Promaster SystemPRO Pop-Up Flash Diffuser review

Feb 02 2011
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Promaster SystemPRO Pop-Up Flash Diffuser

Promaster SystemPRO Pop-Up Flash Diffuser is a camera accessory that improves the lighting from your DSLR's built-in pop-up flash by "hanging" a diffusing screen in front of the flash. The diffuser fits virtually any camera because it simply slides into the hot shoe (adapter for Sony cameras is included). The compact design of the diffuser makes it very portable. It folds flat (the screen has to be detached) and easily slips into a pocket or gear bag.

Please note that some cameras do not fire their pop-up flashes if there is something inserted into the hot shoe. They disable the built-in flash because they "think" that an external flash is attached. To use Promaster SystemPRO with such cameras, you will probably need to cut some portion of the diffuser's base, so that the camera's sensor is not pressed by the diffuser and the pop-up flash stays enabled.

Promaster SystemPRO Pop-Up Flash Diffuser: front angle view Promaster SystemPRO Pop-Up Flash Diffuser: front view, diffusing screen
Promaster SystemPRO Pop-Up Flash Diffuser: main column, attachment base Promaster SystemPRO Pop-Up Flash Diffuser: screen holder arm
Promaster SystemPRO Pop-Up Flash Diffuser: folded flat for storage, two pieces Promaster SystemPRO Pop-Up Flash Diffuser: hot shoe adapter for Sony cameras

The design of Promaster SystemPRO Pop-up Flash Diffuser is very simple: a column with a base that goes into the hot shoe, a hinge, a holder arm, and a diffusing screen. It is very easy to use. You just slide the base in and position the diffuser screen in such a way that it stays directly in front of the pop-up flash. The screen is several times larger than a typical pop-up flash, so the light produced by the flash with the diffuser is not that harsh.

While the overall results are improved, the size of the light source created by Promaster SystemPRO Pop-Up Flash Diffuser is still relatively small, compared to the most portrait subjects, for example. Therefore, you benefit more if you use it in a close range. Getting farther from the subject diminishes the usefulness of this diffuser. We would recommend using it within 6 feet. The two images below are the examples taken with a direct pop-up flash (left) and pop-up flash modified with Promaster SystemPRO Pop-Up Flash Diffuser from 3 feet (1 meter) distance (background was 1 feet (30cm) behind the subject).

Promaster SystemPRO Pop-Up Flash Diffuser review: direct unmodified pop-up flash portrait example Promaster SystemPRO Pop-Up Flash Diffuser: portrait example

As you can see, the right image has softer shadow edges and the slightly reduced hot spot. The overall improvement, however, is not dramatic, but noticeable.

Please note that if you use a wide-angle lens, Promaster SystemPRO Diffuser may affect the light coverage by introducing some lighting artifacts (see image below). We found that this may become an issue with lenses wider than 43mm (in 35mm equivalent). It means that if, for example, you have a Canon 60D or Canon T2i body with a 18-55mm kit lens, you will be able to use just over a half of the lens' range.

Promaster SystemPRO Pop-Up Flash Diffuser: artifacts visible in wide angle shots

While Promaster SystemPRO Pop-Up Flash Diffuser limits the wide-angle shooting options, it can aid a shot when using relatively large wide-angle lenses (especially with a hood on). These lenses may create a shadow visible in the pictures. Since the diffusing screen of SystemPRO is positioned closer to the outer plane of the lens, it can reduce or even eliminate the shadow from the lens. The following images demonstrate this effect (lens zoom is set to 43mm in 35mm equivalent).

Promaster SystemPRO Pop-Up Flash Diffuser: lens shadow example, direct unmodified pop-up flash Promaster SystemPRO Pop-Up Flash Diffuser: lens shadow is reduced by the diffuser
The next two image show Promaster SystemPRO Pop-Up Flash Diffuser side-by-side with LumiQuest Soft Screen and Promaster Universal Softbox for built-in flash.
Promaster SystemPRO Pop-Up Flash Diffuser: compared to LumiQuest Soft Screen Promaster SystemPRO Pop-Up Flash Diffuser: compared to Promaster Universal Softbox for built-in flash

To summarize, Promaster SystemPRO Pop-Up Flash Diffuser is an easy to use accessory for a pop-up flash. It softens the light and reduces the hot spot. It is effective for close range photography. It limits the wide-angle applications to 43mm (35 mm equivalent), but at the same time, it can help reduce the lens shadow when some wide-angle lenses are used.

If you have any questions or comments, please post them below.


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