As I am using rotalux softboxes for few years now and I am also quite impressed by them. I decided to buy also their small rotalux stripboxes 35x90cm and do some review and comparison tests.
I really love the design of the softboxes as they are so easy and quick to setup/fold. When I am shooting (it doesnt matter if it`s portrait, fashion or product photoshoot), I use so many things and I am ending with lots of stuff everywhere. I need to work quickly, so when I need a different softbox, It`s very handy to just take the softbox out of the pauch and by few clicks have it ready to use. Also, I have a small studio in my appartment so I need to always tidy up everything. It was soooo long proces to dismantle all the softboxes. With rotalux it`s a piece of cake.
This was one of the reasons why I decided to go into more expensive rotalux softboxes. The other reason was colour and light consistency. Softboxes use transparent cloth to diffuse the light and this cloth as the light is going through it, affect the colour temperature of the light. Colour temperature is very important if you use more than one light shaper or softbox. Also when you mix different light sorces like natural light with strobe light or tungsten to daylight source. It`s not a good idea to mix different brands of softboxes as they can have different colour shift, specially cheap chinese ones.
Elinchrom rotalux remain quite good colour consistancy in their modifiers. And also the outgoing light colour is set around daylight 5500K. So you can easily mix strobes with natural light or other daylight sources.
Comparing Rotalux stripbox to chinese Meking in colour shift.
As you can see Meking softbox shifts the colour temperature to nearly 7000K and also quite pronounced reddish tint is presented. But within some photoshoots the correction was above 7000K. This makes the Meking not very suitable for more advance lighting or for precise works. But for general portraiture work this wouldn`t be a problem, you can easily correct the white balance for it.
Stripboxes are quite specialized softboxes that are mainly used for controlled and narrow light source. In the picture belove you can see the spread of light from each modification. Softboxes were 1m from the background and angled 90° to it.
Because the meking is bigger and also deeper stripbox it looks like it has better and more even illumination over the surface. I also have to say, that I prefer grids over hood because, it gives more focused beam of light.
But in some cases grids can be disturbing, specialy when you photograph something that shows also reflections. On other hand hood is something like a small gobo. But keep in mind that hood as it`s whole part with diffusion cloth will also makes the softbox smaller. I am not sure if this is a disadvantage or not, because sometimes it`s handy to make it smaller – this is why Elinchrom also offers masks for the softboxes. But Elinchrom was thinking about this and real size is not 90cm but 99cm.
As I mentioned shooting objects that reflect light source, it`s important to have softboxes that are illuminated as uniformly as posible. Some softboxes produce very uneven illumination and also star or line pattern on the diffusion. When you shoot objects like shiny metal, glass or bottles etc., this will be very disturbing. Fortunately, I haven`t seen any star pattern on Rotalux softboxes, I have.
They use good quality translucent cloths. I can`t say neither rotalux or meking is perfect. Meking is much deeper compared to Rotalux what is at an advantage in this field. If Rotalux was deeper, It would be much better.
Rotalux as it was mentioned is made of better matterials – textured reflexive material as well as diffusion cloths. Also with Rotalux you can use deflectors as third difusion. No edges is also a point to Ratalux, because it`s better for product photography. However, the ilumination of the whole surface is not the best either. Meking although, has some visible lines from inner diffusion and hotspot.
In portraiture lighting stripboxes are mainly used for rimlight. In this case, despit the WB problem we actualy do not have to deal with reflection (if it`s not something unusual). For rimlight or backlight both stripboxes, even they are little different in size, behave very similar without grids.
However, this is the time when grids may be more handy if you prefer very focused soft light. Or if you are in a small studio and don`t want light spill all over the place. Hood just wont do the same job as grid.
When you use stripboxes for main light in closeup headshot it has unique look and also catchlights. Rotalux does this job nicely …