As many photographers that are starting out, or even those of us who are seasoned professionals, it is a constant that as gear gets put to use, it sooner or later breaks or wears out. Or, as it was in my case, you have this really great shoot coming and you know you need that “special” softbox or strobe to get the job done. We are constantly shopping for gear and always looking for quality products at prices within our budgets. And, we don’t mind spending the money it takes to get the quality we desire even if it means putting off a few purchases to make that one we must have now.
As I was shopping for a large octabox- one over 5′- I ran across a new comer in the Studio photography lighting world- Fovitec. I had never heard of them and wondered if this was another of those lighting and photography online sellers that really had just sprung up with not-so-great quality products since their prices seemed more than reasonable. Well, “cheap” actually. I had actually considered renting since this might be something for a “one time’ shoot, but then again, it would be nice to own one for studio work too.
So I looked at their octaboxes and there it was! That 68″ octabox with a speedring, and it was affordable at that ($45). Well, more like REAL affordable compared to many of the others I had found costing over 2-3 times as much. So, like most photographers, I asked “what was the catch” here? If they are that “affordable”, could the quality be up to par with any of the “name brand” manufacturers? Honestly, I expected that they would be “cheaply made” like many of the other no-name stuff out there and of such poor quality, you throw it away after 4-5 shoots since it has torn or the diffusers have discolored or any number of things that can happen to light modifiers.
So I thought, what the heck. If I get through this one shoot with it, it’s going to be good enough and it might last a while too. It was about the same price as renting, so in the shopping cart it went. And I looked around in their store and found ANOTHER “bargain” in a 2-light, 400 w/s monolight softbox “kit”. They were a more powerful monolight than my current 200 w/s lights, BUT again, was the quality there for the price? 2 lights for the price of ONE light alone with no softboxes of any of the name brands, so what to do here? Well, I thought about it. A lot and for a couple of days at that. Then, I thought what the heck, they had a “live chat” feature so I thought I would ask a few questions. Immediately I was talking to a real live person who KNEW lighting and photography (Sarah Shutters) and she answered every question and was honest and truthful about the differences- good and bad- in their products compared to others. I went back and read the product reviews and they were outstanding from people who had actually bought and used their lighting products. Now that was good and things were starting to look up here.
I even took a look at their instructional videos and from what I could see, their softboxes and monolights seemed like they were well built. But then again, that nagging question about quality still persisted. I knew this would be a purchase that was going to have to be something that I could get more uses out of than 4-5 and I thought that my budget was going to allow me to get a better “quality” name-brand products to upgrade my lighting and modifiers. But if this was as good as it seemed, I could get 2-3 times “more stuff” and have better gear to boot.
More questions for the “online chat” customer service people. More answers that were to my liking as well. Then, that pesky little 10% discount coupon was pointed out to me for signing up for their newsletter. Okay, I admit that another larger rectangular softbox caught my eye too. All 4 pieces were 1/2 of what I was prepared to spend, so I took the plunge. Free shipping didn’t hurt either.
So a week later- they are in California and I am in Florida- the UPS truck arrived. First the octabox and the large softbox were opened. I was expecting another “cheaply made” softbox or 2 and then was I surprised! The speedring was superb quality metal and when I opened the plastic protective packaging on the softboxes, I was AMAZED at the quality and weight of the material, the stitching was excellent, the velcro enclosures were great, and the rods were really stiff compared to others I have seen. The dimpled silver interior was solid and a bit of a surprise as only the more expensive boxes use this type of “dimpled surface” inside for better light dispersion. The diffusers were outstanding and even though not UV coated, they are real nice, fit extremely well, and solidly built. They assembled very easily- IF you have put one together before- and yes, they tear down just as easy if you need to pack up for a location shoot too.
Then came the monolight kit. Now that package was heavy. I opened it and found 2 well packed and well built units that shocked me as to the quality. These are NOT cheaply made plastic units and they are solidly built. But the real test would come in light output. So I pulled out some decent stands that came in that kit, attached the monolight to one, the octabox to the strobe and started metering the output.
HOLY SMOKES!! Nearly DOUBLE+ what I was getting with my 200 w/s units inside this HUGE octabox! The real test came when I metered to the edges compared to the center. The light “loss” was .2-.3 stops from center to edge! That was unreal as anything around .5-.7 stops loss is considered great. There was such a small “hot spot” that I was really smiling at this point. A couple of test shots later and I had great big, beautiful, wrap-around, HAPPY light! I had to dial it down to nearly 1/64th power to get metered where I wanted, so there is tons of punch left in these lights and modifiers. The adjustments are in 1/10 increments, so dialing in your exposure is precise too. They also have 2 stage modeling lamps, where you can dim it down once you have them set up on your subjects or need to see what a fill light will actually be doing. You can literally mimic key and fill light with your modeling lamps.
But what about “repeatability” of that light in flash after flash? After 30-40 firings of that strobe with my light meter, I was consistently getting the same exposure over and over. This is important in studio work as you want to be able to do shot after shot and not have to worry about light output being inconsistent.
So I took out the “kit” softboxes and my other BIG (32×48) rectangular box too. SAME quality as the octabox and identical interior and diffusion material. Most “kit softboxes” are sometimes lesser quality and they are hoping you will upgrade. No upgrade needed here- this is true PRO-QUALITY GEAR and without a doubt, something I will be using for years to come. I found out their “kits” are the same as the ProStudio pieces you can buy individually, but with a savings. And I really like that little red stripe around the diffusers as it adds a nice touch to your lighting.
So I had a few bucks let to “play with” and there was a couple of more things I needed, so let’s give Fovitec a shot at it. I found a 4 piece sandbag set that was priced right and a gridded softbox that was to add to another one I am using that would make a great hairlight on a boom stand or even a backlight if needed.
So when those arrived, I was really pleased AGAIN! Double zippered sandbags that require no plastic “zip-lock” bag to hold your sand and the same superb quality in the gridded softbox too.
Many photographers that are either starting to build their studios or even us “old pros” that are upgrading or adding to what we already have, will be surprised at the Fovitec line of gear. Why “settle” for something we know isn’t going to last the years we need it to, when you can get true professional quality gear in the StudioPro line at Fovitec? At a few bucks more than the “cheap” stuff and 1/2 the price of the more “expensive name brand” lighting equipment, you can really have gear that will last and provide your lighting needs for years to come. Honestly, I expect Fovitec WILL become one of the more desired “name brand” lighting companies in a very short time frame.
There is only one drawback that you might find in their strobe softboxes. The speedrings are all Bowens mounts, but they DO have the removable inserts in them. Other companies sell just the inserts, so you won’t have to buy the entire speedring if you have other mounting needs for your existing lights. I am hoping that Fovitec will start offering the inserts for other mounts and I imagine they will as they grow. But if you are looking to upgrade your lighting, their 300, 400, and 600 w/s lights are Bowens mounts for their softboxes. And yes, they DO have smaller monolights, but they use the “universal” speedrings that clamp around the head instead of attaching with a dedicated mount. But if you’re like me, I want a monolight that has that extra “punch” when needed and I think you will find the larger lights priced to your liking so you can get that top of line lighting you always wanted. With larger softboxes, you really DO need a light that can totally fill the inside and smaller lights just don’t have the output to handle that situation.
So bottom line- Fovitec products rock! And no, I am not a “paid spokesperson for them either. But I do imagine that Fovitec is going to soon be a major player in the photography/videography lighting scene as long as they keep putting out the quality products photographers seek at prices that make upgrading and adding to your needs affordable. If you are doing product photography and need constant lighting, they have those as well.
You can find them at http://fovitec.com and I encourage you to check them out! They have softboxes with speedrings that start around $25 and with free UPS Ground shipping on everything. They carry umbrellas, reflectors, stands, tripods, and a whole host of other studio lighting equipment too numerous to mention here. I don’t think you will be disappointed with your purchase as I know that when I have additional needs, Fovitec will be my first stop and probably my last as well.
And yeah, I want 2 more of those 400 w/s monolights for those starting their Christmas list!
And come back next week as I build a DIY battery powered, full sine wave, A/C power pack for outdoor field use for your monolights. The cost is coming in around $100 and should be comparable to the Vagabond II in output. The savings from my Fovitec purchases allowed me to build this unit and still have a bit left over for ANOTHER gridded StudioPro softbox! And if you do a lot of outdoor or wedding photography and need the extra punch your studio strobes have over speedlights, this might be a build you are looking to do.