Rogue FlashBenders have been among our favorite line-ups of flash light modifiers since we first reviewed them in 2010. Over the years, new models like XL Pro and new accessories like Rogue Diffusion Panels have been added to the FlashBender family. Recently, ExpoImaging has updated its light modifiers with some features that were significant enough to put a Version 2 designator on the whole family. In this review, we are focusing on Rogue FlashBender 2 XL Pro, which is currently the largest FlashBender light modifier.
There are two main differences that FlashBenders 2 bring to photographers: reduced weight and updated attachment system.
The folks from ExpoImaging have developed a new custom fabric for their reflectors, which allowed the weight to be reduced by 20%-30%. In the case of FlashBender 2 XL Pro, our measurements confirmed the weight difference of about 25% (8.3oz / 236g vs. 11oz / 310g). The new fabric is thinner, lighter, and still very durable. On top of that, we found that it actually allows the reflector to be more "bendable" and easier to shape.
We've always loved the integrated attachment system of the FlashBenders. The new design replaces the stretchy strap with a buckle. Since with FlashBender 2, you now need to feed the strap through the buckle, it may take a few more seconds to attach it (compared to the original design). However, when you detach your FlashBender 2, you can just loosen the strap a little to slide the reflector right off. So, for the next use, you simply slide it back on and tighten the strap. This trick works well with most speedlights (we tried about about 10 different models), but with some large flash heads (like, for example, Nissin MG8000 Extreme), it is still be better to completely remove the strap from the buckle, because it may be difficult to slide the reflector over the flash head.
The most significant improvement of the new attachment system, however, is how much more secure it is. The original design worked well, but the new one is even better, so even the big Rogue FlashBender 2 XL Pro can stay in place with no issues.
Unlike Large and Small models, FlashBender 2 XL Pro comes with accessories, which include softbox attachment (diffusion panel), stripbox attachment, and a travel bag. The original version of XL Pro used to come with a silver attachment, which we rarely used, so we are happy to see that a travel bag is now included instead. It's definitely going to be more practical for most photographers.
Another big change for Rogue FlashBender 2 XL Pro is the re-designed stripbox attachment. The original design allowed you to adjust the width of the stripbox for narrower or wider light spread. The new stripbox design features an integrated grid, which makes the light more focused even when compared to the narrowest configuration of the older panel.
The images below show the light distribution patterns of the regular softbox attachment, original stripbox (set wide), original stripbox (set narrow), and the new stripbox attachment.
Also, in the above images, you can see a noticeable amount of light spill at the bottom of the original stripbox, which is caused by the opening at the bottom of the FlashBender when it is shaped for the stripbox configuration. The FlashBender 2 attachment has a bottom flap that closes the opening for better control of the light. While, in most cases, we don't see this light spill as a problem, in some photography applications and setups, it can be beneficial to have that bottom flap closed.
The following example demonstrates Rogue FlashBender 2 XL Pro with its new stripbox attachment in use. In the top image, you can see that the grid does a great job focusing the light, so there is no light spill on the background. So, for the final image (second from the top), we were able to add a separate flash behind the subject to illuminate the background the way we wanted. We also added a third speedlight with Rogue Grid attached to it in order to throw a beam of light onto the front of the accordion to bring to live the details of the instrument's design.
Finally, we noticed that the FlashBender 2 reflector had a couple of additional Velcro strips (the hooks) along the top edge. They are put in place to hold the attachments a bit more securely. We figured that they could also be used to vary the diameter of the front opening when using Rogue FlashBender 2 as a snoot. We don't think that this is an intended use, but we thought it's worth mentioning because it gives you even more ways to use your FlashBender 2.
To summarize, Rogue FlashBender 2 XL Pro is a very nice step up from the original model. The reduced weight puts less stress on your flash head, the reflector is easier to bend, and the new belt-and-buckle attachment is extremely secure. The new stripbox attachment with an integrated grid is great for creating soft focused light. The silver attachment is not included anymore, but instead, you get a nice travel bag to keep the FlashBender 2 XL reflector and the attachments together. With its bendable reflector, included softbox and stripbox attachments, Rogue FlashBender 2 XL Pro System is a versatile lighting solution, and we can recommend it for a wide variety of photography applications. It is also worth mentioning that the new generation of Rogue XL Pro is priced exactly as the first version. (You can check the current prices below.)
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