The Gary Fong Lightsphere is a compact, light modifier designed to drop on top of your flash unit. The idea is that it will give you a more even spread of light than bare flash. The most common version of this type of light modifier is the Sto-Fen, which looks like a block of white plastic you fit over your flash head. They all diffuse the light to an extent, but the Lightsphere aims to provide the nicest spread of light.
These types of units aren’t work in all situations products, but they have their place, so let’s see if the Lightsphere can deliver where the others can’t.
The Lightsphere is a collapsible device, making it quite easy to pack down. It’s 37mm wide and should fit most flash units with its simple grip system and strap. The Stacking ring design should create fewer shadows and with a spherical design, light is bounced all around instead of in a specific direction. Most the time you’ll use the unit fully expanded, but being collapsible means that it can be used at different heights for different effects depending on your situation.
The whole thing is made of durable plastic and being ridged to make it collapsible means that it can also suffer quite a few hits and knocks. In other words, it will last you years. It’s a simple unit, very easy to install and off you go.
The majority of use for the Lightsphere will be for on camera flash. Clearly it can be used for off camera on a light stand, but for the bulk of the test it was on camera to fit real-world situations. On camera the Lightsphere can be pointed directly at a subject or bounced. With the Lightsphere attached expect two stops of light reduction.
Pointed directly at a subject there is definitely a more softer spread of light than what is expected from a Sto-Fen diffuser or bare bulb. Definitely more pleasing, but don’t expect anything like the results you will get from a soft box. Even really close up to a subject, light is evenly spread. It’s not going to replicate studio lighting or anything along those lines, but at least it provides an image that looks non flashed.
Point the Lightsphere upwards to act like bounce flash and as expected, light is far more spread out. Because the light emits everywhere, portraits can reduce raccoon eyes and shadows below the nose and cheeks. Dialing in more flash power can help reduce this, but if you’re at max already there’s not much leeway here. This obviously depends on the size and height of ceilings to get the ideal look.
Taking the Lightsphere on a wedding shoot, photojournalistic or event photography seemed to be the main use areas. Testing out the Lightsphere on a wedding shoot meant for general images throughout the day it was a quick solution to provide even light. Off camera was tried once or twice, but it still doesn’t hit the spot as an umbrella setup with either a white shoot through or bounced silver brolley.
The quality of the light can be a little cool, so you will have to play with your white balance. Overall, in the right situations, the Lightsphere is a quick way to achieve even light, especially with no other options available.
How Does It Compare?
Lined up against the traditional Sto-Fen diffuser, the Lightsphere definitely gives a more even spread of light. The Lightsphere is chunkier and looks a bit weird in comparison, but the results are generally better. A near product which we reviewed recently was the MagSphere by MagMod. This is a dome-shaped diffuser which you fit on the top of your flash with a magnet type attachment. The quality of light is on the same lines as the Lightsphere being omnidirectional. The Lightsphere doesn’t need the additional magnet attachment, feels a bit more sturdy and packs down nicely.
Does the Lightsphere compete against a soft box? No, but I don’t think it’s meant to. The Lightsphere is designed to be a quick and simple solution when you don’t have the time or facilities for large light diffusers like soft boxes.
|Gary Fong Lightsphere||Magmod Magsphere|
In total, the Lightsphere provides a nice even spread of diffused light. Some negative reviews of the Lightsphere say it’s little better than a piece of Tupperware mounted on top of your flash. Maybe, but in situations like a wedding shoot when every moment counts, I don’t want to be messing around with a piece of home-made Tupperware contraption when I know the Lightsphere will just fit and work.
If you’re in the studio and have time to experiment with different light modifiers, then you can use what you want, even Tupperware. But, that’s a different scenario from what the Lightsphere was designed for. That’s a simple on-the-move light diffuser, where you don’t have the time or space for anything larger or more complicated.
The Lightsphere is never going to be a replacement for a large softbox, but it’s never meant to be. When you just want an even spread of diffused light from a piece of kit that can easily fold down and fit in your pocket, the Lightsphere fills this gap. I wouldn’t say it’s exactly cheap for what it is, but buy one once and it should last you for years. In that sense, it is at least worth checking out.
Simple to use
fits most flash units
Not as good as a soft box
In Use 80%