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The Halo Compact is a new reflector/diffuser design from Lastolite (a Manfrotto company). In January, at The Societies Convention in London, I got a glimpse of the first batch on the Manfrotto stand. It looked great on display, and in the demo, it packed down really small. It was also attached to standard light stand fitting on display. As the owner of a few Lastolite products, I’m quite aware of how innovative they are, and that they do make quality products. Some of these are used day in and day out in the studio (e.g. the Hilite and the Triflector).
Now I own a lot of reflectors. From large 5-in-1 disc reflectors to the already mentioned triflectors, to 6’X3’ frame reflectors; I even have a California Sunbounce. I’m not exactly in need of a new one, least of all something that’s well on the way to being €100 with shipping.
However, I was still interested in one major selling point – how compact it is when it is packed down. Seeing as I’d flown to the convention, I knew it would be a perfect travel reflector. I went to buy one. No luck. The small amount of stock that was in the shop at the convention was gone, so I left empty handed.
My next look at the Halo Compact in person was at The Photography Show in March. I happened to chat with one of the folks at the stand, and it turned out to be Matt Bailey. Matt had taken over from Gary Astil as a product designer, so we got chatting about the Halo, and how it solved quite a few problems.
Needless to say, I bought the diffuser version with the frame and a silver/white reflector cloth as well, to give me the best variety for shooting situations. I could have gotten the reflector with frame and the diffuser cloth if I preferred.
The Lastolite Halo Compact Reflector comes in a small, dark blue, zipped pouch. It has a carabiner to attach to a clips, belts or even belt loops. The material and finish are far better than the old royal blue material Lastolite formerly used, which tended to fray behind the zip, rendering the zip useless.
When you open the zip, it reveals what looks like a tent pole rods (but pre curled), and a fabric. You’ll also a find ¼” 20 screw back to back in the pouch so it can screw to a magic arm.
You’ll find assembly is straightforward. Attach all the rods together. Finish the frame by pushing the two sides of the handle together in a kind of dove tail joint fashion.
A quick glance at the handle and you’ll see the inbuilt ¼” 20 hole for a light stand in the handle. This is one of the great features of the Halo.
That’s it. It’s sturdy and firm.
To get either fabric on, you click a clip in place on either side of the handle and then clip them all on at even spacing around the frame.
The grip on the handle is great and I found it reasonably easy to hold outdoors, despite holding it in my left hand on my right side in the wind.
I’m not saying it’s not a kite, but it was far better than the floppy eBay reflector I’d used earlier that day.
So why would you bother with having this at all?
The answer is simple.
You want to have control of the light.
Here’s what undiffused evening sun looks like.
While it’s not as harsh as midday sun, it still has hard shadows and causing squinting.
By using the diffuser, the light is spread, making is softer.
Obviously it’s also lower in intensity, so you have to open your shutter to compensate.
Another typical way of shooting with evening sun is to use backlighting.
Here you can lose the direction of the light, but adding a silver reflector can bring back contrast and shape.
You could also opt for a more subtle white reflector.
While a little on the expensive side compared to the eBay popups, the Lastolite Halo Compact Reflector is still an affordable product. Despite the longer setup time, I feel the compact pack means this product will live in or on my camera (via the carabiner) permanently, vs the pops that are left behind when I’m travelling more compactly.
I’ve included the downside of the price and longer setup time in my rating, but in truth, I’m delighted with this product.
Now to sell some of my other reflectors!
Have you used the Lastolite Halo Compact Reflector? What are your thoughts? Share with us and our readers in the comments below.