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