Does the Mola Setti Beauty Dish Live Up to Its Hype?

Does the Mola Setti Beauty Dish Live Up to Its Hype?

In this article we will take a closer look at the Mola Setti Soft Light reflector and compare it to a few images taken with a Silver Deep Parabolic Reflector. The goal of this article isn’t to choose a winner, it is more of a comparison of different types of light modifiers that are available to you. I will leave it up to you to decide which one of these light modifiers best fits your style of photography.

I will note that the results of this comparison are subjective and that this was not an extensive lab test closely monitored by NASA engineers.

The image below was taken with the 28-inch Mola Setti with the perforated pad disk and the opal glass diffuser installed, without the diffusion sock.

The Mola Setti Soft Light reflector, also known as a beauty dish to some of you, is 28 inches in diameter and has a white interior. It comes with a perforated pad diffuser to soften the center core of light and a white diffusion sock to spread the light. It is primarily designed to be used with studio strobes and you can obtain speed rings for various brands of strobes. In this test, we used a Einstein E640 and we did not have the diffusion sock installed on the Mola. Here's a closer look at the Mola Setti pictured with the Opal Glass Diffuser installed.

Before we go any further, here is a look at a behind-the-scenes video from this shoot. It will give you a better idea of the light placement and the distance of the modifier to the subject. The camera used for this series of images was the Nikon D810 with the Nikon 85mm f/1.4 prime lens.

We will be comparing the Mola Setti to the Westcott Deep Parabolic Zeppelin which is 35 inches in diameter with a silver interior and two layers of diffusion. Now I know that the Mola does not have diffusion and is a smaller modifier, so by that very fact the quality of light from the Mola Setti should be a little harsher. Again this isn’t a scientific test but more of what might actually happen on a real shoot with two different modifiers. You may be wondering how the quality of light differs from a softbox, or in this case a Silver Deep Parabolic Reflector, to the Mola Setti. Below is another image taken with the Mola Setti.

Below is an image taken with the Westcott Zeppelin. Unfortunately I don’t have any shots of the same model with each reflector, but the images below were taken during the same shoot with the same camera and lens setup. I myself don’t see a huge difference in light quality and I would happily use either modifier. Hopefully this comparison dispels any rumors you may have heard about beauty dishes versus parabolic reflectors. The shot below was taken with the Westcott 35 Deep Parabolic Zeppelin with two layers of diffusion installed.

To be honest I like each modifier for different reasons, and either modifier will help you to create a beautiful quality of light. What you choose is more based on your particular style, price, and convenience. Some people swear by beauty dishes especially when shooting outdoors on windy days. I will let you be the judge of what you prefer and I am sure this article will lead to a heated debate from both camps.

In closing, I would say it isn’t necessarily the light modifier or strobe light that you choose to use but more importantly where you place the modifier in relation to the distance of your subject. My advice regardless of the modifier you choose is to practice with it until you can predict the outcome of your shot before you take it. That will allow you to envision the image beforehand and allow you to unleash your creativity.

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P T's picture

wow, that is kinda useless. most of the article is spent explaining why you don't have the comparison shots. seriously, how hard would it be to do this right? this is neither a real comparison or a real look into the Mola. How can you , with a straight face, compare a bare dish to one with 2 layers of diffusion? More click bait headlines and poorly written articles.

Leo Yu's picture

I agree that this article is not very helpful. The modifiers are completely different and the setups aren't the same either. The setti is set up in front of the subject, but the zeppelin is from the side. The characteristics of the light falloff are quite different in the photos. Why is there a second light being used in the zeppelin photo? A comparison doesn't have to be "NASA science" quality, but it at least has to be systematic...

Patrick Hall's picture

It always kills me when people say this is a paid advertisement or someone is sponsored by so and so. Sponsored posts never showcase modifiers from two competing brands and Mola seems so small that if they have sponsored photographers, they would be some pretty big names.

I would uncheck the eyeball next to his added layer :)

Matt Green's picture

Can I like that last sentence twice?

Willie Brown's picture

Wait, almost $700 for a beauty dish? Guess my nickname needs to be Quarter Back because I'm def passing on this one. >_<

Justin Haugen's picture

I'd like to see comparisons of the 28" mola versus the 28" fotodiox beauty dish I bought on Amazon for $100.

Michael Comeau's picture

That's what the article should be -- blind taste test.

J F's picture

There is a difference between a standard ebay 28 and the Setti. (the 22 Mola Demi dish though really is not much of a difference compared to a cheapo 22 ebay beauty dish). The thing with the Setti is how deep it is, and the ridges, as you can see the distinct shadow lines, this is what youll see also if you just aim the dish at the wall, which when brought in close for headshots youll see the contrast change in real time. (while the 28 fotodiox ones act more like an even softbox with a center hard diffuser disk shadow, that you move your dish around using the disk shadow to add contrast. (the setti, sometimes its great, especially for bringing out the jaw line, but at the same time it brings out smile lines and wrinkles a little more then youd want). And the Opal Glass addition gets rid of the dark disk reflection in the eyes, making it look like a softbox was used when zoomed in on the eyes. One positive thing about your Fotodiox is how light it is, for my Setti I have it boomed on a huge light stand, making it only suitable for studio work. Although I do take it out on locations, but my lighting assistants are not happy when I do. (pic below is without my Opal Glass installed).

J F's picture

Here's a simple headshot using the Mola Setti, and a setup pic showing how large of a setup it is do to the weight of the Setti. The dish is on an Avenger A4050CS 16.4' Steel Boom Stand (which has bent from the weight over the past 3 years) with my Cyc wall being lit with a 7' Westcott Umbrella.
There is a difference with the Setti, its small only making about a 20% compared to a normal 28" dish. But its there. The downside is the weight though and for most if you spend an extra 10 minutes in photoshop using dodge/burn on the skin you can turn your 28" Fotodiox into a Setti, while saving hundreds of dollars. For me, im a lazy photographer, and dont like having to use photoshop if I dont have to, so the Setti makes sense me.

Justin Haugen's picture

THANK YOU! That was an above and beyond comment. I've wielded the seti before and I know how heavy it is. I definitely think I would struggle to use it on location. My fotodiox 28" comes with me on location all the time. I use it at weddings and I was on location last night with it. I love shooting with the grid, it's currently my favorite modifier hands down.

I definitely do not have the appropriate stands and boom to support the weight of the mola. Thanks again for your post, it's very kind of you!

Anthony Cayetano's picture

I found the article leaning towards the subjective side which isn't really that helpful. Having said that, why would I be sane enough to shell out $600 for something I can considerably get with equal results for much less?

M L's picture

should have compared it to a Briese...
Really one of the most stupid comparisons, its hype is against other beauty dishes not other types of modifiers. Really glad you aren't a rocket scientist.

Joakim Drake's picture

At least the closing paragraph was on the money. But I have to agree with the posters before me, the comparison is not relevant in any way. It's better to just delete those paragraphs and images completely. Also when showing a modifier and the quality of light it produces, I would prefer if SOOC images were shown instead of images where clearly a retoucher has gone to town with it.

Felix Wu's picture

The title is very misleading because there was nothing in the article to draw conclusions from, not even two comparable photographs. And the video jump cut was terrible. I don't mind paying for a Mola, but the shipping costs just as much as a mola...Zeppelin? Looks nice but Westcott should spend a little more time and money to make the Zeppelin look more aesthetically attractive. Mola nailed it.

Chris Cheek's picture

I love my Zeppelin 35..Sold my Mola Demi 22 inch to get the Wescott. It is def more versatile..Here is a shot from the zeppelin 35 without the outer diffusion..Only the inner baffle..About 3 ft away..

Craig Beckta's picture

Nice work Chris,

Chris Cheek's picture

Thanks Craig

Christophoros Papachristophorou's picture

"My advice regardless of the modifier you choose is to practice with it until you can predict the outcome of your shot before you take it. That will allow you to envision the image beforehand and allow you to unleash your creativity"
Very true and an excellent piece of advice!

Craig Beckta's picture


Jay Jay's picture

If you have both the Setti and the Zeppelin, why didn't you do a side by side comparison using the same placement and settings in order to properly compare the lighting? That would have been a much better and higher quality report, no?

Jay Jay's picture

Interesting- looks like this article is a heavily shortened version of the much longer article found on Slr Lounge (complete with more photos of the dish and LOT MORE technical setup of it, though no mention of a zeppelin in it)
Same author but incredibly odd that most of the useful information was stripped out for this Fstoppers post. F Stoppers editors? Quality control?

Tona Diaz's picture


As a total fan of both modifiers (I got the Zeppelin in January and the Setti in early March), I share the frustration of some of the other commentators. I think it comes from the fact that you wrote a whole article just to conclude that your examples are so dissimilar that you can't possibly reach any conclusions.

Also although is pretty clear you are not a rocket scientist from NASA is not unreasonable to put you task for not providing examples at least in similar circumstances, even if they are not exactly identical.

Anyway, I think the best way to contribute to the conversation is by sharing what I think are the main differences between the two.

So I was looking at some of my previous projects from earlier this year and I was very lucky to find some examples of headshots with both modifiers on the same model with almost the exact same settings (similar framing, similar position and angle, etc.). All of them are straight out of camera and never made it into my final retouched images, but I think they clearly show the main differences between those two fantastic modifiers.

All of them were captured with the Canon 6D and either the Otus 85 or the Apo Sonnar 135.

The things that are immediately obvious to me are 1) White balance; 2) Specular highlights; 3) Global contrast; 4) Texture of the skin and 5) Catchlights.

Westcott Zeppelin: Because is silver lined, is cooler and produces substantially more contrast in the final image. The small and crisp specular highlights and the somewhat sharp shadows give the modifier a quality of light closer to a hard source. Although I don't know for sure, it seems to me that for the money it's the closest modifier to achieve a similar quality of light as a totally defocused Broncolor Para 88; with only the internal diffuser, every one of the 16 panels acts a a very small hard light source placed in the extremes of a circumference, all of which in combination produce a beautiful circular catchlight (this is debatable, but I happen to love it). But because of the relative size (I always use it between 3 and 8ft from my subject) it doesn't reach the levels of contrast of a purely hard point source. And yet it really highlights the texture of the skin or the fabrics if they are used for fashion, and so it works great for males and young females, but I wouldn't generally use it for portraits without both diffusers.

Mola Setti: The Setti is finished with a very resistant and lightly textured white/cream paint. So it's warmer (and the tint greener) than the Zeppelin for the same White Balance settings. I use to own a Fotodiox beauty dish of the same size, but the Setti has a slightly different quality of light. I feel is slightly harder than a normal beauty dish, even with the PAD and the Opal Glass and even with a completely opaque center plate. Similar to the Zeppelin but unlike a generic beauty dish, the Setti looks like a collection of concentric rings of very soft light sources. And because it's probably two or three times as deep as a normal beauty dish, it's easier to focus the beam in small spaces (I shoot in my living room all the time). The general quality of the light is unequivocally soft, so the specular highlights and the shadows still have very smooth transitions at closer distances (I always use my Setti between 2 and 5ft from my subject, and never farther away). Yet, it's still very demanding in less than perfect skin, so in those circumstances a double baffled softbox would be way better. Also at closer distances, the Setti produces a beautiful round catchlight of concentric rings, the signature of all the Mola Reflectors.

Hope this help to clarify a little bit the difference between them =)

Tona Diaz's picture

One more!

Craig Beckta's picture

Hey Tona Diaz,

Thanks for taking the time to post your examples...

Your comment is 100x better than my article.

You've provided some great examples and a fantastic explanation of the differences between the two Modifiers.

This article was only going to be about the Mola Sett but someone suggested I compare it to another Modifier.

That is why I didn't have examples with the same Model with two different modifiers.

Thanks for saving the day with your examples.

I have to say the Zeppelin and the Mola Setti are my top two Modifiers and I enjoy using both of them.

Thanks again for including your thoughts and examples.

Barry Robinson's picture

I just want one, one of each to be precises [which I can in no way afford]. They fascinate me! I can't help but love those things, but even though I've searched and searched I just can't find anyone in the UK who stocks them. I went to their site, and they 'say' they ship to the UK via DHL, but can't seem to find the "Buy this right now and ship it as fast as you can" button anywhere?