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The Complete Orbis Field Review

by Chris Gampat on 11/02/2010

Though other postings haven’t been written about the Orbis and the Orbis Arm in detail in the Field Review format, we have written about them often. In those postings, various samples were touched upon. Now, we deliver the full review of the Orbis Ring Flash.

Complete Postings

Day 1- a short introduction to the Orbis and ring flash.

Samples of the Orbis at a Wedding

Day 1 at New York Comic Con- All images were shot with the Orbis either camera left or camera right.

Day 2 at New York Comic Con- Some of the images here were shot with the Orbis around the lens or under it.

Field Tutorial- In this posting I talk all about how I used the Orbis beyond the normal ring flash usage.

Durability

Something I didn’t mention on the first day of the review was how durable the Orbis was. The reason for this is because I didn’t do anything horrific to it. During my testings the Orbis survived:

– Being stuffed into a messenger bag and bumped by lots of convention goers.

– Being dropped and falling off my 430 EX II at least once

– People bumping into it at the wedding I shot recently

Creator James Madelin told me in an interview that when he received the first batch of Orbis Ring Flashes, he was told to drop test them and to attempt to destroy them in order to see what kind of punishment they could take. The design of the Orbis withstood my month of time with it.

Though it might have saved the Orbis from falling many times, I rarely used the Orbis Arm. The reason for this is because I prefer maneuverability and versatility. Additionally, my 430 EX II didn’t always fire using the infrared signal transmission method when the Orbis was placed around the lens. It was most effective when I actually brought the flash around so that it was synonymous to the Mars symbol.

The typical photogra-clutz (like me) will not be able to break the Orbis in most uses.

Portability

This is where the Orbis has a couple of problems. It’s fairly large, but it has to be. It won’t fit into any of my camera bags, but it will fit into a messenger bag. For photographers like me that typically carry one or two lenses, one body, and a flash, the Orbis will be just fine. Throw a laptop into your messenger bag, and things will start to get heavy but the Orbis should still be okay.

Perhaps James should consider a collapsible version of the Orbis.

Around-the-Lens Use

This was done for every photo during the first day of the Field review. For the most part, the Orbis didn’t disappoint with delivering that million dollar ring flash look on a budget. The photo above doesn’t totally demonstrate this, but it does come close.

Using the Orbis around the lens is best done when the subject has a background relatively close to them and the photographer closes down the F-stop to around F/4-11.

With the Orbis around the lens, you’ll be able to get that famous ring of light in the subject’s eyes with much more ease. If you’re relying on the infrared system, be warned that you’ll probably be better off using Pocket Wizards or a sync cord. Why Pocket Wizards? For metering purposes.

Under The Lens Use

When the Orbis is used directly underneath the lens, it can still illuminate your subjects to give them a Ring Flash look.

Wedding photographers that need to nail a shot immediately will appreciate the fact that the Orbis can still deliver that Ring Flash look when used under the lens: especially when trying to illuminate many subjects like in the photo above.

Users will also appreciate the fact that Ring Flash photos can go on to make excellent black and whites in post-processing. Why does this matter? Because the Ring Flash is designed to provide even lighting across an entire area; therefore not overexposing and losing lots of color. When converting to black and white, the color scheme will translate over very effectively.

More than just wedding photographers will appreciate this method though. Portrait photographers looking for compelling and creative ways to lure in clients will also be attracted to the capabilities of the Orbis.

Camera Left, Camera Right: Use as a Softbox

When used correctly, the Orbis can provide a wonderful softbox effect on the subjects.

An interesting note about the Orbis is that the light given off can be very closely described as nothing else but white. Some filters tend to give off more blue or orange tones but the Orbis is extremely neutral. Any color variation that the photographer wants will be done in post-production.

As an overall lighting device, the Orbis seems to be one that is very hard to beat due to the versatility. Personally, I’d want to use Gary Fong’s products to compliment the Orbis when needed, but for many photojournalistic cases the Orbis can almost live on your camera’s flash.

When used correctly, it can help to illuminate really important details, such as muscle structure, like the model’s stomach above. That’s not to say that other lights can’t, but the Orbis is a very affordable and versatile way to help do so vs. softboxes or other methods.

I have since sent back the Orbis, but do plan on purchasing it through B&H.

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