One of the questions I most often hear, regarding Gary Fong light diffusers is: "What's the difference between the Lightsphere and the Whaletail?"
Both the Lightsphere and the Whaletail are flash diffusers -- they are designed to soften the light of hotshoe mounted flashes. In many ways, they provide studio quality light -- without the studio.
The first Lighsphere was a hard plastic, translcent body with an external (convex) dome -- a bubble top -- that snapped on the top. It offered a wonderful, soft light, but it was bit heavy, it was difficult to get a perfect fit, and the external dome sometimes stuck out beyond the lens hood, and created lens flare. Still, it was like nothing else available, and allowed many photographers to acheive results never before seen outside of the studio (or without using large lightstands, umbrellas or softboxes). In that sense, it was revolutionary.
I'm not certain when they were first realesed, but I bought mine sometime in 2002 or 2003. In the Fall of 2005, Gary Fong replaced the original Lightsphere with a pliable, vinyl version. Interestingly enough, both the original and the replacement were called the Lightsphere II. In fact, Gary had been developing light diffusers for his own use for several years, so what we now call the 'original Lightsphere' was actually in a chain of evolution that still continues.
The 2005 model came in two versions: Clear (photojournalist) and Cloud (portrait). Both had 'photojournalist' embossed on them because they came from the same molds with only the color of the vinyl changing. The Clear was a transparent vinyl, while the Cloud was translucent.
Cloud (L) & Clear (R) Lightspheres
There were two major design changes in the '05 models. First, the top fitting dome was changed from convex to concave: It now fitted inside the body of the Lightsphere -- and was called the Inverted Dome. It was a hard plastic, frisbee looking device and was translucent. It was the same color dome for both the Clear and the Cloud Lightsphere. The second change was in the way the Lightsphere attached to the body of the flash. It came in four sizes and had a combination of different size ribs that gripped the flash much like a swim fin fits your foot. This solved most of the fit problems without the use of any adapters or gaskets.
Gary Fong was a wedding photographer for twenty years. He was a well know speaker and instructor, within the photography industry and the primary users of his Lightspheres were other professional photographers -- especially wedding photographers. These new Clear and Cloud Lightspheres were so popular, that by the beginning of 2007, there were over 90,000 in use, worlwide.
In March of 2007, at the WPPI (Wedding and Portrait Photographers International) annual conference in Las Vegas, Gary introduced a new flash diffuser called the Whaletail. Readers of Gary's blog were anticipating this release for months as Gary presented preliminary drawing for 3-4 months, before the official introduction.
The demand, on the conference floor, was so great that he immediately sold out his entire inventory and it was months before he could catch up with the demand. Even at this writing, there are sometimes shortages. New manufacturing capacity is expected to come online this Fall (2007).
The Whaletail is not a replacement for the Lightsphere. In fact, the Gary Fong Lightsphere is still the top seller. However, the Gary Fong Whaletail is more versatile than the Lightsphere. While the Lightsphere has one opening -- on the top -- and you can either have it open, or covered by the internal dome, the Whaletail has two openings. One is on the top, and the other is on the back -- or on the front. This is completly up the the user. Many flashes swivel 180 degrees, so it is very easy to change the position of the second opening. Since the Whaltail is attached to the flash with a hook & loop (Velcro) cinch strap, if your flash does not swivel, it is a simple matter to take it off, turn it around, and reattach the diffuser.
Studio (L) & Reporter (R) Whaletail Light Diffusers
Instead of a snap on cap (dome), the Whaletail uses two hinged flaps. These flaps can be adjusted to any setting between fully open and fully closed. This means that the photographer can vary the ratio of direct light to bounced or diffused light, giving a wide range of creative lighting contrtol. The Whaletail comes in two sizes: The smaller Reporter and the larger Studio. Both are made of a translucent white plastic.
If you are reading this, you are probably a photographer, and will appreciate pictures over words, so I made a short video, showing the Lightsphere and the Whaletail models.
One mistake that I made on the video -- I say that the Whaletail will fit any rectangular flash up to 2x3 inches. In fact, it will fit up to 2x3.5 inches.
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