As I start to travel more, I look more and more at small gear options, specifically surrounding lighting. One of my must-haves has been a portable softbox that would be quick and simple to setup, and give me satisfactory results.

The Vello Octa Softbox for Portable Flash (Large, 12″) is a decent option but falls a bit short in some areas.

Setting Up

The Vello Octa Softbox is pretty much what I expected — a 12″ collapsible softbox that attaches to any flash with velcro. While it fit my Nissin i700a flash, it was somewhat cumbersome to put on. I couldn’t get a tight fit of the velcro on my flash, mainly due to the fact that I had trouble holding both my flash and the softbox steady.

Needless to say, I could have used a third hand. But I eventually did attach it to where I was satisfied.

Photo by Cathy Seaver

There was a much bigger issue at hand. Using this on my GH5 and 42.5mm f/1.2 lens, the softbox was a bit too large. It encroached on my lens view, meaning I had to push it down at an angle in order to take a photo without seeing the softbox in the photograph. While this might have been a problem for me, it most likely wouldn’t be for more DSLR users. But micro four-thirds users take note — make sure to measure how far up your flash goes, and whether or not a softbox would encroach on your view. One thing I did really like — the compactness of the softbox. It was super easy to fold up and put back in its carrying pouch, making for easy travel.

Photo by Cathy Seaver

Results

Despite the issues I had setting it up, the softbox performed pretty well. While it didn’t spread the light as much as an off-camera softbox would, it did a good job for a portable flash. I was pretty happy. It helped to diffuse and even out the light so it wasn’t as harsh as a bare flash, making it a great option when photographing both indoors and out.

In my tests, the softbox helped to separate the subject and evenly light my subject’s face, which was ultimately the goal of the product.

Conclusion

Despite the positive results in my tests, I would be cautious in recommending the Vello Octa Softbox for Portable Flash (Large, 12″) because of the setup issues I encountered. Even if the softbox didn’t infringe on my photograph, attaching it to my flash was somewhat cumbersome. And for a portable flash, I expect it to be quick and easy, so you can set it up within seconds when you’re out and about.

The Vello Octa Softbox for Portable Flash (Large, 12″) retails for $24.95.