One of the most popular low-budget lighting tricks is the simple soft ball light, often called "china balls," available at many hardware stores.
The large ball creates a nice soft light, but the drawback has traditionally been mounting and durability. You needed ceramic sockets to put in a powerful bulb, but the paper units frequently tore in the truck, and they were hard to point in the direction you wanted to go.
We started to see "fixed" soft ball lights around 15 years ago, that provided a silk instead of paper, a fixed metal frame, and could mount on the front of your light to offer the benefits of a ball light without the drawbacks.
Now Aputure has released their own ball unit, the Lantern Softbox, which, at $89, makes a perfect complement to their 300D and 120D units or any Bowens mount unit.
Built around a sturdy metal frame, the Lantern will let users point the soft light where they want it. Best of all, however, is that it comes with a 4-section skirt that allows you to section off parts of the light from going where you don't want it to go. The best way to think about this is if you are shooting a tabletop scene, you could easily rig a unit up above the table and let the soft light illuminate both of your actors while using the skirt to keep the light off the back wall, quickly and controllably.
The unit is 26" around, which should make it useful in small spaces and offers a 270-degree beam angle. Like pretty much everything from Aputure, it comes with a carrying case to protect it from the elements and banging around in your trunk, which should make it much more durable than the paper lanterns we all started out with.
- 26" spherical design
- 270° Beam Angle
- 4-section skirt
- Bowens Mount
Aputure's new lantern is available now for pre-order, retailing at $89.