The Profoto RFi Softbox System Review – Rapid Gear Review

Gear & Apps November 15th 2013 1:28 PM 6 Comments

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Profoto is well known for its high-end lighting equipment with top-tier light and build quality. Many professionals and enthusiasts swear by them day in and day out. However, being one of the premiere lighting companies has its price, and Profoto is known for relatively expensive price tags to match the quality of their gear.

In this review, we take a look at the relatively affordable Profoto RFi Light Shaping system. The RFi system is unique because in addition to the RFi light modifiers, Profoto also manufactures over 20 RFi Speedring adapters for major third-party light brands. In other words, the RFi modifiers are aimed at photographers who have not jumped into the Profoto light system because they already have their own set of lights, but may want to own Profoto-quality modifiers.

RFi stands for Recessed Front – Improved, which refers to the recessed diffusers in the front of each softbox for better light control, as well to the improved, deeper shape that directs more light to the front rather than the sides. For better control, the RFi modifiers also have double-layered diffusers and a highly reflective silver interior.

The RFi softboxes come in all sizes and shapes. There are four shapes for the softbox modifier – rectangular, square, octa, and strip – in a total of 12 sizes.

For this review, we’re taking a look at the RFi Speedlight Speedring for speedlights, the Softbox RFi 3ft Octa, and the Softbox RFi 2x3ft.

Watch the Profoto RFi Review

Build Quality

The first thing I noticed when I was unpacking our review kit was the overall build quality of all the components. Once again, Profoto lives up to their name. The softbox material is thick and durable, the steel rods are firm and very well made, the RFi Speedring has a solid weight to it and you can tell that it is built to withstand years of use and abuse.

As expected from Profoto, all of the components are built to last.

Assembling the Profoto RFi Speedlight Speedring and Softboxes

Profoto RFi Speedring 01

The RFi system works through the Profoto Speedring adapter, which is a separate component that allows you to mount your flashes or speedlights to the actual modifier.

The Speedlight Speedring adapter that we have allows you to mount one or two speedlights. The benefit of mounting two speedlights is that you can bounce each speedlight off the sides the interior in order to create a broader and more powerful light source. Additionally, with four mounting brackets you can mount wireless light triggers such as the Profoto Air remote or the Pocket Wizard Plus 3 [Rewind: Check out our review of the Pocket Wizard Plus III].

Profoto RFi Speedring

One thing that I noticed is that assembling the RFI Octa is not very easy. Because there are 8 steel rods, instead of the usual 4 found in a softbox, it takes around 10 to 15 minutes to physically place and bend all of the rods into place inside the RFI Octa.

However, it is straightforward because of the color coded Speedring and rods. In the case of the Octa, you just match the green-tipped rods to the green holes around the Speedring.

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Nevertheless, I found that at certain points, it is much easier to have a second set of hands to help hold the Speedring in place.

Profoto-RFi-octa-softbox-3

If this is an issue, I would recommend going with one of the rectangular softboxes because with only half the rods, they are far easier and quicker to setup. For the most part, I can’t see this being a major issue for most photographers, with the exception of maybe a wedding photographer who is working under extreme time limitations. So for someone that is an on-the-go shooter, this means that you need to plan anywhere from 10 to 15 minutes to set up the Octa when shooting on location.

In general, just note that the design of an octabox or octabank (regardless of who makes it) requires more rods and a more time to setup.

Profoto-RFi-photoshoot

Light Quality

Now let’s talk about the light quality. I planned to use the RFi Octa during one of our beach shoots, but I did not get a chance to really use it as much as I’d like to. This is because I did not bring my ND filters, which I needed in order keep the shutter speed below the sync speed while using a shallow aperture to create the type of images I was looking for. Nevertheless, I still shot a couple test shots with the Profoto RFI 3′ Octa. Surprisingly, because of the highly reflective silver interior, two speedlights can be enough to shoot outside in broad daylight.

Profoto-RFi-octa-softbox-4

I was able to brighten up my subject enough in direct sunlight while still retaining my background detail in most situations other than pointing directly into the sun.

In regards to the light quality and output, I was in no way disappointed.

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Comparison Between an Umbrella, the RFi Softbox, and the RFI Octabox

In addition to shooting on location, I did a comparison test in the studio to check the difference in light quality between the Softbox RFi 3ft Octa, the Softbox RFi 2x3ft, and a standard Shoot-Through Umbrella.

Profoto-RFi-studio-shoot

Again, I was pleasantly surprised by the results. I expected the two RFi light modifiers to be better, but the difference was far more noticeable than what I had thought. Each light and modifier was placed at an equal distance from the subject. The umbrella had a very hard and uneven look to the light in comparison to both RFi softboxes. Take a look at the sample images below:

Umbrella
umbrella-1

RFi 2×3′ Softbox
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RFi 3′ Octa
Profoto-RFi-octa-softbox-1

Conclusion

So with a sub $500 price tag per modifier, is the relatively affordable Profoto RFI Lightshaping system worthy of the Profoto name? Yes it is.

The numerous Speedrings available for third party lights make the RFi Lighting System highly adaptable. Whether you are shooting with name brand monolights or speedlights, there is a good chance that Profoto has a Speedring for your lights.

At the time of this review, you can pickup the Profoto Speedlight Speedring for $175.  The RFi 3ft Octa is $235, so if you add that to the Speedring, the total cost for this lighting modifier setup around $410.

Now $410 for a lighting modifier is definitely not inexpensive, however I can say that there is great value in this package. The RFi softboxes are designed for heavy use and abuse, they are made to be broken down and setup over and over, and they are designed to create the highest quality light for years and years to come.

So, with that said, they are actually a decent value at the price because you are paying for quality.

SLRL_Review_5_Stars

All in all, we give the Profoto RFi Speedring and Softbox system a total of 5 out of 5 stars and it is an absolutely awesome lighting tool which we will be using frequently!

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Pye

About

Pye (AKA Post Production Pye) is a founder and the Managing Editor for SLR Lounge. Pye is also a Partner of Lin and Jirsa Photography, an Orange County based wedding, engagement and portrait photography studio. Connect with him on Google Plus

6 Comments

  1. James Moxley

    Very cool, I would love to see it compare against the Rapid Box
    http://fjwestcott.com/product-category/westcott/light-modifiers/the-rapid-box/
    And the Rogue Flash Bender XL
    http://www.expoimaging.com/product-detail.php?cat_id=13&product_id=30&keywords=Rogue_XL_Pro_Lighting_Kit

    This was a photo I did on monday with a rogue flashbender XL
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/wavesummit/10814119975/

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  2. michael cook

    Have you used the Paul c buff softboxes or the westcott Apollo? I like the umbrella mount, it sets up in a few seconds. The speed ring looks well made, can you use other profoto modifiers with it? I usually use a monoblock with a battery pack. I cut down an old hand truck like Blair Phillips LR2 and use it. I can see where having speed lights can be handy also.

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    • Pye

      Yep, we use a lot of Paul C Buff gear as well. But, I have only tried PCB stuff in studio, we don’t have mounting gear for portable strobes, so we only use our PCB stuff for our Einsteins in studio. PCB makes great intro strobing gear for the price though.

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  3. Gee

    Looks well built..and I guess in the long run you may justify the cost to use this portable way of lighting. Almost $400 for this set up..portable flash units $600..quality flash triggers depending on control…$100-350 and not to mention a ton of AA batteries to power the strobes. In the end $1100+ for a portable set up May lead others to rethink the options.

    But it does look well built and the cheap stuff may wind up costing you more than you bargained for!

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