Ringflashes are quite popular in macro photography and in medical environments because they produce a shadowless even light which emphasizes texture and detail in subjects. A typical ringflash is composed by a controller which mounts on the camera’s hot shoe and a ring diffuser around the lens connected to the controller with cables to retain TTL exposure. Usually ringflashes have a diameter of four or five inches and are optimized for shooting small items with macro lenses.
A larger ringflash produces the same quality of light and can be used in portraiture or fashion work whenever creative lighting is required. The effect of a large ringflash is an even shadowless light on the subject, and non-directional soft shadows in the shape of a dark halo on the background if it is close enough. Basically a wrap-around effect. Additionally if the flash is large enough or the subject very close, catchlights in the eyes become round shaped.
The downside of large ringflashes is that they need studio equipment or large battery packs to be operated, and they’re everything but small in size or confortable to carry along in outdoor shootings.
A Smart Solution
This is whereShort Images(a Czech company) comes in with its new ringflash adapter. The adapter is an accessory which connects to a normal flashgun and diffuses light inside its body and out frontally through a clever system of prisms and reflectors.
Mounting the adapter is as simple as pushing the flash head in the housing and twisting the locking knob on the upper part after the click. The whole rig is quite well built although made of plastic, and it weighs in at more or less one pound. It has no support except for the flash itself, so if feels quite unstable and I’m afraid that in the long run it might strain the flash hot shoe. I wish there was some sort of rest bar in the bottom, maybe connecting to the camera’s tripod mount.
The inner diameter of the unit is almost six inches wide allowing the photographer to easily zoom and focus manually with most lenses. The manual suggests to use focal lenghts between 50 and 70 mm because of the angle of diffusion, but I managed successful exposures even with wide angles when distance and positioning of the subject was right.
With the adapter mounted the flash unit retains full TTL metering, although depending on subject distance it is necessary to set flash exposure between +1 and +2 stops. The flash power is diminished considerably by the diffuser so batteries get drained more quickly and after 100-150 shots recharging times become quite slow.
The nine inches outer diameter allows good even lighting on a full figure, although some light loss in the bottom part of the adapter casts irregular shadows in the backgruond, particularly if the camera is in vertical position, in which case shadows are more pronunced on the left hand side of the subject. To get round catchlights in the subject’s eyes you need to be very close.
The adapter structure blocks partially the flashgun’s AF assist beam making it difficut to autofocus in very low light environments.
Canon 5D with 24-105mm – 65mm f/4, 800 ISO 1/100 sec
I find the ringflash adapter very interesting for my portraiture work.
Specifically I like the soft shadow rendition in and around the subject’s edges. The flash here is the only source of light.
Who is this for?
At the time of writing the ringflash adapter is available only for the Canon 580EX. The Nikon SB800 and Canon 580EX II versions will be available soon.
At 139 Euros the product is not a bargain, and it is not flawless. But it delivers what it promises, and it allows photographers to experiment a lightweight accessory with a low price tag if compared to studio equivalents. Rest assured that when using the adapter outdoors you won’t go unnoticed.
A few words about me:
Paolo Valentini is a commercial photographer based in Milan, Italy. Most of his work is advertising, architecture and events. His customers are institutional, business and editorial realities renowned internationally. He is a teacher in courses and workshops and a contributor for a few italian photography magazines. He is an Adobe Certifed Expert for Photoshop CS2. He lives with a camera around his neck and in his spare time he dedicates himself to travel and reportage photography. Some of his work is available on my website:www.grigiomedio.net