Hexagonal/Octagonal vs square/rectangular softboxes


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Mar 8, 2008
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Austin, Texas
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I have a question regarding softboxes.

In looking at expanding my studio lighting with a couple softboxes and I keep coming across octagonal and hexagonal variants. They also seem to have much higher price tags.

What's the essential difference? Is it merely shape of the light source or do they have an advantage where coverage/softness is concerned?
I think that the biggest difference on your subjects would be the shape of the catchlight...or maybe if you are using the light fall off as an aspect of you composition...the shape might be different.

Now that I think about it...I guess a rounder shape would give you a more even light...simply because the bulb is round and the light probably fills the box better than it would with a square box. Would it make an appreciable difference in the light on your subjects...I have no idea.

I wonder about the set up of those compared to a square softbox. Are they 'easy open' like an umbrella? If so, that's a lot easier than a standard softbox. The one softbox that I have (square) is an 'easy open' style so it's easy to set up...but doesn't pack as small as a typical softbox where the rods come out of the speed ring.
It's also a little more than that. It is the shape and fall-off that makes a difference too.

A rectangular softbox will throw out a rectangular pattern of light and "traditionally" are taller than most octaboxes (unless you are using a $1000 Elinchrom 5-foot Octabox... lol).Softboxes are "traditionally" narrower than octaobxes (again, unless you are using something like a 5 X 8 foot scrim with a 1200 W/s monolight 6 feet back from it. ;) ).

The octaboxes will be wider, but the rectangular softboxes will be taller. What that means is that when it is an effect that you want, an octabox will feather your light to a higher extent at (let's say) below the knees than a softbox, which would give you greater and more even coverage of light from head to toes.

Just visualize the shapes each will put out and how that can be applied, and you will already be ahead of the game a little more.

Bottom line? They both do about the same, it's just a different tool for a different effect, and which one you choose will depend on the effect and final results you want.

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