Thursday, 3 December 2009

Orbis Ring Flash Review

Ring flash in various forms have been around for some time now and were especially popular in the 1990's with fashion and style magazines. Until recently the cost of ring flash has been prohibitive as they were only available for studio flash systems costing thousands of pounds or a low power units for macro photography.

Early in 2008 the Ray Flash was introduced to convert a normal Speedlite into a ring flash. The down side of the Ray Flash is it's really designed for hot shoe mounting and blocks the sensor on the Speedlite, so if you want to use the Speedlite's beam assist, it ain't gonna work!


Then in November 2009 Orbis introduced the Ring Flash. The Orbis Ring Flash is designed to be used with an off-camera lead attached to the Speedlite meaning all your TTL features will still function. Until now, the down side of the Orbis Ring Flash was you had to hand-hold it, which isn't always possible - Orbis have just introduced the Orbis Arm for attaching your Speedlite and Orbis Ring Flash to your camera or a lighting stand.


Even though the Speedlite is held below the lens it makes for quite comfortable shooting, but there can be quite a bit of movement between the Speedlite and bracket. I've solved this by placing a block of timber between the head of the Speedlite and the Orbis Arm, then wrapped a generous quantity of gaffer tape around the Arm and Speedlite. When I get a chance I'm going to make up a Velcro/hook and loop strap which will be easier in use and look somewhat more elegant! With the Orbis Arm in place you can also shoot vertical/portrait format images.



Compared to the Ray Flash, the Orbis Ring Flash has a larger frontal surface area giving a broader light with softer edges to the shadows.

Here are a few frames of my daughter Abi showing the wonderful light from the Orbis Ring Flash.


The illumination from the unit is totally even, as shown by this uncorrected shot of a white wall from about 2 metres.



There's no doubt that the the Orbis Ring Flash should be an essential accessory for every serious wedding and portrait shooter. Here are a couple of frames of my friend Rob who's growing a moustache for Movember. Movember is an annual, month-long celebration of the moustache, highlighting men’s health issues, specifically prostate cancer.





These images were shot outside at dusk with no reflective surfaces nearby, so the only illumination is from the Orbis Ring Flash in the first frame and the addition of a back 3/4 Speedlite in the second, snooted with some Rosco Black Wrap. I did experience some problems with this set-up because the Speedlite's beam was obscured from the back light by Rob! Had the Speedlite been on top of the camera, this wouldn't have been a problem.

Pack's Rating: * * * * * 5 stars.

My suggestion - put the Orbis Ring Flash and Arm at the top of your Christmas list. Apparently, Santa has good connections with the new exclusive UK & Ireland distributor - Snapperstuff. Click here for more information.

I haven't had a chance to try the Orbis Ring Flash with any macro or close-up shots yet, but as soon as I do, they'll be posted here.

Recommended retail price for the Orbis Ring Flash is £185.00 inc. VAT and £49.00 inc. VAT for the Orbis Arm.

If you're thinking of venturing into the realms of macro flash, then this could be a less costly option if you already own a Speedlite. Rather than buying a compact ring flash from your camera manufacturer or even Sigma, just buy the Orbis and save yourself some money and space in your bag!

My thanks to Helen at Snapperstuff for the loan of the Orbis Ring Flash & Arm.

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