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My Paul Buff PLM Umbrella is Broken!

Frustration! My Paul Buff 64" PLM umbrella is broken!

Frustration! The factory warranty on my Paul C. Buff 64″ soft-silver umbrella ran out exactly 52 days ago — less than two full months ago. Last night my PLM completely disintegrated. The (what looks to me to be a rather flimsy, thin and fragile) wire ring, which the umbrella ribs attach to at the top point of the umbrella, snapped upon opening it. The umbrella is no longer usable. It’s entirely FUBAR.

What’s really frustrating is that it was hardly used! I mean REALLY, hardly used. I bought it the summer before last and used it on only two shoots that summer — it got opened perhaps four or five times, and closed perhaps four or five times that year. It was used for one shoot in 2014 — again, opened once or twice and closed once or twice. It wasn’t used again until a shoot this past August, where it was opened and closed once more. The rest of that time it has remained folded up in storage and untouched. And now, last night, I open it and it just all falls apart on me — just from opening it normally. Insane!

When I purchased it I had originally planned on using it much more than it ended up being used. But, it just so happened that I’ve been doing a lot of in-studio work and not much outdoor work over that time period, and the 64″ PLM isn’t practical in my studio environment. However, I’ve got a shoot coming up in four days which for which I was planning on using it — I guess I’m going to have to go to my 7′ Westcott for that one. But, of course, the 64″ PLM diffuser sock doesn’t fit over my 7′ Westcott. And, I really wanted that big soft-lighter quality to the light. Damn! Damn! Damn!

Man! I can’t believe I only got four shoots out of the damned thing before it went belly up! I know Paul Buff stuff isn’t exactly built like Profoto, or anything, but four shoots? And, never experiencing any kind of fall, or rough handling, or unusual wear and tear? C’mon! That’s a little crazy. No?

Now I’m really hesitant to buy any more Paul Buff modifiers. I’ve been giving serious thought recently to acquiring a Paul Buff Octabox, but now? I just don’t know. I love my Paul Buff Einsteins and have never had any problems with them. But, electronics and light modifiers are two entirely different kinds of animals. I DO NOT want to drop the cash on an octabox just to get four or five shoots out of the thing before the speed-ring rips off of it, or something, and it becomes unusable.

It’s a damned shame. The PLM gave nice light. It really did. Now it’s just junk. I’m not too happy with Paul C. Buff stuff right about now, I can tell you. Argh! Four shoots! If it had to break, why couldn’t it have broken two months ago while the thing was at least still under warranty?

So, anyway… here’s an interesting thing about it all. Today, I browse on over to the Paul Buff website as I’m trying to decide whether or not to buy a replacement (Who knows, right? Maybe the PLM I got was just a flukey lemon that was built with a fault? I have actually looked around the internet and was unable to find anyone else complaining of the same problem. And, there’s got to be a lot more people out there who have a PLM and have used it A LOT more than I have, no?) and I see that all of the Paul C. Buff PLMs with on-axis speedring mount attachment are on sale, with a ‘final sale’ notice beside each one. Why? Apparently they’re being discontinued. Paul Buff is moving to standard umbrella mounts only for their PLM umbrellas and will no longer be manufacturing the PLMs with speedring attachments. They’re claiming it’s because there’s too many options available which is making it confusing and they want to simplify the line. But, who knows? Maybe there’s a common problem with the speedring mount PLMs? Maybe there actually is a lot of people experiencing the same problem mine experienced and Paul Buff has actually decided the design is faulty and it’s better just to trash it?

Whatever the case, I no longer have a Paul Buff 64″ PLM umbrella. I wish I did, but I don’t. I do, however, still have a 64″ inch Paul Buff PLM diffuser sock which appears to be no damned good for anything now. So, there’s that.

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7 thoughts on “My Paul Buff PLM Umbrella is Broken!”

    • I repaired mine with some wire. Will it hold up? Probably not (I used cheap wire) but it’s in my home studio and doesn’t move around much. I’m debating on getting another of the big PLMs with a diffusion cover to use as giant softboxes. If anybody has one with the wire problems they want to sell I’d happily give $40 if you pay shipping. ([email protected])

      It was actually an easy fix – just thread the pieces onto some wire, a bit loosely, then use all 4 of your hands (or two and some choice curse words) and set them into the right slots, and then tighten. Be sure the fitting is oriented the right way…. or you will curse some more as you take them OUT of the slots and put it back the right way.

  1. I just got an e-mail from their customer service. They’re basically saying I’m out of luck and to perhaps purchase one of their close out PLM umbrellas the only thing is that it doesn’t come with a warranty. Are you kidding me? Why would I purchase one without a warranty if it’s just going to break like the one I have. What a joke.

    “Thanks for getting in touch! Unfortunately there is no way that I am aware of to fix your PLM – we don’t offer repair services for the PLM system since the cost of repairing it would exceed the cost of the umbrella itself.
    We are phasing out the Extreme Silver PLMs, so they are currently on close out http://www.paulcbuff.com/plm-silver.php . Please note that all close out sales are final and close out items do not come with a return policy or a warranty. The 64” Extreme Silver PLM with Buff speedring is marked down to $44.95.
    I’m sorry that I can’t offer more help but if you have any other questions at all please email us or give us a call toll free at 1-800-443-5542.”

  2. Same thing happened to me! And a lot of other people online through a quick google search have the same problem. Now I don’t know what to do since customer service won’t get back to me on the issue. ):

  3. Can’t you just get some decent quality safety wire, and rethread it? I have a 64inch soft silver PLM where the wire has broken, as well. I haven’t gotten around to fixing it yet, but it seems to be a pretty simple repair. I got it used, so have no idea if it is warranty-able (I doubt it) but it doesn’t seem to be rocket science. Actually, I used to assemble missile systems, and that’s exactly the type of safety wire I would use to fix it, so maybe it IS rocket science?

    • Well, yeah, I’m sure that I probably could. There’s two problems with that, however: The first is that when it came apart, and as I was examining it to see how/why it came apart, three or four of the loop-stitches that hold the ribs in place also broke. So, those will have to be repaired as well and, with all of that together, I’m debating at this point as to whether or not it’s all just more trouble than its actually worth. The second, and probably much more significant, impediment to what you suggest is that I’m one hell of a lazy S.O.B. with a ridiculously low frustration tolerance. 😉

      From what I’ve been led to believe, this problem only exists with the speed-ring mount PLMs. The umbrella mount PLMs are, apparently, far more sturdy. Considering the price of them, even with shipping costs added in, just replacing my broken PLM with a brand new one seems to me to be worth avoiding the hassle of a self-repair.

      • I can understand that reasoning. I’m a cheap, tinkering bugger and always messing about, so I’m different. I sewed my own diffusion cover for the one I had, not to save the $25 bucks but because I wanted one the next day and had a bunch of that kind of fabric laying about in the sewing room. Although seeing that the 64 inch soft silver is down to $45 (for the speedring mount) until they get rid of the old stock, I might pick up another, or maybe go with the bright silver and have “options”. If it breaks, I’ll fix it again.

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