Gamilight Octave 53 Octagonal Soft Box
I have been using Gamilight modifiers for a couple years now. I had done quite a bit of research (otherwise known as “obsessing”) on modifiers designed specifically for speed lights before finally choosing the Gamilight Square 43 for my “on-location” portrait shoots, and I have really been happy with it’s performance. So when Gamilight announced their new line of octagonal soft boxes I was really excited to try them out! Unfortunately, Gamilight has historically been very difficult to obtain in the USA and very expensive to ship from overseas but, now that they have a new domestic distributor, that has all changed and I finally had the chance to get my hands on one. I thought I’d share some of my first impressions…
The Octave 53 comes in 4 basic pieces, the foldable modifier body, a frosted plastic diffuser, a sheer fabric diffuser, and the mounting strap. As with all of Gamilight’s top-end modifiers the kit also includes a nice, fabric carrying bag as well.
Assembly is pretty simple, you just unfold the modifier body and snap in the plastic diffuser, which helps the modifier hold it’s shape. Then just stretch the fabric diffuser over the opening and you are done. One thing I found particularly helpful was the sewn in plastic insert and tab on the fabric diffuser. This made stretching the elastic diffuser over the modifier a lot easier.
Next step is to snap the modifier onto the speed light flash using the included elastic button mount. This was easy enough, but I noticed the buttons for the Octave 53 are located on the side of the modifier this time, rather than the top and bottom as with their other products. I found this allowed the modifier to lean forward on the flash quite a bit more than on the Square 43. Take a look at the “side-by-side” comparison above, you can see how the Octave 53 is significantly “off-axis” to the flash head, while the top and bottom mounting Square 43 is much straighter. To be fair, I am using an older mount, so this may not be as pronounced if you use the fresh, new mount included with the kit. In addition, I can’t really say how much of an affect this would have in the “real-world” anyway, but it’s something to keep in mind.
Size wise the Octave 53 is quite comparable to the Square 43 and both employ internal plastic diffusers (the Square 43 being optional while the Octave 53 requires the diffuser to hold it’s shape). There are some key design differences, however. The Square 43 makes use of highly reflective silver panels to bounce the light inside the modifier, while the Octave 53 simply has white reflectors. I am excited to see what effect this will have on both output level and relative “softness” between the two units. Considering the Octave 53’s focus on studio portrait photography the design makes sense, with everything working to create the softest, most diffused light possible without increasing the overall size of the source itself.
All in all I’m pretty excited to try this modifier out. The Square 43s has been brilliant for me, particularly on location, but as a dedicated portrait modifier it falls just short. The light, while soft, has a bit more of a “glamour” edge to it and, of course, provides a square catchlight. With its round shape and more targeted design it seems the Octave 53 is picking up right where the Square 43 leaves off, which would make it a perfect addition for anyone looking to use speed lights for studio portrait photography. We’ll know more after we’ve had a chance to actually test it… more soon!