(Editor’s note: Levi shows how to fold circular, triangular and oblong reflectors in this tutorial.)
After a camera and a good tripod, I’d say a 5-in-1 reflector is a must have tool for every photographer. Whether you’re photographing flowers, portraits, or products a 5-in-1 reflector can help you make great light. I got my hands on Impact’s 42-inch 5-in-1 Collapsible Circular Reflector with Handles. Let me tell you what I think of it see if it’s the right tool for you.
As far as reflectors go, this is the smallest I recommend for anyone. 42 inches is a standard size and it’s large enough to cover portrait subjects and most products and close-up nature work, but small enough to handle even in a breeze. It’s well made, and better made than many reflectors, with taped seams for durability.
As is standard with 5-in-1 reflectors, it’s a translucent diffuser/scrim with a cover that has gold, white, silver, and black sides to it. I got excited when I saw the picture on B&H because it shows the white and silver sides coupled, and the gold and black sides coupled. That would be a great thing and I would recommend this reflector above all others if it were built this way–but it’s not. It’s built like all other 5-in-1’s with the gold and white coupled together and the silver and black coupled. this is too bad because the sides you’re most likely to need are the white and the silver. Gold and black are less commonly used, and so they should be coupled. When you buy on B&H you can specify if you want the 5-in-1 model, or just the white/silver, or gold/white, etc. versions and that’s probably why the photo shows silver and white coupled. Too bad.
It’s also got the standard carrying sack, but it’s a little better made than most because the carrying loop is attached to the zipper tape, which will keep it from tearing out as always happens with other reflector cases.
Two handles make this one stand out from the crowd of 5-in-1 reflectors out there. These handles make it easier to grip the reflector and to manipulate it and hold it straight out overhead, etc. They also have an insert built in which allows you to connect it to a standard 3/8″-16 light stand or tripod top. This is really helpful because assistants holding reflectors always get tired and the light wanders. But assistants can hold on to a light stand all day without ruining the position of the light on your subject, and if you’re indoors you can use it without an assistant (a breeze will tip it right over, even with reasonable sandbags on the stand).
I have just two complaints about the handles. On my unit, one of the handles popped off. It’s made of a hard plastic, and it looks like one of the tabs broke so it doesn’t stay on its own. I used a little gaffers tape to keep it in place, and I put a bit of preventative gaff tape on the other handle so it won’t come off, which you can see in the cover photo. It works well this way, but I’d like to see a better material for the handles.
Secondly, the handles are placed opposite each other which makes it hard to use both handles and allow light to pass through the diffuser. If you hold both handles your body blocks the light. It also makes it hard to hold it flat out in front of you holding only one handle because the opposite handle is quite heavy. It would be much improved if the handles were positioned on the same side (do circles have sides? :D ), more like 45 degrees from each other instead of 180 degrees.
The Impact 5-in-1 Collapsible Circular Reflector with Handles is a good reflector. It’s built a little better than most I’ve seen and I expect it last quite a number of years of regular use. The handles are a great idea and very useful. I’d love to see it with the silver and white covers coupled together, the handles built better and with better placement, but I think this is a good reflector and I’d recommend it even with those caveats. You can check it out for yourself right here on B&H.