Aurora MINI/MAX Softboxes (best flash diffuser rating: 8.68) are made by Aurora Lite Bank, an established manufacturer of studio lighting equipment. The MINI/MAX (also known as Microbox and Portaflex in Europe, Asia and Middle East) currently includes five softboxes. Three of them have silver lining, whereas other two are white-lined. One of the silver softboxes has a round shape while the others are rectangular. The sizes vary from 3.5"x4.75" to 6"x8".
All Aurora MINI/MAX Softboxes are made of durable cloth and are extremely lightweight. They fold flat, which makes them very portable. The sides of each MINI/MAX softbox are sewed together, but the units still can fit the majority of flash units on the market.
Every MINI/MAX softbox comes with a Loop and Lock Strap that wraps around a flash head. (You don't have to purchase one separately, like in the case of LumiQuest or HonlPhoto, for example.) The strap's inner side is made of a non-slip material that provides a very good grip and delivers secure attachment of the softboxes (and any flash accessory that uses Velcro).
An interesting feature that separates the Aurora MINI/MAX softbox from other hot shoe flash softboxes on the market is the top and bottom windows (available only on white-lined units). Pointing the softboxes upward and opening the bottom window allows you to still throw the light forward while using the ceiling for bouncing. The results are similar to using a bounce card. The advantage here is that with a single accessory, you can achieve both, softbox and bounce card types of lighting. Utilizing the windows of the Aurora softbox is not as effective as using a bounce card (battery wise), since diffusing the light directed towards a ceiling makes the batteries work harder.
The following two images show the results produced by the biggest MINI/MAX softbox while shooting directly at the subject (left) and bouncing off of the ceiling with the bottom window open (right). For the sample images, the camera was positioned about 4 feet from the subject. The ceiling was about 5 feet above the flash.
In the right image, you can see that the light bounced off of the ceiling is not very prominent because it is heavily diffused, and, therefore, the light coming from the open bottom window prevails. Also note that since the flash is pointed upwards, the light source is elevated.
With the larger version of the Aurora MINI/MAX softbox, we recommend using manual flash zoom mode and setting the zoom to the widest value. (Please refer to LumiQuest Softbox III test for more details.) Also note, when used on camera, the bigger softboxes may interfere with auto-focus assist beam and other flash functions (like external metering, for instance).
Aurora MINI/MAX Softboxes work best for close range portraits, as well as for macro and close-ups. The next photo is a close-up example. The size of the rock is comparable with the size of the softboxes, which were positioned about one foot on the left and the right from the subject.
To summarize, if you are shopping for a hot shoe flash softbox, Aurora Mini/Max Softboxes can be a great choice. They come in a variety of sizes, linings, and shapes. White-lined units offer top and bottom windows to deliver a "bounce mode". The softboxes are very lightweight and portable. All Mini/Max units come with a Velcro strap for convenient attachment.
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