Hähnel launches lantern diffuser speedlite accessory

Lantern Diffuser

Hähnel recently launched the Lantern Diffuser, a new speedlight diffuser that creates an exceptionally wide-angle spread of illumination in a very compact form factor by using a clever folding design. This new lighting accessory is just one part of Hähnel’s modular flash system and is designed to attach to hotshoe flash units via one of the company’s magnetic accessory clamps.

Key features:

  • Compact, folding design
  • Comes with six color gels
  • Works with Hähnel’s other modular magnetic accessories
  • Hähnel magnetic clamp is required and is a separate purchase
  • Compatible with most larger speedlight-style flashes from various manufacturers

The Lantern Diffuser is available now at B&H and other authorized Hähnel retailers for $99 USD.


What is it?

The Lantern comes in a kit that includes the diffuser along with a set of six colored gels and a gel holder that gets sandwiched between the magnetic clamp and the diffuser frame. The whole kit comes in a folding wallet that also has room for the magnetic clamp that isn’t part of the kit – but which is essential for its use. The clamp is central to the company’s range of clip-on accessories and needs to be bought separately.

The diffuser is made using a fan of concertinaed white material that both diffuses the light and sends it out over a 180° angle as the flash passes through it, with the idea of producing a very soft light that covers a very wide area.

I was initially concerned about how well the fanned out diffuser would survive lots of use, drops and getting its delicate design dented, but in all the use I made of it I didn’t manage to damage it. I guess if you dropped your flash with it attached and it landed face down the consequences mightn’t be good, but so long as you don’t do that it should be fine.

The kit comes in a roll-up pouch and includes 6 colored gels, a magnetic gel holder and the diffuser itself

When not in use it folds away into itself and is protected by the rigged plastic-covered metal ends. I haven’t used it long enough to know whether it will yellow with time, and the weather has been too good to test it outside in the rain – I’d be nervous to do that with the Lantern, while my softboxes would just dry out.

I’m a big fan of good speedlight accessories that are easy to use, which don’t take up a lot space and which have a dramatic impact on the characteristics of the light produced. And I have quite a collection, from inflatable frosted panels to snoots, softboxes and those yogurt-pot-like tubes the flash fires up into. This Lantern is quite different to anything else I’ve used, so I wanted to give it a try.


How it works

This video from Hähnel shows how the Lantern folds and attaches to a flash of your choice.

I used this diffuser on the Hähnel Modus 600RT flash unit, both on the camera and off using a Viper TTL trigger for Micro Four Thirds cameras and Panasonic full-frame S-series cameras. The Modus 600RT is the more powerful of Hähnel’s speedlights, and offers a guide number of 60m at ISO 100 at the 200mm zoom setting.

To attach the Lantern to the flash, I used the Module 600 clamp which, with its sprung grip, will fit most larger hotshoe style flash guns from all manufacturers. The clamp grips the head of the speedlight with the Hähnel logo facing forwards and the Lantern diffuser sticks to it when the magnets in each item attract. The gel holder can go on first, which offers a more obvious placement for the diffuser, but it doesn’t have to. Take a look at the video above for a clearer picture of how it all works.

Used in the hotshoe the light from the Lantern Diffuser is direct and straight on, but very much softer than you’d expect from such a small accessory.

Overall, the Lantern diffuses light more than you’d expect from such a small flash accessory. With a bare bulb the light would be much harder and highlight on the sun-creamed forehead would be dramatic and distracting. The accessory is small enough to create a definite direction, but the multi-layered diffusion makes that light seem quite gentle.

The Lantern diffuser folds in half, so we attach one half to the magnetic clamp and then unfold the other half to get the full 180° dome effect.


What it looks like

I started by testing the spread and the evenness of the light the diffuser gives by clamping the flash onto a stand using Hähnel’s Bowen’s mount adapter and firing the flash at a blank wall.

The difference in spread is immediately clear when you compare the Lantern-diffused exposure with that of the bare head and even when an 80cm/31in double-diffused square softbox was used instead. The Modus 600RT is a TTL gun, but if you shoot manually expect to lose about 2 stops of light due to the Lantern diffuser – about the same as when using the softbox with the extra internal diffuser sheet – but a much wider spread of illumination.

This is the coverage of the flash with no modifier The flash was left in the same position, but with the Hähnel 80cm softbox attached
Here’s the same arrangement but using the Lantern diffuser And the same again, but with a green gel in the gel holder

What is significant about this little diffuser is that it offers both a diffused and a bounced light effect, so the light is very soft once it reaches the subject. The softness is remarkable considering how small the accessory is and that the flash is still effectively a point source. Shadows are defined but filled at the same time, and lack the hard-edged contrast we get with a bare head.

The Lantern Diffuser avoids that artificial look of a direct burst from an uncovered flash bulb

I found that even when used with the flash mounted on the camera the light is dramatically altered, and still provides a nice softness when used quite close to the subject. It avoids that immediately artificial look of a direct burst from an uncovered bulb, or even that of a light bounced into a kicker reflector.

I tried the Lantern for some single-light still life shots with the flash at a relatively close range and a small subject – things that tend to bring out high contrast when hotshoe flash units are used. You can see though that the Lantern has done very well to produce a soft light that doesn’t display hotspots or reflections on the waxy surface of the avocado skin.

Click or tap-and-drag the arrow to see a soft box and the Lantern Diffuser differ.

The light is as soft as that produced by the 80cm softbox, though the shadow profile is slightly more defined due to the smaller surface area of the source. As the light from the Lantern is thrown around the room we get much more fill in the shadow areas too.

The spread of the light is also very impressive. The Lantern will light a room evenly when we are using a super-wide lens to fit it all in. This means we don’t have to worry about finding a clean white surface to bounce from. Fall off is more dramatic than with a bare bulb or a bounce, so a powerful gun will work best.

To give you an idea of the diffuser’s coverage, this was shot on the full frame Lumix S1R with a 9mm lens – at f/8 and 1/200sec at ISO 400. All the light on the foreground is from the flash. You can see that the post on the right as well as the tree trunk on the left are both lit with the flash. A 9mm lens has an angle of view of 135 degrees.

Conclusion

I’m very impressed with this Hähnel Lantern. It’s small, highly portable and weighs almost nothing, which means you can afford to carry it around in the camera bag even when you don’t actually get to use it without it having been a pain all day. The clamp is simple to fit and the gel holder and diffuser just snap on, so assembly is quick and easy too.

I don’t often use colored gels with single flash set-ups, but they are handy for second and third guns for rim lighting and coloring a background. Background lights with these diffusers on will be very useful, and the lack of hotspots, and their size, means they are ideal for hiding within the shot without the danger of them producing give-away bright blasted areas.

I have a lot of rubbish accessories, and others that are well thought out but the size of studio modifiers so you can’t carry them around on the off-chance that you might need them. This though sits in a side pocket of a bag ready for that moment you want to soften a burst of flash whenever it happens to occur. I would also actively take this with me to light backgrounds, multiple people facing inwards, for filling in on a sunny day and for using as the main light for a portrait or a still life.

The flash was held just off-camera for this shot. The defined shadow is still there but the light on the subject is soft and attractive. The subject was in the shade and exposure was 1/200sec at f/9, so almost all the light on the subject was provided by the flash.

I love using speedlites for ‘proper’ photography especially on location (I used two Hähnel Modus 600RT units with a softbox and a small dish for the male model shots in the Hasselblad 907X sample gallery) and this will definitely be joining the collection of tools I use – and ousting a few that simply don’t do the job so well.

The Hähnel Module Creative Lantern Kit costs £59.99/$99.99. For more information see the Hähnel website.

What we like:

  • Amazingly well diffused soft light
  • Really wide, even spread of light
  • Small and easy to carry all the time
  • Quick to assemble
  • Nice pouch and accessories

Don’t like:

  • Dome feels a bit fragile, though it hasn’t dented yet
  • Gels are strong and for dramatic effects rather than colour correction

Star Rating