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Gear & Apps

Comparing Speedlight Umbrella Softboxes

By Anthony Thurston on April 6th 2013

If you are like me and do not have the luxury of a dedicated studio space then you likely use speedlights for your artificial lighting needs. One of the best modifiers for any sort of artificial light are softboxes. The problem with standard softboxes is that they can be a pain to setup and not very speedlight friendly. A great alternative to your standard softboxes are these Umbrella Softboxes, another plus is that they are designed to be used with speedlights.


There are several brands of these umbrella softboxes, today I wanted to focus on two of the more popular brands; the original Westcott Apollo and the Phottix Easy Up Softbox. The two softboxes work the same way, you open it like an umbrella and place your speelights inside, the biggest difference beyond materials used is the price. The Westcott sells in the US for about $150 depending on which size you get, and the Phottix sells for about $70 depending on the size that you get.

I was going to do a full video comparing the two, but came across this great one done by Youtuber Snappuppy. Since he did such a good job I decided to just share his video instead.  So for a thorough look at both softboxes checkout the video below.

My Thoughts

I am on a strict budget when it comes to my photography, and based on the reviews that I have seen (including the one above) the quality of the light – which in my opinion is most important here – is roughly the same. Not only that but the more expensive Westcott Apollo softboxes suffer from the center shaft being “too short” which causes it to come out and it can be annoying to put it back. The cheaper Phottix version does not suffer from that problem and has a better umbrella shaft.

Based on this I am comfortable saying that I would chose the Phottix version over the Westcott, simply because it’s cheaper and works just as well (by most accounts). One thing to note though, I recently attempted to purchase one of the Phottix softboxes via the Phottix website and was told that they no longer ship the softboxes to the USA. They ship their other products here just fine, so my guess is that Westcott has threatened them with some sort of legal action if they sell their “knockoff” softboxes in the US. I do not know that for a fact, but that is my guess. If anyone knows how to get one of the Phottix branded softboxes here in the USA let me know in a comment below. (Amazon and Ebay were no dice when I checked)


Cheap0 Brand – Available on Amazon for $30

So rather than going out and getting the more expensive Apollo I went the other direction and got the cheaper unbranded version, easily available on Amazon for about 30$. I just got it in the mail today and will likely write up a full review of it once I have been able to thoroughly test it out. But my initial reaction is that it is pretty well built, for $30 I was not expecting something as well together as the unit I received is. That said, I have not had a chance to test out the light on it yet – so I will reserve judgement until my full review.

Where do you guys fall in this? Do you take the cheaper and equally performing Phottix, or the slightly better built – but more quirky- Westcott version? Or do you go straight for the bargain basement version on Amazon like I ended up doing? Let us know in a comment below.

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Anthony Thurston is a photographer based in the Salem, Oregon area specializing in Boudoir. He recently started a new project, Fiercely Boudoir to help support the growing boudoir community. Find him over on Instagram. You may also connect with him via Email.

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Barry Robinson

    What really annoys me [rather a lot] is that what’s available in the US for just under 30 bucks [from Amazon.copm] is £130 [from] in the UK. What happened to the decimal place? I’ve heard of dollar to pounds pricing, but never shifting a decimal place befor. As you can see from the links below this is the exact same product, at a totally different price [unless I’ve missed something or gone completely mad – which is possible]…

    US product and price:

    UK product and price:

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  2. Nick Viton

    I did a side-by-side comparison of the Westcott Apollo Orb vs the “Umbrella Octagon Softbox Brolly Reflector Speedlite 120” knockoff.
    Like you, I found the results between the two to be comparable and not of great significance. Interestingly, some readers were able to correctly identify which modifier was used in unmarked comparison images. Overall, the branded one was not deemed worth the large price differential.

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  3. Snappuppy

    You might want to alter the review. I pulled that video when I shut down my youtube channel.

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  5. davidman

    it seems quite interesting. A big change and improvements on the visual effect.

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  6. stanrogers

    I would be a lot more sympathetic to Westcott’s position but for three things: (1) the Apollo wasn’t exactly brand-new when I got into the game 25 years ago; (2) in all of that time, they have yet to address the awkward mechanics of the unit, deciding instead to make nearly meaningless modifications to the form factor (none of which should have the effect of extending patents on the basic design) and leaving us with something requiring offets or booms to tilt; and (3) they seem to have no problem “borrowing” from others themselves (the original version of the Paul C. Buff PLM and the Photek/Photogenic Eclipse come immediately to mind). They do have a slight advantage that many of us can hop on down to the local Emporium of Things That Take Pictures and buy one in person on any given day, and that can even make sense to the strapped when the kit is on sale for the same price as the Apollo alone (happens at least once a year), so you get a decent stand and swivel in the bargain. (Given any reasonable definition of the three terms, the phrase, “too many lightstands” is inherently self-contradictory.)

    The only thing that bothers me about the cheapies (other than waiting for shipping) is that nobody seems to have made that one small-but-crucial improvement: include a small offset boom in the box. (Something like the Buff Baby Boomer, but just good enough for a large speedlight, a swivel and the softbox itself would cost pennies, hardly change the price, and make the unit ten times more useful.)

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  7. emwull

    the cheapo one is great and durable. the BIG problem that i have with it is that there is verry limited movement. it can only be in the vertical positioned with an inch or 2 forward or backwards. I still bought 2.

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  8. Gray

    I ordered the bracket and softbox from Phottix and they told me after they let me know after I placed the order and took the money that they didn’t ship the softbox to the US. They said they would refund but my shipping bill includes the softbox and I haven’t received a refund yet. I’ll be satisfied with the bracket and it should fit two speedlights in to the Wescott Apollo.

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  9. Adrian Santa

    I have a extremely cheap softbox umbrella (it was around 20$ on ebay) but it is a little difficult to use because i need to put 2 speedlights inside to get a decent light if I use it as key light, if not it works ok with just one speedlight (when used it as a fill light). it all depends on the situation. I don’t have yet the budget to buy expensive equipment. It is practical to use and i don’t regret that i have purchased it.

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