Godox Parabolic Light Modifiers: Better Than Broncolor?

Godox Parabolic Light Modifiers: Better Than Broncolor?

Parabolic light modifiers are some of the most versatile on the market. Coincidentally, they are also some of the most expensive ones out there. Loved for versatility, hated for the price, and very few photographers actually own them. Godox set out to create an affordable but also a truly parabolic softbox. So, how did they do? Spoiler alert: much better than I expected.

Introduction

I am no stranger to truly parabolic modifiers. Having used the Broncolor ones, I fell in love with them. It's a shame you can’t get a true parabolic modifier for a good price. Broncolor will cost you north of several thousands of dollars. To actually use it, you will also have to invest in a proper flash system compatible with it. At the same time, when I have the budget and ability to rent a Para, I always do. Until recently, I didn’t even think about having a Para, not until Godox released their Parabolic Light Focusing system.

Build Quality

You may have noticed that I prefer working with high-end equipment such as Profoto and Broncolor. In that way, I have been spoiled by the best in the market. So you’d expect the Godox to lag in quality? Well, as far as that goes, the modifier is really well made. The rods feel sturdy, the fabric thick, and the overall construction is solid. I will be honest, when I shoot, softboxes fly all over the studio. That applies to Para as well. I may or may not have thrown it a few times (I have). I really can’t say anything bad about the construction of the Para. It is easy to build. Just make sure you don't forget the two metal rods you need to build the softbox. The rod-locking mechanism has nice action, although as with all paras, the modifier can be extremely heavy on one side. It would probably be a good idea to use a very study stand, such as a junior stand. It is also perhaps better to use it with a pack and head lighting system, as opposed to a monoblock. Still, even if you put something as heavy as a Profoto B1X and use enough weights on the stand, it holds just fine, even on a boom. Just don’t forget to use a stand that’s probably too heavy-duty. Better take too much care than too little. A rule I use is: “if I can stand under it and not shake, it is safe.” A wobble test is also not a bad idea. But again, I can’t say anything bad about the build quality. It’s been through tough commercial and test shoots alike, and it’s survived.  

Features and Light Quality

There are a few notable features that set the Godox Parabolic modifiers apart. The main one is the ability to focus the light by moving it forward and backward. If you own a flat front light, the para will still work more or less the same, but it is much advised to use it with a light with an exposed flash tube.

Unfortunately, I don’t own any of those, so I use mine with a flat front, and it works well. I can somewhat tell the difference, but it is nothing massive, so I don't worry. I know I will be ripped apart in the comments by anyone who has seen the Karl Taylor video. For the record: yes, parabolic light modifiers are best used with a light that has an exposed rather than a recessed flash tube. 

For the purpose of the review, I tested them with a ProHead, which has an exposed flash tube and obeys all the rules of using true parabolic light modifiers.

As you can see, the Parabolic performs as expected, with the light becoming more focused as I move the rod in, and becoming more spread out as I move the rod out. Unfortunately, in the outermost position, I don’t see the characteristic ringflash effect of the Para, which is a letdown for me. Both Para 128 and 88 have performed really well, meaning they are true parabolic modifiers.

Extras

Alongside your Para, you can also pair it with accessories such as grids and diffusers. The grid will decrease the light spread, while the diffusers will even out the light pattern. Remember, they won’t make the light softer.

Grid

The grid is mounted fairly easily on each of the rods. However, I actually have a problem with it. It just takes too long to put on each of the few dozen rods in the little holes. What would work much better is a grid that just stretches to fit the modifier or goes on using Velcro. That would make the process a lot faster and more seamless.

Another problem with using a grid is that they will cast a grid-like pattern on the subject. It is recommended to use grids in a more zoomed-out position or together with a diffuser.

Diffusers

The diffuser comes in two thickness variants: D1 and D2. D1 is a 0.5-stop diffuser, while D2 will have an approximately 1-stop effect. The problem with mounting diffusers is that it is very hard, nearly impossible, to find the hole to put the rod in. They could take a page from Briese’s book and use little plastic or metal rings on the diffuser to ease mounting. 

Carrying Case

The carrying case is magnificent. It has everything a carrying case needs: wheels, handles, straps, and dividers. Godox really did a good job with it, and I will be honest: I have used the case to transport things other than the Para. I would even recommend buying the case itself, to be frank. 

Usage

Here are some of the images I took using Para 88 and Para 128. I think it is a great modifier.  

Summary

What I Liked

  • Build quality on par with Broncolor
  • Ships with a carrying bag

What Could Be Improved

  • The reflectiveness of the inner material
  • Diffuser mounting

Overall, Godox has created something they are not commonly known for in professional circles: a high-end modifier that, for me, makes the Broncolor unnecessary. I would be expecting to see big rental houses adding these to their offerings. Given that they are priced some $5,000 below the competition, this makes perfect sense to purchase as well. The parabolic modifiers come in four sizes: 68, 88, 128, and 158. I tested the 88 and 128 and found that the 88 is a great key light, while the 128 works well as a fill. The only negative comment I would have is that the material inside could be a lot more reflective to make it more characteristic of para and give the light more specularity. As it is now, the reflective material diffuses too much, at least for me. But, as far as everything else, the Godox Parabolic light focusing system has won me over from Broncolor. Well done, Godox! 

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33 Comments
Bjarne Solvik's picture

I don’t really by into these modifiers. Even these Godox ones cost a lot, Broncolor of cause carry a ridiculous price tag. Ok you can zoom. But you can zoom a umbrella to, if you like. I can’t help argue that a silver umbrella would give the same quality light?

Bryan Dockett's picture

IMHO paras are truly one of those things you have to use to understand

James Tischmann's picture

Agreed. They’re a bit of a mind bender when you fist start using them.

Fritz Asuro's picture

He lost me when he just compared a Broncolor Para to an Umbrella.

Bjarne Solvik's picture

Bron have manager to make something as simple as a light modifier into “rocket science”. I am sure they are nice but I still think it’s a fascination you are buying into, and that finished product is not every noticeable different. Maybe if your deeply into hard light. Look at Adler, she creates a lot of hard light images, top class. I don’t think she is into para.

Bjarne Solvik's picture

Thanks for feedback. I do not know. I never have been shown samples done with para and same but with umbrella. I will stick to umbrellas:)

Bjarne Solvik's picture

Yes I never used on. Still I don’t see anything special as far as light quality goes, in this story. It’s hard light with specular highlights. That’s pretty much what you get from a silver umbrella. I think the difference is not noticeable. Did anyone ever say “ look at that image, photographer must have used a Para 88!” I am not paying thousands of dollar to test out that. I would like to se images that shows the difference.

Bjarne Solvik's picture

Thank you for filling me in a little. Enjoy your Para and thank you for taking time to reply. All the best ! :)

Mark Harris's picture

Bjarne you obviously are taking without real world experience comparing them. The Broncolor is a COMPLETELY different animal from a silver umbrella..even compared to the legendary PCB silver with the adjusting rod which I had as well.

Bjarne Solvik's picture

Yes I am ignorant. :)

Mike Ditz's picture

Why are soft boxes flying around your studio, did you watch "Blow Up" one too many times? lol

Alexander Petrenko's picture

Can you in some later article show the difference between e.g. 88 parabolic vs 88 non-parabolic? (probably unretouched)

Mark Harris's picture

I was about to post that link. MUCH better than this Godox advertisement without any comparison just guesses.

James Tischmann's picture

So you admit you’re using the para wrong by using a recessed light and you post a review/comparison anyway?

I’m trying to decide if what you’ve done is unethical.

As a para user myself your images do not look like para shots… even the eye lights are wrong.

One of the paras could literally be the wrong shape and you’d never be able to tell us.

This should never have been posted.

Bjarne Solvik's picture

For the purpose of the review, I tested them with a ProHead, which has an exposed flash tube and obeys all the rules of using true parabolic light modifiers.

Besides that your saying what I am saying to, it just nerdish and nobody but the photographer cares. I of cause are totally ignorant and most likely will live happily the rest of my days that way:)

user 65983's picture

Are these images supposed to impress people? I see many photographers that are beginners getting pretty much the same results with cheap umbrellas.

Fritz Asuro's picture

Check out Karl Taylor’s work. He’s a good example of someone who makes good use of Para

Mike Ditz's picture

Just like beauty dishes there's a technique to get the "look" of a particular modifier. Many people use a BD just as a big reflector, I am not all that familiar with a Para, still not sure of the "look" yet.

Fred Teifeld's picture

These Godox products haven't been on the market long enough to determine the actual build quality. Even a Yugo felt like a solid car when it was new.

Also, with so many different suppliers selling similar products, why would anybody want to buy a product that has no US representation outside of their dealers when so many others have actual offices staffed with people here in the US to assist when called?

Alexander Petrenko's picture

Times changed. You don’t need to call a phone and send something to a factory to be fixed.

Fred Teifeld's picture

I respectfully disagree. I've invested a considerable amount of money in my Elinchrom lighting and while they have made moves in the market that has made me less happy with them in recent years, They have always been available for support issues, handling them quickly and professionally.

When Godox is around long enough to prove longevity and durability, I might consider them. In the meantime, my philosophy of "Buy right, buy once" has served me very well over the years.

Alexander Petrenko's picture

You can buy Godox (Flashpoint) from Adorama then. They have all the bells and whistles.

PS: I use Elinchrom in the studio. Still need a case to call or write them. It just works :)

Bjarne Solvik's picture

As long as you have bulbs for modeling light! :)

Alexander Petrenko's picture

I bought dimmable LEDs and since then I don’t care about Elinchrom’s sales plans :)

Mike Ditz's picture

Not really, everyone knew the Yugo was a POS when it was introduced !

Michelle VanTine's picture

I love this article Illya. Very interesting and well written

Mark Harris's picture

Is this another account from the author? :D

Michelle VanTine's picture

No I'm a staff writer for Fstoppers