Thursday, March 25th 2010

The Most Overrated Camera Accessory of All Time

Let me introduce you to the diffuser. You may be familiar.

Diffuser / Omnibounce

The diffuser, in this case an Omnibounce, is the white plastic thing photographers like to put on their flashes.

This is undoubtedly the most expensive piece of plastic I ever bought. (It was something like $30 if I remember correctly.) And perhaps the most unnecessary.

Considering it is basically a remolded tupperware box, it does hurt to dwell on what it cost.

The point of it is to soften the light from the flash. The only thing is, there is a much better way to soften the flash and that is to bounce it off the ceiling. Which will cost you exactly $0.

If you try to do both at the same time – point the flash straight up with the Omnibounce mounted – the expensive white plastic will be counterproductive since it will shine light straight at your subject. In doing so it brings back the flat look and harsh shadows you were trying to avoid in the first place. Hover the photo below to see what the Omnibounce does.

Test of the Omnibounce diffuser.

And if you for some reason point your flash straight at the subject – for instance if the ceiling is coloured or non-existent – the Omnibounce will give you just as flat light as you would have got with the flash on its own. The few photons of light that the Omnibounce actually manages to spread out sideways is nowhere near enough to fill in the shadows.

Hover the image below to see what the Omnibounce does in the straight-on situation.

Test of the omnibounce.

In fairness, it does blur the shadow edges very slightly though. Here the Omnibounce gave a warming effect too, but that’s just because some of the light has bounced off our beige wallpaper to the left of the desk. If you’d been in a green room, you would have got a sickening green tint. 😉

As you can probably guess by now, the Omnibounce is not one of the things I carry around in my camera bag. And if you haven’t already wasted $30 on one yourself, I suggest you don’t.

Stay tuned, I’ll soon be presenting the most underrated camera accessory.

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