Best Ring Flash for Nikon Speedlights

Discussion in 'Lighting Equipment' started by kenneth_cortland, Jul 26, 2011.

  1. I'm new to the Lighting forum, so I'm sure there is a conversation out here that addresses this (if so, please let me know). I'm looking for a quality ring flash to use a Nikon SB-900, or an affordable option from another vendor. I've heard of the RayFlash adapter (which appears to be very popular), but not many other adapters. I've also seen the Nissin MF-18 (which looks very good, but apparently has not been released yet). The Sigma EM-140 also looks good.
    Anyone have suggestions for something portable?
  2. I use the RayFlash, excellent unit if you already have an SB-900 or an SB-800. Very nice for macro work, or for use as a fill flash. I looked at one other one (cheap 40 or 50 dollars) but it did not put out light all the way around the ring, it left a dark shadow from 11:00 to 1:00 o'clock.
  3. I've also been looking for ring flashes for my Nikon system. At first, I looked into fancy power-pack versions, but I realized, many of the applications I have for ring flash won't necessarily need that much output. Do you have any estimation how much light loss is incurred with the Ray Flash unit? From what I could gather, it seems to use a "fiber-optic like" design to channel the light to the ring. How efficient is this? I would guess you lose a stop or two from this?
  4. According to a reprint of a review posted on Ray Flash's site, "There is an effective light loss of about one stop when using the Ray Flash Adapter . . . "
  5. That is quite a small loss, I have a Sunpak 622 potato masher/monster, the GN is 200 for ISO 100 with a standard head, the GN drops to 46 for the ring flash-tube head, a loss of over 4 stops.
  6. Yes, very efficient. It's a very interesting product. However, I was a bit worried from the text of one review where the reviewer commented that it was "fairly unwieldy." I'm still hoping to find a more mechanically robust system, so I just checked the B+H site and found the comparatively pricey Metz Mecablitz 15 MS-1 ringflash (guide no. 49'/15 m at 50mm) for $405. It's also cool that it apparently works with Nikon's CLS, and has built-in Nikon i-TTL compatibility. Presumably, this would work with an SU-800, since my D3s doesn't have a built-in flash. I also like the Metz because it attaches to your lens via an adapter ring--a more solid design, and more what I was looking for in a ring flash. Unfortunately, it doesn't seem like they make an adapter ring large enough for the AF-S Nikkor 85mm f/1.4G, which is what I was planning to use it with--the largest adapter the B+H site lists for the Metz is 72mm.
  7. Aha . . . yes, this is the result of the search I did a few months ago: the Sigma EM-140 DG ring flash for Nikon i-TTL, with a guide no. 46' (14 m) at ISO 100, for $379. It supports Nikon's i-TTL, FP sync, and has dual flash tubes. This is the only non-studio style ringlight I could find that could accommodate lenses with filter diameters of up to 77mm. Again, with this type of design, I would be able to benefit from the robustness of a hard-mounted light to the lens' front filter threads.
    It's now between the Sigma and the Ray Flash. The Ray Flash is an attractive option, because, since it works with my Nikon SB-800, I'm able to use my Quantum Turbo battery for faster recycle times. If the Sigma unit had a high-voltage power input, that would be ideal. On the upside, with the Sigma's self-contained 'AA' battery supply, I won't have any squirrely power cables, or a power pack to deal with.
  8. Well, I checked the Sigma video demo of their ringflash, and it appears to have two very small flash tubes mounted on either side. The "ring" of light is accomplished by what appears to be just a white or silver reflector channel. The lack of any decent photos from the manufacturer doesn't help market this product very well.
    The Nissin product looks less "professional." In that its industrial design looks a bit "off." The Sigma unit looks more refined. However, the miniature flash tube design makes me wonder how "ringlight-ey" its output really is. Also, while both the Sigma and Nissin units have about the same output (GN 14m vs. 15m, respectively), they also both suffer from a relatively small flash-surface area. In this category, the Ray Flash wins--it has a much larger source area.
    Another ringflash to consider is the AlienBees ABR800. At 320Ws, it's quite a bit more powerful than those already mentioned. Its design is also similar to its far pricier studio ringflash competitors. Compared to those, this thing seems like a bargain at only $399 (although the studio units are far more powerful). The ABR800 runs only off of 120VAC, so portable use would require the purchase of a Vagabond Mini Lithium AC inverter/battery pack for an additional $239. Also, the ABR800 is huge in comparison to the units mentioned above, but it's a serious studio-style ringlight certainly worth considering.
    But for ease-of-use, portability, economy, and the ability to use a high-voltage power pack with your SB-800/SB-900 for faster recycle times, it looks like the Ray Light is a winner!
  9. Now, I've just read some of the B+H reviews. One guys feels like the Ray Light will eventually break the plastic shoe on his Speedlight, or worse, bend the metal hot-shoe on the body. Another, strongly suggested it needed a DIY bracket to tie-in the whole system to the camera body's tripod socket to be more secure. Not sure about this now. I hate gear that's "delicate." I want to be able to work with my gear in all kinds of situations.
  10. I have the Rayflash adapter and, while it is great for the money, if you're planning to use it, for example, to shoot events, there are cases where you'll end up with red-eye. Also, while it does give out a nice, spread-out light with minimal shadows, that can work out against you if you're shooting more than 1-2 people - the light falloff is a bit of a pain.
    For portraits, as a fill (in studio) is a superb adapter and works wonderfully.
  11. Marios said:
    Also, while it does give out a nice, spread-out light with minimal shadows, that can work out against you if you're shooting more than 1-2 people - the light falloff is a bit of a pain.​
    Well, I'm specifically interested in a ringflash, precisely for its quick fall-off. I'm planning to shoot fairly close to my subject, using 24mm, 50mm, and 85mm lenses, for "fashion-type," single portraits. How do you feel about the unit's robustness? Does it feel like the hot-shoe foot on your Speedlight is about to snap off at any moment?
  12. I've never been worried about the flash hot shoe snapping off. I use it with an SB-900.
    I rather like the lighting effect for portraits. I have had people complain about the huge bright ring they see for several minutes after it goes off close to their face.
  14. Lorne said:
    I've never been worried about the flash hot shoe snapping off. I use it with an SB-900.​
    Thanks, Lorne. Good to know. I'll be using it with the slightly lighter, Nikon SB-800. Guess I'm sold!
  15. For available-light photography, I also found a cheap LED ringlight, designed for use with webcams, that I bought at Samy's Camera in L.A. for $60. It's a "WebStar Ovallite." Since it's a continuous light source, it's easy to fool around with ISO and aperture to balance its output with ambient sources. Unfortunately, the only way to power it is via a USB cable. I recently bought a couple of Vagabond Minis to power some AC monolights, also knowing that they just happened to have built-in USB power ports. Kind of overkill, but at least it works. I'm still looking for an inexpensive LED ringlight that's large enough to accommodate an AF-S Nikkor 85mm f/1.4G, but powered by 'AA' batteries instead.
    WebStar Ovallite LED ringlight ($59) + Vagabond Mini Lithium AC inverter/battery w/USB port ($239).
    Nikon D3s; AF-S Nikkor 85mm f/1.4G
    ISO: 1,250; 1/250th @ f/1.4; white balance: fluorescent A6
    This is the first ringlight photo I've attempted with this set-up, and I'm actually pretty satisfied with the results. The ambient in the background is indirect light (bounced into the white ceiling) from a bank of 6500-degree Kelvin, T5 fluorescent strip lights, used as household fixtures to light my living room. I was able to get the signature ringlight fall-off that I was looking for. The lens opening on the unit is a good 5" so it should accommodate the largest of lenses. However, it is a fairly low-powered class of LEDs in the unit, limiting its working distance to only a few feet. Also, unfortunately, these LEDs photograph fairly green, so I used the fluorescent 'A6' preset on my Nikon D3s to compensate. The resulting image came out a bit too magenta, so I added back a touch of green in the photo above.
  16. Just ordered my Ray Flash! Got it because:
    1. Lightweight.
    2. Quick assembly.
    3. Uses my GN: 125 Nikon SB-800 Speedlight, so even with a one-stop loss, I'll have more output than the Sigma.
    4. Able to use my Quantum Turbo battery with the SB-800 for faster recycle times.
    5. Maintains complete Nikon i-TTL capability.
    My thanks to the OP, and to the other contributors to this thread!
  17. Ray Flash ringflash adapter mini-review:
    I just got home to find my Ray Flash had arrived, and so I ran out to shoot some quick exterior tests just a few minutes ago. Although I was hoping to catch some cloud formations, it was fairly overcast, and the sun had just dropped behind the horizon.

    Nikon D3s; AF-S Nikkor 85mm f/1.4G; SB-800 + Nikon TN-A1 tungsten filter + Ray Flash RAN170
    ISO: 640; 1/2,000th @ f/2.0; white balance preset: 2,500-degrees Kelvin
    Overall, my first-impressions of the product are very good. It delivers nearly the same effect as the big studio units, but with far less bulk. I still need to measure the actual light-loss, and see how effectively a Ray-Flashed SB-800 can perform in broad daylight. Compared with a studio unit, I think ringlight fans would benefit from owing both: this lightweight, easy-to-use Ray Flash adapter, and a more powerful studio unit for bright daylight exteriors when framing full-body shots, further away from the subject. The most-attractive studio unit for the money is the Paul C. Buff ringlight, the ABR800, which sells for only $399. This is an AC-powered unit only, and would need to be paired with a Vagabond Mini Lithium AC-inverter/battery ($239) for location use.
    Ray Flash benefits:
    1. Works as advertised, and achieves that signature "ringlight" look.
    2. The RAN170 model fits snugly and securely onto an SB-800.
    3. Lightweight.
    4. Compact design.
    5. Doesn't feel like the flash is going to "snap-off."
    6. Doesn't feel too unwieldy when shooting--balances and proportions well with a full-frame body.
    7. Able to change lenses quickly and easily without removing the Ray Flash--a huge plus.
    8. Easily accommodates large, fast wide-angle lenses (e.g., AF-S Nikkor 24mm f1.4G).
    1. Minimum one-stop loss (untested).
    2. Flash head droops significantly if included rubber wedge isn't in place.
    3. Ring flash diameter and surface area is slightly smaller and narrower than expected.
    4. No forward-backward adjustment for longer lenses.
    5. At $199, a bit pricey.
  18. Ray Flash + Nikon SB-800: Daylight Exterior
    Nikon D3s + SB-800 + Ray Flash
    ISO: 100; 1/250th @ f/4; SB-800 @ 1/32nd power approx. 5' from subject.
  19. Ray Flash + Nikon SB-800: Daylight Exterior
    Nikon D3s + SB-800 + Ray Flash
    ISO: 100; 1/250th @ f/3.5; SB-800 @ 1/16th -1/3 power approx. 5' from subject.
    Note that this is exposure a bit hot, but there's actually still detail in the highlights. Had the model been properly made-up, this reflectance would have been more in-range, and would've been about the desired exposure (for my desired "ringflash-effect") had I been shooting a model with professionally applied make-up.
    Although my flash-to-subject distances above are rather close, I set my SB-800 is set only at just under 1/16th power in the shot above. I was happily surprised with the amount of output still achieved, even with the Ray Flash adapter stealing some of its output. The Ray Flash + SB-800 is probably still powerful enough to shoot full-length, daylight exterior shots at greater distances.
  20. [​IMG]
    Ray Flash + Nikon SB-800 on a Nikon D3s with an AF-S Nikkor 85mm f/1.4G.
  21. Ray Flash + Nikon SB-800: Daylight Exterior
    Nikon D3s + SB-800 + Ray Flash
    ISO: 100; 1/1,000th @ f/2.8; SB-800 @ full-power approx. 6' from subject.
  22. Ray Flash + Nikon SB-800: Daylight Exterior
    Nikon D3s + SB-800 + Ray Flash
    ISO: 100; 1/1,000th @ f/4; SB-800 @ full-power approx. 6' from subject.
  23. Ray Flash + Nikon SB-800: Night Interior
    Nikon D3s + SB-800 + Ray Flash
    ISO: 100; 1/250th @ f/1.4; SB-800 @ 1/64th power approx. 5' from subject.

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