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Westcott 59″ Zeppelin Review

UPDATE: August 2 2017

I have written a separate article about using a Cheetahstand Chop Stick with a Westcott Zeppelin. You can read that article here.

UPDATE: 2-27-2015

I really love the Broncolor Para line of modifiers which allows you to adjust the light from full to spot by simply pushing the strobe in or out of the parabolic modifier. BUT it’s 4700.00! So I improvised and rigged up my Westcott Zeppelin to do the same thing.

The Zeppelin has a zipper at the bottom of the modifier, so you can put a light up into the modifer and move it back and forth. BUT since I tend to move my light around quite a bit during any given session having to move TWO lighttands is a pain in the you know what. And I cuss enough even when things are going great.

At the end of the boom I will install a PCB Einstein using their on axis ring normally used for their PLM line of parabolic umbrellas. This allows me to place the strobe dead center in the modifier.

One Manfrotto mini boom , one Bogen Magic arm and clamp is all it takes!


Original Post 9-10-2014

“Mark what the hell is that thing?!” This has been an almost universal first reaction each time I’ve set up my Westcott 59″ Zeppelin light modifier. Actually let me take that back, it’s NOT the first thing they ask, but I’ll get to that later…

Although she's only 5-2 one of Savage Jazz Dance Company's dancers clowns around by using my Zeppelin as her personal tent!
Although she’s only 5-2 one of Savage Jazz Dance Company’s dancers clowns around by using my Zeppelin as her personal tent!

Westcott’s Zeppelin line of modifiers are not that old. I honestly don’t know when they were released or how I became aware of their existence, but once I saw its shape I was intrigued. My modifier of choice for many situations (not all) was my tried and true Elinchrom Rotalux 39″ Deep Octa modifier. I do remember where I first became aware of the Elinchrom and that was after watching a BTS video of Joey Lawrence on location. The light produced by that modifier almost seemed magical, soft yet punchy with a quality I had not experienced with the modifiers I had been using.

So I researched the Deep Octa further and found other pros were just as enamored with its magic light qualities. One pro simply said, “I think that the light just bounces around in there and takes a little more time to exit in the most wonderful way.” So I took the plunge and purchased one.

After using the Deep Octa what I wanted was a larger size for groups and even softer light. The shape of the Zeppelin appeared to be similar yet even more oblong than the Elinchrom. I surmised it might produce the same magical light. I took the plunge and ordered one. On the day my Zeppelin arrived I was a bit shocked at the size of the box. It was HUGE and I simply dismissed the box size figuring it was ‘carefully packed’ meaning lots of packing. I was surprised once I opened the box – it’s a huge modifier which damn near filled the entire box.

The massive size of the 59″ Westcott is easily seen in this photo. And yes I could have used a higher ceiling!

Included with the Zeppelin are both an inner and outer diffusion panel along with a skirt that goes on the back of the unit once it’s assembled. There are sixteen rods which give the Zeppelin its shape.

Up until the Zeppelin, my Elinchrom was the most difficult modifier to assemble. Because of the size of the 59″ Zeppelin and number of rods, at first it’s quite daunting to assemble. The rods tend to go all over the place unless you place the modifier unassembled on the ground. Placing the first two rods just below the zipper into the speed ring and then the opposite rods into the ring the rest of the assembly becomes easier. And like all things, doing it the first time is the most difficult. I left the unit assembled for two full days so the rods would ‘relax’ and it actually made reassembly easier.

My client’s first question when I begin the assembly process, “Uh Mark, do you need any help putting that thing together?” I laugh and simply say, “This reminds me of every stunningly good looking girlfriend I’ve ever had. She’s quite the hassle, but the beauty she produces makes it worthwhile.”

As of this writing (September 2014) I have had the Zeppelin for about a month and have used it in four separate client sessions, two of which were for action shots, specifically dance. Two others were for more traditional shots, portrait publicity. Due to NDA reasons I cannot show images from one of the sessions because the client won’t release those images for about six weeks.

Zep smhs
In this session I am using the 59″ Zeppelin as my key light and my 39″ Elinchrom Rotalux Deep Octa as my fill/rim light.

For the dance sessions I used the Zeppelin without the outer diffusion panel. I found that it allowed me to more easily control any light spill and gave me a more specular look to the images. The inner diffusion panel has a center ring that is a two stop panel to prevent any hot spots from the flash tube. The fabric that surrounds that circular panel is one stop. It’s very effective. I did use both diffusion panels for the static shots and one of them is included in this article which is of the singer/song writer. The light, whether using a single diffusion panel or both is simply spectacular! Soft, yet with more contrast than a more shallow softbox and because of its massive size, can be place further away from the talent than smaller modifiers. As a matter of fact, for the session I cannot show I stood directly in front of the Zeppelin to take some of the shots. Yes it was elevated, but I still covered the front of the Zep and it produced wonderful light.

For the musician, I was projecting another image behind her onto the seamless using a common LCD projector and could effectively feather the light away from the background so as not to blow out the projected image. It was almost pointing completely away from the talent, yet created a wonderful wrap around her face. Amazing.

Finally enough room for the 59″ Zeppelin. Granted it even looks large on a theatre stage!

The mounting of the speed ring is really quite clever. Because the speed ring is mounted to a metal bracket none of the weight of the Zeppelin is carried on the strobe’s mounting points, which is a real plus for a modifier of this size. One disadvantage of the speed ring/bracket setup is it restricts the upward/downward angle of the Zeppelin due to clearance issues. This is easily resolved by placing a boom onto your stand and then placing the bracket/speed ring onto a boom or short arm. This allows you to adjust the upward or downward angle of the Zeppelin as you see fit.

OSA zep
As you can see, the Zeppelin is great for group shots!

A final issue and this will not apply to everyone, is the ability to transport the 59″ Zeppelin for travel. The lion’s share of my work is done on a client’s site or on location, which means I am constantly traveling via airlines. The longest checked bag allowed without extreme expense is 54″. I often use a hard sided golf case to transport my modifiers if I don’t plan to rent at the client’s location. Because the interior dimensions of my case is 49″, the rods of the Zeppelin won’t fit. I can ship the unit to the client, but because my trips have been booked back to back, it just didn’t allow enough time to assure the Zeppelin would arrive in time. And because the Zeppelin is relatively new, none of the rental houses I use stock them, at least not yet.

I have yet to try one of its features, the ability to place a light inside the unit through its zippered compartment. One must purchase Westcott’s reflector for that feature, but since it will allow me to produce a huge ring light affect I plan to use that feature in the future.

Would I purchase one again? Well I have one arriving tomorrow, their 47″ Zeppelin which WILL fit into my golf case. Enough said….

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I’m thinking of getting a deep large para box, but not sure which one. I wonder how you compare between the Zeppelin 59″ and Cheetahstand rice bowl 60″ RC-150? Thanks.

I recently bought the Ricebowl in the 36″ and 48″ sizes and sent them back immediately upon receiving them. They are made of a thin rip-stop camping tent like material and the silver lining is not as reflective as any softbox I’ve ever seen. It diffused the light bouncing back too much, which is especially a problem if you use it with a focusing rod like the Broncolor deep para’s. Also, some of the stitching began to pull out when taking it apart just after this single initial setup. Not recommended. I was also drawn to the grid and am a bit nonplussed as to why they aren’t widely available with other brands, but I’m now looking at sacrificing the grid and trying Westcott, especially since they offer a kit to add a focusing rod so you don’t have to craft something yourself or use a second stand with a boom arm.

Thanks Mark. I just posted again on another review, sorry :) I always enjoyed your reviews.

Hi Kenny, if you plan to use the modifier professionally or quite a bit I would recommend either of the Westcott Zeppelins. If you plan to use them casually then I would recommend the Rice Bowls. The reason is the Zeppelins are very well constructed and the materials used are more durable. This is NOT to say that the Rice Bowl line is cheap. It is a great value.

Hello Mark, thanks for the review of this parabolic reflector.

What do you think of this Westcott arm shown here ( for use with Paul Buff Einstein and these Westcott parabolic reflectors as compared to your solution to use the Bogen mini boom and magic arm?

Do you think this Westcott boom arm solution is sturdy enough to hold the Einsten unit? Were you aware of this solution when you wrote this review?

You can see the arm beginning at 1:36 of video. Thanks.

Hey Mark

Wondering whether you still using Zeppelin 59″ ? I am planning to buy one but on another blog read that you have moved to Conon Mark deep indirect softbox. I couldn’t find CononMark in UK (neither on Ebay UK). So thinking of Zeppelin 59 or 47 but I need your opinion given its been more than a year since you wrote this review.

I am getting the Zeppelin upgradefrom my XXL but I need to add the Mounting Bracket and the Arm. Looking at the Chopstick though it looks like a combination of bracket AND arm in one piece. Do you have an idea if the Zeppelin will work with the Cheetahstand Chopstick without requiring any additional parts from Westcott?
Sorry, not even sure if you have tried the Cheetahstands but I thought I would ask. :)