Gary Fong Lightsphere is a very well-known flash light diffuser. It creates "bare bulb" lighting effect by dispersing light in virtually all directions from the flash. In this article, we review Lightsphere II (best flash diffuser rating: 8.33), which is the second generation of Gary Fong Lightsphere diffusers.
The images taken with a "bare bulb" light greatly depend on the surroundings. If you use Gary Fong Lightsphere in a room with light-colored ceiling and walls, the results can be more then pleasing. The surroundings reflect a significant amount of light, and you will see the shadows in the images being soft and light.
Without bounce surfaces around, Lightsphere will not produce that nice lighting it's known for, but it can still be used for fill light (not very efficiently, however, since a lot of light will be wasted).
Gary Fong Lightsphere II is sold in two variations: Cloud and Clear. They both have the same shape but made of different materials. The Cloud version is less translucent then Lightsphere Clear, so it cuts more light, using more battery power and reducing the effective range, but it delivers a better diffusion.
Lightsphere II comes with an inverted dome, its crucial accessory. Without the dome, in the vertical diffuser position, most of the light goes towards the ceiling. It can be a desirable result, and Lightsphere can be used without the dome, but that will do little for creating the "bare bulb" light.
Inverted dome makes Lightsphere useful outdoors, as well. With the dome snapped on the top of your Lightsphere, you can point the flash head directly at you subject and achieve more diffused (compared to direct flash) light.
Firing a flash through the inverted dome directly at your subject makes using Lightsphere similar to using a small softbox. The only difference is that Lightsphere still sends some of the light sideways, which drains you flash batteries faster.
Gary Fong Lightsphere II features a nice improvement over the original ("Vintage") Lightsphere. The latter model is made of flexible plastic. Thus, it fits better in your gear bag than the original one, but it's still pretty big compared to other light modifiers and takes a significant amount of space.
While making Lightsphere II soft is a nice touch, it has one small drawback. You have to be a bit more careful with the diffuser and not to squeeze it accidentally while the dome is installed. The dome is made of hard plastic, and it will pop off if the diffuser is deformed. It is not a big issue but something that may be useful to keep in mind.
Attaching Gary Fong Lightsphere II to a flash is easy. You simply slip it on. To be able to fit snugly, Lightspheres are made in many attachment variations. So, if you buy one, make sure you get the right attachment size. Also, if you have flashes of different sizes, Lightsphere II will not be interchangeable, and you might need more then one to be able to use it with all your flashes.
Lightsphere can also be helpful in macro photography. Flash head can't tilt down enough for extreme close-ups. Lightsphere, throwing light in all directions, can provide sufficient lighting.
Also note, there there are several accessories available for Gary Fong Lightsphere II, such as amber or chrome domes.
Below is a sample image taken with Gary Fong Lightsphere II Clear at about 3 feet from the subject with a flash on camera. For detailed test results, please refer to Gary Fong Lightsphere II test: Cloud vs. Clear
To summarize, Gary Fong Lightsphere II works very well indoors where there are surfaces to bounce off of. It also can be used outdoors and for close-ups. Lightsphere II is a relatively big diffuser and may take more space in your gear bag that you would want, but its plastic is flexible, which makes it more portable than the original version.
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