Ring lights

Six lights that en­cir­cle your lens to give silky-smooth macro il­lu­mi­na­tion

Digital Camera World - - CONTENTS -

Dis­cover six silky-smooth lights

www.canon.com Canon MR -14EX II Macro Ring Lite £549/$549

Where Nikon’s close-up macro light is rather un­wieldy, Canon users get this com­pact ring flash.

De­spite its size, the unit packs E-TTL II me­ter­ing, LED fo­cussing lamps, and twin flash tubes with in­de­pen­dent power ad­just­ment that can off­set their out­put by up to six stops. A guide num­ber of 14 and a 5.5-sec­ond full-power re­cy­cle time are ac­cept­able for close-range work.

Build qual­ity is sec­ond to none, while a large, clear dis­play makes for ef­fort­less us­abil­ity. We can’t fault the MR-14EX II’s per­for­mance, ei­ther: its light soft­ness is su­perb, backed up by flaw­less colour ren­di­tion and ac­cu­rate TTL me­ter­ing.

The only fly in the oint­ment is lens com­pat­i­bil­ity: it’s made for Canon macro lenses with 58mm threads, or larger L edi­tions with op­tional adap­tors.

www.kais er-fo­totech­nik. de Kaiser LE D Ring Light R48 £76

This is the only con­tin­u­ous light here, mak­ing it suit­able for video or macro stills.

Il­lu­mi­na­tion comes from 48 LEDs in two banks, which can be ac­ti­vated in­di­vid­u­ally. That’s the only fun fea­ture on of­fer, though: the R48 is oth­er­wise stripped of ad­just­ment or cus­tomi­sa­tion.

Us­ing LEDs rather than power-hun­gry flash tubes means the light’s hot-shoe con­trol unit is even smaller than Canon’s, and is pow­ered by just two AA bat­ter­ies. These should last around 2.5 hours; an op­tional AC power sup­ply is avail­able.

There’s enough juice to gen­er­ate a re­spectable 1,550 lux at 30cm, al­though this drops off to just 165 lux at 1 me­tre, mak­ing the R48 weaker than the ring flashes on test. The 6,000K day­light-bal­anced LEDs pro­duce a ma­genta colour cast, but the light is soft and al­most shad­ow­less.

www.nikon.com Nikon R1 Close-Up Speed­light Re­mote Kit £429/$459

Rather than us­ing a one-piece ring flash, this kit has a pair of SB-R200 flash­guns that clip onto a mount, which in turn at­taches to your lens via in­cluded adap­tors (52mm to 77mm).

The mod­u­lar de­sign lets you pre­cisely po­si­tion each flash, and there’s the op­tion to add ex­tra units. The cre­ative cus­tomi­sa­tion con­tin­ues with in­cluded coloured gels, plus clip-on dif­fusers that im­prove light soft­ness close-up. Set-up can be slow with all these el­e­ments.

Other an­noy­ances in­clude the pricey CR123 bat­ter­ies that power each flash. We found light qual­ity a tad harsh with­out dif­fusers, but colour ren­der­ing is good. If your Nikon’s pop-up flash lacks a com­man­der mode, Nikon’s R1C1 kit has an SU-800 com­man­der unit.

www.nissindig­i­tal.com Nissin MF18 Macro Flash £279/$439

Nissin’s con­tender stands out with

a trick head de­sign. It can ex­pand by 14mm to ac­com­mo­date lens di­am­e­ters up to 82mm with­out vi­gnetting, al­though the six in­cluded mount­ing plates top out at 77mm. The fea­tures con­tinue with a Fine Macro mode, where the left and right flash tubes can be in­di­vid­u­ally ad­justed from 1/128 to 1/1,024 power in pre­cise 1/6 Ev steps. A guide num­ber of 16 gives plenty of poke for por­trai­ture or macro pho­tog­ra­phy.

Chang­ing modes is easy with the colour LCD dis­play on the con­trol unit, and the sim­ple in­ter­face makes light work of con­fig­ur­ing wire­less TTL mas­ter and slave flash op­tions.

The unit de­liv­ers good light soft­ness and speedy re­cy­cle times. Colour tem­per­a­ture is a whisker warmer than the other flashes here.

www.phot­tix.com Phot­tix Aether Col­lapsi­ble Ring Flash Adapter £70

Why fork out for a ring flash when you

could just con­vert your flash­gun? Well, that’s the the­ory with this pop-up fab­ric con­trap­tion. A cat’s cra­dle of elas­tic cords in the cen­tre se­cures the ring to your lens sur­pris­ingly ef­fec­tively, while your flash­gun fires through a por­tal at the top of the ring and is held in place with a strap.

While it’s hardly el­e­gant, the set-up works. The qual­ity of its il­lu­mi­na­tion is sub­lime, with a no­tice­ably softer light than any other prod­uct here, and shad­ows com­pletely elim­i­nated.

This soft­ness comes as a di­rect re­sult of the Aether’s huge 45cm di­am­e­ter, which makes it cum­ber­some for macro shots. The com­plex de­sign also re­stricts 3-4 stops of light, al­though this isn’t a deal-breaker for close-up shots.

When you’re fin­ished shoot­ing, the Aether folds flat like a re­flec­tor and is neatly stowed in a more man­age­able 21cm pouch.

w w w.si g ma-ima g in g-uk .com Sigma EM -140 DG £329/$379

Rather than us­ing two semi-cir­cu­lar flash tubes that en­cir­cle a lens, Sigma’s of­fer­ing con­tains two fairly small straight flash tubes on op­po­site

sides of the flash head. This shouldn’t make for the soft­est re­sults, but in prac­tice its light is only marginally harsher than the Nissin’s out­put, while TTL ex­po­sure me­ter­ing and colour ren­der­ing are con­sis­tently ac­cu­rate.

Build qual­ity is good, but the plas­tic hot­shoe mount is a dis­ap­point­ment. The fid­dly con­trols and un­in­tu­itive dis­play also take some get­ting used to.

There’s no short­age of fea­tures, though. You get a mod­el­ling/AF-as­sist lamp, wire­less TTL flash con­trol, high-speed sync ca­pa­bil­i­ties, plus in­de­pen­dent out­put ad­just­ment for each flash tube from the max GN14 down to 1/64 power.

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