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Upcoming Retro Laser Reflector to shine bright for Paul C. Buff, Elinchrom lights  
Friday, April 16, 2010 | by Rob Galbraith
Lighting maker Paul C. Buff is readying for release a high-efficiency focusable metal reflector for strobed sports and similar applications that require a long throw of light. Called the Retro Laser Reflector, it's a shallow 22" diameter retro reflector-style modifier designed to project a narrow, bright beam. How bright? At 40ft/12.2m, says company lead Paul Buff, it can deliver a searing f/16 at ISO 100 from only 640ws of light.

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Long Throw: The Retro Laser Reflector attached to an Einstein 640, left; the cage assembly + speedring for mounting the Retro Laser Reflector to a Paul C. Buff flash unit, right. Also shown is another new accessory, the Mini Boom Arm, an offset mounting arm that enables the Retro Laser Reflector (and other modifiers such as beauty dishes) to have a greater range of motion than when the flash is mounted directly on the light stand. Click either photo to enlarge (Photos courtesy Paul C. Buff)

The Retro Laser Reflector eschews the typical deep throat shape common to sport reflectors in favour of a design that, says Buff, gives "near 100% focused light transfer." By comparison, a conventional sport reflector will be closer to 65%, he says. This adds up to a brighter projection of light with more rapid and complete falloff at the edges. Within the lit area, promises Buff, the evenness of illumination will also trump most other narrow beam reflectors, though there will be some variation in evenness depending on the head the Retro Laser Reflector is attached to. The frosted dome over the Einstein 640's flash tube should contribute to an especially even illumination pattern emerging from the new reflector.

Mounting is through a brand-specific speedring and cage assembly (the same hardware will be used to attach the next generation of Paul C. Buff PLM series umbrella to the flash). The Retro Laser Reflector's coverage can be adjusted anywhere from about 11 to 30, by sliding the shaft of the cage assembly further into the reflector. When slid all the way in the shaft sticks out the back of the reflector slightly.

The official brightness specification, derived from an Einstein 640 set to 640ws, is:
  • 11 beam Guide Number = 640ft/195m, ISO 100
  • 30 beam Guide Number = 400ft/122m, ISO 100
The photos below are examples of the coverage and focusability of the Retro Laser Reflector. The first was shot with the reflector at the 11 beam position. For the second, the reflector was just short of the 30 beam position. Both photos were taken at midday, says Buff, and show the Retro Laser Reflector helping to overpower the sunshine filtering through the trees in the backyard of his home in Nashville, Tennessee (the subject in the photos is Deborah Buff).

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Shine On: Examples of the Retro Laser Reflector's light cast (Photos courtesy Paul C. Buff)

Though the Retro Laser Reflector has a recessed lip around the perimeter that could be used for  mounting accessories such as a grid, no such accessories are currently in development, says Buff. (The Retro Laser Reflector's light-in-front design means the diffusion sock and grids made for the company's 22" High-Output Beauty Dish won't fit.)

Price and availability

The Retro Laser Reflector is in production now and is slated to ship mid-May 2010 for US$84.95, including a cage assembly + speedring for either Paul C. Buff or Elinchrom monolights and heads. The Paul. C Buff speedring will enable the reflector to be used with the Einstein 640 as well as AlienBees, White Lightning and Zeus series lights. Additional cage assembly + speedring combos will be available for US$19.95.

Update, April 18, 2010: Additional Paul C. Buff testing of the Retro Laser Reflector with an Elinchrom monolight, subsequent to the original posting of this article, has revealed a beam pattern at or near the 11 position that Buff views as unacceptable. As a result, the company has decided to not offer this modifier in a pairing with an Elinchrom speedring + cage assembly.

This applies only to the Retro Laser Reflector; the upcoming release of the revised PLM series umbrellas will still include an Elinchrom mount option and, says Buff, all testing of this brand of light with the new PLMs has shown very good results.

The Mini Boom Arm will be US$14.95 and is expected to be released in early June 2010.

Buff is contemplating the development of speedrings to fit lights from other makers, though no decision has been made regarding which additional brands might be supported, or when.
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