Recently there has been a surge of more affordable light modifiers, and this one from China-based Hylow is a prime example of the movement.
What we received here at the Lighting Rumours Towers was a kit. This kit includes a bag, a CheetahStand-style light stand, an umbrella mount, and an umbrella style Octa-Softbox. The bag itself has internal sections to hold everything with nothing damaging anything whilst in transit.
The umbrella mount, well, works, it does what its supposed to. Apart from, the spigot used to attach hotshoes to doesn’t have enough scew to it to confidently attach anything to it and when using the Phottix triggers, wont actually attach at all.
Now the stand is slightly different. To use it, you have to unlock what is on a standard stand the lock which keeps the legs locked in position, but whats different is that when you have locked the legs out, whenever you pick the stand up, the legs close up to the stand meaning you can move the stand around with knocking things over with the legs. So there are always four points of contact to the ground. This is good for anyone in a rush, wedding/event photographers, and possibly studio photographers looking to move things around the studio quickly. The problem with this is that you need to always have flat ground otherwise the legs wont reach the floor.
Hylow have made this Octa-Softbox in the same style as the Westcott Apollo Softbox. All the functionality of a softbox, with the set up time of an umbrella. The diameter of the umbrella is 80 and comes with an inner baffle and an outer diffusion panel. There are no recessed panels to this so with the diffusion panel, it sits flush. Whilst the bigger diffuser is easily attached with velcro on the outside, the inner baffle is attached by elasticated loops and metal hooks. I always find these things a pain with my fat fingers!
The Octa-Softbox can easily take one or multiple flashes depending on what mount you have, and just about fits a Bowens Gemini 400. Depending on the angle of the Octa-Softbox, the stand might have to be mounted on the outside or another adapter needed to facilitate this.
Quality-wise, the entire product seems pretty good. Full extension of the lightstand with a heavier monolight leads to a bit of shake on the stand. The stitching and quality of the Octa-Softbox itself looks good, but a gust of wind will destroy more than likely damage this in the same way it would of something of a heftier price. To be honest, I think the first thing that will probably start to come apart first will be the bag to carry everything in.
Hylow say the recommended retail price for this kit is US$288. This includes the folding softbox, triple flash mount, quick stand and dedicated carrying case. Is this cheap enough to be worth adding to your photographic arsenal?