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The Glow HexaPop Solution Share This on LinkedIn   Share This on Google   Tweet This   Forward This

5 December 2013

Sometimes we pull on our multi-colored tights and put on those shoes with the curled toes and jump up on our steed (an old office chair with a pneumatic piston) to fight the good fight. The good fight, in today's battle, is finding a soft on-camera flash. Something you can walk around with in a crowd.

Our Party Assignment story detailed our old press photographer setup with off camera flash and a diffuser. And, if you don't mind making a spectacle of yourself while fighting the good fight, it works pretty well. People behave with a conspicuous camera in the room. They even pose for you.

The trick is to soften the harsh, direct light of your strobe. There are ways, there are ways. Bounce it. Use a little plastic dome diffuser (included or bought later). Drop a white shower cap over it.

We're not talking about the hopeless little pop-up flash in your camera (although the shower cap will come in handy there). It's probably not powerful enough to diffuse light on a subject at any comfortable distance.

But for an external flash, diffusing the light can make all the difference. Ask Gary Fong.

He's the guy who invented those bulbous white flash diffusers you see Canon shooters using at weddings.

ENTER HEXAPOP | Back to Contents

Recently Adorama introduced its $109.95 HexaPop umbrella, a 24-inch or 20-inch soft box that fits over your external flash and is designed for either on-camera or light stand use.

In the Bag. The HexaPop comes with its own bag, which fits everything including the extra gear we used.

A soft umbrella that diffuses light from an on-camera strobe? Really? Let's try that, we charged ahead.

The 20-inch umbrella is 20 inches from point to point but it's 18 inches from side to side. The softness of the light depends on its size, so a bigger umbrella will deliver a softer light.

We tested the 20-inch model because we wanted to work with the strobe mounted to the camera, hand-held, like you might at a wedding.

But it was pretty clear right away that the basic kit wasn't going to allow that. With the HexaPop and an external flash mounted on the camera hot shoe, you have to use Live View to compose a shot. And even then, it's awkward.

Assembled. The umbrella with bracket, strobe and optional Flip Flash bracket with cord

So we needed a couple of accessories. Adorama recommended a few more items.

IN THE BOX | Back to Contents

The HexaPop comes in a nice, compact gym-style bag and includes:

  • HexaPop 20" Softbox
  • Speedlight Bracket
  • Stand Adapter
  • Zippered Soft Case and Strap

To mount the HexaPop on your camera, recommended additional equipment includes:

  • Flashpoint Quick Flip Flash Bracket
  • Adorama HD 3 Off-Camera Flash Cord

You'll need a strobe, too, of course.

ASSEMBLY | Back to Contents

Putting this setup together takes a bit of work. And there's no documentation. So hang onto this:

  • Start by tightening the Philip screw that attaches the flash shoe to the flash bracket. Ours was just loose enough to cause everything to wobble.
  • Open the HexaPop by snapping each rib into its locked position (that was the fun part)
  • Slide the mounting bracket's two metal posts into the softbox but leave the locking bolts loose (looser than you think they have to be)
  • Slide your cable's hot shoe end into the mounting bracket's shoe (there's no lock on the cable hot shoe so this is the weak point of the whole thing, beware)
  • Slide your strobe onto the cable mount and lock it
  • Adjust the height of the soft box so the strobe's snout, angled at 90 degrees, fits into the hole
  • Tighten the lock nuts on the metal posts so the soft box is secured

That's the soft box setup. Now let's go to the camera:

  • Attach the Quick Flip bracket to the camera's tripod connection
  • Mount the soft box assembly on the Quick Flip bracket, tightening the set screw to secure it
  • Attach the cable to the camera's hot shoe

Nearly there. Check the electronics:

  • Set the strobe to fire from the cable in TTL mode
  • Set the camera to use TTL mode
  • Set the camera to expose for no more than the maximum sync speed

We also put a quick release plate on the Quick Flip so we could pop the whole thing on a tripod rather than set it down on a table.

HexaPop Up Close

Diffuser pattern

Cable on HexaPop bracket...

HexaPop bracket on Flip


Strobe into umbrella opening

Cable on camera strobe (opposite side)

Flip to HexaPop bracket (opposite side)

Release latch

Top view

Now you're ready to have some fun.

ALTERNATELY | Back to Contents

We wanted to test the HexaPop mounted on a camera, but that isn't the only way to use the HexaPop. It's just the way that most interested us. Our quest, after all, was for a camera-mounted but diffused strobe.

Alternately, you could mount the HexaPop on the included stand adapter and put it on a light stand. If you do that, you'll probably want to use a wireless trigger to fire it rather than a short cable. Believe me.

What you can't do is mount the HexaPop directly on your camera. Well, you could but you won't be able to use the viewfinder.

SHOOTING | Back to Contents

It's a heavy setup, about five pounds. And that's a little hard to manage with one hand. But there's a grip on the Quick Flip bracket that makes it manageable. After a while, we got used to working with the rig.

In fact, we kind of enjoyed it. But we had the luxury of snapping it onto a tripod when we got tired of holding it.

The only dark place in the bunker is the lab, so we snuck in there and shot various equipment like the gasoline-powered engine that runs the computer system and the rotating water drum that cleans debris out of the nearby ocean. We also did some test shots shown below and even some product shots with it.

We usually bounce a monobloc's output off the white ceiling for our product shots. It's imitation noon-time sunlight. There's plenty of light and it's nicely diffused that way, a sort of skylight effect.

With the HexaPop, you diffuse the light but you have to aim it to. So it isn't quite ideal for close-up shots when mounted on the bracket. The light can be too high, overshooting your subject. You can see that in our first test shot, in fact.

Of course, with the bracket, you can swing the umbrella from the top of the camera to its side (so it would be on top for a portrait-oriented shot). We did that for our Cans comparison shot (note the different shadow angle).

One issue we had was fall-off, as our fourth test shot shows. As you diffuse the light, it doesn't travel as far. So you might want to crank up the output for longer shots. Keep your eye on the histogram.

T E S T   S H O T S

Shot as JPEGs only with post-processing in Lightroom 5 adding a stop of exposure and some Clarity.

C O M P A R I S O N   S H O T S

Same hand-held shot taken with the SB800's included dome diffuser, a Rogue FlashBender and the HexaPop. There are variations in framing and position of diffused light. All shots are unedited camera JPEGs. See Conclusion for evaluation.

PUDDING | Back to Contents

The proof is in the pudding and the pudding was served Thanksgiving. We were invited to a large gathering for dinner and thought it would be a bright idea to get a group shot around the table to send to the rest of the family.

But we're a little wary of showing up for dinner with luggage. So the HexaPop and its cute bag stayed home.

We traved with the large Rogue, which folds up easily to slip into the back pocket of our old Domke. Nobody wondered if we had brought a toothbrush and change of clothes.

It did a good job but afterwards we wished we'd been brave enough to use the HexaPop. We kind of missed it.

CONCLUSION | Back to Contents

Looking at our comparison shots, we preferred different light modifiers for each image.

In the Engine shot, the Rogue produced the best image with the other two nearly equivalent. In the Cans shot, the HexaPop won with the Dome second. In the Washer shot, we liked the Dome slightly more than the HexaPop.

If you're scoring at home, that's HexaPop 6, Dome 6 and Rogue 5.

But we liked the test shots and other shots we took with the HexaPop for the quality of the light it provided. We didn't have to worry about too harsh a light (even as close as we were to the subjects of our test shots). The only problem we had to consider with each shot, really, was the angle of the light.

As our Thanksgiving decision shows, though, it may be a bit much for extended use on camera. Or in an informal setting. And be sure not to dissemble it in a crowd. It's so loud when you snap the release levers that someone is sure to duck.

But those are minor quibbles when you are on a quest for a diffused, on-camera flash solution. And the HexaPop is certainly that.

About the Glow HexaPop

Adorama Overview

The Glow HexaPop 20 brings flattering, soft and rich color lighting to harsh direct on camera flash. Use it as a key light off camera, with a remote trigger, or attach it to your hotshoe camera automation with a camera bracket and cable.

The lightweight HexaPop opens easily and positively locks to create the perfect reflector diffuser. The ultra efficient parabolic reflector has virtually no fall-off from edge to edge. Flashpoint engineers use UV-A and UV-R diffuser materials and are exceptionally heat resistant.

The internal silver reflector fabric rivals all other flexible materials, imitating polished lame. Your speedlight attaches to the speedring assembly and aligns almost all brands of flashes.

The unique six-sided shape and narrow profile 18 inch diameter by 8 inch depth, provides a big 105-degree light spread in a light, space saving package. The shadows are slight and beautifully graduated. Colors are rich and vibrant without the flat pancake 'flashpan' look of direct strobe.

Available in two sizes:

  • 24 inch (60cm)
  • 20 inch (50cm)


The marriage of the softbox to the umbrella.

Not so unusual today. But this baby was born to bring joy to all the users of flashes, popular in today's dedicated shoe strobes, with harsh, sharp and hard quality, endemic of zoom fresnel panel design.

Softboxes diffuse and spreads light through baffles and reflection, but primarily the light is directly reaching the subject. As the nature of the source light is so widely distributed, it reaches all surfaces with less contrast, filling in details and shadows at the expense of ill defined contours. Less control of light path - divergent.

Umbrellas produce soft focused light from reflected curved surfaces. The sharper quality of directional light beams makes for a more seductive treatment for people and skin tones. Light aimed at the center focal point bounces off the internal surfaces at different angles, but leaves the umbrella as parallel rays.

The product of this marriage of softbox and umbrella: A parabolic umbrella that does not cast divergent or convergent light creating more natural sun-like shadows and fill light. The parabolic reflector shape directs all the light in one controllable direction. By adding the diffuser design more beautiful light caresses the subject.

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