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.
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.
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
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! Yay!
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.)
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 direct via their website and ships out of Poland. Price is 109 Euros (or ~$155) plus shipping.