Octo lights, or octagonal softboxes, are a type of light diffuser commonly used in studio photography, or wherever the quality of light needs to be controlled. Softboxes come in a range of shapes and sizes, ranging from the rectangular, square, strip, and obviously the octagonal-shaped varieties.
So, why use octo lights for photography in the first place? The octagonal shape produces the most rounded catchlights in a subject’s eyes, while also producing very natural-looking highlights on reflective surfaces.
The shape is very much like a regular umbrella, which means it can be easily folded down and stored away, taking up very little space. However, an octagonal softbox will always produce a wider and more even type of light than a standard umbrella.
Octo lights for photography are a favorite of portrait shooters as the largest versions not just cover group shots, but are also ideal for full body shots. However, just like other camera accessories, octo lights are available in a range of price points and can include added extras such as diffusion panels. The examples we have provided below will all supply fine light diffusion, along with being relatively affordable.
1. GODOX SB-UBW120 (Overall Winner)
The GODOX SB-UBW120 may not be the most expensive octagonal softbox on the market, but neither is it the cheapest. This 47-inch version has plenty of width for most applications, with a silver reflective inner material, inner and outer diffuser, Bowens Aluminum Ring Adapter, and carry bag.
The advantage of this solution is that it is made from sturdy materials and metal rods, which should last a good deal of time. These may take more time to set up than a simple umbrella, but this also means a longer-lasting product.
The other thing to note with this product is that the mount is designed for studio strobes. This means if you want to use it with a regular speed light, the very affordable S-type bracket will need to be purchased separately.
Considering the unit has two diffusion panels and is a respectable size for anything from portraits to large sized product images, it’s a quality product for the money.
Westcott is a high-quality favorite among photographers, in this case coming in the form of the Westcott Apollo Orb Octabox. This version measures 43 inches and features a silver-lined interior and full diffusion panel.
This octabox couldn’t be simpler to set up, opening up like a regular umbrella from which a light stand can be pushed through the designated opening. This allows any type of light stand and attachment to be used, making for a very simple solution. The whole unit is a quality made product and is a large enough size for the likes of portraits and full body shots.
While this entry serves extremely well as an octabox, it is a bit pricey for the design. The slot which is used for threading through the light stand and flash doesn’t give the most scope for changing angles, but in every other respect, this is a very high-quality entry.
The Angler BB-36DB BoomBox Octagonal Softbox is another high-quality offering. It doesn’t just have the usual reflective material on the inside, but also two diffusion panels and a deflector plate.
This version is 36 inches in diameter and is made from very high-quality materials. As with many of the latest designs of octo lights, the Angler folds down like a regular umbrella, with rigid aluminum rods that should last the test of time. The removable deflector plate is a worthy inclusion, further softening the light and eliminating any hotspots.
This version comes with a standard Bowens Mount, which means if you want to use a regular speedlight, an optional S-type bracket is needed, as with the GODOX variety above. On the whole, the Angler may not be the cheapest version out there, but it is a quality made product with plenty of light diffusion.
It stands to sense that if you own either the Profoto B1 or B2 studio monolights, then one of their octa softboxes should be an accompaniment. This 24-inch octo light is designed for the B1 and B2 flash heads, featuring an OCF speed ring, color-coded rods for easy setup, and high-quality materials.
This octagonal softbox comes with an internal diffusion panel and can also accept grids and other light modifiers to further diffuse light. For such a small light modifier the quality of light is exceptional, but it is quite expensive for the size.
5. Neewer 32″/80cm Octagon Speedlight Umbrella Softbox (Budget Winner)
Like many octagonal softboxes, this 32-inch offering from Neewer folds up and down like a regular umbrella, while also providing the spread of light of a regular octo light.
The package comes with a front diffuser, plus a carry bag. The octobox has a single slot in the softbox to fit through a regular light stand. It’s large enough for a regular flashgun or studio strobe, but it only gives front and back movement for changing angles. This means it’s quite limited when changing the angle of light.
However, if you can live with limited maneuverability, this is a very cost-effective solution, that is built solidly enough for a good deal of use.
Narrowing Down the Best Octo Lights for Photography
Octo lights for photography can be picked up for very reasonable money, seemingly performing their light diffusion jobs in exactly the same way. However, the price doesn’t just dictate the build quality, but also how the light source is mounted.
Even though extremely cost-effective solutions may seem like an initially good purchase, the connecting rods may be made out of thin aluminum and can break easily. Solid metal rods are needed in any type of softbox to insure the longest life.
There is also the matter of how a light source, such as a flashgun or strobe, is fitted within the softbox. The best quality versions mount from the back of the softbox or use an attachment to focus the light centrally.
Unfortunately, no one version can fit all occasions, which means throughout your photography journey you will start to collect different shapes and sizes for different applications. Therefore, it’s a good idea to buy a good-sized version, at least 32-inches wide, that has the ability to mount the light source either to the rear or ideally outside the softbox. This way the light source will be positioned centrally inside the softbox for the best coverage.