Fong Lightsphere Review
Having been impressed by the Gary Fong Lightsphere I recently acquired from Dave, I wondered how the Gary Fong Whaletail would compare, as if I'd not bought Dave's Lightsphere, of the two, the Whaletail would probably have been the one I would have bought.
I'm hoping that you will know all about the Lightsphere by now as it has been out for quite a while. If not, you will have to check it out in Dave's review of the Lambency copy here & example shots here
Of course, I hear you say, "if you have a Lightsphere, why buy a Whaletail?" Good point. Gary Fong diffusers are quite expensive and this accounts for the popularity of the Lambency copies. Fortunately, Lambency also do a copy of the Whaletail. £12.50 inc P&P from e-bay.
What's in the Box?
First surprise was that the word Lambency does not appear anywhere! Yongnu Digital Universal Flash Diffuser, perhaps a trading name of Lambency? Anyway, the diffuser is fitted with the two white doors and also in the box are a pair of gold doors, a set of four filters that slide into a slot just above the fitting to the flash head, gold, green, blue and red, two spacers thick and thin in case the unit fouls the flash body when the head is rotated when used in portrait orientation, two silver reflectors that looking at their shape, fit onto one of the doors, and a wide elastic band that is supposed to go around the flash head to provide grip for the diffuser fitting that pushes over the flash head. I've not used it yet. The diffuser has a velcro strap that can be tightened onto the flash, but I've got it set so I can fit and remove it easily without it feeling loose. Oh, yes, my nice seller also included a £3 off voucher for my next purchase. What was not in the box were any instructions! Which way round you should fit the unit to the flashgun, or how to use the doors, or what effects the various orientations give, but a quick look at Gary Fong's web-site gives you all the info you need.
For those who are not familiar with the Whaletail design, here are some pictures of it.
As you can see, the principal differences between the Lightsphere and the Whaletail are the shape, and that the Lightsphere just fits over the flashgun and needs no further adjustments. The Whaletail fits on the flashgun in a similar way, but you can choose what direction to face it in when you fit it, one way gives a softer light, the other way gives more power. It also has two doors that cover the two apertures (front and back) in the diffuser, and they can be adjusted infinitely to give, well, an infinite number of combinations.
It is worth pointing out at this stage that the Lightsphere can be fitted with coloured or silvered domes (available as extras) which fit inverted on the top of the diffuser and will modify the light that is emitted. You could use a gel on the flashgun itself too. The Lightsphere also comes clear or cloudy for power or softness.
The Whaletail goes much further in that not only can you fit it in two orientations, you can alter the angle of either or both of the doors, there is a filter holder, and you can fit gold coloured doors (or a combination of coloured and white) to the diffuser too. I get the impression that the Whaletail should give the same effects as both the clear and cloudy Lightspheres, but in one unit. Having said that, I have not seen anything that actually says so, it is just my impression.
There is a difference between the Gary Fong Lightsphere and the Lambency Whaletail in the material they are made from. The Gary Fong Lightsphere is a bit like Tupperware. It is very flexible and does have a quality feel to it. The Lambency Whaletail is made from harder, thinner plastic and is more opaque. Also, the Gary Fong Whaletail has spare parts and other extras available, which obviously can be useful, but also makes me wonder about the longevity of the door hinges which simply clip onto the diffuser. The Fong unit comes in two sizes. The smaller 'Reporter' and a large 'Studio'. As far as I know, the Lambency is only available in the smaller size.
So, all set for the first experiment. Here is where I'm going to take the pictures. I'll be between the (my) chair, and the door, shooting the vase you can see on the LHS. This is about six feet from the window, and around 12" from the wall.
As a matter of interest, this was taken with the SB-800 pointing forward and set to TTL BL mode - fill flash. All of the shots of the vase and flowers with the diffusers were in 'A' mode on the camera f5, 1/60, 55mm focal length, ISO 200, matrix metering and the flash set to TTL. I've found that using the TTL fill mode with the diffusers does not seem to work too well. Interestingly, the EXIF shows the flash fired in manual mode. The one thing I could not control was the light from the window which varied with the Sun popping in and out, but in the scheme of things, I don't think it affected the images. No processing, Lightroom defaults and to CS3 for resizing and saving to jpeg. The vase has black lines running along the two 'edges' of the elliptical shape that are on the right and left of the vase and they can sometimes look as if there is a black halo on the side.
1 - a reference with no flash - 1/60 @f3.5.
2- SB-800 facing forward - no diffuser - 1/60 @ f5 - fill flash mode
3 - Lightsphere - 1/60 @ f5
4 - Whaletail - aligned for soft light - doors closed. 1/60 @ f5
5 - Whaletail - aligned for soft light - front door open. 1/60 @ f5
6 - Whaletail - aligned for power - doors closed. 1/60 @ f5
7 - Whaletail - aligned for power - front door open. 1/60 @ f5
8 - Whaletail - aligned for power - front door closed - rear door open to bounce from wall behind me. 1/60 @ f5
Finally - this is with the SB-800 bouncing from the ceiling with no fancy diffusers.
I think that there are visible differences between the various combinations with some closer than others. I chose this set up as the white wall would punish any shadows that were cast if they were not diluted with the bounce light.
I appreciate that this is not a proper test, and really different situations need to be compared in a similar way too. However, it is a start, and I'll try to add some more in the future. I'll also be gaining experience in using them so might even be able to give some sensible pointers as to what will suit different situations. Next is to try them at longer ranges as so far I've only used them at relatively close distances. Here and here are some more shots with the Lightsphere. N.B. All shots taken with the lightsphere in this post and the other thread that I've linked to were taken with it in the vertical position.
So far, my conclusion is that the diffusers do give more even lighting in most situations, and the Whaletail design is probably more versatile and could provide more control once it is mastered. But you cannot deny the 'fit and forget' ease of use that the Lightsphere offers has got a lot going for it, and in these pictures, the Lightsphere has the softest lighting in this situation, although it is run close by the Whaletail soft side forward and rear door open. I think the Lightsphere edges it looking at the flare on the vase and in the top right of the mirror. I think that the Whaletail will do better at longer ranges as it does seem to be putting more light forward.
I hope to do some more tests at longer ranges in the future.
Here is a re-cap.
Whaletail soft side both doors shut
Whaletail soft side forward - rear door open (supposed to be softest light)
Nikon SB-800 bounced from ceiling
Now, I know what you are saying. The SB-800 has done a pretty respectable job. But I have to point to the flare in the top RHS of the mirror (which also appears in some of the other shots too) and say that this room has a low ceiling. I would bet that in a room with a higher ceiling, the SB-800 might not be as good, where both of the diffusers will hava a constant target to bounce the flashlight from.
These four images are 100% crops from some of the images above. Just cropped in Photoshop from the Lightroom image which had no processing other than the default 25% sharpening. Remember - we are looking at the lighting here
Gary Fong Lightsphere