Problems with third-party accessories and Bowens lights?

After receiving several complaints from not only close friends but also readers of the site, I have investigated a problem that is becoming common and potentially dangerous. For several months we have had reports of several people who apparently have experienced problems using generic light modifiers (made by 3rd-party manufacturers) on their Bowens-brand lighting equipment. What happens is that the modifiers don’t fit properly and they fall from Bowens monolights. Since the saying goes “where there’s smoke there’s fire” we have decided to get down to work and try to explain what happens.

First of all I want to thank my friend and photographer, Javier Lus of Biebel Studio, who was the one who gave me the key to solving this mystery. We spoke via telephone and found the cause of the problem is the difference in the length of the tabs/lugs of the accessories from 3rd party brands vs the Bowens official modifiers — being that I have on hand several different brands of modifiers to mount on Bowens “S-type” heads and monolights (and those from other brand using the mount too).  I did a comparison between a speedring from a Godox softbox versus a Walimex beauty dish (this one has been used in Bowens monolights without a hitch), and I put them side-by-side and surprise, surprise: the difference in the size of the lugs is really evident as my friend Javier told me.

A photo to illustrate the size difference:

Note: my beauty dish has seen a lot of use :D

The problem, as seen in the picture, is that there is a significant size difference which is worrisome… this difference in size can generate a series of very serious and dangerous accidents (from hitting or hurting a person when a modifier won’t be held in place, to breaking the flash tube and/or modeling light bulb).

Other brands also use the bayonet “S-Type” from Bowens, like my Jinbei DC-600, but it has no trouble accepting either official or generic modifiers, though the S-type speedring from Godox has a little play (but it won’t detach from the DC-600 head).

On the other hand, I have seen problems with both a generic “easy-assembly” octa (those opening and closing like an umbrella) and a beauty dish (purchased in different stores and different brands); the two did not sit in place in the accessory mounts of a Bowens 750 Pro monolight, while my Walimex beauty dish held on the Bowens 750 Pro without problems.

We decided to call the local Bowens technical service (aka “John Does”) and they told us they have not made any change in the accessory mount of their gear in 20 year. Although others may have speculated that small changes were introduced in Bowens monolights and heads to discourage the use of generic modifiers, we don’t have any clear evidence of these claims being true, so we will go with the official version of the manufacturer — mostly because the photo above is evidence that there is a difference in the length of the tabs on the accessories.

That is why we would like to hear your experiences: if you own Bowens lighting equipment (please specify whether purchased recently or not) and have had problems mounting generic accessories, let us know. If you can detail which brands of modifier give you problems it would help us to dig deeper into this phenomenon.

  • J.L. Williams

    We use Bowens packs and heads at work, and I have various Chinese-OEM accessories for my own S-mount equipment. When I’ve tried using them on our work system, I’ve noticed that the fit does vary drastically, although I’ve never actually had anything fall off.

    One possible factor is that on our Bowens heads, the accessory mount is made of thin pressed metal, held together by small screws. It can loosen up with use, and I easily can imagine it loosening enough for an accessory with undersized lugs to fall out. It’s important to keep in mind that this mount originally was designed simply to secure standard reflectors, not the front-heavy modifiers many people use now.

  • DAB

    Problems with third-party accessories and Bowens lights.

    I have a pair of older Esprit 1000’s. I’m not sure how old they are as I’m not the original owner. A few years ago I ordered some accessories from Fomex in Seoul, as I also have one of their older model lights. The snoot and light protectors have rounded attachment lugs that are a little longer than the Bowens lights could accomodate correctly. The spring loaded locking pins on the lights wouldn’t return to the latched position, so the accessories would fall out. I filed the lugs on the accessories down a little, and then the locking mechanisms worked correctly. Interestingly, a softbox “Speedring” that I bought at the same time, but which was new at the time, has shortened lugs that are squared across the ends. This fits well, and the locking mechanism on the lights works as advertised, albeit with a little play.

  • http://www.facebook.com/garry.edwards.9659 Garry Edwards

    It’s complicated.

    Firstly yes, there are accessories out there that are very different from the fittings on Bowens accessories, but there are at least 2 distinct reasons for this. Sometimes it just seems to be down to the fact that the fitting is just a copy of a copy of a copy and it’s just wrong.

    And sometimes it’s down to appalling standards of quality control, especially in the smaller factories where the manufacturing process can be primitive and a lot of hand work is involved.

    But I’m not at all sure that the statement that Bowens heads haven’t changed is accurate, various people have told me that there were major quality control problems when they first moved their manufacturing to China, and that it has taken a while to resolve problems. I’ve been told that some of their heads won’t even fit their own modifiers, let alone those made by other people. Now, this may or may not be true, but I have been told this by people who are in a position to know, so although I am definitely not saying that it is true, I cannot say that it isn’t true either.

  • Image Melbourne

    We have found Bowens S type mounts do vary a bit in their lug sizing. We have 5 different brands of S type speedring in stock – Mola, Westcott / Photobasics, Jinbei, QikBox & LumOz. We have not had any reports of modifiers coming off, it seems Bowens flashes (both genuine and 3rd party) are built with this variability in mind.

    Generally the speedrings to avoid are the ones where the lugs are riveted onto the ring rather than the 3 lugs and main ring being cast as one piece. The rivet allows the lug to spin and will weaken over time making the mount insecure. We have had reports of this style causing problems so we don’t stock them.

    Elinchrom is a different matter though. We’ve had reports than even some genuine Elinchrom accessories are very difficult to get on and especially off Elinchrom BRXi heads.

  • Thanks everyone for your input!!! much appreciated :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/loki.clan Raw Muay Thai

    I just stumbled on this whilst searching as I could not fit a 3rd part beauty dish on my *new* Gemini 200, yet it fits fine on my 18 month old Gemini 400, I’ve tried it on 2 new Gemini 200s and it just won’t click into place, no matter what I do, but will clock fine on my old 400. Reading this article and the part about Bowens making a slight mod seems to fit my scenario to a T!

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