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Old March 1st, 2012, 05:58 AM   #1
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Location: Motukarara, New Zealand
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california sunbounce reflectors

I know this will start an argument as people attack the price of california sunbounce and defend whatever they use or could afford. When i first saw the price of sunbounce reflectors years ago I choked and laughed. However, I've grown more and more frustrated by the limitations of other options.

This isnt everyone, but it is me:

1. I don't have room in my truck for a 4x4/6x6 piece of polystyrene or beadboard. I often go guerilla and need stuff to fit into an SUV along with crew/talent/etc.

2. "flickies" or collapsible reflectors are awful in the wind. The metallic sides makes the client look like they are in a disco and if they "potato chip" then even the white side is useless. I have a tension bar for my photoflex and it only helps in gentle breezes.

3. I've had foam core, polystyrene and insulation board (all cheap options you can buy on location then discard) snap in the wind. I have a DP that loves the look of polystyrene, but i absolutely hate wrangling it.

I watched the horrible sunbounce videos many times and had them bookmarked at b&h. After an awful day fighting with a flickie I went back to b&h and noticed they were on sale. I'm in the south pacific and its unlikely anyone on this island has a model to play with, so I bit the bullet and bought the 3x4' and 4x6' models.

The prices seem to have dropped the last few years, and the sale brought them even more down to earth. 3x4 was $214 and 4x6 $348. (ok maybe not "down to earth" but at least out of the clouds. I paid like $130 for my photoflex 42")

Shipping across the planet was hideous and i had to pay an extra 15% import tax on the converted currency. The final total was insanely high for a pair of reflective sheets...

I've had them out on a test shoot and a music video and I'm really really stoked. We had some near-gale force winds this week, so i took the 3x4 out and tried keeping a steady light on a subject. The fabric is stretched under tension (a reasonable amount. you gotta use a bit of muscle to assemble the frame) and the tension makes a HUGE difference. There was none of the "rippling" you'd get from a flickie. In the most intense gusts the fabric would flex under the pressure. It changed the quality of the silver, like a cloud going in front of the sun (but faster), but it didn't flicker. The white side was very hard to tell if it changed at all.

I'm a big guy, and on the big gusts, i was struggling to keep my feet. Its a 3x4' sail. What I liked is that i was able to muscle in and do it. Its exactly those conditions where the polystyrene snaps, the flickie folds and something like a scrimjim makes you struggle to find a good hand hold. I can't imagine shooting prolongued in those kinds of conditions, but the frame held up and I was able to easily find a handhold with the two cross braces and openings along the edge.

I didn't dare open the 4x6 in the big wind. With the 3x4 i was able to muscle in, the 4x6 would have taken me with it. (it was windy enough to make it hard to stand even without a reflector.) The 4x6 has metal brackets the cross bars fit into. the 3x4 has plastic that looks kinda like bakalite. Time will tell if the plastic is less reliable.

The frame is thin aluminum, but its way stronger than my chimera frame. I've heard it described as "aircraft aluminum" but planes use all kinds of grades of alloy, so that doesn't mean much. This stuff is thin, but very strong.

The price stung, no question. But I'm already very pleased to have them in my kit. Thats the test of gear, really. With the really quality stuff I never think about the price as I use it, only that I'm happy to have it. Its the crummy stuff that makes me obsess over how much i paid.

So anyways, I always come to dvinfo when looking for insight on stuff. When I can't find it here, i try to add it. Inside a studio a collapsing reflector or polystyrene can be as good as anything else. In the field, they *can* work too, but I'm very happy to have put the extra money into the sunbounces. I know i could DIY something kinda sorta similar, but in this case, the jump up to the "overpriced brand name" is worth it to me. I expect to be using these for many cameras to come.

My real question is whether I should have gotten a pair of 3x4 instead of the 4x6.

I currently use a chimera 72" frame with 1/4stop fabric for overhead diffusion. I couldn't justify the cost of the sunswatter, although the design still intrigues me. What would be really handy is a 42" collapsing "flickie" that had 1/4 or 1/3 stop fabric. The photoflex seems like 2 stop fabric to me, and some of the noname are even more opaque. The convenience of a circular diffuser with a less aggressive diffusion would be awesome for closeups and guerilla work.

Sorry that rambled. Holler if you have any questions.

Oh, as it turns out "california sunbounce" is a german company. They just thought the name sounded cool. ha!
Andrew Dean is offline   Reply With Quote
Old March 1st, 2012, 03:25 PM   #2
Join Date: Jan 2004
Location: Scottsdale, AZ 85260
Posts: 1,538
Re: california sunbounce reflectors

Can't argue with anything you say here.

The frames are better than most. The horizontal bar arrangement does make manual control a whole lot easier - and the big wide hefty tubes make it easy to rig them to stands with standard grip heads

The only thing I actually don't like is that when you fit the cross pipes into the metal sleeves, it's kinda easy to snag the skin on your fingers and end up with blood blisters. But that's certainly avoidable if you take care.

All in all, a very useful tool if you can afford them - particularly for work outside in moderate wind.
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Bill Davis is offline   Reply With Quote
Old March 3rd, 2012, 01:33 AM   #3
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Location: Motukarara, New Zealand
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Re: california sunbounce reflectors

Heh. i've been afraid of the finger pinch!

Had a music video shoot today on a Red. Huge storm is blowing in and it was windy enough it was hard to walk against it. The reflector not only held up, but we were able to do some walking fill shots and keep the fill on the singer. I'm happy.
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