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Review: Impact 60 Inch Convertible Umbrella

by Chris Gampat on 11/19/2012

Impact is a brand that is relatively new to the photo industry, but has created some very interesting products since its inception. One of which, the Impact LiteTrek, is used by many photographers such as Kevin Kabuto. In fact, I did an entire shoot with one as well. When the company offered me a chance to test out its 60 inch convertible umbrella, I was a bit intrigued. Convertible Umbrellas are unique in that they offer all the functionality of a normal umbrella with reflective properties, but they can be converted into a shoot through umbrella with direct diffusion properties similar to a softbox as well. As with all light sources, larger units give off softer light in relation to the size of the subject.

And the 60 Inch Convertible Umbrella from Impact did not disappoint and has perhaps become my favorite light modifier to date.

Gear Used

For this review, we used the Sony A99, 24-70mm f2.8, and HVL-F60M flashes. Later on in the review period we used the Canon 5D Mk II, 24-70mm f2.8 USM L II, the Paul C Buff Einstein E640, and Pocket Wizard Plus III triggers. Lastly, we used the Impact 60 inch Convertible Umbrella.

Tech Specs

Specs taken from the B&H Photo Video listing of the item.

Open Diameter 60″ (152.5 cm)
Closed Length 37.8″ (96 cm)

“This is an Impact 60″ white satin umbrella with removable black backing. Umbrellas soften, broaden, and diminish the light output of any tungsten or flash light source. Umbrellas with a white interior will soften and weaken light more than an umbrella with a silver lining. A white umbrella without a black backing may also be used as a makeshift softbox, although the use of the light will not be as efficient as with a softbox.

Choosing umbrella size is determined by the size of the subject, and the strength of the light supply being used. Choosing an umbrella surface is as subjective as choosing a paint and brush.

This size is perfect for a 1 – 2 person full-length portrait, or a 4×6 ft product setup.

Backing may be removed half way, providing a unique combination of light bounced from different surfaces.”

Ergonomics

The Impact 60 Inch Convertible Umbrella has a white satin interior that is supported by the standard inner umbrella arms. These arms have a fairly normal and typical umbrella spread; and do not come inward for a parabolic type of light throw.

See that black exterior? It can easily be taken off to turn it into a shoot through umbrella for a softbox type of look.

The black exterior will take some time to perfectly master putting it on and taking it off. But once you move up from Padawan to Jedi Master, you’ll be converting the umbrella to either way in no time flat.

Ease of Use

The Impact 60 Inch Convertible Umbrella is extremely straight-forward in its use. It collapses and stores away just like a normal umbrella to protect you from the rain. It opens up to be really quite big. The conversion process is also simple once you get the hang of it. Those just dipping their toes into the cold waters of lighting may get a bit intimidated by the conversion process; but as long as you’re careful there really is nothing to it. However, Impact should really include some sort of literature with the light modifier to show people how to accomplish the transformation with ease.

We used the Umbrella with both on-camera flash speedlites and monolights. It generally performed better with monolights because of the obvious power differences, but if the speedlites are evenly spaced enough, they can deliver some exceptional results in the hands of a skilled strobist.

Best of all, TTL systems will work flawlessly with this umbrella. Other light modifiers tend to mess with TTL way too much to the point of frustration; and oftentimes you can be better off just reaching for your light meter instead. When using this umbrella with Sony’s A99 and HVL-F60M, we didn’t find any major issues worth crying over. In fact, we generally thought that the performance was quite favorable.

You can read more about that specific shoot here.

One of the major strengths of this light modifier is the fact that it not only functions as an umbrella, but when the black covering is removed it can work just like a softbox without the need for setting up rods or messing with speedrings.

When configured to be a shoot through umbrella, it acts as a direct light source as opposed to an indirect light source.

What would have been very interesting is if Impact instead created a regular umbrella but added a diffuser the way that many other companies do. At the moment of publishing this article, they have not done so just yet.

This umbrella will happily find a home in the studio of a portrait photographer for many reasons. First is the fact that it plays two roles as both a large softbox and as an umbrella. But the other interesting use that can be had is diffusing the sun. Instead of having a lighting assistant hold a translucent reflector over your subject, they can instead hold the umbrella over when configured to work in the shoot through set up.

The umbrella will also be of value to engagement and wedding photographers that need to light groups of people or that need to illuminate subjects during portrait sessions.

To boot, in the normal umbrella configuration, this umbrella tends to add quite a bit of specularity for a white satin umbrella; and sometimes it almost looks silver beaded.

We previously reviewed another Impact shoot through umbrella kit for portraiture as well.

Image Quality

Here are some sample images that we shot using the umbrella. For the most part, all of these were done using a light meter and the Paul C Buff Einstein E640.

Conclusions

The Impact 60 Inch Convertible Umbrella is an extremely useful and versatile tool that should be in the hands of almost any photographer. Consider it an all-arounder in that it can deliver the results of a good umbrella, and the results of a good softbox with a white interior. Tack on that it can be a translucent reflector and you’ve got yourself a winner.

But with all this said, it isn’t quite a master of its domain. There are better items made out there by the likes of Profoto and others. Granted, they’re at a much different price point and far more expensive. If you’re looking for a single versatile tool, then this is for you. But if you want more from your one specific umbrella, look elsewhere and get ready to pay top dollar for it.

But for what it’s worth, you really can’t go wrong with this light modifier.

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