The Octobox 150 is a huge softbox with, as the name suggests, an octagonal frame, but with a perfect circular front panel.
This softbox is designed to give perfectly round catchlight in the eyes making it spot on for portrait photographers who're trying to get away from the typical multi-sided brolly or square shaped softbox catchlights that are normally created with standard flash accessories.
The £390 unit comes in a huge case which gives away the fact this is no compact unit. To assemble the unit there are nine flexi-rods that thread through centre points on the back material and into pockets at the perimeter of the reflective back. The other sides of the rods plug into a metal circular connection frame that has an S-fitting adaptor. It really needs two people to get this part assembled as the rods need a fair bit of pressure to get them into the holes. Once in place you end up with what looks like a huge, sturdy brolly.
This is mounted on a studio stand and the flash bayonets on to the circular metal frame so it points towards the back "brolly" assembled part.
Having the flash face away from the subject means the soft box has an advantage over traditional models of giving a high degree of evenness of illumination on the front cloth. The interior of the brolly is silver and designed to ensure the optimum evenness on the front cloth so it can be used close to the subject to produce maximum softness and maximum light output.
The final stage of assemble is the front circular panel that stretches over the brolly and velcros in to place. In practice the velcro isn't necessarily needed as the rods flex to make the panel stay in place. The panel has a diameter of 150cm which allows you to flood the subject with a beautiful softlight, especially when the box is closer to the subject.
You need to be about 6 foot tall if you want to attach the front panel when the unit is mounted on a tripod.
When using the flash it's easy enough to open one of the side edges and adjust controls.
The unit, when assembled with the flash head in place, is quite top heavy, even for a sturdy flash stand, so care needs to be taken to have the legs splayed in the right direction to avoid it toppling over. One leg out in front tends to be the most sturdy position, although if caught from the side could still cause the whole thing to topple over at an angle. Adjusting angle is also quite troublesome as the weight puts a strain on the angle adjustment. To make things easier there's a long external handle that slips into a hole on the head and makes it easier to lever and adjust angle.
A velcro covered slit at the back allows the power lead to be threaded through.
The Octobox 150 catchlight is one of the highlights of this fabulous softbox.
It's a superb unit if you want to shoot with the light parallel to the model and film/CCD plane but if you want the light to come from above you'll need more complex bracket system. There's no room to adjust when mounted straight on an upright flash stand. You also have to have the space to move the light to one side so you can shoot without the box obstructing your view, also avoid standing in front of it or you will create a silhouette figure of yourself in the catchlight.
Verdict The light from the Octobox 150 is one of the best I've come across. When used at the optimum height and distance the catchlights in models' eyes are amazing. Several ePHOTOzine members came on a studio event day we organised and saw this in use and were all equally impressed. It's more than the cost of many studio lights so expensive and big, but if you have the space and budget it's well worth the outlay.
In summary, the positive points of the Bowens Octobox 150 are: Delivers fantastically even light Produces superb catchlights
The negative points are: Expensive Takes up a lot of studio/room space Top heavy on studio stand