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Thread: Ring Flash opinions

  1. #1
    Adrian's Avatar
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    Ring Flash opinions

    My 16 year old son is interested in macro. Mainly insects. He wishes bank of dad to finance (eventually) a ring flash. He uses 60mm Canon macro lens on a 7D right now, but this will soon be eBayed and either a used 100mm or 180mm L acquired (which my wife will also use for shots of flowers mainly).

    Does anyone have any practical advice on ring flash? Prices vary enormously from quite cheap LED equipment to quite expensive Canon. Local camera shop recommends Nissin.

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    Stagecoach's Avatar
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    Re: Ring Flash opinions

    Adrian,

    Look for a ring flash that you are able to adjust the power of on each side independently. If unable to do this they have a reputation of giving very flat lighting, although for some subjects this is ideal.

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    rpcrowe's Avatar
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    Re: Ring Flash opinions

    I am not particularly fond of ring flash for Macro work and absolutely detest it for portraits. I use a standard hotshoe flash on a bracket and modify the light with a mini softbox for macro lighting. I picked up this bracket in a garage sale for just a few dollars and I have had the Lumiquest mini softbox for so many years that I have forgotten where I bought it or how much I paid for it. I use an off-camera sync cord but, could use the wireless sync capability of the 7D instead...

    Ring Flash opinions

    Ring Flash opinions

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    DanK's Avatar
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    Re: Ring Flash opinions

    Most macro photographers I know don't use a ring flash because the lighting is flat and un-diffused. Most use a DIY rig in which a regular flash is covered with a diffuser and held near the end of the lens. Mine looks a lot like this http://www.dgrin.com/showthread.php?t=189001 but with a smaller diffuser. However, this arrangement does cause problems if you want the light to come from the side opposite where you have it.

    I'll post a few that were taken with a single diffused flash of this sort, using a 430 EXII. The flash was on the left, toward the top. Both were with a 100mm lens, with a 36mm extension tube.

    Ring Flash opinions

    Ring Flash opinions

    Canon also makes a device that holds two small separate heads, rather than a ring flash, near the end of the lens. That would balance the lighting better, but I think it would be harder to diffuse well.

  5. #5
    shreds's Avatar
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    Re: Ring Flash opinions

    Good shots!

    Nikon similarly do their own version of a ring flash, which is a ring that comes with two adjustable power and angle heads (SB-R200s)with diffusers and it is possible to add more of these to the lens ring holder up to a maximum of eight, all individually controlled from a remote SB800 controller.

    I just have to remember to remove all the batteries before putting it away!

    For close up work it is just amazing. The full kit includes a few other bits for diffusion and an extension arm to hold it.

    Makes the lens a bit heavy, but the delight is in the control which includes three different group settings and four different channels.

    I expect Canon have something similar though the Nissin will be a bit cheaper, if less flexible.

  6. #6
    Moderator Dave Humphries's Avatar
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    Re: Ring Flash opinions

    Hi Adrian,

    I got a couple of those cheap LED panels for macro work - the problem you may face, as I have, is that these are 'bright to the eye, but not to the camera lens' and they do an excellent, if unwanted, job of 'waking up' insects, the the subject is gone!

    So in addition to the other advice above, I would avoid LED as a source for insects - but ok for jewellery and gem stones/crystals, etc. where the ability to see reflections ahead of the exposure is a benefit and the subject won't be spooked.

    Cheers,

  7. #7
    Adrian's Avatar
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    Re: Ring Flash opinions

    Thanks for the contributions. As my son does not have any flash units at all at the moment, rigs that use a normal flash won't appeal to him. He has borrowed my 580EX and says he prefers a ring flash for his insect pictures: it is his choice, there is no point in me imposing something else. His shots are mostly spiders on webs as far as I am aware, and they don't seem to mind being photographed!

    I think we are indifferent between the Canon ring flash MR-14EX which is a simple ring where light intensity is variable on each side, and the 24EX which is basically the same unit but with the lights mounted on outriggers the angle of which can be adjusted. The latter sounds more flexible but is bulkier.

    We are looking used on eBay and Gumtree, so I suspect the first that comes up of either Canon or Nissin that is a sensible deal, we will go for.

  8. #8
    William W's Avatar
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    Re: Ring Flash opinions

    Quote Originally Posted by Adrian View Post
    . . . As my son does not have any flash units at all at the moment, rigs that use a normal flash won't appeal to him. He has borrowed my 580EX and says he prefers a ring flash for his insect pictures: it is his choice, there is no point in me imposing something else. . .
    Agreed – there’s no point imposing something other than what he wants: but it would be a good idea that he reads the responses here.
    A ring Flash is limiting and has limited uses -AND- is not (as already mentioned) popular within the larger circle of marco photographers – on the other hand a 430 or 580 (etc) and a really simple adaptation can produce (better) results – (as also previously mentioned).
    AND – that flash has many more uses – it would be good to consider that maybe he will develop Photography interest, other than macro, which also requires Flash .

    To Adrian’s son:
    I don’t mind nor does it affect me in any manner whatsoever what you buy – but – it would be silly for you to buy anything without considering the posts written here.

    Good luck with your photography journey

    WW

  9. #9
    Adrian's Avatar
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    Re: Ring Flash opinions

    I don't disagree. I don't just buy things because he wants them (not that anyone suggested that).

    He has taken around 6,000 insect pictures. Mostly arachnids. He has researched ring flash and macro at length. He has tried using the 580EX. He says (quite reasonably) that he has no other use for flash: unlike me he is not at all interested in portraiture. He will have to work (for me) to earn the money to buy the flash unit, which will likely be used.

    The ring flash may be a mistake. But he needs freedom to make his own mistakes. Therefore I do not impose.

    He knows perfectly well that this is a low risk buying decision. Our hit rate on buying and re-selling used Canon gear (bodies and lenses on an upgrade path for him) over the past year or so, is a marginal net profit after taking account of eBay fees. THerefore he understands the cost of ownership to be close to zero if he makes a poor equipment decision. He has bought (with some encouragement from me, I must admit) around 10 lenses with a view to trading them on when their appears to be a significant under pricing of an eBay sale (an arbitrage trade really). So for me, this is a business lesson for him as well as photography.

    Thus, the decision is already made really to acquire a ring flash and I see no upside in dissuading him. The real question is what is the best one to go for to optimise his results. If he does not like the results he can sell it and try a different option. I know, this is not a conventional approach!

    Adrian

  10. #10
    William W's Avatar
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    Re: Ring Flash opinions

    OK - understood. Thanks for expanding.

    It is a very logical approach.
    I understand your: ’buying / trying / selling’ theory and practice – you have explained that before.
    The information you have just disclosed, paints an entirely different picture.

    I would choose the Canon Ring Flash. For no particular reason other than it is made to fit those lenses as I understand; and it has the electronics which are not reverse engineered: and I expect will hold its value better for re-selling, if you so choose.

    WW

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