Monday, 5 January 2009

Lastolite Micro Apollo XL

For further photography-related information check out my compendium of tips.

I've had quite a lot of questions over the past couple of days so it may take me a little longer than usual to answer them. Please bear with me - I'll get there!

David,

Your flash use is lovely and soft. Which size of the Lastolite Apollo do you use?

Your blog states the XL version, but at 16 x 10 inches I don't see how this would NOT block the Speedlite IR and metering sensors. Am I missing something - do you tilt it up?

I want to get one but feel it must be the smaller 10 X 7 unit.

Thanks!

Tony B

As the cliche says, a picture is worth a thousand words!


Any light-modifying attachment for a flash that was not designed to work with autofocus assist, or an external metering sensor, would have a very limited appeal. You can rest assured that the Lastolite Micro Apollo XL is not one of these. I used it at about 30 weddings last year with no problems at all - in particular, no issues focusing in low light. In the image above you can see why - the majority of the unit sits above the flash head.


The bottom of the softbox is also slightly V-shaped to ensure it does not limit any functionality. In the shot above I set the 580EX II as a slave. In this mode the AF-assist light is used to indicate the flash is ready to fire and is clearly visible above.


A couple of useful tips.

The shot above is from the first wedding at which I used the softbox. From the reflection in the subject's glasses you can see that the light is not evenly distributed - there is a hot spot. To get around this, pull down the built-in wide panel of your Speedlite. This sets flash coverage for a focal length of 14mm and strongly diffuses the light. This does not cause any loss of light, as the inside of the unit is reflective, but does give even lighting.

The unit is attached to the Speedlite using velcro. After a few weddings I found the velcro starting to detach from the flash body when I removed the softbox. I therefore replaced the large rectangular strips of velcro with small black velcro dots. These are still firmly attached six months later.

Hope this reassures you about the XL version of the Lastolite micro Apollo. A bigger softbox equals softer light (and the closer you get to the subject the softer the light becomes).

Check out my photography here: wedding photographer Kent

16 comments:

Tony B said...

Thanks David!

I must have asked this question to 6 different major photo retail stores, and they all told me it was not compatible (Even Lastolite website states it is not compatible with any hotshoe flash)

SOLD.

David said...

You're welcome!

D

Andrew said...

David,

How do you apply Gels when using this unit?


Do you use much gel correction in your work. I'm still trying to understand when to use it ideally. If your room has halogen bulbs, what do you use?

Thank you

David said...

Hi Andrew,

I've just posted an answer to your first question. I'll post on flash gels tomorrow.

Yours,

David

Andrew said...

Hi David,

In a previous blog post you say you tried using the Lastolite Ezybox in a similar on camera setup - was that the baby size version, because I note that it is 15X15inches in size, not much bigger than the Apollo - but I'm sure would produce better results. Too bulky,heavy?

Thoughts?

David said...

Hi Andrew,

I did use it for a couple of weddings and it produced great results. As you rightly imagined, it is much heavier and bulkier than the Lastolite Micro Apollo. It also limited me to shooting only in landscape format.

Yours,

David

Peter said...

Dear David,

I've just received my Apollo XL. The instructions are 'limited' in typical Lastolite style.

Inside, the clear plastic arms that attach to the flash seem a little fragile. Should I be bending these back fully to form a right angle or just curving them back to position on the flash - don't want to snap them!

Why is the bag silver slined btw?


Thank you
Peter

David said...

Hi Peter,

I had precisely the same concerns about the fragility of the arms but they're more robust than they appear. The closer they are to right angles the better.

The unit is internally silvered to prevent any light loss - all the photons find their way out through the front!

If you have a wide-angle panel on your flash unit then use it to avoid hotspots.

Yours,

David

Peter said...

Hey David,
Regards the silver lining - I was referring to the supplied bag - seems like they had some spare material left over :)

Bent the plastic arms right back, no problems, it's strong as you say, no danger of cracking.

Just finished a few test shots and compared with my lightsphere II cloud and Chrome dome, the Apollo is not as good as softening light indoors despite the physical size. Perhaps this is not surprising as the Apollo is not going to compete with a multi bounced light source like the Lightsphere.

I imagine I will keep the Apollo for outdoor use where the large light source is a clear benefit and switch to the Lightsphere indoors.

David - how effective do you find the Apollo for group shots compared to bare flash (depending on distance to subject obviously).

Thank you for your help.
Peter

Kent Photographer said...

Hi Peter,

Perhaps they think you can use it as a hat when it gets cold!

Your analysis is spot on. Bear in mind though that a room doesn't have to be too large before it effectively becomes 'outdoors'.

At weddings I probably use the Lastolite for 95% of flash shots and a StoFen for the remaining 5%.

I use the Lastolite for group shots. It increases the size of the light source 43-fold which makes a big difference!

Yours,

David

Sara said...

hi David!
Your blog is brilliant - really informative. I've just bought one of these Apollo XLs on the back of your recommendation and am really impressed with it - you should be on commission from them!!!

One quick question, and sorry this is picking up a thread from long ago, but do you keep your camera on TTL when using this, or do you put it in manual? Just interested to see what you use - your photographs are beautifully lit.

Sara X

David said...

Hi Sara,

Many thanks for your lovely feedback.

When I shoot a wedding I always keep my flash in E-TTL mode and use flash exposure compensation to make adjustments when I know the algorithm will struggle. Weddings are fast moving and you need in-camera metering to be able to respond quickly.

If I were using my flash units in a static studio-like situation I might switch them to manual mode so that the flash exposure was consistent.

Does this make sense?

All the best,

David

Sara said...

Thank you David - that makes perfect sense, as does all of your blog. I think you should write a book, you've got a great way of describing quite complicated techniques. And it's great that you share this with other photographers - I've got a few weddings coming up and I'm going to be reading lots of your info for technique and inspiration! Thank you!! x

David said...

Thanks Sara.

Good luck with the forthcoming weddings. Keep me posted.

Yours,

David

Jonathan said...

Hi David

I was drawn to your blog/site on a search for the Micro Apollo - and what a site! Thank you for being so welcoming. You come across as being very friendly and thanks for the informative articles.

A quick question if I may. I have just purchased an XL Apollo from Speed Graphics and want to mount it on a flash bracket. I am torn between the CB Junior which flips the flash and the Pro-E which flips the camera. Do you find the permanent landscape orientation of the flash + Apollo on your Pro M bracket gives you sufficient spread of light for say a full length shot of a couple of adults whilst in vertical? Also, can you successfully operate the alternative shutter release mounted on your battery in vertical.

I hope this all makes sense.

Kind regards

Jonathan

David said...

Hi Jonathan,

Many thanks for the lovely feedback. It's great to know that people find the blog useful.

I've used flash brackets which flip the flash and which rotate the camera - the latter are much easier to use (though, inevitably, more expensive!)

You'll definitely have no problem lighting a couple in portrait orientation with a 580EX II Speedlite. If you have a less powerful flash unit then you can always increase the ISO or shoot at a wider aperture.

It's not difficult to access the shutter release button when the camera is in portrait orientation - with, or without, a battery grip.

It takes a little while to get used to a bracket and diffuser. It might feel a bit heavy and unwieldy at first but they're a useful combination to have in your photographic arsenal.

All the best,

David