Graslon Prodigy & Insight Review: Soft Lighting for Speedlight
Product Name: Prodigy and Insight
Cost: $89.95 and $62.95
Subject: Speedlight modifier
Speedlights are great when you want to have a mobile source of lighting. The problem is that they are a small, hard source of light and really need a good modifier to soften and spread the light. There are plenty of speedlight modifiers out in the market, like those to use specifically off-camera like an umbrella, to those that can also be used on camera, like the Rogue Flashbenders. Of course, portable softboxes are fairly common, too.
The problem with the majority of speedlight softboxes is that although the light is diffused a bit, the light source inside is still small and direct. That also mean that there’s a tendency of a hot spot because the apparent light source is still small. The Graslon Prodigy and Insight modifiers approached this issue with a rather ingenious design.
Inside the unit is a small reflector that bounces a lot of the light from the speedlight all over the unit. This helps create a larger light source by the time it hits the white plastic diffuser cover. Some of the lights also goes straight through the slits. The entire inside is coated by a shiny material that makes it very efficient in bouncing the light around so you don’t really lose any stops in light. I noticed that using TTL on my Panasonic GH2 and on my friend’s Canon 5D mkIII, there were only a few instances in which I had to add compensation.
There are two different front diffuser covers, the Dome and the Flat.
The Dome is used when you’re indoors because it spreads the light to its sides a bit and so it will bounce off the wall and soften the light even more. The smaller the room, the more effective the dome will be because the light that bounces back will soften the shadows.
If you are in a big room or outdoors, it is better to use the Flat panel because it not only directs all the light forward to make it more efficient, but there are hundreds of miniature curved bumps on the panel that can help spread the light a bit.
The Prodigy and Insight are secured unto the speedlight the same way. First, you insert the speedlight into the opening. Then, you move the four movable, rubber-lined walls so it sits snugly on the speedlight. Finally, you tighten the velcro strap so the walls are really, really tight against the body. Friction should keep the speedlight in place. That being said, I did have the Prodigy fall off a couple times, primarily due to gravity.
The Prodigy is the bigger brother of the two. Being that it is bigger, it does spread and soften the light better than the Insight. Its main downside, besides being $89 versus $63, is its size. You really have to have some ample space in your bag to carry it around. Its dimension is 8″ x 5″ x 3″. There is no carrying case available for it, but Graslon said that they are planning to make it as a separate accessory.
I used the Prodigy more extensively than the Insight and primarily with the Dome. The mirror reflector did a good job in making the light source larger and with the diffuser, softer. But remember, more important than the actual size of the light is the size of the light and distance in relation to the subject. In the case of an event photography gig that I did, at 4-6 feet away from the subject will look a bit softer compared to taking it 8-10 feet away. Here are a couple of straight-out-of-the camera RAW file. Granted, this was at a really large banquet hall, so the Prodigy didn’t take advantage of the walls to bounce it around. Despite that, however, I did not have to really amp the power on my speedlight. Of course, I was also shooting ISO400 and have the aperture as wide as f1.4 and as small as f6.3.
When it comes to close up shots, the light that comes from the piece is just beautiful. Very nice, soft shadows, as you can see from this next two photos:
The Insight is easier to carry around due its smaller dimension of 6″ x 4″ x 3″. I can fit this into one of the lens photo compartments in an Undfind One Bag, unlike the Prodigy. The caveat, of course, is that the light is not as soft. But it still does a good job, though. The first two photos, which were taken as a headshot, show a really nice soft shadow under the chin. This is because I was probably 3 feet away. The third photo has a more defined chin shadow because that he was 5-6 feet away on the other side of a long table
1) The mirror reflector inside does help to spread the light to make the Graslon to be a larger light source and help soften the light.
2) The two front diffuser makes for a versatile system depending on your environment. Use the Dome for indoors, especially when you can bounce some of the lights off the walls. Use the Flat for really, really large rooms with really tall ceilings and you can’t really bounce light off anything. Also use it for outdoors or anywhere else where you need a more efficient light.
3) The Graslons are very sturdy. If you drop it, even on its panels, you probably won’t damage it.
1) They are big, particularly the Prodigy. You have to be creative about how you’re going to carry it around. There isn’t any carrying case. Use the Insight if you really can’t find the space for the Prodigy. You do trade off some softness of the light, though
2) Expensive. They are rather on the expensive side. I think they’re worth it, though.
Yes, they are a bit pricey, but if you want something that is very durable, professional looking, and give you a nicer, softer light on-camera, the Prodigy and the Insight definitely one of the better modifiers out in the market. When it comes down to it, both works and it’s just a matter of how much room you have to carry either products. If you have the room, the Prodigy is the way to go, but you still can’t go wrong with the Insight as well. I like them and I do recommend them, especially if you have are doing event photography and you have to be moving around with just your speedlight on your camera.
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