Fstoppers Reviews the Elinchrom Indirect Litemotiv Softboxes

Fstoppers Reviews the Elinchrom Indirect Litemotiv Softboxes

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.

Build Quality

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.

Agency test using the Strip Indirect Litemotiv, right side of the camera. (Model: Fred C. @ Jana Hernette Model Scouting)

Features

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.

Agency test using the square Indirect Litemotiv (model: Thomas V.)

Price

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.

 

Agency test shot using the octabank (Model: Cecile F. @ VIP Models)

Conclusion

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.

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28 Comments

Quentin Decaillet's picture

I wish I had one so that I could keep using these… I fell in love with the octabank!

Sean Shimmel's picture

Yikes!

No client would ever notice the obsessive subtleties, would they?

Sell. Sell. Sell. Buy. Buy. Buy.

I'll happily pass.

Quentin Decaillet's picture

It's like saying no client would ever notice the difference between an image taken with a Canon XTi and a PhaseOne XF. Sure, clients might not see the difference or be able to describe it. However, your workflow might see a difference.
For example, I generally use a 175cm (69") octa for my full-length shots. It works great and I have never had a client complain about the final result I got with it. However, the Indirect Litemotiv 190cm (octabank) had a softer fall-off because of its design. This translated in no need for a fill source for the legs of my models or no correction of the falloff in post. In the end, my clients did not see a difference, but I used less gear simplifying my sets or spent less time retouching.
But… the octabank is about three times the price of the rotalux 69". So then it's a matter of how much time it can help save you and if it's worth the investment for your business more than the change on the image/light quality.

Sean Shimmel's picture

Quentin, though I still grow weary from endless product "improvements" and the commensurate overpricing, I respect your detailed thoughts based on real world experience.

Thank you.

I'm speaking more to the photographer who already owns sufficiently sufficient equipment yet is pressured by new product iterations to feel incomplete without spending dear money once again.

The law of diminishing return.

Rex Larsen's picture

Great review. I wonder how these would compare to the very inexpensive Photek Softliter ll or PC Buff PLM ? Similar design concept.

Lets hope the fabric is a better quality that I am used from Elinchrom. Just after a little use the silver foil is peeling off my deep octas

Quentin Decaillet's picture

It is way stronger and way better than the fabric of the Rotalux line. If you have ever touched a Profoto HR softbox, you can pretty much get an idea of what the Litemotiv fabric feels like.

Mark Webb's picture

Second that, I've picked up some silver/metal tape to patch the peeling spots on my previous gen Octa. I've known for a while that I would need a replacement and its good that I held out for this one. Plus with two octa's I can keep one in the studio and one in the car for location shoots. Thanks for the notes on the fabric Quentin.

Rex Larsen's picture

Quentin, thank you for this review and all your high quality contributions to Fstoppers. Is there one modifier in your studio that you consider a go-to favorite for your impressive portrait work ?

Quentin Decaillet's picture

The 27" beauty dish (or 39" deep octa if I'm travelling) and the 59" indirect rotalux are probably the two light shapers I use the most :)

Michael Kormos's picture

Quentin, I've always found these indirect softboxes a nuisance, given that they obstruct the strobe controls completely. Also, I always question the difference between direct and indirect softboxes. A good direct softbox, with a good reflective inner coating (and I don't mean crummy reflective coatings like Flashpoint or Photoflex use), will yield no discernible difference in light spread vs. an indirect softbox. Haven't there been countless tests of this? They've shown the difference is somewhere around 1/10th of a stop from center to the edge. Did you get a chance to compare the difference in this line?

Mark Webb's picture

I think the main difference will be the efficiency of the softbox. I find my previous gen 190 to be very efficient even when comparing it to the 39" direct deep octa. I have 3 layers of diffusion on the deep octa and only one layer on the indirect.

Quentin Decaillet's picture

They do obstruct the controls, however with the skyport it is easy to change the power without having to access the strobe. Or there is still the possibility of using it with packs instead of monoblocks strobes. To me, this was not a problem at all. It is the same when a strobe is placed about 9-10feet high… hard to reach the back and change the settings :)
As far as the use of the indirect, I didn't test the homogeneity of light across its width as I did with he 150cm/59" and compared it to the traditional 39" deep octa. The difference is not huge but still visible. For some genres of photography, I can see a use for this difference (lookbooks and products for examples).

Mark Webb's picture

Great review. I love my previous gen octa and have been looking forward to improved durability with this one. How does the mount compare to the previous gen? I replaced mine with an Avenger grip head and it made a big improvement. The extra claimed stop of light is a welcomed surprise and should help during those midday sessions with my Ranger RX Speed AS. I'll update you when I decide to pick one up and compare the two models.

Quentin Decaillet's picture

Would love to hear your feedback Mark if you get a chance to compare a previous generation octabank to the litemotiv one.
As I said in the article I didn't get a change to compare it to a previous version, so I couldn't tell you about the mount. I can only tell you that it looked way better than the one found on the rotalux inverse 150cm/59" :)

Paul Lindqvist's picture

Mark the new gen does not have a improved swivel mount, not in comparison to the Avenger D200 mod anyways.

The only real difference is the material in the new gen, more durable. Then again i haven't found mine first gen to be failing in any regard.

So purchasing a new gen, will give you nothing over the old in terms of light quality. (a small difference in efficiency might be there, due to the different silver material used) what you will gain is slightly better durability.

Hey,

Nice review! And WOW, those LiteMotiv boxes rock!
I have a slide comment about the Grids… There are Grids available for the Large Indirect Octa. They are made by LightTools in Canada. They are rather expensive but beautiful! You can turn your soft edged Octa 190cm/ 75” into a massif spot! Or position it from the back of your model where normal one big flair would appear! The Grids are available in 50, 40 and even 30 degree’s! Here, take a look:

http://www.lighttools.com/

Quentin Decaillet's picture

Thanks Fabian :) I actually already heard about them and Elinchrom also told me about them. However, I just feel like it's a shame to have to buy grids from another brand. I wish Elinchrom would include grids with their softboxes. But by looking at the price of the Lighttools ones, I guess they are just to expensive to be made and to be profitable compared to the price of the softboxes.

Tony Clark's picture

The 74" Octa was my favorite modifier and the 150cm Indirect was purchased when it came time to replace it. I'd love to find a grid to better control the spill but at $995 from Light Tools, I cannot justify the price. Any alternatives?

Quentin Decaillet's picture

Hey Tony! From what I've been told by Elinchrom, only Light Tools makes grid for Elinchrom modifiers at this time. Apparently, it would be difficult – even for Elinchrom apparently – to offer anything cheaper while maintaining the same level of quality.

By the way, any reason why you went for the 150cm/59" indirect instead of the new Litemotiv 190cm/74"?

Tony Clark's picture

Quentin, I bought the 150cm in April '15 and I don't think the 190cm was released yet. Even if it was I paid $535 and the 190cm sells for $1420 at B&H, so it would be more than what I could justify spending.

Quentin Decaillet's picture

I was wondering because I currently own the 150, which I've owned for a few years now. Since testing the 190cm I've been debating whether to replace the first by the latter… I prefer the way the 190 close down and it also got something special in terms of "quality of light". But like you say, the price is about 3 times that of the 150.

Tony Clark's picture

If the 190cm breaks down like the 74" Octabank, I think that it warrants consideration. I don't mind the 150cm's rod system but it does take a little more effort to set up and break down. I'm simply trying to find a way to soften and control the spill of the 150cm a bit that won't make me cringe when I pay for it. Perhaps a little diffusion around the flash head will be my next test.

Quentin Decaillet's picture

To control the spill a bit more, you may want to try this: http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/887679-REG/elinchrom_el_26771_hood...
To soften the light, one thing could be to double the external diffuser (two diffusion clothes, one on top of the other) if you want to keep the octa shaped catchlight.
Otherwise, try to clamp a +59" circular diffuser (http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/17723-REG/Flexfill_609_60_Reflecto...) in front of the softbox.

Hi,

About the Grids from LightTools. I agree, they are expensive, but worth every cent!
If you’re planning to buy one, the EZPOP is the one to go for. It’s so easy to use, and fits like a glove on your box!

And why duplicate something if another brand have made it superb? I understand why Elinchrom does not expand their Grids and keep it with the three soft-grids they have.

Gr. Fabian van het Hof

Yogendra Singh's picture

Quentin, Nice retouching. I love this reddish skin tone. What is it called? how to achieve it?

Quentin Decaillet's picture

I do most of my color grading using curves, then it is a matter of personal taste I guess. I also use gradient maps to correct skin tones (you can read more about this technique in this article: https://fstoppers.com/education/gradient-map-perfect-skin-color-61864).