JYC P9 Flash Diffuser
 

JYC P9 Flash Diffuser

When shooting with flash you may have observed sharp shadows or bright highlights on people's skin. Those are both caused by the flash being close to a point light source[a]. Point light sources give rise to sharp shadows, since, as seen from the shadowed object, the light source is either completely visible or completely hidden. They also result in very bright highlights for the same reason - either the beam bounces completely back to the observer, or it doesn't. A flash diffuser alleviates this by expanding the area the flash beam originates from, and therefore the different angles the light strikes the object.

P9 Flash Diffuser

P9 Flash Diffuser
Pop-up flash diffuser with three gels

  • Specifications
    Compatible with
    Most Canon, Nikon, Olympus and Pentax cameras, as well as others
    Not compatible with
    Sony and Minolta cameras (different hot shoe).
    Construction
    One mounting bracket that fits in the hot shoe. Three diffusor screens that mounts on the bracket.
  • Movement
    Up-and-down
    -1.3cm - +1.3cm

A cheap and easy way to get better photos. (5/5)

Table of Contents

1. The Kit

2. Usage

3. Light Loss

4. Sample Shots

5. Summary

After being the unofficial official photographer at a friend's birthday party and spending too much time Photoshopping out specular highlights from people's foreheads and cheekbones I decided I needed a flash diffuser. Most diffusers were built for standard flashes, but I finally found one that would work well with just my popup flash: The JYC P9 Flash Diffuser[b], being both cheap (49 SEK / 8 USD) and easy to carry, was a given choice.

It looks very similar to the Gary Fong "Puffer"[c] flash diffuser, but has only five instead of seven mounting holes in the screens. This limits the amount of vertical adjustment you can do with it by about a centimeter in total, but I found that I wasn't even close to the extremes when mounting it on my D40.

 1. The Kit

What is included in the kit bag then? Mine came with this: A mounting bracket and three screens.

The kit: Three screens and a hotshoe-adapter
The kit: Three screens and a hotshoe-adapter

 2. Usage

There has been a number of complaints about the Puffer, saying that it breaks easily. In contrast, the bracket that JYC ships is a fairly solid piece of plastic - as far as pieces of plastic go, anyway. I had no problem plugging it into the hot shoe of my camera. Attaching the screen, however, turned out to be a bit more difficult. The screen simply has five holes and is held in place by friction against the plugs on the bracket - and when I had to push the bracket into the screen I was really afraid I might break something. It required some force. Separating the two is also not a simple operation. When mounted the screen sits in front of the pop up flash:

Mounted on a Nikon D40
Mounted on a Nikon D40

 3. Light Loss

Due to the way the screen works by refracting the light from the flash, there is some light loss. I can, however, report that when used in summer noon sunlight with a 200mm lens, from about three meters away, there is still enough light coming through the screen for it to be comfortably used as a fill flash. I even had to set flash power down 1 EV to not blow any highlights.

 4. Sample Shots

Being a cheap sucker with a thing for not spending that much effort in doing test shots, I brought my D40 and a 55-200 lens to lunch with T[1] and blasted away while he was eating. The results won't win any photo contests, but they show the effect of the diffuser. These were all taken at 55mm, from a distance of a little less than one meter.

Without Diffuser
Without Diffuser

The first shot was taken without diffuser, for reference. Note the harsh, bright highlights between the eyebrows and the general brightness and discoloration of the face.

With Diffuser
With Diffuser

The second shot was with diffuser. The skin color is much better, the highlights are much softer, and if you look carefully (although this isn't the best demonstration of it) the shadow along the jaw is softer. The highlights still suffer from a slight discoloration.

With Diffuser, -1EV
With Diffuser, -1EV

Trying to get rid of the highlights completely I dialed down the flash compensation to -1EV. The skin color is now spot-on, even in the highlights, and the balance between foreground and background has improved.

The colored diffusers change the color of the flashlight (duh). It is really a matter of taste here - I think the neutral diffuser is the way to go, but some prefer the orange, which I think makes the person look like an Oompa-Loompa[d]. Maybe the flash compensation needs to be set even lower to avoid affecting the well-lit portions of the subject. These shots were taken at about three meters at 200mm in bright noon light.

Neutral
Neutral

Orange
Orange

Blue
Blue

 5. Summary

It really works. While I have no doubt that one could spend a lot more on a proper flashgun and so on, the JYC P9 really does deliver image improvement above and beyond its low $8 price. The downside is that you have yet another thing to haul around with the camera, but one can really not accuse the P9 of being bulky.

Footnotes

[1]

Name removed because these are some damn unflattering shots.

[a]

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Point_source#Light

[b]

http://jyc-hk.com/html/product/Flash_Accessories/Flash_Diffuser/2010/0727/198.html

[c]

http://www.garyfongestore.com/puffer-pop-up-flash-diffuser.html

[d]

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_characters_in_Charlie_and_the_Chocolate_Factory#Oompa-Loompas