I'm the first guy to say it's all in the details... your best work, that is. And I pride myself as being someone, leastwise being a photographer, who pays attention to those details. But sometimes, it seems, the mind doesn't accept what the eyes see.
Last week I decided to buy another Photek Softlighter. This time, I wanted a smaller one to use either for closer-up portraiture, headshots, whatever, or for use as a kicker from behind. When I looked to buy another from Amazon, however, I discovered they were out of stock on the 3' version of the Softlighter. Bummer. Worse yet, the listing said Amazon didn't know when (or if) they would have one in stock again. Double-bummer.
As luck would have it, I stumbled across a Softlighter knock-off. Best of all, it was less than half the price of Photek's product. Cool! For that price, I decided to buy two of them. That way, I could use the same model of reflective brolly-box as kickers on each side from behind my model. This would be great since I've been shooting on a white seamless quite a bit lately and, having the black-side of the modifier facing in the general direction of the seamless, I wouldn't be bleeding light onto the seamless. (Something I wanted to contain and my shoot-thru umbrellas weren't accomplishing too well because of space limitations.)
So, I bought two of them. The price for two was a little less than the price I would have been spending on one, equal-sized, Softlighter. My biggest concern, of course, was that these other units were constructed half-way decently. But the user reviews for this unit, called a PBL Photo Studio 40" Reflective Umbrella Softbox, were pretty good so I decided to go ahead and purchase two of them for about twenty-bucks-and-change each. Better yet, I had some Amazon gift certs earned from those of you who have purchased Amazon products through links on this blog (thank you very much!) so the purchase didn't cost me anything.
Yesterday, the UPS guy delivered my stuff. I opened the box and pulled one of the units out and opened up the umbrella. It did indeed seem fairly well constructed. Very cool. For that ridiculously low price, I was glad I bought two. I pulled the second one out and opened it up to look for any manufacturing defects. It was fine. Then, I noticed there seemed to be something else inside the box. That something else turned out to be two more of these same reflective umbrella soft boxes.
At first, I thought Amazon made a mistake and sent me four units instead of the two I ordered. I double-checked my order with Amazon to make sure I didn't mess up and accidentally order 4 instead of 2 but quickly determined I had bought 2 of them as I intended. Something told me to take another look at the Amazon advert for the items I purchased and that's when I discovered what they were actually selling was a pair of these modifiers for that $20. Wow! An overlooked detail! That means instead of $20, a very modest price, they're actually like $10 each!
American manufacturing is truly doomed if they (the Chinese, no doubt) can make and and export these decent-quality products for a low enough price that a retailer can sell them for about $10 each and still make a small profit.
Anyway, so now I have 4 of these units. I guess if one or two of them breaks after some amount of use--I don't expect that to happen too easily or quickly--I have a pair of backups.
The rear-view/derriere shot at the top is a model who goes by the name of Puma which I think is like a cougar... both her and the animal. Captured it about a month ago.