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Is the Mola Setti the King of Beauty Dishes?

By Craig Beckta on February 28th 2015

If you are a portrait photographer who takes his lighting seriously, then you will want to read this entire article. Because if you don’t, you may just miss out on something that will push your light shaping abilities to a whole other level. Do I have your attention? Great, then keep reading.

If you have spent any time shooting portraits, then you already know that lighting can be your best friend or your biggest enemy. Lighting can make or break a shot, and there is nothing worse than looking at your images and thinking… I just screwed up; it could’ve been a killer image. Argh!

[REWIND: WESTCOTT RAPID BOX DUO | THOUGHTS ON THIS LIGHTWEIGHT GAME CHANGER]

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Here’s the problem: which light shaping tool is your best option? You have so many choices, but you find it difficult to decide which is the best tool for the job. You scour photography forums and Facebook groups, you ask questions and you get vague answers, sound familiar? You are not alone, I was also searching for another light shaping tool to add to my light bending arsenal in an attempt to emulate the elusive images I was seeing other photographers post online. You may be wondering to yourself, is the Mola Setti really the Holy Grail of light shaping modifiers I have been searching for?

I will let you decide that for yourself. Check out the Mola Setti, the King of Beauty Dishes in action:

After watching the video above, you probably want to engage in some heated discussions about light shaping and whether or not product A, is better than product B. I welcome any questions you may have and I look forward to reading them in the comment section below this article.

Before we get into a big debate over which beauty dish is the best, let’s first go over some of the technical aspects of the Mola Setti and how it applies to portrait photography. According to their website, the Mola Setti, “Captures and focuses light with maximum efficiency. It is uniquely shaped to intercept all paths of light, no matter which direction they leave the strobe, and redirect them toward the subject.

Isn’t that what all modifiers are designed to do? Let’s have a closer look at the design. The image below shows the Optional Opal Glass diffuser installed.

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Another factoid from the Mola’s website, “The Setti’s deep narrow profile increases contrast and delivers a directional quality which is perfect for black and white as well as color images which require a noticeably distinct edge.

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From my personal experience, the larger the light source and the closer the light source is placed in relation to the subject, the softer the light appears. In some cases, soft light is the desired outcome, but overly soft light can often lack the drama that shadows provide in your images.

Check out the image example below of the Mola Setti in a Butterfly lighting position, taken a distance of 5 feet from the subject and placed directly in front and pointed 45% downward.

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The above image was shot on the Nikon D810 with the Nikon 85 mm F 1.4 G at F 4.5, Shutter Speed 200 and ISO 64.

Note the contrast and the shadow detail. It is crisp, but not harsh or unpleasing. It is a combination of both hard and soft light and it provides the best of both worlds, in my opinion. Also the new tilting bracket makes it easier than ever to tilt the Mola Setti into the correct position and there is also an optional handle to make it even easier to adjust.

If the weight of the dish is a concern, no worries. The Light stand holds the weight of the modifier so your strobe does not have to bear the weight of the modifier unlike some other designs on the market.

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You can also choose from a wide variety of speed rings to mount whatever your strobe of choice may be, for example, you can find speed rings for the Mola Setti for Alien Bees, Bowens, Elinchrom, Profoto and many more.

You are probably wondering what are the upsides and the downsides of using the Mola Setti? Firstly, the quality of the light and the ability to use it outside on a windy day are  a plus. On the downside, the Mola Setti is not a very portable design. It is 28 inches in diameter and it is heavier than an umbrella. Also the price tag may be out of reach for some.

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All in all, I believe the Mola Setti may be a worthwhile investment for the serious portrait photographer. But as always, prior to any purchase, please do your own due diligence and decide if it is right for your type of photography and your budget. To find out more about the technical details of the Mola Setti or to purchase one of your own, click here.

About

Craig Beckta is a Professional Portrait Photographer based
out of Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada… Craig currently has over 65 Free Photography Tutorials on: YouTube

You can also check out more of Craig’s work at: Craig Beckta Photography on Facebook And on his Website www.craigbeckta.com

8 Comments

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  1. Mark Romine

    Molas are the cat’s meow of BD

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  2. Bobbi Lane

    I have been using the Mola Setti since it first came out, late 90’s. It is BY FAR my favorite light, with the ability to give a big more edge to the softness, but create pearly skin tones. I’ve used it to make edgy images and others that imitate Vermeer. The best money I ever spent on a light modifier.

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  3. Vince Arredondo

    I would like to try this out!

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  4. Eric Sharpe

    I know that I’m supposed to see a difference, but I cannot. Now I’m interested to see side by side comparisons of the various beauty dishes, for the most popular studio strobes. I have a 28 inch beauty that I bought on accident. I assumed that was the size of the beauty dishes belonging to the studio I’m a member of. When it arrived, I quickly understood that what I had been using in the studio had to have been 22 inches. Anyway, I say all that to say that I don’t doubt it the Mola beauty dish could he better, but that I’m not enough of an expert to see a difference.

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  5. Stan Rogers

    I’m not sure how far I’d trust the Balcar (Paul C. Buff) mount with monolights; that’s not Mola’s fault, just an inherent weakness in the design (it relies on springs, with no positive mechanical lock). But then if you’re using AlienBees, you’re probably not in the market for a Mola (or any other modifier costing significantly more than your flashes). And Elinchrom shooters might want to try the 70cm Softlight reflectors first — they’re entirely unlike run-of-the-mill beauty dishes, being properly parabolic reflectors that happen to be rather large and flat. (Especially if you’re using the focusing heads of the pack-and-head systems.) But compared to the ordinary Bundt cake pan designs out there (and, frankly, Profoto, Hensel and especially Broncolor ought to do better) that really just throw a ringlight-type pattern from the curve near the edge, yeah, the Mola Setti (and the Demi and Euro, while we’re at it) is a huge improvement, being both softer in some respects and crisper in others.

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    • Kirk Grodske

      The mount is not an issue here. Note the dish mounts to the stand and then the light is carried by the dish. All PCB products can handle that with the exception of the coffee can original models.

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  6. Gurmit Saini

    I never had a beauty dish and recently I bought Westcott Rapid Box which is great, but this looks impressive and I will keep an eye on this.

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    • Scott Mosley

      Beauty dishes can be really great, I’ve stopped using them lately and instead gone for three speed lights inside of a 7′ parabolic for a much more portable (an way less expensive) soft directional.

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