It is not easy to describe the quality of light produced by a white beauty dish. It is a beautiful “creamy” light brighter at the center and falling off at the edges, crisp and soft at the same time; it is somewhere in the middle between a reflector and a softbox. And chances are that the readers who are familiar with beauty dishes are pretty much in love with them!
Certainly I find myself using a white beauty dish for most of my shoots; still I haven’t started using one until pretty recently, that is until I had a photo studio… Why, you may ask? ‘Cause beauty dishes are large bulky pieces of metal (commonly between 40 and 70cm large) looking like giant woks and not properly easy to take with you on location… indeed mine hardly ever leaves the studio.
Sure, there are foldable beauty dishes available on the market but they are not very popular and I have myself heard very mixed impressions about them. The common opinion seems to be that if you want THAT creamy beauty dish like light there are no choices but using the “wok”.
Well, trying something yourself is always better that hearing about it and I was very excited when the German company Multiblitz sent me a sample of their foldable 120cm white beauty dish, the so-called Glambox.
The manufacturer describes the product this way on their Website:
The GLAMBOX is a collapsible beauty dish that offers a great combination of even and soft light with definition and contrast. The GLAMBOX is now available with 90 and 120cm diameters. Fully collapsed it fits into a super light 60/90cm carrying pouch.
- Diameter: 90cm / 120cm
- Reflective coating: white
- With white inner diffusor
- Includes adapter ring of choice
Let me first say that Multiblitz is known as a premium equipment manufacturer and, although I could not find much information on the Internet about the Glambox (it is pretty new), this did look like a very good quality product. The only feature that bothered me when I noticed it, is that it uses rods and not a quick umbrella-like opening mechanism. I have some 150cm octaboxes (from another manufacturer) and their current use is collecting dust at the back of my studio; it is a nightmare to set them up and every time I can I prefer to use quick-opening light modifiers.
When I actually received the product I was very pleased with the build quality. The materials are very resistant and it does not look like they will ever tear, the white surfaces are pure white and dirt-repellent and, in spite of the rods, the modifier is very easy to set up. In fact I was surprised that setting up 8 rods can be THAT fast; in just a couple of minutes the Glambox is set up and ready to use! Not to mention that you can carry a huge beauty dish into a tiny pouch!
The Glambox is a premium product and its build quality and ease of use are there to acknowledge that.
In the Field
I have used this foldable beauty dish a lot during the last couple of months and in fact it has become one of my favourite light modifiers. No matter where you use it, in studio or on location, it is very easy to set up, lightweight to handle and it produces a beautiful creamy light. It is perfect for almost any kind of shootings, from fashion to glamour and from beauty to portraits. Also, being so large it allows a lot of flexibility not only in placing the subject but also in adjusting the hardness of light. For instance it is much easier to take soft full-body photos with this than with a 70cm beauty dish and if you want a harder light you can just move the Glambox further away. And even if you are just going for half-body shots or portraits, you are able to position the Glambox further away from the subject than a 70cm beauty dish and still have a nice soft light.
Something that you will probably notice if you get a chance to use the Glambox is that there is some light “leakage” on the edges. Exactly like in a beauty dish there is a gap between the diffuser and the inner coating on all sides, where the light comes out. But while in a beauty dish the external edges of the modifier are curved in and bounce the light back, here they are straight and hence some light will come out diagonally on all sides and produce some annoying spots of light on the surfaces it meets. Since this modifier is so large, in most situations you will not even notice this but, depending on the lighting angle, sometimes this will be very evident instead. It is similar to what happens when using a softbox with just the inner diffuser on but the effect is more noticeable with the Glambox, due to its smaller depth.
If you have ever shot outdoors with a softbox (especially a large one) you know that wind is your enemy. It is easy to underestimate this but a sudden gust of wind can have nasty consequences and in the past I myself had one strobe smashed on the floor this way… even a sandbag didn’t save it… Well, the Glambox is very similar to an octabox without the external diffuser on (although it is not as deep) or, indeed, to a giant beauty dish. It is not as bad as an umbrella but it is very sensitive to wind and, even if there is just a breeze, I would not recommend using this light modifier without an assistant holding it or some damn good weights securing the light stand.
If you like shooting with a white beauty dish, chances are that you will be very happy with the Glambox, not only thanks to the beautiful light it produces but also to the added flexibility it grants.
Quality of Light
As said, it is not easy to describe the light produced by a beauty dish but I am confident that most of you are already familiar with it. For the ones who are not, just have a look at the included pictures to get a better idea.
It is more interesting to compare the Glambox with a standard white beauty dish, in terms of quality of light produced. Well, keeping into consideration the size differences (of course the larger the modifier the softer the light at the same distance from the subject), I did not notice any substantial differences in light quality between the two. The only thing I noticed is that the Glambox produces a more distinct central bright spot than the beauty dish, although in practice this is really noticeable only at close distances. The reason is probably due to the differences in shapes (the Glambox is more curved at the back than the beauty dish) and to the material of the diffuser (textile and not metal like the beauty dish). To be fair my beauty dish is not perfectly round anymore (the metal can get deformed quite easily with time) and this may also have played a role in the comparison.
Although the common opinion seems to be that foldable beauty dishes are very different than classic ones, I could not identify any substantial differences between the two in terms of quality of light.
Do I Still Need a Beauty Dish?
At this point you may be wondering if you can totally replace a beauty dish with a Glambox. For me the clear answer is “no” and the reasons are twofold.
First of all, I hardly ever use a beauty dish without a grid; yes, I like using grids also with white beauty dishes. I love contrast, I love shadows and I love being able to control the light’s direction; all of this is very difficult to achieve without a grid. This issue may be easy to solve with a DIY grid, or maybe at some point Multiblitz will start offering one (I would be happy to see that) but at the moment there is no easy way to direct the light of the Glambox (even using a large textile grid from another modifier is inconvenient and produces suboptimal results).
Second, the smallest available Glambox is 90cm large and this may simply be too large if you want very contrasty and focused light. To be honest I sometimes feel that even my 70cm beauty dish is too large and with a 90cm+ one there is not much you can do in terms of lighting small spots with contrasty light. This has more to do with physics than with the Glambox itself but I think it is worthy to remind that larger is not always better.
Although a Glambox is very similar to a beauty dish, it cannot replace it if you want to be able to accurately control your light.
It is not a secret that I really like the Glambox and that I have been using it a lot recently, especially for outdoors shoots where I need flexibility in placing the subject and convenience in carrying my equipment. Also I feel comfortable saying that the light it produces is comparable to the light of a beauty dish; granted the pixel peepers may find differences but honestly even the classic beauty dishes have slight differences in shapes and coatings (not to mention that they can get easily deformed with use) so a too “scientific” comparison may not even make sense here.
Nevertheless I would not say that you can always ditch your beauty dish in favour of a Glambox, due to the additional control a classic beauty dish grants in terms of directing light, especially when used with a grid.
If you are the type who only likes shooting high-key and who doesn’t really care for much contrast then you may be happy with just the Glambox. If instead you like also shooting low-key and you like contrast and shadows, a classic beauty dish is more appropriate for you. But in both cases you won’t regret owning a Glambox, especially if you don’t only work in studio; indeed I love shooting low-key and I love contrast but still you will hardly ever find me shooting on location without a Glambox in my bag!
The Glambox is available through the Multiblitz Website.