The Rogue FlashBender XL Pro system is a flash reflector with accessories that is specifically aimed at photographers who want to have a highly transportable studio lighting system with them while they’re on the road. The first generation of these large FlashBenders was relatively heavy and they attached to the flash head using the same velcro system as the smaller ones. The second generation, which has just been released, is more lightweight and uses a different attachment. Time to give it a try.
The FlashBender 2 XL Pro system comes in a nice box holding the reflector with the familiar white background, a Soft Box Diffuser, a Strip Grid and a travel bag. The FlashBender 2 XL Pro reflector has a new velcro attachment system and its white surface is less opaque because the fabric isn’t as thick as the previous version’s. The diffuser looks the same as the first generation but the strip grid doesn’t. The latter now has a grid for producing a long and narrow light for edge and rim lighting. The bag is a very nice addition, keeping everything together — if you own a first generation FlashBender XL Pro system already and buy the new version, the bag can hold the two systems.
To compare the FlashBender XL Pro with the new FlashBender 2 XL Pro, I mounted the camera as well as a big LumoPro LP160 flash with the FlashBender attached on tripods and shot a white surface with identical settings. Just out of curiosity, I also shot this surface with the silver reflector attached to the FlashBender XL Pro. This reflector/flag was included with the first generation, but not with the new FlashBender 2 XL Pro.
But first I weighed the reflectors. The old FlashBender XL Pro weighs in at 306gr, while the new one weighs 236gr. Quite a big difference that you’ll certainly feel when carrying the system around.
My biggest problem with the first FlashBender XL Pro reflector was not only that it’s large and heavy, but the velcro attachment wouldn’t hold the reflector in its original position if you worked with it. Instead, it would tend to slide downwards when handling accessories like the soft box with the reflector still attached to the flash head. I was very curious if the lighter weight and new attachment system would improve on this.
I am very happy to say it does — big time, as a matter of fact. The new attachment system allows for much more control over the fastening of the system to your flash head. With the new system you wrap the strap around the flash head, then pull the strap through one of two buckle positions (to accommodate different flash head sizes) and fasten the lot using the velcro strip. Because the material is very strong you can pull as hard as you want and fix the reflector much better than before.
And yes, I could now attach the strip grid or soft box without having to lay the whole system flat on its back on a table.
I was also curious to see whether the thinner fabric wouldn’t influence the white balance or luminosity value of the light being reflected. The three screenshots that I took in Photoshop tell the story. The first generation FlashBender XL Pro had a luminosity value of 198.05, while the FlashBender 2 XL Pro has a luminosity value of 191.60. In other words, the old system would reflect a bit more light than the new, but it’s a pretty much invisible difference.
I am very happy with the new attachment system of the FlashBender 2 XL Pro. The previous generation was good in my opinion, but not as good this one, which gives a much tighter and more secure fastening. I was also happy with the weight loss.
I still hope ExpoImaging will be releasing different colour reflectors like the silver/flag combination that came with the first generation XL Pro FlashBenders. It’s true you can achieve the same effect by mounting one of ExpoImaging’s nice gel filters onto your flash, but if you can be given the choice to make the reflection a bit colder (silver) or warmer (gold) in tone by mounting a reflector accessory, I’m all for it.
With all the improvements and new features, I guess the new FlashBender 2 XL Pro must have cost ExpoImaging a lot more to manufacture than the first generation — yet, they have kept the price the same.