Deep Focus 110 Umbrella | Studio Lighting Essentials
Want the effects of a parabolic reflector without the high price tag? Enter the Deep Focus 110 Umbrella, an umbrella which acts much like a para while costing much less.
In this video (which you can also find on our Visual Education YouTube channel) take a closer look at the deep umbrella, how it works, how it stacks up against other popular modifiers, and whether or not it gives you as much value for money as it appears to.
Deep Focus 110 Umbrella: How it Works
It’s important to clarify from the get-go that, in terms of its shape, a deep umbrella is not truly parabolic. That’s why I sometimes call it the “cheating parabolic reflector.” Firstly, the way the axis is mounted means that the light isn't precisely centered, as it is in a true parabolic reflector. Also the shape of the Deep Focus 110 from the side is not a perfect parabola, which means it doesn't fully utilize the physics of a parabolic reflector. So even though it can mimic the effects of a para quite well, it definitely can’t replace something like a para 88 or para 133 in a professional photographer’s studio.
As with the silver reflective umbrella, you use a deep umbrella by attaching it to your studio light so that the light is pointing away from your subject and into the centre of the umbrella. The umbrella then reflects light out onto your subject.
The name "Deep Focus" reflects the design of this modifier. It is deeper than a standard umbrella, which helps to concentrate the light more centrally and reduce spill. This depth is responsible for creating a more focused and biting light, making it useful for beauty and portrait photography.
Price and Value for Money
The Deep Focus 110 (in this case, a broncolor model), offers impressive results relative to its price. You can find similar modifiers from other brands, all within the $250 to $300 price range. However, some photographers may argue that considering the construction, these modifiers might be somewhat overpriced.
To put it into perspective, a standard 105cm silver umbrella can cost as little as $20. Meanwhile, a 70cm silver Beauty Dish comes in at around $150, which is still significantly less than the deep umbrella. So while the Deep Focus 110 features a few extra prongs to achieve its unique shape, and is certainly deeper than a standard reflective umbrella, the high price tag may raise valid questions.
Deep Umbrella: Is it Effective?
So, how effective is the Deep Focus 110 as a lighting modifier? To answer this question, let's compare it to a standard silver umbrella. In a silver umbrella, the light distribution can be somewhat uneven, resulting in pockets of harder light and a higher-contrast look.
Thanks to its parabola-esque shape, the Deep Focus 110 provides a more uniform light. It offers a centrally brighter area with a more even illumination throughout the rest of the umbrella. By adjusting the distance of the umbrella from your light source, you can change the hardness of the light it emits. This is similar to a true parabolic reflector but without the same level of precision.
This modifier effectively collimates, sculpts, and adds some three-dimensionality to the light, making it suitable for various photographic applications, such as beauty shots. But if you’re shooting beauty, why would you choose the deep umbrella over the silver Beauty Dish?
How Does it Compare?
While the Deep Focus 110 performs admirably, it faces stiff competition from the 70cm silver Beauty Dish. In the video, you’ll see me use the Visual Education Lighting Comparison Visualiser tool to compare the two.
The comparison reveals that the Beauty Dish offers more effective collimation, contouring, and three-dimensionality than the deep umbrella, which offers less contrast and softer shadows due to its larger size and the spread of light reflected out of it. On this evidence, the Beauty Dish is superior – and all the more so when you factor in cost.
I also use the visualiser to compare the deep umbrella with a Para 88. As you can see in the video, the light from the para is far more three-dimensional, with more striking contrast and better sculpting.
Comparing the deep umbrella (left) to the beauty dish (right).
In conclusion, the Deep Focus 110 Umbrella Lighting Modifier offers photographers a versatile and effective tool at a cost much lower than that of a true parabolic reflector. It may not replace high-end paras, but it comes close to achieving pretty similar results. Of course, if you already own a para or two, this modifier might not be a necessary addition to your collection.
Photography is an art, and your choice of equipment plays a crucial role in bringing your creative vision to life. The Deep Focus 110 adds another option to your toolkit, and whether it's right for you ultimately depends on your unique photography style and preferences – and your budget.