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Lastolite Hotrod Strip Softbox Review

Lastolite Hotrod Strip Softbox Review - A review of the Lastolite Hotrod Strip Softbox designed for portable flash guns.

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Category : Portable Flash Accessories
Product : Lastolite Hotrod Strip Softbox
Price : £120
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Features
Handling
Performance
Verdict
Specification

The Lastolite Hotrod Strip Softbox is an elongated softbox designed to produce a narrower band of light when used with portable flashguns.

It can be used for fashion and portrait photography or for product photography where a strip style catchlight is required. It comes in two sizes - the 30x120cm (£120) or the 40x120cm version (£132) tested here.

Lastolite Hotrod Strip Softbox Features

The softbox has a 40x120cm front face that tapers back to the flash adaptor plate. The plate has a bracket attachment that slots onto a standard lighting stand and can also be attached to a tripod using a spigot adaptor.

The bracket adjusts in height and depth so almost any hot shoe mounted flash can be accommodated with ease.

The shoe mount is plastic so any dedicated flash contacts wont come in contact with the metal adaptor.

The softbox has a diffuser panel in the center that helps ensure the light is distributed more evenly so the flash doesn't produce a hot spot.

Left: Lastolite Hotrod Strip Softbox, Middle: Adaptor adjustments, Right Bottom: Flash Bracket, Top Right: SB8000 aligned, Top Right (left image): Rear adaptor plate.
 

Lastolite Hotrod Strip Softbox Handling

If you had to rely on the instructions to assemble this softbox you may become frustrated as the picture-only leaflet can be difficult to follow - it reminds us of a Haynes Car manual.

You may not need the instructions... if you're used to building flash gadgets, this one will be second nature, although you may need a few attempts to get used to which bit goes where if softboxes are new to you, especially the bracket assembly.

There's a useful new method of attaching the softbox to the support rods. The softbox has Velcro strips which extend from the corners. It's easy to push the rods in without needing three hands to bend, flex and stretch to get them into their pockets. Once in the pockets you then pull the Velcro fastening strip over each end to stretch and tighten the softbox material. These should be much easier than any previous softboxes you've used.

Lastolite Hotrod Strip Softbox Attaching Box Lastolite Hotrod Strip Softbox Velcro Fastener Lastolite Hotrod Strip Softbox Inside Lastolite Hotrod Strip Softbox Diffuser
Lastolite Hotrod Strip Softbox Attach-diffuser

Once erect, you add the inner diffuser and front panel using the Velcro fastenings and then mount the softbox on a flash stand and attach the flash. There are several knobs to adjust position of the bracket so that the flash tube is centered in the softbox adaptor window. The one issue we had was  the base of the flash height adjustment bracket can be too close to the horizontal / vertical locking nut so the bracket has to be moved out of the way to unlock the nut. This makes things a bit of a faff if you're wanting to work fast.

Lastolite Hotrod Strip Softbox Performance

The photos below were taken in a room with minimal daylight, using ISO100 setting and a 45mm lens on the Pentax K20D. The flash, a Vivitar 283, was pointing in from the left.

Lastolite Hotrod Mannequin-daylight - 4 sec at f/8, 45mm lens and ISO 100 Lastolite Hotrod Mannequin-flash - f/16, 45mm lens and ISO 100 Lastolite Hotrod Mannequin-softbox - f/8, 45mm lens and ISO 100
Daylight illumination
- 4 sec at f/8
Vivitar 283 flash on manual
- 1/125sec at f/16
Hotrod attached to flash
- 1/125sec at f/8

As you can see the bare flash is harsh and falls off at the left of the background where the concentrated beam misses, while the version (right) with the Hotrod Strip is a more diffused light with an even spill on the background, but still has the concentrated light and shade on the arm, making the photo much more three dimensional.

Next was a shoot with model Sarah, a dancer from nearby Barnsley.

The shape of catchlights is an important factor for flash modifiers and this one can be really good, or really bad. Below are two shots taken with different eye positions. On the left Sarah was looking directly at the light and the strip catchlight runs right through the center of her eye and looks poor.

On the light she's looking at camera and the strip is running down the right of the pupil (viewer's left) and curves perfectly to her eye giving a lovely catchlight when viewed at a reduced size. When magnified you can see it's cutting into the black slightly, but the softbox position could be adjusted slightly to avoid this.

The light from the Hotrod is diffused just enough to reduce harshness of shadows but keep them in subtly to ensure depth.

Lastolite-hotrod-sarah-catchlight-bad | 1/125sec | f/8 | 36mm | ISO100 Lastolite-hotrod-sarah-catchlight-good | 1/125sec | f/9.5 | 36mm | ISO100
Lastolite-hotrod-sarah-catchlight-bad-crop | Lastolite-hotrod-sarah-catchlight-good-crop |

Lastolite-hotrod-sarah-side-2 | 1/125sec | f/8 | 31mm | ISO100
With bare 283 flash gun
Lastolite-hotrod-sarah-side-1 | 1/125sec | f/8 | 31mm | ISO100
With Hotrod Strip attached

Using the flash direct from the side at 90 degrees produces a harsh image with deep shadows (above left). Adding the Hotrod Strip diffuses the light but maintains the shadow depth for a better balanced exposure. Two stops of light are lost when the inner diffuser baffle is used.

Lastolite-hotrod-sarah-full-length | 1/125sec | f/6.7 | 24mm | ISO100   Lastolite Hotrod Sarah Low Key | 1/125sec | f/9.5 | 29.0 mm | ISO100
Left: At close range the illumination starts to fall off in a full length shot. So here the the feet are underexposed.

Right: It's fine for 3/4 body shots. If you have a powerful flash and space you could move the box further away for a full body cover.

Lastolite Hotrod Strip Softbox Verdict

At first I thought £132 was a lot for a softbox, even if it is strip shaped. I expected to find better value ones from other makers, but once you look around you see there's a lack of competition for portable flash photographers. In terms of build the unit is excellent and the new easier to connect corners make it much quicker and less fiddly to assemble. The quality of light is good and for full length model shoots indoors or out you certainly will see improvements with this strip softbox placed over the flash.

 
The Hotrod is easy to assemble and provides good diffused flash light

Lastolite Hotrod Strip Softbox Pros

Lightweight
Diffuses light evenly
Accomodates most flash guns
Easy to guide rods in to corner pockets

Lastolite Hotrod Strip Softbox Cons

Instructions may be hard to follow
Locking nut can get in way of sliding part of adaptor
Expensive

FEATURES  
HANDLING
PERFORMANCE
VALUE FOR MONEY
VERDICT

Lastolite Hotrod Strip Softbox Specifications

Dimensions
Weight938g
Width400mm
Height1200mm
Depth370mm

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