The Elinchrom Indirect softboxes are quite well known amongst fashion and commercial photographers. Especially the 190 octabank. Recently Elinchrom revised its indirect lineup and renamed it Indirect Litemotiv. The Swiss brand offered me the chance to play around with the whole line of Indirect Litemotiv for a little over a month. I must admit, these are great light shapers, and I did not really want to give them back. Are they the ultimate softboxes? I would not go this far, but they are very close. Here is why.
Just like the other Litemotiv light shapers I reviewed last July, the indirect ones are built like tanks. The fabric is sturdy and made to resist the heat of continuous lighting. The mounting, however, is different from the para shaped Litemotiv.
While the parabolic ones have to be assembled with the rods each time, the indirect ones are mounted very much like giant umbrellas. Despite being short (5'7), I could mount any of these beasts alone in a couple of seconds very quickly. Take them out of the bag, grab the handle in the center, grab the speed ring, plug the speed ring into the center of the softboxes, and the softbox is assembled.
This simple assembling system and their sturdiness make them the perfect traveling companion. For a month I had one of them on every single shoot I would go to. During that time, I traveled between Paris and Switzerland, and it was very easy to travel with, and I was not worried about them taking a beating in the train. The bag to carry it is also well made and the boxes fit in it without having to force.
I also own a 59" indirect octa from Elinchrom. I love the light it produces, but I hate the way it mounts on the light stand. The handle to tilt it is fragile and doesn't inspire confidence... In fact, I already had to change it once. The Indirect Litemotiv seemed way more rugged. Not perfect though. However, better and strong enough to withstand daily use.
The diffusion fabric is also very impressive. Being used to Elinchrom's Rotalux line, when I assembled the first Indirect Litemotiv I thought the light would never get through the diffusion fabric! It is so thick, it is crazy! But at least I was not worried at all when taking the boxes outside or traveling with them that the diffusion fabric would get torn.
The only problem I encountered was when unmounting the boxes. Sometimes, some of them would stay stuck, and it was kind of annoying. However, Elinchrom lent me their gold version, not the final versions that are available on the market. So it probably has to do with that. Although it makes me wonder how the assembling system would live through a couple of years. But again, that is the only minor problem I could find as far as build quality goes.
The Indirect Litemotiv are nothing new you might say. Because true, they are only a very slightly improved version of the old Rotalux Indirect softboxes. However, the fabric has been improved. Due to the new inside coating Elinchrom developed, the very same found in the parabolic shaped Litemotiv, the light output should be about one stop better than the previous generation. I say should, because I could not get my hands on a last generation Rotalux Indirect and measure it myself. The only I found was an old version, probably one of the first available on the market in the nineties and it would not make any sense to compare them as there have been a couple of versions in between.
For those of you that never used an indirect softbox before, the difference with a standard light shaper is mostly the homogeneity of the light. The light is way more consistent across the surface of the softbox. There is almost no visible hotspot. You could almost compare it to a giant diffused umbrella. It makes these light shapers perfect for full-length shots and very interesting for products or commercial photography where consistent lighting is essential.
You might also wonder what the difference between the two 190 Litemotivs are. Both are part of the Litemotiv line, meaning they are strong and rugged light shapers geared towards professionals that need boxes that are built to last and withstand daily use. Their size is similar, or at least their diameter is. However, they do not have the same shape at all. The indirect has eight sides and is not very deep. It creates a very diffused and soft light. If you like to shoot using soft natural light, such as a big diffused window, but need to be able to work no matter the lighting conditions you are in, this is for you. Then the para shaped one has 16 sides and is more contrasty. It also has a more visible hotspot despite the double diffusion fabrics.
As I said before, the Litemotiv line is geared towards the pros that need something strong, that can last and can resist long hour shoots. So do not think the Litemotiv are any cheaper than the previous Rotalux Indirect or than the standard Rotalux. They are somewhat expensive compared to smaller boxes such as the 39" deep octa. But they are cheaper than other brands such as Profoto or Broncolor equivalent. Probably one of the reasons why many Profoto and Broncolor users use Indirect boxes from Elinchrom, along with the fact that these light shapers are really built like tanks.
What I Liked
- Build quality
- Light homogeneity
- Softness of the boxes
- Easy to assemble
What Could Be Improved
- The handle to tilt is better than the Rotalux Indirect, but still not perfect.
- I wish the boxes were slightly cheaper.
- I would love to see the same system but with the possibility of zooming and unzooming the strobe inside the box.
- Grids are still something I would like to see on the Elinchrom softboxes especially on the Litemotiv line.
All in all, these light shapers are awesome, and I did not want to return them to Elinchrom. The octabank is a beast! I shot quite a number of agency test and portraits with it and loved the result. The light is so soft and flattering; it was almost impossible to get bad lighting out of it.
Are these worth buying? If you already own a previous generation of these boxes, most likely if they are still in great shape, I would not say buying the Litemotiv is a must. The only very noticeable gain is the one stop of light difference.
If you do not own any of these but need a homogenous soft light, these are made for you, no matter what strobe brand you are working with.
Will I buy it after having worked with it for 1-2 months? Well... I must admit that I am very tempted, especially by the octabank. I have other priorities for this year as far as gear goes, but it is now on my "gear to get" list.
To learn more about the technical aspects of the Indirect Litemotiv head over to Elinchrom's website.