Bounce-Wall: The Genius/Insanity Line Goes Commercial

There is a fine line between genius and insanity, and it's a line the DIY readership of this site has proudly straddled at times.

But this time, the genius/insanity line is being straddled by a commercial product. Lemme 'splain…

What you are looking at the is the Bounce-Wall, a new lighting mod being introduced by California Sunbounce at Photokina this week.

Why is it insane? Because you are carrying a large arm attached to your camera with an up-and-over bounce surface attached to the other end.

Why is it genius? Because now you can bounce off of a nearby "patch of wall" from anywhere in the room. Or out in a field, for that matter.

Here is the thing: very few people will feel ambivalent about this thing. You'll either love it or your'll hate it.

A lot of people just won't get this thing. But I suspect event and wedding shooters (i.e., for shooting during the reception. etc.) will flock to it. After playing with it for a few days, I can now report the following:

It's Lightweight

Because you keep both hands on your camera and it is so light, you could shoot with this thing for hours at an an event with no problem. In fact, it replaces the most left-arm-numbing thing you can do, which is to hold an OCF-TTL corded light out at arm's length for better quality as you shoot one-handed with the other.

The arm is lightweight, but has a double-H-channel design for strength. And it is plenty stiff. It moves with you rather than shifting around. IMO, they hit the sweet spot on the strength-to-weight thing.

It Can Get Small

It comes apart in the middle, at the ball and near the panel. The pieces will easily slide into the back pocket of a Domke F2 bag, for instance.

The ball is a ribbed sphere, so is strong and functional without any appreciable weight. This lightness is important as it is flying out away from the camera and would otherwise be fatiguingly torqued.

It Goes Both Ways

Horizontal or vertical—doesn't matter, just rotate the camera. If the ball is at upper camera left for horizontal (as if you were hand-holding the flash yourself) a 90-degree camera rotation (primary shutter release now on the bottom right) puts the card on the upper right. Still fine. No adjustment needed.

Weather Or Not

Rain will not be an issue if outside. Nothing on it appears to be affected by moisture. The bounce card it corroplast, and is available in several different printed versions (white, silver, gold, zebra, yada, yada.)

You Can Mix It Up With Overspray

If you are in a small room you can concentrate the flash's beam to the card. Or go wide-beam and let a lot of energy go past the card to hit the wall and create fill light. The card (i.e., your key) can be warmed independent of the room's natural bouncing surface.

So, What's the Light Like?

It's a run-and-gun mod, rather than something for finely crafting light. Think big bounce card (but up and over about 18 inches) and you'll be close. And it's completely self-contained, and thus what every camera-topped fongsphere user should probably have on instead when they are working outside with no walls or ceilings. (I see those guys, and a reeeeally want to walk up and say something. But I have learned to just shut up and watch.)

Not being a wedding/event shooter (I'm more of a controlled-light portrait shooter) this thing is a little out of my wheel house. But Ben is starting a new soccer season at GK this Saturday so I grabbed him and took him outside for a quick test drive photo.

Mind you, this would most likely be used indoors—events, party pics, etc. But I wanted to see if it would hold up as a close, on-camera light source for an outside portrait.

Verdict: Not too bad, actually. I am exposing for the sky and flashing Ben so I have no fill. Remember, this is a single on-camera flash. But the quality of light is pretty decent.

Efficiency-wise, this mod is more of an indoor cat, as you couldn't really fight full sun with it. (We were out in the evening, so we were fine.)

Obviously, it works in either manual or TTL, depending on your normal preference. As a portrait shooter I gravitate towards manual. I suspect most event shooters will skew towards TTL. Both work well. Please don't tell McNally I tried TTL, tho.

Here it is in use. As far as that Faces of Death "Where'd that second camera perspective come from?" thing, suffice to say there were a few PocketWizards involved. I triggered the BTS camera from my PW'd primary camera's shutter (via the PC jack->PW) and then had my primary camera's flash PW'd to the BTS camera's PW, which was code-hopped so we could do all of this with three units.

No worries, as I have done this multi-camera-sync thing before.

The Bounce-Wall, by California Sunbounce, debuts at Photokina this month. If you are there, they will have them in their booth to play with. Price is still TBA. UPDATE: Price is expected to be $99 (in dollars or Euros).


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Blogger J. Gerald Gonzales said...

Nice shirt! COYG!

September 04, 2012 12:11 AM  
OpenID said...

Why not just shoot a speedlight with a softbox iii on it? Gotta be pretty close to the same quality of light.

September 04, 2012 12:11 AM  
Blogger Nick Arora said...

As someone who has had to shoot an event at night with nothing to bounce light off of....this thing is perfect!

September 04, 2012 12:20 AM  
Blogger Fonk said...

Jason: I think you could get a different angle of light with this than you could with the standard speedlight softbox setup (assuming speedlight is on camera). You're probably right about the actual quality of the light, though.

September 04, 2012 12:27 AM  
Blogger Josef Samuel said...

Way, way too much profile for me. As a wedding photographer, my priorities are to blend in rather than stand out as the annoying guy with the huge camera rig getting in people's faces. I much prefer to handhold a flash or use off camera flash on a stand for receptions or evening shots. I'd never buy this.

September 04, 2012 12:41 AM  
Blogger Marc said...

Lets be real here, this is like the re-invention of a flash bracket, just with a bouncecard. Which makes sense if you are a bouncecard producer like Sunbounce. But a flashbracket with a softbox would probably do all this does, and do it better. The only advantage might be that this will keep the flash weight on the camera and therefore easier to handle than a bracket that sticks out.

September 04, 2012 1:01 AM  
Blogger Ronny said...

What happens when you shooting in portrait orientation? Will it have a know to swivel the bounce? :))

September 04, 2012 3:34 AM  
Blogger Eric Duminil said...

This things is definitely on the genius/insanity line. :D
The only advantage I see in comparison to a small softbox is that you don't need your left arm.
But I think it's inefficient compared to a softbox (especially outdoors), and I think it's too dangerous to use during an event or a wedding. I don't want to end up slapping the bride with a portable wall during the evening, even if it's a kinda soft one.
Now that I think about it, I suppose you can get more smiles and cool expressions from people who've never seen this contraption! :D

September 04, 2012 3:44 AM  
Blogger David Redding said...

Oh yeah, just what I need when I'm trying to blend in and get those great candids at a wedding. Why don't I just stick a big ol' sign on there "Don't look! I'm the photographer"

September 04, 2012 3:46 AM  
Blogger Anselm said...

Funny, I was just thinking about how to solve the no wall problem just this weekend.

September 04, 2012 4:26 AM  
Blogger James Spencer said...

The boy has taste :D
I'd feel a wee bit self conscious using this to be honest, tis pretty out there.

September 04, 2012 5:18 AM  
Blogger Felipe Curvello Anciaes said...

I agree with Jason. You could even use the same arm (or bracket). However, instead of boucing the flash on that card, there could be a softbox with a flash in the place of the card. Ok, it would make your arms support a "heavier" equipment, since the force of the flash on the tipo of the arm would be much greater than the force of a single light card at the same place, but...

September 04, 2012 8:04 AM  
Blogger Brian said...

From the Just-Barely Pertinent Department (but I'm sure I'm not the only one), can you give any more details on the remote camera setup?

Did you need to use one of those incredibly expensive triggering cables? Are there alternatives I don't know about?

I don't mind forking over for the PW's as they get used all the time and almost never fail me, but $100+ for a wire? Come on.

September 04, 2012 9:58 AM  
Blogger Pat Morrissey said...

And it's not even April ...I prefer the brolly on a hard-hat, myself.

September 04, 2012 10:43 AM  
Blogger Mark M. Fredrickson said...

I was playing around with flash-on-a-rope (monopod) yesterday. I decided what would be really helpful would be a detachable flash tube. The battery pack, caps, and controls could sit on a belt, and just the light weight flash tube could be at the end of the stick or flash bracket. It would address some points people made about weight distribution with an off-camera soft box.

September 04, 2012 10:53 AM  
Blogger Nick Arora said...

I disagree with most of you. I think this thing has a few advantages over a TTLed speedlight in a softbox.

1. its light weight and doesn't require your arm to be holding it in place. This means less fatigue. This means better photos if you're a wedding photographer.

2. Some people here are arguing that it makes too big of an impression to be a useful event photography device. Wedding photographers, for example, are supposed to be low key. But consider what happens when you are shooting an event outdoors at night with no walls to bounce off. You are GOING to be using flash. Either setting them up on stands, or hand holding a TTL softbox. all of which create a big impression too. I think this thing is mobile as low key as it gets in that situation. The closest alternative is a simple on-camera flash and that's just horrendous light.

3. By having the flash on camera, you get the advantage of AF-assist! Do you realize how huge that is? This thing will most likely be used outdoors, night-time. Goodluck locking focus in light like that.

4. By having the flash on camera, you get the advantage of on the go flash power adjustments. If you're in TTL mode, just his the flash exposure compensation button (often a dedicated button located right on your camera) and shift it up or down. This could matter if you suddenly switch apertures from F2.8 to F5.6 to photographer a larger group.

5. it packs up compactly.

In short, I think this thing is a good call for wedding photographers who find themselves shooting an outdoor event at night lit only by candle light or something.

September 04, 2012 12:40 PM  
Blogger Paul S said...

I think its a great idea. There have been loads of times I wished I had been closer to a wall(or even had a wall) to bounce off... My only concern would be that the arm seems to be stuck in the same place, so its creating a rather predictable result without too many options to vary the finished effect.... if the arm was extendible and moveable in different directions it may be more flexible but would it be more ungainly and difficult to use? i think so...

Other than that, my only concern is that your son is a Gooners supporter.... well at least he isn't wearing a Man United shirt...

September 04, 2012 1:15 PM  
Blogger Andy Kudlicki said...

> Where'd that second camera
> perspective come from?
> [...] there were a few PocketWizards
> involved. I triggered the BTS camera
> from my PW'd primary camera's shutter
> (via the PC jack->PW) and then had my > primary camera's flash PW'd to
> the BTS camera's PW, which
> was code-hopped so we could do
> all of this with three units.

Before reading this I thought you just triggered the on-camera flash from the BTS camera, with one remote only ;-)
I guess I'm too much of a William d'Ockham kind of guy.

September 04, 2012 1:19 PM  
Blogger Franklin Fitzgerald said...

I'd like to give this Mod a try. I'm an event shooter and I can't stand TTL. It fails be every time. But I love going into a room and dialing in my bounce. I have a feeling that dialing this in would be that difficult. I ned to order today.

September 04, 2012 1:35 PM  
Blogger editwizard said...

David, can you flip that whole contraption to camera-right? That way portrait shots would put the shutter button on top (or to the normal right-hand side with a battery grip).

September 04, 2012 1:39 PM  
Blogger Sailor36 said...

"Horizontal or vertical—doesn't matter, just rotate the camera. If the ball is at upper camera left for horizontal (as if you were hand-holding the flash yourself) a 90-degree camera rotation (primary shutter release now on the bottom right) puts the card on the upper right. Still fine. No adjustment needed."

Let's see: I bought a D4 so I'd have a shutter release and controls at the top right when the camera is in portrait orientation, and now these guys want me to rotate the other way? I don't think so.

September 04, 2012 2:28 PM  
Blogger David Hobby said...


Yep, except for the weight—and torque from the weight way out there.


I could set it to where is worked well both horizontal and vert, with no tweaking between the two.


I'll post a diagram/QA as soon as I come up for air. Shooting heavy mid-week.


Yep, it's ambidextrous to a degree, but it feels better to me on the left. Comes down to that, or where it would be more important to have your shutter on a vertical rotation.


See just above.

September 04, 2012 2:38 PM  
Blogger Kevin Blackburn said...

Very Interesting Idea

September 04, 2012 2:45 PM  
Blogger Raph Nogal Photography said...

This would be perfect for destination wedding photographers photographing a reception on the beach... I could have used something like this last week in Punt Cana. Looks a bit silly, but so it putting a take home container on top of you flash ;)

September 04, 2012 3:55 PM  
Blogger dave moser said...

Another gizmo that, if it's not DOA, will be soon. Just because it CAN be done doesn't mean it should.
We've seen gimmicks come and we've seen them go. I predict we'll see this go...

September 04, 2012 4:59 PM  
Blogger Old Photog said...

New version of a old idea. See United States Patent # 4,099,221. Portable Ceiling Reflector For Photography - July 4, 1978 - Search Google Patents

September 04, 2012 6:45 PM  
Blogger Reid Bowie said...

"what every camera-topped fongsphere user should probably have on instead when they are working outside with no walls or ceilings. (I see those guys, and a reeeeally want to walk up and say something. But I have learned to just shut up and watch.)"

Ha! I learned the same after a woman claimed it "softened the photons..."

September 04, 2012 8:06 PM  
Blogger Blonde Woman Stamping said...

Looks a little unwieldy, but, as a female shooter who has tried and hated flash brackets (too heavy), I'd be willing to give it a try.

September 04, 2012 8:56 PM  
Blogger mstrubbe said...

And to think I've been walking around with a sheet of drywall strapped to my back...

September 04, 2012 9:22 PM  
Blogger Jesus Delgado said...

I'm gonna try swiveling my strobe and back and carrying a piece of foam board. Lighter than a flash. :) I suspect getting better results with closer shots.

September 04, 2012 10:13 PM  
Blogger Lazlo said...

Looks a little much but a lot of things that really soften light do, we're just used to them. It won't be for everybody but nothing is. California Sunbounce makes quality stuff but I could see making my own custom cards for this. In a pinch the pitchfork attachment, the holder, could be used to help get out of the place if the shoot went awry.

September 04, 2012 10:39 PM  
Blogger juxta said...

Why not bounce from a white card fixed to top hat.
That way you look funny but clever, instead of weird but clever.

September 05, 2012 4:02 AM  
Blogger Cher Ping said...

It looks like something I could learn to enjoy working with.

David, have you tried using it in the vertical position? Does that attachment interfere with the comfort of using the vertical grip?

(that's one thing which I wish most accessory producer got right: if your accessory fit on the bottom, please remember that some of us use vertical grips and its very uncomfortable to have a big thing protruding out into our palm when we try to shoot)

September 05, 2012 9:37 AM  
Blogger stan chung said...

Alright David- I'm one of those fongsters- instead of pointing up i point it at.

Else i would have assistant hold a piece of poly. Not ideal.

Something I might buy if it's less than 20 bucks.

September 05, 2012 9:37 AM  
Blogger Tonia Mc Caskill-Johnson said...

Although I probably won't purchase it -- it seems like a nifty idea. There seems to be a shift in portable shapers these days which I am a huge fan of. If I did much event shooting I probably would snatch this right up. Say, how is your Phase One work coming along?

September 05, 2012 2:05 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

The whole rig thing is a bit odd, I just use a white collapsible triangular reflector, hold it in left hand, camera in right, bounce on-camera flash off the reflector held above and behind me.. and collapse it and hide it under my arm when I'm not using it.... I'm sure this obvious idea has been done by many other people...

You can use one of these:

and I found the silver too bright, so I had a white panel sewed onto the silver side too...

September 05, 2012 4:34 PM  
Blogger Nic said...

Two years after you deliver your wedding photos to the happy bride, what will she remember more? That silly photographer with that crazy contraption on his camera? Or the amazing photographs that literally no one else at her outdoor reception could get?

September 05, 2012 10:40 PM  
Blogger Nic said...

Two years after you've delivered your photo package to the bride, what will she remember better; the crazy contraption you had on your camera? Or the stunning photos that no one else at her outdoor reception could get?

September 05, 2012 10:41 PM  
Blogger EAM said...

Being a poor, newbie, kind of photographer, I'm on to the DIY version. Found piece of scrap plexiglass and coated it with some reflective tape (basically the reflective coating on speed limit signs) and used an all-purpose clamp to affix it to a flash arm I got at the local used photography store. Works like a charm!

For all the doubters here - consider walk-around photography when you might encounter different lighting situations that would have you going on-camera, off-camera with softbox,.... Just swivel your flashgun up and bounce it off the ceiling, or swivel it back to the card and you have a nice, controllable fill.

September 06, 2012 4:58 PM  
Blogger wonderlens said...

It does look weird and I think I couldn't spare the bucks. But I agree with Nick Arora further up - the AF-assist of the on-camera flash can be a huge help.
The best I could come up with to make the AF-assist work was an on-camera flash at a low power setting that only gave the AF-assist-light and triggered a second, hand-held flash. The nice thing about that setup is that indoors you can use the on-camera flash as a fill-light, bouncing it off ceilings or walls, but you do have the better definition of the off-camera flash.

September 06, 2012 6:41 PM  
Blogger Wolfgang Kratky said...

DIY version here:

(german only, but easy to understand even if you speak only Chinese, many pix)

September 07, 2012 10:28 AM  
Blogger Sean C said...

Provided you have flash power to spare:

With the flash head still facing the bounce card, flip up the flash head's bounce card for a bit of fill or put on a sto-fen for more fill. Of course you'll be using lots of flash power, but if you've increased ISO to balance ambient at a night event you may still be fine.
I'd think a bit of black gaffers tape on the forward facing side of the sto-fen could reduce the fill if needed.
Getting a key/fill look from a single camera mounted ETTL strobe could be a neat trick.

September 07, 2012 1:25 PM  
Blogger David Hobby said...


Yep, I had heard the were going to post that. (It's actually a very good and comprehensive site run by Sunbounce themselves. I have posted on it a few times before.)

Thanks all the same!

September 08, 2012 4:45 PM  
Blogger petersmith said...

Keep up your good work With, thanks for sharing it.

Pawn Jewellery

April 16, 2013 3:09 AM  
Blogger PhillyBill said...

Another, more presentable, DIY version:

July 18, 2013 9:17 AM  

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