Tutorial: Cateye Popup Flash Deflector

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Cateye: A Pop-Up Flash Reflector You Need Right Now

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NOTE: It seems this item has become unavailable in the USA, as the creator is fighting a patent claim (unjustified in my opinion) from a larger company. If you are in Europe (and perhaps elsewhere) you can order from Amazon UK. Note that there are separate versions for Canon and Nikon.

Video Transcript

Hi, I'm Phil Steele. And the other day this arrived in my mailbox. This is the prototype of something called a "cat-eye pop up flash reflector" and it was sent to me by a young inventor who created this, tinkering around in his garage--a guy by the name of Eric Eckstein. And he sent it to me to test out. And I've got to tell you, I love this thing and I'm going to show you why.

Now first, what is the problem that this device is designed to solve? Now if you have a digital SLR with a popup flash, you probably know that the quality of light from this flash is not the best light in the world. In fact, it's possibly the worst light in the world. It's straight on along the lens axis so it makes everything look flat and washed out and harsh and the light bounces straight back at the lens and makes hot spots. It's pretty much the worst light you can get in photography.

Now there are different solutions to this. Of course the ultimate thing is to take an off camera flash or some kind of off camera light coming in from another angle. Now you can do that and I have a whole course on my site describing how to do that. If you're interested in that you can check that out. But that's also a complicated and expensive solution.

There are other solutions. The second best thing to do is to take a flash like this and put it on the hot shoe of your camera and tilt it so it's pointed up at the ceiling and then it's bouncing light off of the ceiling or off of a wall or something onto your subject. It makes much more flattering light. The only downside to that is these flashes cost minimum of a couple hundred bucks a piece. And it's as heavy as a brick on your camera.

So this is where a device like the cat-eye comes in and saves the day. So the cat-eye is just designed to interrupt the beam from the built in flash and bounce it off a ceiling and you can just slip it into the hot shoe of your flash like this and it's mounted on your camera. It's that easy. And when it's in that position, when you fire, the light hits that, goes up, bounces off a ceiling and hits your subject.

Now of course this doesn't work if you're outdoors and it doesn't work if you have a black ceiling. But a lot of the time we're in shooting situations where we have a white or light colored ceiling or wall or something near us that the light can bounce off of and go hit the subject.

Now let me show you how well this thing really works. So here is a photo of Julie taken with a regular popup flash on the camera. And as always, it's pretty unflattering light. The light's bouncing straight back along the lens axis so it flattens everything out and it looks kind of harsh and kind of has hot spots. Now compare that to the same photo taken with the cat-eye and it's bouncing light off the ceiling and as you can see, with the light coming from a better angle and from a bigger apparent source on the ceiling, it makes much more flattering light. And when you put them side by side you can really see the difference.

Now just as another quick comparison, here is another photo of Julie where you can see an actual hot spot glaring on the wall in the photo taken with the popup flash and in the cat-eye photo you don't see that hot spot at all because the light's coming from a better angle.

Of course this is not just for taking pictures of people. You can take pictures of anything. You can shoot objects. Suppose you have a little wire and bead sculpture of a monkey that you need to sell on EBay, like most of us do. Well, you can shoot it with the regular, built in popup flash on your camera and it will look like a cheap, little piece of junk or you can shoot it with a cat-eye and as you can see, now it looks like a museum quality piece of art.

So I think you can see why I love this little thing. Now of course the cat-eye is not the first flash deflecting device ever to come along. I've seen a similar thing called a "light scoop" that's been around for a while. But I'll tell you why I like the cat-eye better. Now first of all, it only cost half as much as something like the light scoop. And second of all, it's almost indestructible. I mean you can bend it like that and it's almost impossible to break this thing.

Third, it's really flat, thin--you can slide it into a camera bag beside a lens. It takes up almost no space. Or you can put it in a pocket without getting strange looks from the ladies. It's also a handy mirror. How many times have you been in the field and you need a mirror for your model to touch up her makeup and there's nothing around? This thing is a great little mirror. I suppose even if you're lost in the wilderness you could use it to signal a search and rescue plane.

But seriously, the thing I love most about this is that it's not the product of some big photo gear manufacturing company. This is something that was just invented by a regular dudeā€¦ All right, a regular dude with an aerospace engineering degree but still, a regular dude, tinkering in his garage trying to solve a problem that we all have. And he nailed it. And I love that kind of ingenuity and I think it's worth rewarding. So right now I'm sure there is a Chinese factory worker somewhere watching this video and mapping out the specs of this thing to make a knockoff version. But if I were you I would buy it from the guy who invented it so I'm going to put a link to his Amazon page down below this video. I'll talk to you soon.