For years, Westcott has made some of the best modifiers out there. They’re well known for their Apollo softboxes designed for speedlites. However, they also make many umbrellas. I purchased a three umbrella package where I was able to obtain three 7-foot parabolic umbrellas for a very affordable price. And to date, my most used umbrella is the silver interior version due to the extra punch that silver gives to the specular highlights on an image.
But man, do you need some powerful lights to take advantage of the size.
Pros and Cons
- Super large light modifier means that you’ll get loads of soft light
- Light and easy to use
- Punchy light due to the silver interior
- Comes with a nice case
- Large and tough to carry around
- You’d better use a sandbag with this thing attached to a monolight on a lightstand.
We’ve been using this Umbrella over a long period of time. But most recently we used the Westcott 7 foot parabolic umbrella with a silver interior with the Canon 5D Mk II, PocketWizard Plus III transceivers, Sigma 35mm f1.4 EX, and Paul C Buff Einstein E640 light.
Specs taken from the Adorama page listing
Interior: reflective silver
|Dimensions (H x W)||Open diameter: 7.25′ / 2.2 m
Collapsed size: 43.6 x 3″ / 111 x 8.2 cm
|Weight||2.5 lbs / 1.13 kg|
The Westcott seven foot parabolic umbrella opens up to become a giant monster of a lighting modifier. Though the company says that it is a parabolic umbrella, it isn’t a true umbrella because one cannot modify the amount of light it throws. However, the throw is similar in many situations.
As you can see, the interior is silver and can spread light out in many directions. Once you start dealing with lights this large and you want to stop your lens down to f9 or so, you’ll need to start investing in more powerful lights. The reason for this is because umbrellas are known for their light inefficiency in that they spread the light out in many directions–and therefore isn’t as directional as a softbox or beauty dish.
It also comes with a convenient case. To keep the light contained and going forward only, the umbrella has a black backing.
Umbrellas tend to often be the most shoddily constructed lighting modifiers. However, after three months of continuous use of this umbrella, it hasn’t fallen apart on me or bent out of shape yet.
Despite this fact, it is still something I often worry about.
Ease of Use
Umbrellas are amongst the simplest lighting modifier to use in terms of setup. All you’ll need to do is put the shaft into an umbrella bracket and you’re all set. Otherwise, you’ll need to pay close attention to it in use. Because it is an umbrella this large, light is being thrown nearly everywhere. So to get the look you want, you’ll need to move it and tilt it to take advantage of its inefficiency.
Once you use them more often though, it will come like second nature.
Despite the fact that this umbrella does not have a silver beaded interior (which adds more punch to the light) it is still quite punchy and still helps your camera and lens resolve lots of detail in the specular highlights. Though it may be overkill for many enthusiasts, it is more than good enough for professionals and also may be the only modifier that many semi-professionals may want to invest in.
As with all umbrellas though, watch out when glass is behind your subject–otherwise you’ll get the umbrella reflection. You also might not want to use an umbrella to shoot glassware.
These umbrellas are great for shooting large crowds during an event or wedding ceremony because of just how much the light spreads out. However, this umbrella in particular is also great at helping to create a particular scene without lots of contrast. To get a contrasty look, we recommend slapping an ND filter of some sort on your lens. However, you can also use the umbrella’s inefficiency.
As stated earlier, this is a very large light source and so it will naturally deliver very soft light. In my Brooklyn apartment, I was still able to move it and tilt it around my living room and the hallways of my building with ease. Our apartments aren’t by any means large. But it’s nice to know that you don’t need something the size of a full studio in order to obtain the best image quality out of this umbrella.
To be fair, I’d also recommend using this umbrella with a monolight though it surely can be used with speedlites. The problem with speedlites though is that they all don’t necessarily have the same amount of power output and will therefore not always provide even light coverage across the surface of the umbrella.
Here are some other images shot using this umbrella.
I really can’t say anything bad about this umbrella but to be fair I also have an unhealthy obsession with lighting equipment and modifiers. Westcott’s 7 foot parabolic umbrella is unwieldy but can deliver lots of great image quality in the hands of the right user. Once again though, we recommend it to be in the hands of someone either committed to learning its ways, or someone with experience in lighting.
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