tim-johnson 8:28pm, 18 August 2009

Someone asked me to post my meter readings using other modifiers with the 3 lights. I metered with bare strobe, 30"x40" softbox, Large Octabox and Parabolic (PLM). I said I was going to meter all with no diffusers, however, the 30"x60" softbox cannot have the diffuser remover due to the support rods connect to it. So, there may be about a 1/stop error on 30"x60".


As you can see, there is a significant increase in output with the PLM...I am impressed.

OK, so I got my SILVER 86" PLM from PCB in today, so I did a few test photos and wanted to share. I know there are a couple other threads with some samples, but I wanted to post this independently so not to fill such a large comment.

So, this thing is huge! 86 inches (curved). I stand 6'3", and opened up touching the floor, this thing came to the top of my head. My friend, Shawn Heifert, came over to help me test this thing out.

I used 3 different lights in testing power output (White Lightning x3200, Alien Bee B1600, Alien Bee B800), and metered (Sekonic L758dr) at 10ft, 15ft and 25ft at full power. All photos ISO100 on a Nikon D200. Here are the results:

Alien Bee B800 / full power:
10 feet = f/ 16.2
15 feet = f/ 11.7
25 feet = f/ 8.8

Alien Bee B1600 / full power:
10 feet = f/ 22.4
15 feet = f/ 16.7
25 feet = f/ 11.6

White Lightning x3200 / full power:
10 feet = f/ 32.2
15 feet = f/ 22.4
25 feet = f/ 16.3

I didn't take photos of the 10ft, but here are the ones at 15 and 25 feet:


Here is Shawn standing 15 feet away for PLM 86", 1/250 - f/22:
WL3200-15ft person

Another of Shawn, 10 feet away from PLM, 1/250 - f/13:
OD 10ft fill

Just a photo to show light scatter without the 7" reflector which isn't available yet:

Studio, one light:
Shawn bare

Studio, 1st is bare PLM, 2nd is with diffuser fabric over PLM:
Shawn no diffuseShawn diffuse

Studio wide shot PLM bare, no diffusion (appears to be a hot spot in center with no diffusion):
Wide bare

Studio wide shot WITH PLM diffusion panel:
Wide diffuse

Overall, I really like this PLM. It is very lightweight considering the size. Didn't move in wind too much at all, I was using Vagabond II as a stand weight (13lbs), but then again, the wind wasn't blowing very strong at all. I wouldn't DREAM of taking this beast to the beach. Very easy set-up, no more time than small umbrella.

Now, I'm just looking forward to the 7" reflector.

One parting photo. He was about 5 ft away from PLM to the side, shot at 1/250 - f/22:


Photos of all the modifiers:
tim-johnson 6 years ago
Oh yeah, there was a 1 stop loss with diffusion panel on...
Logan Z. Hunt 6 years ago
That last shot is killer!

Any problems with wind?
I'm trying to find a way a way to keep this weighed down with my Vagabond.
tim-johnson 6 years ago
Well, I used my Vagabond II as a weight, no issues with wind...but it wasn't blowing TOO bad. I wouldn't take it to the beach...lol
Jaroslav Moravec 6 years ago
Maybe I am wrong but was not PLM supposed to be more efficient compared to other sources of same size? Did you test that?
tim-johnson 6 years ago
lol, I don't have anything else the "same size" to compare to.
tim-johnson 6 years ago
well, I guess I could set up my 30"x60" softbox and do a metering and see how it compares...would anyone be interested in that comparison?
PowersImagery.com PRO 6 years ago
the last image is exactly what this is intended for. Good contrast, yet very smooth wrap.

Thanks Tim, I cant wait to get mine.
Albert Taylor Posted 6 years ago. Edited by Albert Taylor (member) 6 years ago
Maybe just try it with bare bulb without the PLM at the same distances and see what difference the addition of the PLM makes...

(not sure if that's a valid test though)
KrisBlucher 6 years ago
tim-johnson - you are the man!

I don't have a need for such modifiers, but really enjoyed the review!

Well done!
r0me0blu 6 years ago
yes man, i'm definitely interested in a comparison shot
tim-johnson 6 years ago
OK, I will do a comparison of the 30"x60" softbox and large octabox without diffusion panels, since I did not use the diffusion panel with the 86" PLM. Just got home, so I should have something to post within a couple hours.
tim-johnson 6 years ago
OK, guys..posted the comparisons using the bare, 30"x60" and large octabox.
ekin photography PRO 6 years ago
very nice! thanks for the comparison. now the question is whether i should go that big or get the medium one. im only 5'6 so that thing is probably taller than me! lolol
PowersImagery.com PRO 6 years ago
Sweet jesus.... Awesome work Tim. Im glad i ordered the 86" and the 42" one.
tim-johnson 6 years ago
Nice...I might get one of the 42" PLMs as well!
kenkyee 6 years ago
Thanks, Tim. That's a great test w/ all the heads...looks like the spillkill will be useful too :-)
Albert Taylor 6 years ago
Thanks a lot for the test Tim. Your first tests pretty much seemed to show pretty good distance, the second testing seems to confirm it.

I was curious about the spill, I know you didn't have the reflector made for the unit, but I was curious if you had the strobe even with the edge of the PLM as suggested in the instruction sheet or was it a little proud of the edge?
Nionyn_ PRO 6 years ago
All good - thanks, Tim, for for posting the results of your tests for us all.
tim-johnson 6 years ago
Yes, I had the strobe bulb even with the edge of the umbrella. No way to really prevent the spill without moving the flash head TOO far into the umbrella. No worries, I should hopefully have the spill reflector by the end of next week! (hopefully)
ar_chee_v2 [deleted] 6 years ago
So, PLM helps focus the light 3 stop more than bare flash!
(AB 800 bare 10ft) and very high output than any other light mod, wow.
Andrew Litsch 6 years ago
Thanks for the proper and thorough review, but Tim.. what if I wanted to fly to Cuba? Would a trip to the beach with the PLM then be in order?
(Griffin Design & Photography) Posted 6 years ago. Edited by (Griffin Design & Photography) (member) 6 years ago
Dude I got the same readings! The PLM decreases the need for higher wattage strobes. The biggest strobe you'd need to own is a WL X3200!!! I use mines about 7-10ft off subject so beating the sun is a nobrainer! Also note this Tim... the 42" PLM is a bit more efficient because its smaller and doesnt take as much for all the light to be gathered and redirected!
(Griffin Design & Photography) Posted 6 years ago. Edited by (Griffin Design & Photography) (member) 6 years ago
In fact the 42" PLM may be 1fstop more light effecient!!
Von Wong 6 years ago
Great job guy, I love how you presented the information in a simple easy to understand AND COLOR CODED table!
crphotoboy 6 years ago

Were you able to put the light in focus and out of focus like the big boys?
arianabauer PRO 6 years ago
Tim, great review, kind of makes my reivew looks sad :(

Anyway, nice job. I will be ordering the 42 inch one pretty soon I think also.
HunterPhotographic.com [deleted] 6 years ago
OK, the PLM looks seriously awesome, and a great price.

But here is what I am wondering. I have a 60" Photek softlighter. How is the PLM any different than me using my Photek without the diffusion panel? The Photek has 10 ribs, which is close the the PLM. If I just bounce the light off of it, I should get a nice cone of light.

From the photos I have seen, the curve of the PLM is not much different than the photek. Both are about the same price, but the PLM is larger. If I had to do it again, I guess I would get the PLM. However, I already have the Photek.

Just curious if I am missing some difference. I guess I will have to take some test shots and compare them to the above. Great review by the way.
Von Wong 6 years ago

Just look at the chart and see how many more stops of light you gain between a PLM and a softbox without diffuser...
tim-johnson 6 years ago
iIntrigue, yes...it was nice to see the jump in stops.
PowersImagery.com PRO 6 years ago

If you notice the immediate difference is the light quality. However, the point of the Parabolic shape is to focus the light. Sorts of like how you can take a MAGLIGHT flash light, and turn the head and teh beam gets more intense. Thats similar to what the PLM is doing. Its focusing all the light into one big linear beam. Which translates into more light.

Notice how the 86" PLM increased light output of the b800 by 3 stops.

from Tim's chart
with an unmodified b800@25 feet away. You would need to set your camera to 2.8 to get the correct exposure.

with the PLM set at the same power @ 25ft, you would need to set the camera to f8 to get the correct exposure.

That a hell of a difference! I hope that help you understand a bit more the differences between the two. Because they are very very different. The shape maybe similar but the uses and direction of light is much different.
tim-johnson 6 years ago
Yes, it is a huge difference.

I have not messed around any with "focusing" yet.
Logan Z. Hunt 6 years ago
I got mine in today but I had to go to work after school so not much on it yet.
Nice construction and fabric though.
HunterPhotographic.com [deleted] 6 years ago
@PowersImagery - Totally understand. However, a Photek Softlighter is basically a big bounce umbrella. Because of the parabollic shape, most of the light should find its way into a central "cone". Maybe not quite as efficient as a PLM, but not that far off. Obviously, softboxes and such are a totally different matter.
Albert Taylor 6 years ago

"From the photos I have seen, the curve of the PLM is not much different than the photek (Softlighter)"

That's a actually a valid comment. According to the White Lightning website the difference appears to be in the 7" reflector that is supposed to direct the light in a more 'parabolic' direction.
PANZERWOLF 6 years ago
@ tim-johnson: if you "messed around" with focusing, you should be able to get rid of that hotspot
i guess you can use the modeling light in a dark studio for finding the
correct focal point for en even parallel beam (and then move the head the distance between the modeling bulb and the flash bulb)
dietzy2320 PRO 6 years ago
So if it is directing and concentrating more light on the subject, I guess this would not be all that helpful in some circumstances. I tend to think my AB800 kicks out too much light and find it hard to use a nice DOF from a 2.8 or 1.4 lens because of all of the light and only being able to sync to 1/180 on a Pentax. So this I am assuming would make it even more impossible to shoot with a large aperture, correct? So you had better want a DOF associated with F16 if using this?
use it with a speedlight, as I do with my Softlighter, with down to 1/128 power..you can get real close with that low power for soft light AND wide open aperture
Get the diffusion fabric if lower power is needed or use a standard umbrella if lower power is needed without the other benefits.
Michael Asgian 6 years ago
Thanks for this test Tim, this is exactly what i need for my Night exterior shots... Ordered two

les.mizzell [deleted] 6 years ago
Test shot from mine (64"):

180 - f11
AB800 on 1/2 power
PLM roughly 6 to 8 feet away, center approx 2 feet above Sophie and pointing back down at her.

Soon as my wife gets into "willing model" mode, I'll have something else to post.
obeychad Posted 6 years ago. Edited by obeychad (member) 6 years ago
Here's my test shot too:


Elinchrom 400bx and 86" PLM fired at the lowest setting camera right about 5ft away. F/11 @ ISO 320 (using as polaroid for Kodak 320 TXP) Gold reflector camera left just out of frame. And a second Elinchrom on the BG at about 1/4 power. Fired by a good ole PC cable.

EDIT - Here it is mounted.
Andrea Hillis PRO Posted 6 years ago. Edited by Andrea Hillis (member) 6 years ago
I ordered the 86" with diffuser fabric today...can't wait to get it!
Here's my review!
- The Prince of Cheap
elv0000 6 years ago
Is anyone finding the hotspot in the centre a problem? or found a way of reducing it? (other than using the diffusion fabric).
Max Barros www.barrosinc.com Posted 6 years ago. Edited by Max Barros www.barrosinc.com (member) 6 years ago
is it normal to get more light output with the plm than bare?? (does bare bulb mean without the dish reflector on the AB too?)
@elv0000 The hotspot in the center is the way the PLM focuses light. The diffusion fabric is the only way to reduce/eliminate that however it reduces all light output one stop. It does however make the light insanely even across the plm.

SMax Barros By bare we mean with no reflector at all. The plm becomes the reflector. (not including the standard silver metal reflector).
Tim Rogan (formerly caprae) PRO Posted 6 years ago. Edited by Tim Rogan (formerly caprae) (member) 6 years ago
Tim - can you slap an sb-800/900 in this thing and see how well it works? OR based on it needing a "fully exposed tube" as one person pointed out may a Sunpak J120?
allykatimages PRO 6 years ago
@caprae - I just got the 64" PLM and slapped my 580ex on it.

At 7 feet away and 1/2 power I got F8. ISO100.

I noticed I got more power by zooming the flash out to 28mm.

At 10 feet away, I got f5.6 with the same conditions.
Tim Rogan (formerly caprae) PRO 6 years ago
Great. Thank you @allykat.. That makes these even more tempting.
dannyt. 6 years ago
I just got the 64" Silver. I could not be more impressed. Serious bang for the Buck here. I ordered the diffusion cloth too but I did not use that yet.

I was getting F13 on an AB800 from 6-7 feet away at 1/2 power or so. A lot of reviewers that I have seen did not even bother reading the one page manual. Tim it is quite obvious you took the time your review prompted me to pick it up. Thank you Tim!
harry pocius 6 years ago
@ dannyt. Thank you for mentioning that there was an instruction page! Didn't know it shipped with instructions. Luckily I hadn't tossed the packaging yet. Sure enough it was stuck at the bottom of the tube.
dannyt. 6 years ago
No Problem. Perhaps the good people at PCB would post a PDF version on their website.
johnricardnyc [deleted] Posted 6 years ago. Edited by johnricardnyc (member) 6 years ago
I really don't understand why people are asking how to get rid of the "hotspot". People buy Parabolic umbrellas because they want the hot spot. If they wanted soft, even light, they would buy a regular umbrella.

I mean, what's next, people asking how to take a wide angle shot with their 70-200mm zooms?
PANZERWOLF 6 years ago
@ johnricardnyc:
when i buy a parabolic, i don't necessarily want a "hot" spot, but a spot the size of which i can choose with focusing
a para that large should also be able to light a larger area evenly (more even than it appears to be in the first wide angle studio shot up there) with still stronger falloff at the edges than with a normal umbrella
so the question can you get rid of the hot spot? could also read: can this thing be focused?
if it can, it's simply a much more universal and valuable tool
aw-photo 6 years ago
Man, awesome review. I really appreciate you taking the time to put this together. For the price and the results I see here, I intend to order the mid size, silver with diffuser front.

Thanks again, VERY informative!
`Mark&Manna Photography PRO Posted 4 years ago. Edited by `Mark&Manna Photography (moderator) 4 years ago
@ daytraitors...This is an 18 month old thread.
But putting that aside.....There are those that asked Tim his meter readings and distances with those modifiers, so he did the testing,and made those charts, and posted his results in this thread.
That's all.

EDIT: my post is in response to the post that bumped this old thread.
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