Earlier this year I picked up a Godox s-type bracket softbox kit and it impressed the hell out of me in terms of design and value for money. A friend then bought a Godox AD600 flash unit and when I saw what it could do, that impressed me too. Then I bought some of their cheap speedlight softbox attachments and… Godox let me down.
With a quick search on ebay, you’ll find there are plenty of light modifier products out there that attach directly to speedlights. They vary wildly in price, durability and usefulness. Based on my previous experiences with Godox products, I assumed their softbox versions would be reasonable value for money. I ordered a couple of their SB1520 model (15cm x 20cm) and their SB2030model (20cm x 30cm).
When they arrived, they did indeed seem pretty good. Unlike the all-plastic Lumiquest products (Softbox III/Softbox LTP) I’d been using for a a number of years, the Godox softboxes are made of stitched fabric, similar to some of the robust products from Honlphoto. The softbox exterior is black, the inside is white and the front panel has a region in the middle which is a little thicker than the rest in an effort to ensure the light intensity is evenly distributed.
The softbox has sewn-in velcro pads so that it can attach directly to a speedlight. Similar products from Lumiquest and Honlphoto attach the same way. Unlike those products, Godox even ship their softbox with a complementary rubberised “speedstrap”. If you haven’t already stuck some permanent bits of velcro onto your speedlight head, you can just wrap this strap around the head of your flash. It’s rubberised on the back so it won’t slip off the plastic easily. As I’ve already got that velcro on my speedlights, I put their speedstrap aside and went ahead fitting the softbox to one of my speedlights.
This is where it all… well… it came unstuck. No, really: I put the softbox on the flash and it fell straight off. I then discovered that Godox had made a pretty significant design error: the velcro pads stitched into the softbox were the same type of velcro on my speedlight. Whereas other speedlight modifiers expect the furry velcro to be on the speedlight, Godox decided to put that velcro on their softbox. They got the velcro all backwards.
In one sense it’s a minor design flaw but it complicates the setup process. I already have velcro stuck to most of my speedlights but I now have to wrap their strap over it first. Of course, it’s not a great fit because the rubber back of the speedstrap is designed to grip on the smooth plastic rather than furry velcro. When I add the softbox I need to be careful I don’t cause the strap to slide straight off. It’s just really dumb.
What makes it a little worse is the Godox soft snoot (SN3030) has the same design flaw (with the strap again supplied to “fix” it). It’s hard to tell if they supply the strap to be generous or if that’s their way of apologising for screwing up the design. It seems like a flaw that would be very easy for them to fix.
Of course, once you’ve solved the basic problem of how to secure the softbox, it behaves exactly as you’d expect: it softens the light a little. In practical terms it’s not really big enough to soften the light much unless you’re working in really close (eg. shooting small products). If you’re a bug on a table a foot away from this light, you’re gonna think this softbox is huuuuuuge-in yer-face. If you’re a human on the other side of the room, it’s not going to be much more intimidating than a bare flash. Relative size and perspective need to be taken into account when assessing any modifier that claims to soften the light.
A curious feature in this softbox design are two panels on the back, both top and bottom. These open easily and have velcro patches so that you can fold them back and secure them out of the way. They expose the back of the white interior wall and allow some of the light to bleed out. I must admit I’m rather baffled by these. Why allow some of the light to escape from the back? Is this to allow some of the light to be thrown up at the ceiling while most of the light goes forward? Or are you supposed to point the flash head up so that the front panel throws light onto the ceiling while some of it bleeds out the front?
Whatever it’s supposed to do, it seems like a fairly inefficient solution. I wouldn’t quite call it a design fault as it doesn’t have any negative impact: the panels are well secured and you can just keep them closed to avoid worrying about. It’s just odd. Based on my experience of other Godox gear, it’s the kind of different design thinking I half-expect from them but I can’t quite get my head around what their intentions were here.
Taken alone, these softboxes are perfectly fine products: they’re cheap, durable and portable. They soften the light a little and come with all the bits required to attach to your speedlight. However, when you consider them in the wider world of velcro-attached speedlight products, their design flaw feels less like a quirk and more of an annoyance. I’ll keep them in my kit in case I ever need them but I just know I’m going to sigh loudly every time I use them.
If you’ve found the above rant useful, you may like to sign up to one of my regular outdoor lighting workshops that I run in the Melbourne CBD. I run those through my meetup.com group Melbourne Photography Education.