Westcott's Convertible Double-fold Umbrella: Made Just for Us

I had a few minutes after work before dinner was ready tonight, and decided to quickly try out a new toy: The Westcott convertible double-fold umbrella.

Moishe at MPEX actually had these manufactured special (just for us) and he has gotten a big batch of them in. MPEX logo on the side and all. I can't tell you how cool this is that he would go and have something made-to-order like this.

I have known about it since October (these things do take a little time) but just got a chance to play with one for the first time today.

I really like this umbrella.

Here's why. It is efficient when used as either a shoot-through umbrella or as a bounce umbrella. In shoot-through mode, this headshot of my daughter was done with a Vivitar 285HV on just 1/16th power at ASA 400. And I still got f/6.3 as a working aperture.

(Click for a big version.)

In shoot-through mode, the beauty of this thing is that it can be used as a very soft light source, because you can put the umbrella very close to the subject. That makes it both soft and efficient if you are trying to squeeze some extra f/stops out of your small flash, which is a good thing.

Here's a wide shot of the setup, which we were racing through before mom called us both to dinner. (Spaghetti night - everybody's happy...)

You can see how large a light source this setup is when you bring it right in close. I picked up some internal lens flare because I included the raw light source in the photo, BTW.

But slip the cover back on that bad boy, and it offers more control of the light spill light, like a traditional umbrella. Even shooting right into the flash with the backing on, it can barely eke out a medium grey through that material. That's my boy, by the way, grabbing some equal time in this shot.

Just like the other Westcott double-folds, it is very compact when collapsed. For you international types a piece of US paper currency, by comparison, is about 15 cm long.

And this umbrella won't set you back much more than a sawbuck, either. At $26, I think it is a very fair price for all of the versatility it offers.

It's lightweight, which is actually good for my purposes. It is not particularly heavy-duty, but with care it should hold up for many assignments. Fortunately, it ships with both a nylon cover and a clear plastic case. This will protect it while in your bag, rattling around in your trunk. That's where your gear takes the hard knocks.

And back to the thought of Midwest proactively having these things made for us, I can't tell you how pleased I am about that.


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Blogger denise said...

I love this! Definitely have to buy one and test it out. :)

February 13, 2007 11:22 PM  
Blogger neumero4te said...

I saw that on the MPEX site this afternoon and ordered one with a stand and holder (just got a new flash). I hadn't even seen this article yet, but the previous mention of a special order Strobist item crossed my mind. What a coincidence... or not. Whose idea was this anyway?

February 13, 2007 11:55 PM  
Anonymous bugtrumpet said...

The crucial piece of information that is gonna sell these pupies is, does it say "Strobist" anywhere?

OK, I'm likely going to buy one anyway but what a concept! We could identify each other everywhere we go! Of course, that may be scary to some. :-)

February 14, 2007 12:08 AM  
Blogger Bryan said...

Looks great. I just ordered three. I can't wait to try them out!

February 14, 2007 12:57 AM  
Blogger Andrew Smith said...

It's so sickening that you guys get all this great stuff so cheap! I'm trying to track down some 385HVs here in the UK and the best price new is £79, approx $140! SB24s? Forget about it! The ultra-compacy Manfrotto light stands come in at around $80 although I have found one dealer doing them for around $65. You can bet we'd be paying somewhere in the region of $70 for these umbrellas. No fair!! :-)

February 14, 2007 4:59 AM  
Anonymous Pixxil said...

I was looking at these yesterday... and was going to order them tonight...

So 2x westcott's are now on their way... yay... I just hope MPEx still have stock after your plug!!

February 14, 2007 5:52 AM  
Blogger BillRead said...

Hmmm, is it just me, or does the MPEX site not work with Macs? When I got to the checkout for a bunch of stuff, and it asked for my CC info, none of the pulldowns would populate with anything but a checkbox. I literally could not check out. I used Safari; I sent them a note as well.

February 14, 2007 9:47 AM  
Anonymous Tim said...

Cool, I stopped in mpex yesterday to buy an umbrella and saw these listed. Of course I grabbed one! Didnt hurt that I knew 'something' was coming but hadnt been announced on strobist yet, I hoped to get in before the rush!

February 14, 2007 9:57 AM  
Blogger Cary said...

I wonder if Moishe would sell just the cover for those of us who already have a few Wescott shoot thru compact umbrellas sitting around??? Hint Hint!

February 14, 2007 10:27 AM  
Blogger Felipe Pereira said...

Anyone have any idea if one could frabricate a cover for an existing umbrella fairly easily? I don't know about the construction of convertible umbrellas, but it would be cool if they sold standalone covers for those of us who invested in white ones previously. Just a thought :)

February 14, 2007 11:24 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Must just be you as I had no problems placing the order with my Mac using Safari.

best rgds!

February 14, 2007 12:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It mystifies me that umbrella makers supply black covers for translucent umbrellas. If the covers were silver on the inside, they would reflect the light back through the fabric where it could do some good, rather than just absorbing it.

February 14, 2007 12:45 PM  
Blogger d. said...

Just picked up a stand, one of these, and an umbrella bracket. I've been mulling it over but this was too good to pass up. I thank you, and my credit card company thanks you!

February 14, 2007 1:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just a heads up. Their web ordering system is horrible. On the flip side, speaking to them over the phone is wonderful. I'd definitely recommend just calling in your order with them. Very friendly.

February 14, 2007 2:05 PM  
Anonymous Stephen said...

I agree with billbread...no dropdown on the checkout...and I am on a PC.

David...you really are remarkable...who would think of the things you do...most creative and very much appreciated...I really love the stand back photos...of your daughter of the macaroni and cheese...helps me out so much.

February 14, 2007 2:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I received mine today (ordered last Thursday). The only ouch was they charged me $12.00 for USPS shipping on a $26.00 item! Even weirder is that they actually shipped it UPS ground (which according to the UPS site should have cost ~$5.00). I've emailed them (I hoping the overcharge was just a mistake)...

February 14, 2007 2:12 PM  
Anonymous Asv said...

RE: Billread works fine with firefox on my Mac.

February 14, 2007 2:36 PM  
Blogger d. said...

I had some of the same problems with the ordering system, used the back/forward browser buttons until I was able to complete the transaction

February 14, 2007 3:29 PM  
Anonymous Marcos said...

RE: Billread, I am also a Mac and Safari user. I had the same problem the first time I tried to checkout. Then, I quitted Safari and logged on again. Boom! The CC options were back there.

February 14, 2007 5:06 PM  
Anonymous Greg Brophy said...

I notice you said you were using the Vivitar 285HV. Do you suggest that strobe for those of us who don't have the time to deal with ebay?

February 14, 2007 6:34 PM  
Blogger Andy Glogower said...

The shipping is not a mistake. I was charged the same shipping cost.
David, I know you work closely with mpex and I do like to purchase things through this type of recipricating environment. However I sure don't enjoy being over charged for shipping. We could get that anywhere.

February 14, 2007 8:56 PM  
Blogger BillRead said...

Thanks all who responded. I quit and went back and it was all working just fine. One of those things I suppose.

February 14, 2007 9:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Adorama charges $5.00 to ship a Westcott Collapsible Umbrella via 3-5 day shipping. B&H charges $4.95 for UPS 3-day service. Had I known MPEX was going to charge me $12.00 I would not have purchased it from them. I paid $38.00 for an umbrella - paying a premium price for gear is kinda against the Strobist philosophy ;-) To make matters worse they never even responded to my email...

February 14, 2007 9:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow. That looks like a bit of extra above the actual shipping. Out of curiousity, does the black cover do much or does it just absorb light? The umbrella alone (or a silver collapsible) sells for $20 on Amazon. When you add that to the Vivitar being $99 at MPEX versus $89 at Adorama or $90 at B&H, I'm starting to wonder how good a deal MPEX is in general on new stuff - if the shipping is done the same way then getting the 285HV at MPEX would end up being $17 more? Would David make as much for the site if people bought these products (including the 285HV) through Amazon?

February 14, 2007 10:25 PM  
Blogger Nathan said...

Just clicked 'order'. I tried USPS to avoid the $12 UPS grounds shipping.. we'll see what it ends up being since the shipping pricing is pretty vague. David, I discovered Strobist when you were three months into it and I have read every post since then. Google delivers every new post via RSS feed - awesome. I thought I would let you know that I agree with bugtrumpet in that MPEX could have sold a lot more Wescott's if they had slapped the Strobist logo on there. I bought one anyway and justified the high shipping cost knowing that a few cents would go to support you and yours! Happy Valentine's Day from sunny SoCal.

February 14, 2007 11:46 PM  
Blogger Noah said...

Odd. I called MPEX today to order one of these and was told that they're completely out.

February 15, 2007 12:57 AM  
Anonymous Jonathan Ryan said...

andrew smith - you're right UK prices are always higher :(

However I ordered a couple of these yesterday from Mpex. Shipping is $42 which sounds a lot but that makes each brolly "only" £24 delivered. It might be worth getting together with a couple of mates and putting in a bulk order.

My only real worry is that USPS generally gets stopped for VAT and duty payments so this could cost me an extra 20 - 25%. We'll see.

February 15, 2007 1:53 AM  
Anonymous Richard said...

Hi, anyone in the UK want to combine orders to save on shipping?

I'm looking to order a couple and noticed that the shipping seems to be only slightly more for ordering five or six...($39 for two against $60 for six, effectively halves the shipping per brolly)

I need to check what the customs limits are as they would defeat the object, but wanted to see if anyone interested?


February 15, 2007 7:41 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nathan, you must have missed what I wrote yesterday, "$12.00 for USPS shipping (what my bill says) on a $26.00 item! Even weirder is that they actually shipped it UPS..." I too thought USPS would be the cheapest solution. They shipped it UPS anyway. What really annoys me is that I checked comparible sites for shipping on a compact double-fold umbrella (B&H, Adorama, etc.) - all said about $5.00. So when MPEX said they'd calculate shipping later I didn't give it a second thought, until I got my bill. To makes matters worse, I've since calculated what the actual UPS charge was (2lbs from their zip to my zip, ground) = $5.00. USPS Priority mail would ahve been about the same. So far their customer support has been less than stellar - no response to my email inquiries. I support Strobist and LOVE David's articles and advice - I just think I'll avoid MPEX from now one (the umbrella will be my one and only purchase). FYI, resellerratings has an entry for them, but no reviews. I'll be adding my review of their shipping policy/fees and lack of response to my inquiries later today (maybe I'll be their first review). It will not be high.

February 15, 2007 9:44 AM  
Anonymous Aidan said...

Richard - I might be interested in this, but I would have to check the financial situation ;)


February 15, 2007 12:03 PM  
Blogger Chris said...

I'm another who would be interested in a multiple shipment of Westcotts.

Is there are thread in the flickr forum where we could all arrange to meet?

February 15, 2007 6:34 PM  
Blogger jfreak said...

I placed an order with MidWest and did not receive an order confirmation or any communication at all. I purchased from another source, but I will not try to purchase from them again. I am not even sure how to cancel the order since I did not receive any email confirmation to reference. I consider this to be poor customer service.

March 02, 2007 7:57 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi UK Richard - yes, I'd like to go in on a shared buy. I actually emailed them a few days ago to find out shipping prices to UK for a bunch of stuff including 2 of these brollies [they'll be sold out now the word's out about them, I imagine], but didn't get a reply :-/

Andy Mac

July 09, 2007 1:19 PM  
Anonymous Gary Todd said...

Hello, I'm in the UK (Jersey, Channel Islands to be honest) and I'd like to get one of these so would be happy to be part of a bigger order to save on shipping costs if anyone is interested. Thanks - Gary

July 31, 2007 3:11 AM  
Blogger Romeo said...

I got two umbrellas from MPEX because of this POST, but i just cant shake the fact that one of the umbrellas was a return... One has the New umbrella smell and the other doesnt. One has the base cover and the other one is missing it. The bottom of the base "where it ends". I like the umbrellas but I just can't shake that out.

March 27, 2010 1:07 AM  
Blogger jim "shu" carroll said...

if you buy some decent photoflex umbrellas with fiberglass stays you will NEVER think a double fold is "handy" again. these are crap. fragile to the max. faggheadaboutit. you can carry something 27" long.

January 03, 2014 1:42 PM  

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