Flashpoint 16x16 Softbox Review

I noticed that Adorama had the Flashpoint 16x16 Softbox on sale last month and I decided to order one. At about $35 on sale, I was willing to give it a try. The size is about right for a few purposes I had in mind, such as photographing my small dogs and head shot portraits of people.

The Flashpoint softbox is designed to work with standard shoe mount flashes. It looks very close to a more expensive softbox made by Lastolite from what I can tell, although I haven't had the opportunity to make a direct comparison. The Lastolite folds up into a compact carry bag and the Flashpoint softbox works the same way. For my limited purposes, the Lastolite model is a bit pricey so I was glad to find a fairly inexpensive alternative.

Flashpoint softbox folded, laying on top of carrying case

The construction of this softbox is acceptable for its price point. The cloth is what I would call a medium thickness. Single stitching is used, which is not surprising. Rigid spring wire forms the framework that gives it shape. To open the softbox, you simply pull two corners apart and it springs open. The inside is silver lined and there are elastic loops in about the middle of the softbox that serve as anchor points for a handkerchief sized white diffusion panel. Oddly, no instructions were provided in the box. The assembly is relatively self explanatory though. I was a little afraid that I was going to break it when folding it back up since it takes a good bit of force to overcome the spring wire. I've popped mine open and closed dozens of times now and it is no worse for wear.

Softbox interior

The white front diffusion attaches to a velcro strip around the inside edge. Unfortunately, there is no further velcro for attaching a grid in front of the panel. There is about 2 inches of the outside edges of the box extending past the panel, which helps contain light spill.

Assembled softbox, front view

A mounting bracket is supplied for attaching the softbox to a standard light stand. The back "lips" of the softbox are pulled over a metal ring. The rigid wire skeleton is what holds it on. The fit feels somewhat sloppy and I would be concerned about it popping off in a gust of wind. I haven't had any trouble so far though in a couple of outdoor shoots. The bracket includes a cold shoe adapter for a speed light type flashes. I do like the cold shoe as it is easy to attach the flash and it tightens down snuggly. A ball joint provides adjustment range. It is a rather flimsy feeling joint, but it does seem stable enough once it is tightened down. Unfortunately, the adjustment range of the ball joint is limited by the bracket design. You cannot get much of a downward angle to the softbox with this arrangement, but I found it adequate for my uses.

Rear view with flash mounted

One thing that is annoying to my obsessive self is that the softbox does not form a good square face when assembled. There always seems to be a slight slant to one side, kind of a spring memory thing from being folded. Futzing around with it by trying to bend it to proper shape helps a bit. It's not off by much and probably does not really matter in the big picture.

So, how are the shots with this thing? The first shot here is of one of my toy poodles, Lucy. This softbox is a great size for small pets and I was able to move it in close and get a much nicer enveloping light on her than I have gotten with umbrellas. The softbox is at camera right, at about a 45 degree angle. There is just a small bit of light fired from a bare flash off to the left to help provide separation from the background. I have to say, black dogs are a tough subject to get the light right. I am happy with the results I'm getting with the softbox here. It is working better for me than a shoot through or reflected umbrella in this situation.

Softbox camera right

Next, I tried the softbox out with a closeup portrait of my model friend, Eight. The softbox is at camera left. The little bit of edge that extends past the front diffusion panel seems to do a good job with containing light spill. The small size makes it easy to bring the softbox in close to the subject without making her or him feel crowded. Here I used it with a low power flash to subtly light her in the shadowed area she was standing and add a bit of warmth to her skin tone with a slight warming gel. The softbox stayed put in spite of a breeze this day, in contrast to an umbrella that got knocked over earlier in the day.

Softbox camera left

While there are some weaknesses to this softbox, I'm pleased with my purchase overall. This softbox is a bargain, even at the current regular price of $45 at the time of this writing. I do have some concerns about its durability and time will tell how long it will last. I'm not certain it would stand up to heavy use with frequent tear down and setup. I don't think the fabric or stitching would stand up, but if you are careful it might just last a long time. For an occasionally used portable light modifier or keeping it permanently setup in a studio, it should be fine.