Review: Pictools Folding Beauty Dish (47.25 inches)

There’s been a trend in beauty dish creation over the past few years that the Pictools Folding beauty dish really adheres to: good quality while being easy to put together and use. To boot, the beauty dish is also fairly compact when fully collapsed. It goes into its own bag and can be assembled fairly quickly if you’re just a bit patient with some of its oddities.

What you’ll be rewarded with is a pretty awesome beauty dish that I personally feel works better as an octabank; and quite a sturdy one too!

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Excellent build quality
  • Fairly small though becomes pretty large
  • Interesting concept

Cons

  • The ribs can be annoying to work with
  • Securing the inner reflector dish is a pain; you’re better off just forgetting about it and using the whole thing as an octabank instead.

Gear Used

We tested the Pictools beauty dish with a Flashpoint Zoom Lion flash, the Fujifilm XT-20, and the Sony a7 II along with various lenses.

Tech Specs

Size 47.25″ (120 cm)
Interior Silver
Reflector Interior
Removable Front Diffuser Yes
Grid Included

Ergonomics

The Pictools folding beauty dish sort of resembles an octabank (except with more sides) and an actual beauty dish. It’s a hybrid and a pretty good one at that too.

When you look at it in its fully assembled state, you’ll find a front diffuser panel which connects to the dish using velcro. Because it’s such a good fit, you may even find that it probably won’t even give complete 100% coverage but instead tend to give a few holes near the edges. This could have been solved with a sock that went over the front end.

Take the front diffuser off and you’ll find the interior. It’s silver and there is an interior baffle with stays in place using a pretty smart velcro system.

Get down beyond that and you’ll find the dish itself. You can put the reflector inside, but it’s annoying to try to set up. Instead, I’ll typically just use this as an octabank. The ribs of the beauty dish are very sturdy and well built.

Turn to the rear and what you’ll find is the opening hold for a speedlight or a monolight of some sort. It comes with this hardware that allows the users to have a whole lot of versatility–including tilting the entire dish up and down. Connecting the bracket to dish is pretty interesting as it requires an almost sort of lock and key method.

The bracket can be set up a few ways. There is a “T” style which is best for monolights or laying the hot shoe flash down flat. But then there is the L system, where the flash will face forward as its body is upward.

The bracket is one of the best I’ve seen included with a beauty dish–and it may also be my favorite part of the whole thing.

Build Quality

This is one incredibly solid beauty dish. When it’s fully assembled it’s very rugged and uses tension to hold everything in place. I give it a whole lot of credit as it surely deserves it. I’d be confident taking this out into heavy winds providing my stand has sand bags or someone securing it.

My only big issue with the system isn’t with the dish, but the bracket. It’s plastic and I’m not sure that it will be able to survive long term use if the dish is angled downward on a subject.

Ease of Use

The only major problem that I’ve got with the Pictools beauty dish has to do with the way that the rib system works. It’s not simple and in order to lock the ribs in place you’ll need to push them back and snap everything in place using another lock system for each rib. This can make breaking it down for on the go shooting pretty difficult at times. Admittedly though, the more you use it the more pliable the system becomes.

Otherwise, this is all pretty simple to set up (sans the interior reflector dish).

Image Quality

The dish itself is highly capable of delivering a beautiful, soft light when shooting portrait subjects. Though for what it’s worth, I’m not totally sure that it’s enough of a light to differentiate it from everything else out there. A white interior could have made this absolutely perfect for portraiture.

When gelling the flash you have shooting into the beauty dish, the silver interior will tend to cool that light down a bit. Notice the purple light on the left? Keep that in mind and consider using a stronger gel–or prepare yourself for a bit more post-production.

Indeed, due to the pretty large size, this beauty dish is surely designed for portraiture and I’d say that it’s almost a waste to use it for anything else. To get the best effect out of this dish, I recommend using your flash with the wide angle diffuser to allow the light to spread fully. What you’ll find is that it’s overall really fun to use.

The smooth silver delivers pretty specular light–and I’ll stick by my statement that I’d prefer white or at least soft silver. It’s less specular than other offerings like those from Phottix which have a silver beaded interior. Combine this with two interior baffles and you’ll get a fair amount of softening for what most modern photographers would be alright with. Still though, I’d much rather prefer soft silver.

Conclusions

The Pictools Folding beauty dish offers a whole lot in a pretty small package. Its price point is pretty well justified too. If you don’t already have a beauty dish or octabank that you like, then surely consider the Pictools. But if you have one already, I’m not sure that this one is worth trading up for.

Does it have a great design? Yeah, pretty much. But know that it’s also got a few oddities like how difficult the interior reflector can be to attach, the plastic bracket and the way that the ribs snap in. However, the ribs are incredibly durable and first and foremost, this should be very important to photographers.