It was Aputure's $299 Amaran HR672C [B&H|Amazon], an ipad-sized, bi-color LED panel with high color accuracy, wireless remote control, and dual Sony NP style batteries all tucked away in a small travel case that put the final nail in the coffin of my ARRI Softbank IV Fresnel Lighting kit. I kept pestering the guys at Aputure to bring out some light modifiers for it, which they subsequently did with their $49.95 EZ-Box and Grid combo [B&H|Amazon]. Now accessories manufacturer Kamerar further burnishes the Amaran line's reputation with their own dedicated versions of these modifiers for the same light, the $29.95 D-FUSE Soft box [B&H|Amazon] and $24.95 Grid [Amazon]. They're easier to set up and take down than Aputure's originals, but they're not without issue either.
It has been a personal odyssey to reach this point.
After years as a still photographer deeply in the Canon fold working primarily with a trio of Speedlights, I moved on to the Profoto 7a with 3' x 4' soft boxes mated to a pair of Profoto heads -- a glorious set-up which served me well capturing dancers in mid-flight.
When I moved into video just a few years ago, I swapped out the Profoto for an ARRI Softbank IV kit and pocketed the difference, but the ARRI kit was still a couple of grand. It came with five different Fresnels running from 150W all the way up to 1K along with light stands, barn doors, gels, etc., though only with a single, smaller soft box. I never grew comfortable with the ARRI. It was hot; it was heavy; and it drained the heck out of circuits.
The breaking point came when I did a video shoot and the lights basically melted my subjects.
I believe the technical term for what the Fresnels did to them is "schvitzing."
Ergo the value of cool-running LEDs, along with much lower power draw.
My first experience with panels was with an IKAN 1x1, but it was the Aputure Amaran HR672C which really put me over the edge and led me to sell the ARRI kit.
I loved it then, still love it now and use it all the time. It may be mostly plastic, but it does the business and has never let me down.
Still, I wanted my soft boxes back, and after sufficient pestering Aputure launched their EZ soft box and grid.
The bottom line: they worked and as a result the EZ box has pretty well remained permanently attached to my HR672C. Still, the EZ is a bit fidgety to put on or take off, and I wish it were much, much bigger. To be fair, if they'd made it much bigger it would have reduced the light reaching subjects by so much that it wouldn't make sense.
Enter the D-Fuse by Kamerar
When Kamerar reached out to me recently to take a look at their D-Fuse soft box and grid specifically for the Amaran, I was already primed.
The D-Fuse kit is easier to set up and take down and it's got a slightly larger surface area over which to defuse the light.
The key is the clever way Kamerar combines the kind of springy rod you find in any of today's reflectors with the kind of collapsible spring poles you find in tents -- and the kind of stretchy Velcro-style straps you find pretty much everywhere.
The price you pay, however, is two-fold:
- if you're not careful the D-Fuse soft box and those straps can actually cover the Amaran's top, side and rear air vents, causing the light to heat up more quickly and potentially cutting down on its longevity; and
- the straps can obscure the controls
Put differently: Aputure's EZ Box and Grid mount more precisely, but at the cost of speed.
Which One to Buy?
In the end, both work and in spite small differences in surface area, the actual difference in light modifying ability is minor. They have their strengths and weaknesses, like anything else.
If you're setting up and taking down Amaran-based lighting kits often, the D-Fuse will save you time even if you have to make sure the vents aren't covered and you find yourself pulling aside the straps in order to manipulate the controls.
On the other hand, if your Amaran is more permanently located and configured (like a blogger's studio), there's definitely a benefit to using Aputure's own modifiers as you never have to worry about blocking the air vents or controls.
But neither gives me as much soft light as I'd like.
Hmm... I'm thinking I need to take a look at Aputure's new 2,500 lux (at one meter, 3000K) Lightstorm C120t Kit.
Then again, at $645 [B&H|Amazon] excluding V-mount battery and any modifiers, that's a very different animal. Count on adding anywhere from at least $248 for, example, for Cinegears' new BP-100SL 98Wh V-mount battery with LCD charging indicator (a pretty good value, in my book) to the mighty 250Wh $578 Anton Bauer CINE 150.
The D-Fuse is a fast, smart, lightweight and cost-effective solution when you're traveling with Amaran LEDs and want to soften things up a bit. But if you want to diffuse light over a larger area, you really do need to look at other lights.