If you follow big name photographers or pages like FamousBTSMag on Instagram or elsewhere, you’ve likely seen a parabolic reflector. Even more likely is the prestigious names that are Broncolor or Briese plastered on the side. The results that these modifiers produce are absolutely gorgeous, there’s no doubt there. They offer the most even light spread of any modifier, a large range of sizes, and incredible versatility. If you’ve done some research, however, you’ll throw the idea of shooting with one out the door because of their incredibly steep price. A few months ago, I stumbled on a company by the name of Parabolix. What I found seemed entirely too good to be true.
To my surprise, it was true, and with no catch to boot. Parabolix manufactures parabolic light modifiers in a variety of sizes from 14 inches (that’s right, 14 inches) up to 50 inches. The eye-catching part of these modifiers is their price. Never before has a modifier of this class and capability been so affordable. The most expensive option that they currently produce is the 50-inch reflector. All together (focusing rod, light mount, and reflector), this would cost you no more than $1,000. That’s a steal.
Now, what makes the Parabolix modifiers special is the fact that they retain the same functionality as the more expensive alternatives. And that functionality has three parts: the parabolic shape, the indirect light mount, and the focus rod. The parabolic shape plays into the very even lighting that you get from these reflectors because the deep shape not only gives direction, but contrast as well. If you were to put the Parabolix 50 inch up against a 48 inch or 50-inch octabox, you would surely notice a difference. There isn’t necessarily a "better" look, it is personal preference really.
Lights are also rear-facing inside of these reflectors. Meaning the light fires away from the subject and in towards the back of the para. The advantage to this is the lack of any hotspot whatsoever. Because the light bounces throughout the reflector and is not directly pointed at the subject, the spread of light is totally even from edge to edge. Traditional softboxes and beauty dishes create different light qualities depending on where you point them because the light fires directly towards the subject and doesn’t bounce as well and diffuse in the same way.
But what if we want a different quality of light? Well, you aren’t stuck with one look due to the light’s even spread. This is thanks to the focusing rod that the light mounts to. The rod can be pulled in and out of the box to change how tight the spread of light is. Should you pull the rod all the way back into the box, your light will be punchy, directional, and hard. If the rod is pushed all the way out, the light will be far softer. I was able to use this to great effect as I often will shoot both harsh and soft light in the same shoot. The focusing rod will let you change from soft to harsh quickly and easily. If you need even softer light, there is an optional diffusion cover that can be attached to each para to create yet more even spread. This versatility is something I sorely missed once sending these review units back.
Those are the reasons that you’d want a parabolic reflector. Why specifically the Parabolix? Most of that reasoning is price, but there is also one thing that these reflectors do that the more expensive ones don’t: They will mount virtually any light you want. From Profoto, to Alien Bee, to Elinchrom, and even speedlights, the Parabolix reflectors allow for any of it. The focusing rod has a stud on the end, as is typical of light stands or c-stands. On that stud, you attach the actual light mount. The Profoto mount is a cage with a Profoto speedring on the end, perfect for Pro-B4 and Pro7/8 units. There’s even a universal adapter that extends out from the focusing rod offering a simple stuff to attach your light directly onto. Any light you have will likely fit onto these modifiers. That’s a big deal.
I’m sure there will be skeptics of the build quality, but I can assure you that it’s just as good as anything I’ve seen from Profoto. The fabric of the modifier is tough and doesn’t feel like it would easily break. On the inside, the silver lining gives the same impression that it won’t chip and get ruined over time like some unfortunately expensive modifiers I’ve seen. The ends of the unit where the rods sit in a pocket felt like they could wear down over time, but after mentioning this to the Parabolix team, they said that an update for this piece was already in the works to improve the reflector's longevity. The focusing rod inserts into the reflector from the back via a Profoto-esque mount that clamps around the focusing rod. In my experience, having set up and torn down the reflectors probably 20-30 times during my review, the assembly of the modifier and the focusing system is a breeze compared to other large modifiers with this depth. You can see the assembly in the video below, as shown by Parabolix.
- Easy to assemble, which is great for location work.
- Great, unique light quality.
- It's versatile.
- The price.
- It's built well.
- Even light output from edge to edge.
- Provides great detail.
- The type of light that it produces is very different from a traditional softbox, you may have difficulty transitioning.
- Big and a little heavy for their size. Bring sandbags.
I can’t say that the Parabolix modifiers are for everyone. Yes, they are incredibly versatile and capable pieces of equipment, but there is no one tool for every job. For those of you shooting portraits, advertising, or fashion work, the Parabolix line of reflectors may very well be your next go-to lighting modifier. In my time using them, there was not a single point where I was disappointed by the workflow that these afforded me, and the image quality is stunning. Should you be in the market for a true, focusable Parabolic modifier, I highly recommend giving Parabolix a look.