SaxonPC Grids: Straddling Store-bought and DIY

Like McNally says, if you want to make something more interesting, don't light all of it. To that end, I use grid spots a lot. In fact, probably just as often as I use umbrellas.

My workhorse speedlight grid has long been the HonlPhoto 1/8". But for those looking for a lower entry point (or more extreme beam widths) SaxonPC grids offer a second choice.

They are both designed to be used on speedlights, but take very different approaches from there. Today, a head-to-head comparison to help you decide which best suits your needs.

SaxonPC grids are sort of a DIY craft project turned into a business. Essentially, they are stock sections of lightweight grid material wrapped in strips of adhesive craft foam. They come in different beam widths, and cost less than bucks. (Prices vary by beam width.)

They slide right onto your flash with a friction fit, as seen in the photo. I use them mostly for extreme beam widths, as in the 10-degree model shown. (The taped label is my addition. It helps me ID the grid—I color code them—and also gives them some needed structural support.)

Under $10 for a grid sounds like a no-brainer, but there are some get-what-you-pay-for items to consider.

First off, the friction fit (which I like) is also a restriction. Whereas the Honl SpeedGrid is a universal fit, the Saxons are flash-head specific. So if you own a mix of small-head (i.e. SB-800) and large head (i.e., LP160) flashes—as I do—they will not be easily interchangeable.

Honl grids, on the other hand, are one-size-fits-all. They will fit anything up to and including the big-headed Vivitar 285 via their Velcro mounting system. I long-ago ditched the Velcro for an elastic speed mount hack.

The other difference is, IMO, more significant. The Saxons are made of adhesive craft foam and ultralight grid material. You can barely feel the weight of one in your hand. If you are going to carry them around in a bag or roller, you'll want to create/improvise some sort of internal case or protection for them or they won't last you very long.

So yeah, they are cheaper. But I have grown to think of them as consumables rather than gear. In other words, some you likely end up buying more than once. (And I have.) With the Honl's, it's buy-once-and-done.

Plus, even though Honls are bigger they take up less room in your bag because they do not require any type of protection in your case. Just find that last few spare cubic inches and cram them in.

How indestructible are they? Well, that's my car resting on one above. You get the idea.

That said, if you are very careful and can protect the Saxons during transport (and can deal with the flash-head-specific sizing) the Saxons offer a cheaper alternative.

The Honl 1/8" (which I much prefer over the 1/4" model) is gear. It's built to take the punishment of your grip bag. But for those light of wallet (and tender of touch) Saxons can offer an alternative way to restrict your beam.


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Blogger udijw said...

funny, I went to google to see what Straddling is.
Strobist came in as second result.
I've been useing these grids for a long time and as long as handled careful they rock.
As a proactive measure I gaffered around the external foam hosing.

May 17, 2012 6:45 AM  
OpenID icie said...

My current mainstay in terms of grids is also a kind of DIY-turned-business solution.
It's a set of grids by a seller on ebay called "honeygrids" who seems to specialise in honeycomb grids.
They encapsulate the grids in clear acrylic and velcro, and supply small sheets of velco hooks to attach them to Honl-style speed straps. It's a good balance between cost and useability, and I prefer them to the Honl grids because they seem to be more solid and are also more compact.

May 17, 2012 7:47 AM  
Blogger budrowilson said...

Very comprehensive comparison. Years ago, I initially purchased a Honl 1/8 Grid when I was shooting primarily 285HVs. Then, I picked up a whole set of SaxonPC grids (made for the 285HVs) for about the same price as one Honl. I basically stopped using the Honl, as the SaxonPC grids gave me the ultimate in flexibility.

However, I started picking up several different shoe-mount flashes whenever I ran across a good deal. Eventually, I ditched the 285HVs all together. At that point, the Honl became much more useful because of its universal fit. Even though I shoot mostly with monos now, I still pull out the Honl grid occasionally when I need a touch of light somewhere.

May 17, 2012 7:48 AM  
Blogger Sando said...

I got a pack of Honl stuff together with my photo magazone subscription. A Honl Grid, a GOBO, 2 Speed Straps and a Snoot. I really like the stuff because it's robust, lightweight and easy to carry. As you said "just cram it in". Never used the Saxon Grids but seen that I don't have a car myself and because of that have to either rely on other people and their cars or carry all my stuff in one bagpack I really like stuff that is nearly unbreakable.

Ciao Björn

May 17, 2012 9:27 AM  
Blogger Matt Rupp said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

May 17, 2012 10:58 AM  
Blogger Matt Rupp said...

I made one of these during the black straw craze. It looked similar but used several layers of black Coroplast. Also, the black craft foam had a velcro on a band craft foam to tighten it to the flash head. I never put it in a special case and it is still going strong. It is a pretty easy DIY. Get some scrap Coroplast from a local sign shop, craft foam and some velcro with adhesive on the back.

May 17, 2012 11:12 AM  
Blogger dennis sevilla said...

They also offer grids for beauty dishes for $40+ (instead of $80+ usually). I think they only have 24" but you can ask them to trim it to 22".

May 17, 2012 1:24 PM  
Blogger Sando said...

Unfortunately the Saxon Grids are hard to get in Germany as is many other photographic equipment. Posted an entire blog entry about this whole situation on my blog a few weeks ago.
You can get the HONL equip at now but try getting the Saxon grids....
It's nice to read those comparisons but sometimes you don't have a choice because you can either buy the stuff you get in your country or you try to get the cheaper stuff from the US and then pay for the shipping (which can be very expensive).

May 17, 2012 2:45 PM  
Blogger Brian said...

While I prefer the build-quality of the Honl grids for direct-speedlite attachment, I did try a SaxonPC grid for my homemade (David Tejada-style) beauty dish.

For $25, I got the 16" square raw grid material from SaxonPC and had them cut it into a 15" circle, which fits the 14" bowl with some overhang all around.

Without a casing of sorts, the grid material is a little flimsy but does the job quite well.

Bonus: if you bought the Home Depot/Lowes bowl to make the dish from and kept the little metal clips which attached the strings it came with, you can re-use the clips (through their holes in the lip of the bowl) to attach the grid to the bowl with.

May 17, 2012 3:09 PM  
Blogger Albert said...

The one thing you have to look out for with the Honl grids is the straw section. I had my Honl in my bag and it got mashed up next to a Magic Arm and the joint smooshed it a bit. I used a pen tip to reshape the holes, but no longer like new. Works though.

May 17, 2012 11:14 PM  
Blogger Bill Gekas said...

Great post, I agree! I've been using the saxonpc grids for a while now and for the $$'s they seem to be more than adequate for my light duty usage.

The added bonus being they come in quite a few different beam widths as well for more precise light placement!

I bought a set with the wider openings and gaffer tape to the flashes with smaller heads!

May 18, 2012 12:11 AM  
Blogger robogobo said...

In the old days, it was all DIY. The workshop is sadly no longer a part of the modern studio for most people. I love seeing the "hacks" and "mods" here on Strobist, but in my younger days before everything was store bought, we called this all in a days work.

May 18, 2012 4:05 AM  
Blogger emike said...

I use the Saxon PC grids a lot, and, as i chose the wrong size when ordering, i use them reversed with 2 little pieces of gaffer tape to make them stick to the flash. Used this way, they look like a very little gridded snoot, and are very versatile : they fit all my different speedlights without any problem.


May 21, 2012 3:27 AM  
Blogger Simon said...

I bought a multi-cell pack a few years ago from SaxonPC. At the times, they weren't aware of their "value" for strobist photographer so they didn't have their lighting stuff up on their website.

I received the grids, took some hair ties my girlfriend had, cut them to have some long elastics and tied them to the grids like a mask. They now fit on any flash.

May 22, 2012 12:35 AM  
Blogger michaelcraigharrisphoto said...

Thanks for posting this review, David! I know Jason personally and have used his grids for a long time now. By the way, I have never had one break or fall apart yet, but I do tend to misplace them a lot! Luckily, I have quick access to more of 'em.

June 18, 2012 6:37 PM  

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