Head to head
Two lighting systems for macro shooting – which is better, constant ring-light or close-up flash?
The R90 ring light is based on an array of 30 high-performance triple-chip LEDs. They’re arranged in a ring and driven by a built-in rechargeable Li-ion battery, and the kit is supplied with a quickcharger and car charger cable, for charging on the go. The casing has a 77mm attachment thread, for screwing on to lenses with a matching filter thread. Adaptor rings are supplied, for attachment to lenses with a 52, 55, 58, 62, 67 or 72mm threads. The R90 also features a threaded socket, for mounting on a tripod. Typical of constant LED lights, the maximum output power is less than from the twin-flash Nikon kit. However, because it’s mounted to the front of the lens, which comes to a few inches of the subject in macro photography, illumination is easily sufficient. The Kaiser can run for two hours on a freshly charged battery, even at its maximum power setting. The constant nature of the lighting enables you to see the effect of the illumination as you compose shots. It also works as a ring-light for portraiture. Light quality is good with a CRI 94 (Colour Rendition Index) rating, and a 5500K colour temperature that remains consistent through the power range. Illumination covers a wide 110 degrees, and the maximum output is respectable at 2100 lux (30cm). This specialist kit comprises a hotshoe-mounting SU-800 wireless commander/control unit, two small SB-R200 Speedlight flash units and an attachment ring. Each component is powered by a replaceable CR123A Lithium battery. The multi-component nature of the Nikon kit requires you to fit the wireless commander into the camera’s hotshoe, attach the ring to the lens via one of the 52, 62, 67, 72 or 77mm adaptor rings supplied, then fit the small flash heads to the ring. Although small, the pair of SB-R200 flashes deliver enough power for close-up shots. Whereas the R90 has a full range of stepless power adjustment, from zero to full power output, the Nikon can be adjusted in small steps down to 1/64th maximum power. Although it can’t be used as a ring-light, you can adjust the position and power of each flash tube separately, enabling a more three-dimensional effect. The 1/1600 sec flash duration also helps freeze motion, and a stroboscopic ‘repeat’ mode is also available. Great performance is enhanced by the ability to add additional Speedlight via wireless triggering, and the supplied Speedlights can be mounted on stands as well as the ring. The kit includes diffusers and coloured filters for balance with artificial light.