How To Build A Focusable Parabolic Reflector

Feb 4, 2015

Udi Tirosh

Udi Tirosh is an entrepreneur, photography inventor, journalist, educator, and writer based in Israel. With over 25 years of experience in the photo-video industry, Udi has built and sold several photography-related brands. Udi has a double degree in mass media communications and computer science.

How To Build A Focusable Parabolic Reflector

Feb 4, 2015

Udi Tirosh

Udi Tirosh is an entrepreneur, photography inventor, journalist, educator, and writer based in Israel. With over 25 years of experience in the photo-video industry, Udi has built and sold several photography-related brands. Udi has a double degree in mass media communications and computer science.

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Focusable parabolic reflectors may not be your first lighting modifier as they are big and require a lot (A LOT) of power, but once you start using them it is pretty hard to go back. To top that, they are also pretty expensive. The medium branded ones are around $800 while a top brand like Broncolor will set you back about $2,400.

If you still want to drive test one of those and at the stage where you have more time than money, Dennis Christian put a tutorial together on building one from scratch (or almost scratch….).

If you are unfamiliar with parabolic reflectors, Dennis explains:

Focusable parabolic reflector is a light modifier with a parabolic shape that can be focused, i.e. the light source can be moved within the reflector. This allows very different light characteristics ranging from focused to wide-open. Besides this unique flexibility, other advantages of focusable parabolic reflectors are their high energy efficiency and the relative absence of hotspots.

As Dennis mentions, the thing about those reflectors is that the reflector does not mount on the flash, but rather the flash is mounted on an arm that extends from the middle of the reflector. To make that happen, Dennis used a spare Elinchrom reflector that he had around. He extended a metal poll from the reflector to the fabric and used the bayonet to mount a flash.

There was a bit of CNCing to make a focus guide and some cleverness and heavy makering going on for making the focus guide:

All this does not mean that the para will come for free. After conducting an extensive research for finding a good “parabolic softbox” Dennis opted for the 90cm Grand Box from Rime Lite, which will set you back about $215. (but still a heck of a lot cheaper than $2,400).

If you are wondering about how awesome it is these are the concluding words from Dennis on how easy this is on location:

I love shooting on location, and (as long as there is no wind) this is the perfect tool: the whole device weighs only 690 grams (1½ lbs). That includes everything but the flash head: the speedring, insert, swivel, tube, mount, softbox, rods and bag. Even if you add the Quadra head, the device is still below 1kg. And it all fits nicely into the bag that came with the softbox

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Head over to making-photo-gear.com to get inspired from the full tutorial.

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Udi Tirosh

Udi Tirosh

Udi Tirosh is an entrepreneur, photography inventor, journalist, educator, and writer based in Israel. With over 25 years of experience in the photo-video industry, Udi has built and sold several photography-related brands. Udi has a double degree in mass media communications and computer science.

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3 responses to “How To Build A Focusable Parabolic Reflector”

  1. Gjergji Bullari Avatar
    Gjergji Bullari

    you cant compare apples to oranges. The difference its not only in price but also in size. You cant take things out of context and compare a 88″ parabolic and compare it to 90 cm softbox.

    1. Adam Smith Avatar
      Adam Smith

      The $2,400 Broncolor Para 88 he referenced is 88cm, not 88 inches. This is what he’s trying to copy, and his is actually slightly larger. Broncolor has made Para 220 and 222 which are 86″ and 87″ respectively, maybe that is what you were thinking of? They are not $2,400 though.. more like $5000.

  2. Frank Nazario Avatar
    Frank Nazario

    Ahhhh the broncolor para 330
    http://www.bron.ch/broncolor/products/light-shapers/showproduct/para-330-fb/?cHash=55dadaaab2761d8cffd05c1cc8555994#.VNbZfXb_hWU
    The problem broncolor has with me (of wich i am positively convinced they dont even know i exist ) is that fotodiox has an 88″ focusable parabolic..
    http://www.amazon.com/Fotodiox-Parabolic-Professional-Photogenic-Speedotron/dp/B003Y62I0C
    meaning … grab a paul c buff einstein 640 install it in this thing and… there goes a wall of light toward your model. for less than $1400.00 … the Broncolor you ask? How about the down payment for a 3 bedroom home in Florida, catch my drift… there are more and more photographers that are getting more and more educated and realizing that for the daily grind they dont need to mortgage their home there are alternatives that are really cool, very cost effective that at the end will give them a result they can be proud of and make their client happy…