Versatile Good-Sized Umbrella for the Control Freak

Review by Fernando Santos

Photographic umbrellas have lost some popularity, even though they’re an inexpensive and versatile light modifier. Nowadays, people seem to prefer softboxes and octaboxes, ignoring the benefits of umbrellas. This Manfrotto 4-in-1 Umbrella belongs to a Joe McNally product line, and that means you’ll have features not usually present in equivalent products. In case you didn’t know it, Joe McNally is an absolute master in light control and has very demanding requirements, so you can benefit from his product designs. 

This umbrella used to be a Lastolite product, but Manfrotto is merging most of their brands under the Manfrotto name. Product quality is top notch, as everything I’ve ever got from Manfrotto. The 55″ (140 cm) umbrella has a reasonable size, and it can be used as white bounce, a silver bounce, translucent shoot-through, and translucent shoot-through with a square mask. The latter choice will transform the 55″ umbrella into something similar to a smaller, squared-shape softbox, by simply removing a square central part of the umbrella cover. Since you can easily remove the whole umbrella cover to accommodate the different shooting options, you can also, for example, remove just half of it and use the shoot-through umbrella as if you had a flag blocking part of the light. 

The package includes a nylon bag for storage and carrying, and a small instruction leaflet; but it’s really easy to understand. The umbrella rods are strong enough and, because they’re not made of metal, they won’t damage easily, and should be able to withstand the abuse of professional use. 

Even considering all the usage advantages, unique product features, as well as product quality, the Joe McNally 4-in-1 Umbrella still feels a little pricey, which may scare some people away. But, if you don’t have at least one umbrella in your kit, this may be a good option to consider.