Great lighting is all about the modifiers. Whether it is the clouds that filter harsh sunlight or the light shaping tools that attach to the front of your strobes – the way you control the light can have subtle (or extreme) differences on your subject. I photographed three models using all the same equipment – changing only the light modifier attached to the front of my Elinchrom 300RX Monolight.
The Beauty Dish is a staple, and a favorite, for many photographers, especially those specializing in commercial beauty shots. The Elinchrom Deep Octa is often warmly compared to the Beauty Dish for having a similar light quality, yet boasting the ease and convenience of being both lighter and easier to manage on-set as well as more portable (since it folds up nicely into a bag) – not to mention costing a little bit less money.
So which is better? Looking around the internet I couldn’t find a side-by-side comparison and we all know if you want something done then… well… lucky for me the amazingly helpful staff at B&H Photo Video agreed to let me test drive the two light modifiers so I could make just such a judgment call, for you, my loyal blog readers.
Although the following sample images are labeled, keen eyes should be able to discern which is which just by looking closely. See if you can spot the dead-giveaway. I’ll give you the hint, it’s in the eyes. (click the images to greatly enlarge)
One thing to keep in mind is that all of these images are directly out of the camera, absolutely no post-processing work has been done to any of them. Since the Beauty Dish puts out a bit more light the power was adjusted up slightly for the Deep Dish shots, that is the only difference.
This was the first test and as you can see the difference is distinct, yet subtle. The Beauty Dish (left) seems to flatten Brynlee’s features just a bit while the Deep Dish Octa (right) carves out the structure in her cheek bones and eyes a bit more. Keep in mind that Brynlee has a very unique face structure (which I’m semi-in-love with) and while your preference on lighting may vary I very much prefer the image on the right.
She also has an amazingly unique face with perfectly rounded features. You can see how the beauty dish seems to make her face glow from within while the Deep Octa seems a little too specular. Notice too the softness of the shadow under her chin along with more shadows carving through her collar bone and upper chest. However, the Deep Octa does seem to add a softer highlight on the tip of her nose along with brighter lips. Overall my preference is for the image on the left.
Jillian has a more angular facial structure which the Beauty Dish compliments so perfectly. Notice how the image on the left simply seems to have more dimension on almost every feature. The Beauty Dish just seems to carve the light around her angles making for amazing shadows and highlights. Again, I prefer the left image, by far.
Jumping to a Conclusion
I used both of these modifiers extensively beyond these three tests to help round out my thoughts and I’ll be honest at first I thought both were quite interchangeable. Initially I definitely had a preference for the Deep Octa mainly because it was a bit easier to take on and off, all you had to do was twist it off of the strobe. The beauty dish wasn’t much more difficult but the weight made using it on a boom-stand a bit cumbersome and I always seemed to forget to take off that little reflector from the front before un-twisting the dish.
It was only after “getting to know” them a bit better that I started to discover the subtle differences – differences that are difficult explain without sounding like a nut-job – but overall I found myself being drawn to the quality of light produced by the Beauty Dish for probably 3 out of 5 set-ups. If I had to choose one then it’d have to be the Beauty Dish since I can see myself wanting to use it more often, however, both of the modifiers get a ringing endorsement from me – especially since the Deep Octa happens to be a bit more convenient and a bit better under certain circumstances, such as photographing unique faces like the amazing Brynlee!
If you don’t already have one of these I’d definitely recommend saving up some pennies and picking one up!
Complete Equipment Used for this test
- Camera: Canon 5D Mark II
- Light Modifier: Elinchrom 27″ Beauty Dish
- Light Modifier: Elinchrom Deep Octa
- Boom Stand: Manfrotto Combi Boom
- Pocket Wizard (2): Multimax 32 Channel
- Lens: Canon 70-200 f/2.8L IS USM
- Tripod: Manfrotto 190XPROB
- Tripod Grip: Manfrotto Ballhead (322RC2)
- Memory Card: SanDisk Extreme 16GB
- Strobe Elinchrom 300RX Monolight