Review Sundisc light modifier review

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The 60 cm Sundisc from Approach Studios is touted as an “ultra portable softbox reflector”, and it was this tagline that caught my eye when I spotted the kickstarter campaign in June 2017.

Hmmm, it looked pretty portable and compact in their promo video, and it kinda got me hooked. I decided I would give it a punt during the first couple of seconds of the video. Not really sure what happened between that moment and placing my pledge, because I managed to talk myself into going for the twin pack. I consoled myself by telling my wife the minimum order was two. * cough *
We'll skip the bit where I waited, although I will say the updates from the team were regular and very informative. Kudos! And then a grey plastic wrapped pack arrived. Erm.... isn't that a little small for two softboxes? I held my breath as I opened the pack.

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Nope, definitely two, although one pictured above. They are each similar in size to a folded 22” reflector disc, which is around 9” in diameter when packed. It immediately struck me that I can replace the 22” reflector I cart everywhere in my camera bag for food photography, and I'll always have a softbox available without taking up additional space in my kit bag.

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And once I'd unfolded the first Sundisc, the quality of the reflective material was obvious. It was much superior to the silver and gold reflector it would replace. The panel has a zip that almost fully encircles it, allowing it to be turned inside out to switch from a silver internal surface, to gold.

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The quality of materials extends to the YKK branded zip. I've seen good quality zips let down by poor stitching previously, so it tends to be something I look for. Nothing to be found, it's all extremely good quality work. Which brings me to the diffusion panel. It's funny how running your hand behind a diffusion panel kinda gives you an idea as to what you will get from a unit. I've had some boxes with rough fabric diffusion panels, and unable to see any indication as to where my hand is. Consequently, they ate light far more than they should have done. The panel on the Sundisc on the other hand, is silky smooth with a reassuring amount of translucency.

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Inserting the speedlight isn't hard work, although the elastic sleeve is certainly reassuringly tight. The above image has the zip undone to show the seating of the speedlight head. You will notice I've turned the head by 90°. Originally, I had the head at standard upright position, but found the locking mechanism on my speedlight didn't particularly like the weight of the Sundisc, and constantly capitulated, letting the Sundisc swing forward to a horizontal position. Considering the Sundisc weighs little more than four feathers and three frozen peas, I'm of the conclusion my speedlight kinda sucks. Anyway, it was easier to wring the speedlight's neck, than go dig out another speedlight. That said, I'd likely stick with this configuration anyway, as there was no movement at all, even if the speedlight were mounted on a stand adaptor, and tipped to a horizontal angle.

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The access hole for the speedlight is quite generous, and this is the ace up the sleeve. The hole is the exact size to accommodate one of those speedlight brackets used with folding softboxes. Now, those brackets vary in price and quality, right from the pressed steel jobs found “free” inside cereal packets, through to the still cheap, nylon rock solid adaptors made famous by Godox. This is a far more stable system for attaching the Sundisc, and allows the speedlight to hang lower down, giving full access to the buttons and panel for adjustment.

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Of course, if you are using a speedlight with remotely adjustable settings via the transmitter, then having the controls partially obstructed by the Sundisc panel isn't an issue. Personally, I found the positive locking of the adaptor, and the firm grip of the Sundisc to the adaptor to be very reassuring. Plus, I have a real mix of speedlights, with some having remote adjustment, and some purely manual “set 'n' forget”. (The forget bit applies to me, as I often forget what I set it to, and have to go back to check!).

In Use

Okay, I couldn't wait to try them out, and cajoled a fellow photographer, Damien McGlade, into playing patsy. I set the two panels in a simple cross-light setup. Both speedlights were at 1/8th output.

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Olympus E-M1 mkII 1/125th sec ISO200 12-40mmf2.8 @ f13

I really like the diffusion of the light, and it certainly seems softer than other 60cm speedlight softboxes I've used. I'm assuming that's down to the fact the speedlight isn't directed at the subject, as it fires across the Sundisc, with the interior bouncing the light effectively before exiting through the front diffusion panel. It certainly seems to punch above its weight when compared to other 60cm folding softboxes.
Bearing in mind, I bought these because I was inquisitive to find out how well they work, I've since taken them along to client shoots, and they've settled in with my other equipment really nicely.

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To be honest, speedlights are not my weapon of choice, as I use Elinchrom ELB400 units for almost all my location work (Soon to be ELB500 units, Woohoo!). Whilst on a client shoot, I found myself staring at the back end of a folding 80x80cm softbox, idly wishing I could have used a Sundisc with the ELB400. At that point, it dawned on me that the 80x80cm softbox was anchored to the EL adaptor I was using on the ELB400 head, by an Elinchrom speedring for folding softboxes. The same can be found in various fittings, such as “S” fit and others.

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This means the Sundisc can be used with location kits and studio heads. The above images show an ELB400 Action head in place, and of course, this opens up a much wider range of application. For this reason, I have one Sundisc permanently in my camera bag, and the second one is permanently in my location lighting case.

Considering I bought these because I thought they may be worth a punt, I've found them to be an excellent investment.
 
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Phocal

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Thanks for the great review and I’m going to have to pick up a pair. These will be perfect for in the field. Still getting a pair of those tubes you reviewed for use in thick/heavy cover.
 
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It will be, it is exactly what I am looking for to photograph gators. Will it work with the Godox AD200’s?
It'll work with anything you can stuff in the aperture. Probably best with the "speedlight" head, rather than the bare bulb though.

Incidentally, because of the way the strobius mods are packed in their cases, you can fit a lens inside .
 
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junkyardsparkle

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Considering the Sundisc weighs little more than four feathers and three frozen peas, I'm of the conclusion my speedlight kinda sucks.
Well, to be fair, a little weight with 60cm of leverage can exert some force... this aspect is particularly interesting to me, since I would mostly be using these on a short gooseneck/bracket attached to the camera for run'n'gun bug macro... speedlight pivoting aside, would you say the disc could reasonably support itself at close-to-horizontal angles using only the elastic sleeve (preferably without wobbling around too much with slight movement)?

Also, any chance of an under-exposed shot of the screen (or its close-up, in-focus reflection in a shiny object) to show just exactly how the light distributes itself over its surface, for us specular-obsessed macro wonks? :D
 
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Well, to be fair, a little weight with 60cm of leverage can exert some force... this aspect is particularly interesting to me, since I would mostly be using these on a short gooseneck/bracket attached to the camera for run'n'gun bug macro... speedlight pivoting aside, would you say the disc could reasonably support itself at close-to-horizontal angles using only the elastic sleeve (preferably without wobbling around too much with slight movement)?

Also, any chance of an under-exposed shot of the screen (or its close-up, in-focus reflection in a shiny object) to show just exactly how the light distributes itself over its surface, for us specular-obsessed macro wonks? :D
I can sort the light distribution confirmation image tomorrow. However, it's much better than some of the smaller softboxes, due to the fact the head fires across the box, rather than directly at the front panel.
As for the horizontal stability, the elastic fixing is very tight, to the point it's a very determined shove to get a speedlight in. I would expect there to be some movement, due to the 60cm diameter of the disc, but I don't think it's too much. However, your idea of acceptable movement is likely different to mine. I'll see what I can do tomorrow. Well, almost today.
 
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retiredfromlife

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Thanks for another good review with excellent supporting photos showing actual use. Will have to note these down incase I need something similar.
Edit;
Do you know of any good quality rectangular soft boxes that you can attach to a flash mounted on a camera for macro work, preferably that folds down flat. I have purchased a few online but the quality has not been good. I only need something 200mm x 100mm or there about.

From what I can see plenty of good gear for the sort of use you have but not much small gear. I notice Manfrotto make a possible good small unit, but is all I found. Bit reluctant to keep buying cheap gear and having to dispose it soon after arrival.
 
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Thanks for another good review with excellent supporting photos showing actual use. Will have to note these down incase I need something similar.
Edit;
Do you know of any good quality rectangular soft boxes that you can attach to a flash mounted on a camera for macro work, preferably that folds down flat. I have purchased a few online but the quality has not been good. I only need something 200mm x 100mm or there about.

From what I can see plenty of good gear for the sort of use you have but not much small gear. I notice Manfrotto make a possible good small unit, but is all I found. Bit reluctant to keep buying cheap gear and having to dispose it soon after arrival.
I've used small 'boxes for some tiny stuff, where I'm needing to mimic scaled down modifiers, such as Small Things!

I've found the Lumiquest Ultrasoft to be if ideal in these circumstances, and the dimensions are similar to your needs (Kinda!).
Because it bounces the light off the back panel, before exiting the diffusion panel, it's softer than you might expect.
There are a ton of reviews littering the interweb for all Lumiquest products. The Softbox III has had some great reviews, but may be too big for you at 9"x8".

I use a velcro strap, rather than stuck on bits of velcro. Just makes it easier, and I believe the Lumiquest strap is particularly good, if expensive. The third party straps are also good, but make sure they are rubber backed for grip.
 

retiredfromlife

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I've used small 'boxes for some tiny stuff, where I'm needing to mimic scaled down modifiers, such as Small Things!

I've found the Lumiquest Ultrasoft to be if ideal in these circumstances, and the dimensions are similar to your needs (Kinda!).
Because it bounces the light off the back panel, before exiting the diffusion panel, it's softer than you might expect.
There are a ton of reviews littering the interweb for all Lumiquest products. The Softbox III has had some great reviews, but may be too big for you at 9"x8".

I use a velcro strap, rather than stuck on bits of velcro. Just makes it easier, and I believe the Lumiquest strap is particularly good, if expensive. The third party straps are also good, but make sure they are rubber backed for grip.
Yes 9" x 8" would be too big I will look into what they sell. Thanks for the Rand name to check out.
 

wjiang

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Are you using "traditional" studio boxes, needing rods inserting, baffles fixing and brow wiped?
Not quite but close. It's one of those spring out affairs (for a speed-light), but still needs baffles and what not to be attached. The light spill and diffusion is also a bit ho-hum since the speed-light is shooting into it. The Sundisk output looks a lot nicer, soft but still quite directional and contained.
 
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Not quite but close. It's one of those spring out affairs (for a speed-light), but still needs baffles and what not to be attached. The light spill and diffusion is also a bit ho-hum since the speed-light is shooting into it. The Sundisk output looks a lot nicer, soft but still quite directional and contained.
I use an 80x80cm folding softbox from Godox, and it's extremely good.
Two baffles. The internal one is fixed via elastic anchors, so I don't remove it when folding. I pull back the external difuser from one corner, so it then only covers half the front, allowing it to be folded.
That way, when I pop it open, I just unfold the front difuser and reattach into the corner. Very quick to deploy, and it's usually ready to be used within a minute of removing from its bag.
There are quite a few copies out there, which are nowhere near as good from a diffused light point of view. However, it doesn't help that Godox sell theirs via a million re-sellers, many of which re-brand it.
 
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wjiang

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I use an 80x80cm folding softbox from Godox, and it's extremely good.
Two baffles. The internal one is fixed via elastic anchors, so I don't remove it when folding. I pull back the external difuser from one corner, so it then only covers half the front, allowing it to be folded.
That way, when I pop it open, I just unfold the front difuser and reattach into the corner. Very quick to deploy, and it's usually ready to be used within a minute of removing from its bag.
There are quite a few copies out there, which are no where near as good from a difused light point of view. However, it doesn't help that Godox sell theirs via a million resellers, many of which re-brand it.
That actually sounds like the same mechanism. Maybe I just need to practice more :oops:
 
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This is how I fold back the front baffle. I then fold it by bringing the top left corner do the bottom right corner, so there is no resistance from the outer baffle, and there is enough give in the elastic anchors of the inner baffle.
This one is the 50x50cm model I've recently reviewed.

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Right.
This was interesting, TBH.
First, the light dispersion tests.
Speedlight zoomed to 24mm and an output of 1/128th
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Speedlight zoomed to 24mm and an output of 1/64th
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Speedlight zoomed to 105mm and an output of 1/128th
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Speedlight zoomed to 105mm and an output of 1/64th
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You will notice the speedlight head is a fair way into the Sundisc, due to the amount of anchorage needed by the elastic sleeve.
If you were to use the Godox adaptor mentioned in the review, the head is only just into the Sundisc, and therefore fills it far better.

As for movement of the Sundisc, there is a fair bit when using the elastic sleeve, because of course, the speedlight is quite small compared to the aperturem and all the anchorage is on a small section of the rear wall. If using the Godox adaptor, the anchorage is around the aperture and it's quite a snug fit. It does not rely on the rear wall, and there is far less movement.

E-M1 mkII 1/125th sec ISO200 12-40mm f2.8 @ f5.6
 
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