Review: Westcott Rapid Box Octa Mini

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Westcott Rapid Box product images (11 of 11)ISO 2001-100 sec at f - 5.6

Edit: After talking with Westcott, I learned that you can simply turn the inside ring and it will snap into place. However, it isn’t the simplest little thing to turn.

The Westcott Rapid Box feeds the addiction for portable and quick to set up softboxes for off-camera hot shoe flash users–or at least it tries to. The Rapid Box is a fusion between a collapsible softbox and a beauty dish. Since this whole strobist thing began, photographers have wanted small softboxes that are collapsible and have a great output.

Who better to do that than that Westcott? They’re Apollo Orb softboxes are legendary. And when they sent us their new Rapid Box Octa Mini, we were quite excited to give it a try.

And while Westcott nailed it on image quality, they didn’t quite hit the mark on functionality and practicality.

Pros and Cons

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Panasonic GH3 at the Mermaid Day Parade (11 of 12)ISO 2001-160 sec at f - 8.0

Pros

– Awesome light output

– Pretty good build quality considering this is a modified umbrella.

– Awesome carrying case included

Cons

– Adding the diffusion sock doesn’t allow for even diffusion

– Can be a pain to set up and requires a flat, stable surface

Gear Used

For this review we used the Rapid Box with the Canon SL1 with 18-55mm STM, Nissin MG8000, Canon 580 EX II, Yongnuo 560 III, Panasonic GH3, 35-100mm f2.8 OS, 12-35mm f2.8 OS, Sony NEX 6, and the 24mm f1.8.

Tech Specs

Specs taken from the B&H Photo listing of the product

Size 20″ (50.8 cm)
Shape Octagonal
Compatibility Shoe-mount flash units
Removable Front Face Yes
Removable Interior Baffle No
Accepts Grids No
Required Speed Ring No, provided
Dimensions 20″ (50.8 cm) Diameter
Weight 2.2 lb (0.99 kg)

Ergonomics

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Westcott Rapid Box product images (3 of 11)ISO 2001-100 sec at f - 2.5

The Rapid Box comes with a couple of pieces: there is the diffusion sock, flash stand, reflector dish, screw, and the rapid box body itself. And in order to make it all work, you’ll need to put it all together.

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Westcott Rapid Box product images (4 of 11)ISO 2001-160 sec at f - 6.3

You’ll need to open it up first. And when you do, you’ll notice a giant washer that is supposed to go through something similar to an umbrella handle. You’ll need to hold it down to keep the umbrella (or the box) expanded and open.

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Westcott Rapid Box product images (6 of 11)ISO 2001-160 sec at f - 6.3

Then you’ll need to place the reflector dish over that and put the screw into the hole to keep it all in place. Trust us, it’s a lot more complicated than it sounds sometimes.

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Westcott Rapid Box product images (7 of 11)ISO 2001-160 sec at f - 6.3
After this, you’ll flip over to the back and move the handle into its according position to snap into place. This will hold the flash handle bracket in the next stage.

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Westcott Rapid Box product images (9 of 11)ISO 2001-100 sec at f - 5.6

And finally, you screw the flash bracket in. Now just adjust the height and the depth and you’ll be all set.

Build Quality

For what this is: a fusion between an umbrella, softbox and beauty dish, the build quality is fairly solid. However, the speedring rotates a bit too much for my liking and the flash handle bracket gets loose a tad too much.

Usually, big winds are an umbrella’s worst nightmare, but it wasn’t so bad this time around due to the inner reflection dish that helps to hold it all together. What that means in practice is that if your assist (or you) are holding this modifier and the wind starts to get a bit heavy, it won’t invert on you. That is one of the biggest problems with umbrellas. However, it’s quite a genius design from Westcott in terms of prevention of problems like that.

But man, it could have been simpler to set up.

Ease of Use

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Essentials for th Strobist Street Photographer (1 of 9)ISO 1001-200 sec at f - 3.5

When it comes to actually using the light modifier, it is a relative piece of cake to do. But if you’re using manual strobe light, then you’ll need to figure out the calculations in your head first.

The people that may get the best use of this modifier are product photographers and those who shoot tight portraits, and the reason for this is because of how small the modifier actually is at around 20 inches.

Putting the diffusion sock/baffle on is a piece of cake as it just slips right over and gets snugly held into place by the umbrella design. Our only problem with this is that we saw 1 stop of light loss around the edges and around 1 and 1/3 in the center when testing with a handheld light meter. Diffusion socks are supposed to diffuse light, but the design could have made this unit more even in its light distribution.

I had no problems taking this out with me on my daily routine photo shootings and photo walks.

Editor’s Note: every product photo in our first essentials story was shot using this modifier.

Image Quality

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Panasonic GH3 at the Mermaid Day Parade (12 of 12)ISO 2001-160 sec at f - 8.0

Though I often complained about how much of a pain it was to set up, the image quality that this unit outputs is excellent. This is partially because of the silver interior which tends to add a bit more kick to the light. A silver beaded interior would have been even better (and is personally my favorite).

While the reflector dish inside is silver as well, we wonder how the light quality would change if it were white. If you’re out in bright sunlight, we’d recommend that you use High Speed Sync (overpowering the sun) with this unit. To learn more about that, check out our introduction to the process–where we actually used this unit.

The design also gives an interesting catch light which you’ll see in the sample images below:

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Panasonic 35-100mm f2.8 OS sample photos (2 of 13)ISO 2001-160 sec at f - 4.0

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Panasonic 35-100mm f2.8 OS sample photos (3 of 13)ISO 2001-160 sec at f - 4.0

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Panasonic 35-100mm f2.8 OS sample photos (4 of 13)ISO 2001-160 sec at f - 2.8

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Panasonic 35-100mm f2.8 OS sample photos (5 of 13)ISO 2001-160 sec at f - 2.8

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Panasonic 35-100mm f2.8 OS sample photos (6 of 13)ISO 2001-160 sec at f - 2.8

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Panasonic 35-100mm f2.8 OS sample photos (7 of 13)ISO 2001-160 sec at f - 2.8

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Panasonic 35-100mm f2.8 OS sample photos (8 of 13)ISO 2001-160 sec at f - 2.8

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Panasonic 35-100mm f2.8 OS sample photos (9 of 13)ISO 2001-160 sec at f - 3.5

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Panasonic 35-100mm f2.8 OS sample photos (10 of 13)ISO 2001-160 sec at f - 3.5

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Panasonic 12-35mm f2.8 OS sample photos (1 of 32)ISO 2001-160 sec at f - 4.0

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Panasonic 12-35mm f2.8 OS sample photos (4 of 32)ISO 2001-160 sec at f - 4.0

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Panasonic 12-35mm f2.8 OS sample photos (5 of 32)ISO 2001-160 sec at f - 4.0

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Panasonic 12-35mm f2.8 OS sample photos (11 of 32)ISO 2001-160 sec at f - 4.0

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Panasonic 12-35mm f2.8 OS sample photos (12 of 32)ISO 2001-160 sec at f - 4.0

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Panasonic 12-35mm f2.8 OS sample photos (14 of 32)ISO 2001-160 sec at f - 4.0

 

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Essentials for th Strobist Street Photographer (3 of 9)ISO 1001-200 sec at f - 4.5

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Essentials for th Strobist Street Photographer (7 of 9)ISO 1001-200 sec at f - 3.5

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Essentials for th Strobist Street Photographer (8 of 9)ISO 1001-200 sec at f - 5.6

Conclusions

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Westcott Rapid Box product images (2 of 11)ISO 8001-400 sec at f - 2.5

Though I’m a fan of the stuff that Westcott produces, I really couldn’t warm up to this modifier for the sole reason that it’s a pain to put together and takes way too much time. It reminds me a bit of the Impact Quikbox that we also reviewed, except that this is much better built–but Impacts is much simpler and quicker to assemble.

If Westcott found a way to not have to put the reflector dish in and screw it down while still making the entire package fit into the small case it comes with, they’d have a killer product for the photographer that is always on the go. And they’d also single handedly dominate the market.

But when it comes down to pure image quality, the Rapid Box is hard to beat.

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