My Paul C. Buff Light Modifiers: Reviewed And Assessed

 

Since about July of 2011, I made the transition from my Canon-based Speedlite system to Paul C. Buff Einstein lights. Though I still have my Canon lights for various location shoots where nimbleness and portability are important, I didn’t like using them in a studio setting; there were too many batteries to keep track of, and not everything fired as reliably as a dedicated radio system like Pocket Wizards of Buff’s Cybersyncs. So I made the jump, and with it, bought a heck of a lot of light modifiers to go with the Einsteins.

 

I’m writing this to help other photogs make up their minds when sifting through all of their options as well as to take stock of what I can and can’t live without in my own set-up, and maybe remind myself to exploit some of the gear that’s already fallen by the wayside.

First up is the…

64″ Soft Silver PLM Umbrella

 

Frequency of use: Often, Qty: 2

 

Whether as a main or fill light, I usually break this out during a head shot session. I almost always use it with the extra diffuser. If my small studio could accomodate the 86″ I’d definitely check it out. Until I started using the PLM, I was using the Buff Octaboxes instead. I can’t vouch for the differences between “Extreme Silver” and so on as I went the middle path and got the Soft Siver versions, but I can say that I prefer the umbrella shaft version to the center-axis speedring version, the latter which is more cumbersome to store and carry, let alone set-up each time.

48-inch Translucent White Umbrella

 

 

Frequency of use: Occasionally, Qty: 1

Not much to say about this. Construction seems extra flimsy compared to other umbrellas, but nothing about it makes it unique. Included here for completeness sake.

Softboxes: Medium and Giant

 

 

Frequency of use: Seldom, Qty: 1 medium and 1 giant

These are sturdy, well-built, and easy to deploy with their umbrella-like ribbing but what can I say, I’m not that fond of them or at least don’t use them very often. I find them too rectangular for my tastes, and find myself much more partial to the Buff octaboxes. These remind me more of the stripboxes in their narrowness, and since I already have 2 stripboxes, I almost never pull these unless it’s to remind myself that I have them.

10″ x 36″ foldable stripboxes

 

Frequency of use: Often, Qty: 2

 

No complaints. These are sturdy and well-built like the softboxes mentioned above. I use them both gridded and ungridded. I tend to use them as a pair most times.

Foldable Octaboxes, Medium and Large

 

Frequency of use: Not much lately since PLM, Qty: 1 of each

 

I will probably revisit the Octaboxes soon, though I almost always use the large version (gridded) when I do.

Beauty Dishes

 

Frequency of use: Most shoots, Qty: 1 white and 1 silver

What can I say, I gravitate to the beauty dish for most shoots. Not sure if I’m part of a trend, but I enjoy the dish’s simplicity and quality of light. I probably should not have bothered with the silver one, though the white diffusion sock is useful to tame it. I highly recommend using the grids for these dishes, as well. They are expensive by Buff standards, but do a great job when you need to control light spill and add extra drama on the subject.

8.5-inch Silver High Output Reflector

 

Frequency of use: Occasionally, Qty: 4

 

I got one of these for each Einstein head I own. I like them plenty, and usually use them gridded. I could have gotten away with 2 max. but no biggie.

White Shovel Background Reflector

 

Frequency of use: Seldom, Qty: 1

 

I seldom light my backgrounds, if only because my studio is small, but I’ve yet to put this to great use. Not sure if I’m getting the look I wanted from this, but have not really experimented with it much to really find out. Not essential gear, though.

Umbrella Reflector

 

 

Frequency of use: Seldom, Qty: 1

Meant to “block undesired light spill” it may or may not be doing its job. Not sure why I needed to get this one…

Grids

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Frequency of use: Often, Qty: various

Grids… get ’em for whatever light you’re modding, that is all.

Gear I did not get but am now staying up at night wondering if I should:

The LiteMod System

 

I gave this system a pass partly because the attachments used in the LiteMod system like Barndoors seemed a little too yesteryear to me (though I’m changing my tune, lately) and partly because the system seems a little too pricey compared to the rest of Paul C. Buff’s accessories. Each mod you buy requires its own “Mainframe” to use, so costs multiply rapidly when you have several lights. I’d like to have Barndoors and Gels in my arsenal, but pricewise my enthusiasm is dampened.

 

Conclusion

Well, there you have it. Most days I’ve got the PLM, Beauty Dish, small gridded reflectors and the occsional stripbox deployed on my shoots. I somehow want Buff’s softboxes be more “boxy” and right now my previous favourite octaboxes have fallen out of rotation.

Overall I’m happy with the line of modifiers available, though I’m always hungry for more, and starting to wonder what my options are for third party light-mods and how they might attach to my Einsteins. Not that I’ve mastered my existing gear by any means, but what else am I going to day-dream about?

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