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Studio photographers, and other users of off-camera flash, are living through a bit of a renaissance. New, innovative and (maybe most importantly) affordable lights and modifiers are popping up all the time – and a lot of them are fantastic. One of the companies that is at the forefront of this movement is Godox.
It seems that every time you turn around, there’s something new being released. Enter the Pixapro 105cm (41.34″) 16-Sided Easy-Open Rice-Bowl Softbox (Say that five times fast). Pixapro is Godox rebranded for the UK market. As soon as I saw this thing, I was entranced. Not only is it massive, but its shape means that it’s almost perfectly round (for all intents and purposes) and, as such, will shape light quite differently to your bog standard rectangular softboxes and octaboxes. I bought it and as this review will show you, it was not a mistake.
To simplify it, the Rice Bowl is a large umbrella softbox. It’s called an umbrella softbox because it opens like an umbrella, but functions as a softbox thanks to two layers of diffusion material that cover the front. The reason this is a big deal, is that it takes away the massive pain that is putting together and pulling apart standard softboxes. I have more than a few that I’ve put together and then vowed that they would stay that way until the end of time. With the Rice Bowl, all you have to do is pull on the metal rod and open it up like an umbrella and screw the reflector plate into place. It takes seconds.
As mentioned, the shape of the Rice Bowl also sets it apart from it’s cousins. Because it’s 16 sided (That’s called a hexadecagon by the way. If you want to call it a hexadecabox, I won’t judge you if you don’t judge me), it almost appears completely round. This means that the way it shapes the light and wraps it around your subject is quite different to other softboxes, which can provide you with another tool in your lighting kit.
The Rice-Bowl softbox does do a few things well.
At over 41″ (that’s just under four feet), the rice-bowl is a massive modifier that still packs away in a portable package. Sure, there’s always giant octaboxes and parabolic umbrellas for when you need really soft light, but they don’t pack away anywhere near this easy. For fans of large modifiers, this means two things:
The Rice Bowl’s unique hexadecagon shape gives you a rounder source of light than your traditional softbox. The light it produces is gorgeous and soft and ideal for all kinds of portrait lighting. If you have a thing against square and rectangular catchlights, then this might be the modifier for you.
As mentioned, setting up the rice bowl is as easy as opening an umbrella. Beyond that, you have to screw on a bit at the end of the rod to keep it secure and attach the diffusion panels. It doesn’t take very long. Add to that that there’s no awkward loose rods to bend and manhandle into place and nothing to pop out with great force and hit you in the eye. The Rice Bowl is a real treat.
Since it’s well suited to location, it should be no surprise that the Rice Bowl comes in it’s own carry bag. An extra bonus here, is that unlike other modifiers that collapse, once it’s out of the bag, it’s easy enough to get back in and it still fits.
At a price of $110, this thing is fairly cheap. Massive modifiers (especially ones this well made) usually come at a massive price. Just compare the Rice Bowl to any offering from Elinchrome and Broncolor if you’re in any doubt.
Pixapro sell the Rice Bowl with just about any mount you want, so no matter your preferred lighting system, you should have no problem using this modifier.
Perhaps nothing can be too perfect, and that is the case with the Rice Bowl. Fortunately, the list of cons is a short one.
In terms of the light it produces, the depth and shape of the Rice Bowl is fine. Where it lets it down is when it’s on a light stand. Because it’s so deep and large, when it’s on a normal light stand you can’t point it in a downward angle very easily. This is quite limiting when it comes to designing your lighting with it. Certain lighting patterns like butterfly lighting will become a challenge.
To get around this, you’ll need to buy (or already own) a light stand with a boom arm. This isn’t that big of a deal, but if you want to get the very most out of the Rice Bowl, you may have to be prepared to make other purchases.
Remember I mentioned that you had to screw a bit of metal on to secure the Rice Bowl once it’s setup? That one piece is very small and very easy to lose. I’m keeping a very close eye on mine.
At the end of the day, I can talk about the Pixapro 105cm Rice Bowl Softbox all I want, but what really matters is the proof. Here’s a few examples of what the Rice Bowl can produce in the studio.
At the end of the day, I love this thing. Not only does it produce gorgeous light that is flattering to a whole host of subjects, it is light, easy to set up and just a pleasure to use. I would definitely recommend the Rice Bowl to any photographer who wants to add something else to their lighting kit. If you think the 105cm version might be a bit big for you, Pixapro do make a smaller version that comes in at 65cm for $90.