I've been an avid photographer most of my life but had little interest in video. With the advent of YouTube and DSLR video that changed. I could share my classical guitar performances with the world. My intial attempts were poor. After many zips, bumps and fugly footage I realized my videos needed light, lots of soft light, and amassed an ever growing collection of CFL and LED light heads, softboxes and light stands. The Linco Flora and Hexogen Easy Softbox are the latest additions to my studio.
Video set for above video | Linco Flora Light Banks & Hexogen Easy Softboxes
Linco Flora Light Bank
I opened the plain brown product box and found a carefully packaged six-bulb light head in the shape of a cartoon flower. The white nylon case with green accents appears durable and sports smooth contours and a large handle with foam grip. The long and thick power cord is permanently attached to the head. Bulb sockets have ceramic sleeves and CFLs screwed in easily. Bulb spacing, unlike most budget light heads, is sufficient for large 85 or 105W CFLs. The six sockets divide into two banks of three. Each bank has a power switch, allowing a choice of 100% or 50% power. You can use fewer or smaller CFLs if you need to tailor output for a small studio or large aperture shooting.
Linco Flora Fluorescent Light Bank (image courtesy Linco)
The baby pin receptor is the weakest link in the Flora design. It's durable nylon but nonetheless plastic. However, it works fine: mounts on light stands and holds position if mounted upright. I'm careful to merely snug up the screw when mounting on a baby pin. The threads are in a metal insert but could pull out of the plastic wall if you muscle it. On the other hand, the plastic swivel joint requires considerable torquing when loaded with CFLs and softbox. The racket handle makes tightening the joint easier than using a knob, but wish it had click-stops like other light heads.
Bulbs are not included so have a set ready. I fitted it with six ALZO 85W CFL Video-Lux CFLs and it blazed like the afternoon sun. My KAEZI 85 Watt Studio Light Bulbs also fit fine. I often use two to four CFLs so I can shoot wide open for narrow DOF and balance with my other lights.
Grace | Flora Light Bank & Hexogen Easy Softbox (main light) | Although I bought the Flora for video, it works great for still photography.
I use this head with the Linco Flora 35-inch Hexogen Easy Softbox. They work wonderfully together: fast setup, pleasingly even and soft light and attractive catch lights. The gotcha is the Flora only works with the Linco softbox, barring a modification by somebody more handy than me. It also works with an umbrella, allowing mounting through the center hole.
The Flora head and softbox are available as a kit but, oddly, are often less expensive purchased ala carte. Also, neither the head or softbox include instructions. An experienced studio shooter will figure out how to assemble and use these products in a few minutes. After all, they're similar to other CFL heads and umbrella softboxes. However, beginners may have a tough time. Finally, with CFLs and softbox installed this is a beast and needs a beefy light stand lest it topple over. I use it on a Kupo C-stand with 40-inch extension arm and it's rock solid (sandbag the leg opposite the head).
The Hexogen is a modified umbrella sans the lower part of the shaft (handle). It works wonderfully with the Flora Light Bank: pleasingly even and soft light with attractive catch lights. It's well made with heavy duty nylon fabric, reflective interior, steel ribs, plastic nylon hub and a Velcro secured white diffusion panel.
Setup is easier than a softbox with component ribs but more fiddly than an umbrella softbox or Brolly box with central shaft. Begin by spreading the ribs open. Secure by pulling the string through the center hole until a latch locks in place in. It’s faster and less fiddly to simply push the hub with my palm until it locks. To collapse, press the latch on the hub. The pull string is its weakest element, albeit easy to replace if broken. Slow and gentle assembly is recommended: don't muscle or jerk that delicate string.
Installation on the Flora Fluorescent Light Bank is fussy: align ribs with indentations on the Light Bank, compress hub until you feel a slight give and tighten the thumb wheel. If you don't maintain pressure during lockdown, the thumbwheel shaft will not bite into the hub. It's best to install the softbox with the head on a flat surface, then mount the works on a light stand and, finally, install the bulbs. Installing the softbox with bulbs in the head isn't a good idea. If you're butterfingered and break a CLF it would be bad.
I suspect the metal thumbwheel used to lock the solfbox shaft to the Light Bank is the weakest link in this setup. Basically it's a metal screw pressed tight against the plastic (nylon) hub/shaft of the Easy Softbox. After a few months of use the plastic looks chewed up. A hard rubber cap or foot on the screw would result in less wear and tear to the softbox shaft.
Peter Kun Frary |Starlight Gaze | Flora Light Bank & Hexogen Easy Softbox as main and fill lights
Grace Frary | Estudio in A Minor (Tarrega) | Flora Light Bank & Hexogen Easy Softbox (main)
I've been using this head and softbox for nearly a year and really like it. However, a few design improvements would be welcome: metal mount with click-stops for angle adjustment, detachable power cord and a third power switch (three banks of two) for a greater range of intensity adjustment. All in all the Flora Light Bank and Hexogen softbox are fine products: fast setup, easy to use, decent construction and excellent light output.
11/27/2016 Update: I bought a second Flora head and had a problem: the thumb screw used to secure the softbox to the light head seemed too short and the softbox fell off. After some struggle I determined the thumb screw was fine but the nylon hub on the Hexogen softbox was cracked, and thus flexed when the thumb screw was tightened. This part should be made of a more durable material like metal. The same part on my five dollar umbrella is metal. Needless to say, I returned the Hexogen for a replacement.