FourSquare Softbox by Lightware – Review

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I first saw the FourSquare on David Tejada’s Blog. At first I thought it was pretty cool, and then I started adding things up in my head… $250 for the FourSquare, $3-400 x 4 to purchase four SB 900’s to maximize the lighting potential. Hmmm… $1800 for a softbox that only has about 240-300 watt seconds of power. For ~ $2000 I can get a Ranger and 1100 watt seconds. Is this really a good idea?

Eventually, I decided it was. Personally, I do not use Nikon’s high-speed sync all that often. To me it is too difficult to guess how much power you are going to get, and fiddling around with the sensor position to make sure the flashes can see the commander is too much of a pain. I decided to go the cheap route and I picked up (3) SB 26’s at ~$90 each. This gave me 4 sb 26’s to use in the FourSquare, and my sb 800 to use on camera as fill, or somewhere off-camera.

I decided this wasn’t a terrible idea because the whole system is tiny and super versatile. I can easily throw my speedlights, FourSquare, light stand, and basic camera kit in my back pack and jump on my bike or skis and cover a good amount of distance. With five speed lights I have a lot of options. In the test shot above I have (2) sb26’s in the FourSquare, (2) sb26’s as rim lights, and my sb800 providing fill. If I would have spent my $2000 on a Ranger, I would have (2) less lights… not cool. When shooting in bright sunlight don’t forget about the sun. If you use the sun as your back/rim/hair light and the FourSquare as your key, I still have the sb800 for fill. If you move the key in really close and take the diffusion panel off you can really shoot in a wide range of conditions.

Now, there are times when you really do need a lot of light. Maybe you can’t move the key in very close, and still want some control over the ambient. This is where things get a little tricky and a more powerful system would definitely be nice. However, all is not lost. I have a D70s from a few years ago that I keep around for situations like this. With the d70s I can sync up to 1/1200 of a second with my pocket wizards, and all the way up to 1/8000 of a second with a modified sc-28. The only thing you have to watch out for is the flash duration. At 1/8000 your shutter speed is much shorter than the duration of a full power flash pulse and you are loosing light. At 1/1000 of a second you can take full advantage of all the light that a speedlight throws out. So, if you throw 4 speedlights into the FourSquare and turn the shutter up to 1/1000 (2 stop advantage over typical flash sync of 1/250) you are right up there with a D3/Ranger system. My only real issue is that I only have 6 megapixels. If only they made a 12mp camera capable of this trick… one day.

In the end, I think this is one really cool piece of lighting kit that a lot of people would find very useful once you got out and used it.

Something to think about.

 

 

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Here you can see the FourSquare in its storage sack compared to Nikon’s 70-200 f2.8

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Here you can see all of the components that make up a FourSquare softbox. I do wish they made grids that were compatible and packable. Also, it would have been nice if the pole sections were shock corded like tent poles. This would make setup much quicker and help hold the sections together. Mine do not fit all that tightly and they have a tendency to fall apart when assembling. Once put together it is very sturdy.

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The part that makes all the magic happen

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The inside of an assembled FourSquare softbox. The outer fabric has proven to be very durable. I’ve hiked with it assembled through the woods and it scraped along a couple of branches that I didn’t see. The FourSquare shrugged them off like nothing. I have a feeling I will have this piece of kit for a long while.

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Here you can see how the back of the FourSquare opens to give you access to your speedlights. One of the other advantages to this open design is that in high winds you can open it up and remove the diffusion panel to make the system much more manageable.

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They crammed a ton of stuff into this little block of aluminum and it’s actually pretty easy to use. Sometimes it can be difficult to get to some of the set screws once it’s all assembled, but considering everything that’s going on back here… it’s not bad.

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Here are some more sample images taken with the FourSquare.

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Here is an image that takes advantage of the FourSquare softbox as a background. I love shooting portraits against a white background, and now I have one that is super portable and allows me to grab a nice headshot quickly and simply in a way that is easily worked into the typical setup process.

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Well… that’s about it. Please feel free to share your own experiences with the FourSquare and if you have any questions don’t hesitate to ask.

Later.

5 thoughts on “FourSquare Softbox by Lightware – Review

  1. Daniel

    Hi Greg,

    really nice review of the foursquare.
    Is it possible to angle the softbox, when you place it on a normal lightstand? The umbrella holder seems to be at a 90° angle which makes the foursquare exactly parallel to the stand. Can you angle it so that you get a nice falloff towards the feet of your subject?

    Thanks
    Daniel

  2. igmaino Post author

    Dan,

    I can’t say that the foursquare does angle down very well. There is a little bit of sag once everything is set up and often the umbrella adapter is adjusted up to compensate. Also, there is only so much downward adjustment available before the softbox hits the lightstand.

    Something I’ve found quite useful lately is to use makeshift boom comprised of a heavy duty lightstand, superclamp, and monopod. If I mount the FourSquare onto the end of the monopod, then clamp the monopod to the lightstand I have a lot more flexibility in where and how I place the light. If I add a little counter weight to the monopod I can extend it out enough to position above a subject facing straight down.

    Hope this helps.

  3. Daniel

    Hi Greg,

    thanks a lot for the fast reply! That helped a lot…

    I got a big steel boom at home, which would work fine and would make it easy to angle the foursquare. That thing is heavy though and not that mobil. I was hoping for a good way to use the foursquare with a smaller lightstand, but I guess I have to look for an adapter of some sort.

    -Dan

  4. Tue Nam Ton

    Hi Greg,
    Thanks for your article. I saw a seminar with a Foursquare and ready to buy one.
    A question for you though, I have 2 Canon 580 ex and the old pocket wizards. They cannot sync flash higher than 1/250 sec. What ‘modifiers’ would I need to take advantage of the high speed sync?
    I think radio poppers would be ideal but they’re really expensive. Any advice is much appreciated.

    Tue Nam

  5. igmaino Post author

    Tue Nam,

    I can’t say that I’m that familiar with Canon’s flash lineup, but I would guess that you would need something like their ST-E2 or radio poppers to enable you to fire your strobes remotely and still use the high-speed sync functions.

    Hope this helps.

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