Review: Rogue Flash Bender System

Introduction

Rogue recently asked me to try out some of their new Flash Bender products, and Daniel volunteered to be my model. This was a test shoot of several Rogue products to see how they worked with a 2-, 3- and 4- speedlite setup. I'm primarily a speedlite/flash shooter, and already have a couple of Rouge products, so was excited to try out some of their new gear.

Typically, my gearbag includes the poles, diffusers and triggers to use three Canon speedlites and three large Vivitar 285's. Its usually pretty easy to find flash modifiers for the Canon gear, but the bulky design of the Vivitar flashes often leave me hunting for white foam core, DIY velcro flags, or shooting against walls.

Rogue Gear Tested

All links are to Amazon.com.
Rogue FlashBenders ROGUERESM Small Positionable Reflector - $34.95
Rogue FlashBenders ROGUERELG Large Positionable Reflector - $39.95
Rogue FlashBenders ROGUEFLAG Bounce Card / Flag - $29.95
Rogue FlashBender Large Flash Diffusion Panel - $19.95
Rogue ROGUEGRID 3-In-1 Stacking Honeycomb Grid System with Pouch - $49.95

I have been using "cheap" gobos and bounce reflectors, including some DIY gear. And my bag includes one Honl Snoot/Reflector (about $30 street).

The Setups

The two identical images with Daniel sitting in front of the green wall (one in color, other in B&W) are nearly bare-flash. The Flash Benders basically acted as flags (or gobos, or masks) to prevent flash spill into the lens.

I used the Small and Bounce Card / Flag to light up Daniel on extreme left and right. This created the dramatic lighting/shadow examples and extreme shallow fall off.

The background was lit with a flash and the large reflector to soften the shadows slightly.

When shooting Daniel sitting in the Desk Chairs, I used the flash benders as a more traditional "bounce", creating softer light and virtually no shadows on the background. This is where I used the large flash diffusion panel. This basically covers the flash and turns it into a softbox about 9" square. The best results from this setup were achieved having the soft light source as close to the subject as possible.

About Rogue Flash Benders

Rogue uses a combination elastic and button system to secure the bounce flags on the flash. On other systems I use, the flags are either Velcroed to the flash, or held on with thick/heavy rubber bands. The benders have metal spines inside that hold the material in shape after you position it. The material is canvas, not flexible (or inflexible) plastic, and the edges are held together with nylon bias tape edgings that in most cases are double stitched. The "white" portion of the flash bounce material is made of a thick vinyl.

Pros and Cons

The two-snaps and elastic band system to secure the benders to the flash is rather unique. I was concerned it wouldn't be large enough since three of my flashes are 5 or 10-year old thick-headed Vivitars. But they held on perfectly just like with my two Canon flashes. The snaps make it really easy to position/reposition, unlike my velcro flags that have to be unzipped or the thick rubber bands that have to be pulled around. I have to use so much force to pull the rubber bands free to move my other flash bouncers around that I fear if my hand slips, my other hand holding the flash will fly causing the entire setup to topple. I hate bounce systems with those thick rubber bands and will never buy another.

The Rogue flash benders seem very well made as described above, and I expect them to last a very long time. But I'm curious if the elastic strap will last after many uses/years. If they don't, or God forbid if I lose them, the flash benders can still be held on using the typical rubber bands or velcro straps.

Based on the material, edging, and the construction of the spines, the Rogue Flash Benders are heavier than the Honl snoots, and certainly more heavier than simple on-flash diffusers (or cardboard). However they are really well-made. And they are easy to transport, packs flat, unlike my flash sphere from Fong (about the same weight).

The part of the flash bender that attaches to the flash isn't canvas, its a vinyl material. This helps hold the bender in place, but I wonder if a bit more tacky material would be better. As an outdoor shooter, a small bit of wind can turn a flag into a sail, causing it to spin or dislodge. I haven't tested this system outdoors yet, but wind is one of the reasons I turned to the thick rubber bands and direct-to-flash velcro systems.

The metal "spines" of the flash benders are what makes this system very unique. If you use the Honl snoot, you know that gravity is a problem for positioning ... and keeping it in shape over extended periods. Didn't have this problem with the Rouge benders. The metal bars that "shape" the benders are attached directly to the bender's outer canvas material with a double stitched material. Once "bent", they stay put.

Rogue's flash diffusion panel system attaches directly to a Rouge Flash bender, creating a pocket light panel for small flash. NOTE: You have to buy both the Bender AND the correct sized Diffusion panel for this tool to work correctly. If I had bought this at a camera store, I might have missed the fact that I needed to buy both (even though it's clearly written on the box). LOL

I enjoyed using the flash diffusion panel the most and wish I had two. By far the diffusion panel is much easier to pack than my 14" and 12" flash soft boxes, and sets up in seconds rather than several minutes. Its much lighter too. Since I haven't had it very long, not sure how long the white diffusion panel will remain white, or if it will start to turn yellow like some other products. Since the size is limited to about 9", I had to get the flashes closer to the subject, and it will only accommodate one flash, unlike my Cheetah Qbox that I sometimes squeeze in a two-flash system for outdoor shoots. I'm wondering if Rogue will be up-sizing their bounce+diffusion panel system in the near future? (HINT) :)

I've been using the Rogue 3-In-1 Stacking Honeycomb Grid System for speedlites for a while. Many folks use it to "highlight" the face or create spotlights on a background. My typical use is a little different. Sometimes when taking shots of folks with dark clothing (such as a gentleman in a corporate headshot with a dark suite), its really easy to nail the exposure on the face, but end up with very dark exposure on the clothes. The Rogue Grid makes it easy to throw that extra light ONLY on the clothing and not over-expose the face. It also helps with hair lighting in a pinch, as with the photos of Daniel above.

The grid also uses the elastic bands with snaps, which makes installing the hood really easy. But attaching the honeycomb grid to the hood takes a bit of practice. I've considered riveting or maybe super-glueing the hood and grid, but that would make swapping out the different size grids a bit of a pain. Once you get used to setting it up a couple of times, you get the hang of it -- but still need to budget time to set it up. One thing's for sure, its a much more professional look than my original DIY grid.

Conclusion

I'll never abandon DIY or lower-priced gear options when appropriate. In fact, at HoustonPhotowalks.com I do DIY Lunch events several times a year (members get together and build various photography toys).

However, I'm a big fan of Rogue benders and their grid system. With Daniel's test shoot, I spent far less time fiddling with rubber bands and velcro ... and more time shooting. Figuring out how the diffusion panel went together required reading instructions, but other than that, everything worked with very little setup time.

And in the end, we want to shoot more, not fiddle with flashes, right? :)

[UPDATE: Special thanks to my wife who caught my typos. :)]

AuthorInfo

Joe is a User Experience Engineer, Front End Specialist and Application Developer for Bridgeway Software, Inc and part-time consultant for NGO and non-profit organizations in the Houston area. Joe is also a part-time Portrait Photographer at MEDIA.24Moves.com and organizer of the HoustonPhotowalks.com photography club. He and his wife Marty run the AutismHouston.com Support and Playdate group.

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