Monday, August 12, 2013

Check Out the RoundFlash Ring Flash Adapter


See this little bag? It's about six inches across, yet it contains a ~17", collapsible ring flash adapter.

Curious? I was too. So I ordered one and had it shipped over from Poland. Full test drive, inside.

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What is it?

Basically it is a collapsible donut into which you stick a speedlight and the light comes out all ring flashy. Been there, done that, right? But the new part here is "collapsible." And it's pretty big:



That's about 17" across, fully deployed. Which is pretty soft as ring flash adapters go. So I decided to check it out.

Full disclosure: I am a ring flash slut. I now own five active and/or passive ring flashes. I can't help myself. Sorry. (Orbis, Ray Flash, RoundFlash, ABR800 and a Profoto Acute Ring.) And it must be said that I put them all to pretty regular use. Love ring as a fill. Love it.

But what kind of idiot builds a giant passive ring flash adapter big enough to house a speedlight and that covers your whole face when you use it?

This kind of idiot:


(Photo by Jeremy Reitman)

That's me, circa 2007 with a monstrosity I dubbed the HD Ring Flash. The HD did not stand for high-definition. It stood for Home Depot, from where I got all of the parts. (Here's how to make it.)

It contained three speedlights, all aimed straight at the front diffusion panel. It could overpower sun at up to 6 feet at a 250th of a sec sync. It was, as they say, "man portable."

I did use it, but it was heavy — really heavy for speedlight stuff. And you do kinda hide behind it. So, not the best machine for building subject rapport.

So mostly it sat in the house. For a while it threatened to become the wagon wheel coffee table of my marriage. I mean, the resemblance is undeniable.

So when we moved houses, it went away.
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The RoundFlash is a similar design, built on one flash, that bends the light rather than straight-shots it. As a result, they do sacrifice power for evenness. But in their defense, it looks like they got the light pretty even.

When fired horizontally, it is slightly dimmer directly above and directly below the lens, with the relative hot spots on the sides. (If you shoot vertical, the hot spots are above and below.)

And you don't want a passive adapter to be dead even all around, either. You could design one like that, but you'd have to diffuse the living sh it a lot to get the evenness. Which would eat up all of your power.

For comparison, the Orbis is a little hot on the bottom. I use this to my advantage. In normal mode (flash on the bottom) it goes a little heavy on the bottom fill. This is a more brash, classic ring-flash look. But if you flip it upside down, the hot is on top. And that makes for a more flattering portrait, IMO.

This is obviously when you are using the Orbis as a standalone light. For fill, I think it works best flash-on-bottom. And to be clear, it is a subtle difference but one I find worth exploring when shooting the Orbis standalone.

If you want perfectly even ring flash then break out your wallet and pay for a dedicated, stand-alone unit.

I digress. Back to the RoundFlash.


How it Mounts

Basically, you use your flash on-camera and just stick the RoundFlash on the combo. The flash goes in through the hole up top; the lens goes into the bungeed, star-shaped center. It holds pretty well. Not super-solid, but serviceable.


It's a big light source, so you would expect the light quality to be good. And it is.

Here is a straight shot of MaryLee Adams, still looking nice and tense:


So yeah, it's a ring flash. And it's a really cool design and I'm sure I'll use it often. But it's not perfect. Nothing is.

Here's what I like about it:

1. Universal camera/flash fit. (This is what outs the Ray Flash as a practical choice as an adapter for me.)
2. It's big! This is good. Means better light quality.
3. It's lightweight. As in, like, nothing there — 11 oz.
4. It folds up nice and compact.
5. Build quality is very good.


So, What's Not to Like?

First off, it just kinda sits on your camera. Meaning, the bulge of your right-hand-side grip wants to push the aim a little to the right. Even more so when you get your hand in there. You can correct this by holding your left thumb in between the camera and the RoundFlash. It's a workaround, but not a deal-breaker. (This ding is unique to the RoundFlash.)

Second, it is camera/flash universal, but not camera/lens universal. It is a little clunky to use with zooms (lens is up in there, so zooming is inconvenient). It prefers autofocus lenses for that same reason. Because of the depth, use with really wide primes could be an issue. If your wide is something like a 24-70/2.8, they stick far enough out so where there shouldn't be a problem.

Lessee, what else. It blocks the AF assist light on your flash. Not a deal-breaker, but very important for people working in dark, run-and-gun environments like clubs and events. (Ray Flash also does this; Orbis leaves it free.)

Oh, and another thing that concerns me a little: it goes together with super-strong, neodymium magnets to all but self-assemble, thusly:


Which, way cool in a George Jetson briefcase-into-a-car way. But I don't know if I would let this ride in my all-in-one lightweight kit next to my hard drive. I am not an engineer, so I'll defer to the all-knowing commenters for that one.

But I sure would be okay with spending an extra 15 secs on assembly time with some captive nuts (like the Induro tripod heads do) and know it was data-safe. (This is only an issue with the RoundFlash.)
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Long story short, as with any gear it comes down to pros, cons against your sense of priorities. For me this drops the Ray flash to #3 and makes the RoundFlash and Orbis the top competitors based on your particular needs/priorities.

The RoundFlash is available from Amazon in the US ($139, free shipping) or direct from RoundFlash ($155 + shipping).




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24 Comments:

Blogger Ian said...

Your hard drive has some intensely strong magnets inside already, so I don't think you need to worry about the ones in this modifier. Floppy discs from the 90's might be in danger but we don't see those anymore.

August 12, 2013 9:09 AM  
Blogger Dan Milham said...

Just read this article in which the writer(s) tried to wipe a disk with those magnets and could not. No data was lost. http://www.kjmagnetics.com/blog.asp?p=hard-drive-destruction

August 12, 2013 9:20 AM  
Blogger Antares said...

um, you are The Strobist. You should be using FLASH memory!!!
waka! waka! waka!

August 12, 2013 10:01 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

One thing I like about the Orbis (another portable ring flash solution) is that it plays nice with PocketWizards. I can mount it on the support arm on a FlexTT5, and use the AC3 Zonecontroller on camera to set power. Looking at the RoundFlash design, I don't see any way to do that since it requires a fixed height from the top of the camera. So, if I wanted to use the RoundFlash as fill with off-camera key, both triggered by PocketWizards and level-set by an AC3, how would I do that?

August 12, 2013 12:03 PM  
Blogger shane said...

Hi David, thanks for the review. I am looking for a ringflash. if you had to with one ring flash. what would you suggest. I shoot a smaller mirrorless camera Panasonic gh3. so prefer something that would accommodate the smaller cameras best.

August 12, 2013 12:42 PM  
Blogger shane said...

Hi David thanks for the review. good timing as I am looking for a ring flash. what would you go with if you had only one choice. also I am using mirrorless camera pana GH3. so looking ideally for something to accommodate smaller cameras.

August 12, 2013 12:46 PM  
Blogger Tomasz Szulczewski said...

This is one hell of an arse saving post! I've got a wedding to shoot next weekend and just been googling the best part of a day if I can get an Orbis in Poland in a hurry. Seems like my prayers have been answered... ;-) Thanks a lot David!!!

August 12, 2013 3:11 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Have you tried it with the x100s? I'm wondering how well it plays with that lens.

August 12, 2013 4:56 PM  
Blogger David Hobby said...

@Unk-

It is not a good ergonomic fit with the X100s, IMO.

August 12, 2013 5:54 PM  
Blogger David Hobby said...

@Shane-

Orbis, for a small camera like that.

August 12, 2013 5:54 PM  
Blogger dave moser said...

OFF TOPIC -- hi there again -- would love love LOVE to hear your thoughts about the Fuji XE-1 which you seem to own now... i have the x100s, like the idea of the xe-1, am not tempted by the bigger clunker xPro1 until they update it, the 14mm looks sweet, back is breaking lugging canon gear and prime lenses...
whaddaya say Dr Hobby?

August 12, 2013 11:02 PM  
Blogger ginsbu said...

Glad to see I didn't lead you astray… Too bad it isn't a good match for mirrorless cameras -- thanks for confirming that and for the rest of your review!

August 13, 2013 12:11 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

B & H sells it
http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/996516-REG/roundflash_roundflashmb_magnetic_black_rigflash_adapter.html

August 13, 2013 1:37 AM  
Blogger Operator911 said...

Re: magnets and hard drives. You can crash a hard drive permanently with a strong neodymium magnet applied to a laptop. Done it before. Watching a movie years back on an old powerbook, idly playing with a magnet and let it rest on the top of the laptop. Next thing I know, there are strange grinding noises, and then the OS suddenly stops responding.
And it never did respond again, until I replaced that hard drive....
so, yeah.

August 13, 2013 1:38 AM  
Blogger Giovanni Daldosso said...

Strong magnet and electronic equipment aren't good friends. Also micro-mechanics (lenses) and magnetic aren't friend, too. If you magnetize your camera or your lenses, the magnetic effect remain also if you remove the magnet. Putting this light modifier near photographic equipment, isn't a good thing; maybe the trouble doesn't appear immediately. In normal use, you can make attention to maintain at a safety distance, but a day you find the magnet attached to your camera, not a good thing... I think that they can find another way, without magnet, to maintain the modifier in position. I never buy a magnet to keep in my photographic equipment as I never keep a bottle of water within my photographic bag.

August 13, 2013 7:53 AM  
Blogger Bernard said...

I wouldn't be too worried about a laptop or hard drive. What about the camera-a lot of stuff in there that might not like being messed with (magnetically speaking). Or am I just paranoid?

August 13, 2013 8:40 AM  
Blogger NBPhoto said...

I disagree with @Giovanni Daldosso and @Operator911. As a PC Tech I've pulled apart many platter hard drives in my time and stolen the rare-earth magnets from them for whatever I wanted them for.

@Operator911, I doubt heavily that your magnet 'crashed' the HDD. The arms that extend out horizontally across the platters are made of an alloy, the heads are what read the data (Imagine a record player, VERY similar but just top/bottom and many more platters, drive design dependant)and aren't magnetisable, if they were, the rare-earth magnets already in the drive would stop them from deploying freely and quickly to find the sectors of data you're requesting. It's more likely something else died, like your bearings or motor. If your HDD is heavily fragmented, this would cause extra 'wear' on your HDD having to skip all over the place finding the little chunks of data to collate into the one piece you're using - i.e. your movie, and give you a shorter drive lifetime and more prone to an early death.

Also kudos on the flash memory pun @Antares. FYI SSDs would make for much faster transfers if one could use USB3/eSata etc..

August 18, 2013 11:24 PM  
Blogger Sutejo Candi said...

Hi David, thanks for this great blog. I do have one of these Roundflash and I wonder is there any comparison between the size of the ring flash and the special effect that reflect from the subject's eyes?what do you think?

September 09, 2013 11:35 PM  
Blogger J.Reid said...

Hey David. Because of your review of this product I went out and purchased it; and I'm happy to say that I do not regret the purchase, it works well. IMHO, better than the Orbis Ringflash.

Again thanks for your reviews that you do from time to time.

September 18, 2013 11:39 AM  
Blogger Franck BALIN said...

Thanks for the review. I have seen that the round flash can be used as a softbox. Is it as good as a standard softbox (octobox or so in the same size)?

November 11, 2013 5:38 PM  
Blogger Omar said...

I've used the roundflash for several shoots now and overall I'm pretty happy with it. one issue I'm having though which I haven't seen anyone mention is it seems to suck battery life like nothing else. I use it with the canon 600EX and I'm finding myself changing batteries much more frequently than when using shoot thru umbrellas etc. So that makes me think that it must be losing a lot of light and having to use a lot more power to light up scenes than it did with an umbrella.
I have found that playing with the zoom (setting manual zoom) as the manual mentions doing has a huge effect on this..but even at 80mm its still using up batteries too fast.
For about 450 pictures I went through 12 NiMH AA batteries that were fully charged at the beginning of the shoot! Crazy!

April 26, 2014 12:50 PM  
Blogger Peter T said...

Actually the Round Flash will work fine on Micro 4/3 as long as you are using a full size flash like the Oly FL50. The distance from mid lens to flash opening needs to be about 5.3 inches (see specs here http://roundflash.com/specs)which cameras like the the Olympus OMD-5 and Panasonic GH3 with the faux prism humps easily achieve.

April 28, 2014 9:56 AM  
Blogger Omar said...

I've been using the roundflash for a few weeks, and found that it actually eats up a LOT of light.
Shooting at 1/4 power, I was finding that it was eating up about 4 stops or more of light.
Why hasn't anyone posted about that?

April 30, 2014 1:51 AM  
Blogger David Hobby said...

@AJ- Saw that earlier. Not including that particular info here tho.

October 16, 2014 5:01 PM  

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