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Getting Your Micro Four Thirds Camera to Use a Ring Flash

by Chris Gampat on 06/05/2011

Boredom = the creation of the awesomest photography hack ever. Ring flashes are items that I’m extremely smitten with for the particular look they give off. People see them all over in ads, and when I recently invested into a Micro Four Thirds camera, I tried to figure out a way to use a ring flash with it. Here’s a story of trial, error, frustration, boredom, and success.

And in the end, it proved effective in being extremely fun for me.

The Problem

Micro Four Thirds cameras are super small and there are lenses that are accordingly made small to keep the package portable. Since I’m often using the pancake lens, I looked around the web to find a small ring flash for my EP-2. After some research, I thought that the Lomography Ring Flash would suit my needs well.

I headed over to one of the Lomography stores and tested it with one of their cameras. Indeed, the thing is powerful. However, there was a major problem: it didn’t work with the EP-2. For some odd reason, the firing pin wasn’t lining up on the hot shoe. I tried this with a couple of different units and it even perplexed the employees. Eventually they came to the conclusion that I needed an adapter.

That’s just peachy, ain’t it?

So after that, I tried out the Visible Dust Ring Light (Sensor Loupe) to illuminate the camera sensor. The only problem was that there’s some serious magnification glass in the center and removing it would be tedious. Plus, the LED lights aren’t quite strong enough unless I get up close and personal every time.

Then one night while looking at a random pile of photo gear I keep out on a nightstand in my room, I spotted my 430 EX II and GoPro Ring Flash Adapter. I mounted them onto my EP-2 but to my dismay, the 17mm F/2.8 provided too wide coverage and parts of the ring flash itself were in the field of view.

To remedy this problem, I realized I’d need a longer lens. So I reached for my Zeiss 58mm F/2 Biotar, mounted it on the camera and to my surprise the field of view was totally clear. Then I turned the flash on, set it to ½ output, and then snapped a photo.

To my surprise it came out beautifully.

Then I became even more experimental: I used the creative filter modes and adjusted the flash exposure with the aperture ring. This resulted in some really amazing images where one wouldn’t be able to tell that I was using a Micro Four Thirds camera.

The Setup

The setup is fairly simple: you take a flash and mount it to your camera’s hot shoe. After this, you affix a ring flash adapter (I recommend the GoPro or the Expo Imaging Ray Flash as the latter is significantly better) to the front of the flash. Then, you make sure that you’ve attached a lens that gives your camera a field of view that clears the ring and start shooting.

The Results

Don’t tell anyone, but I shrieked with excitement when I nailed some of the photos I shot to look the exact way that I wanted.

I haven’t tried this with a Micro Four Thirds flash or a longer lens yet, but I believe that it’s safe to say that you can get some very awesome images that you and your subjects will love when using this ring flash combo.

So far in the testing, I’ve only been using manual flash output control: so the hack only works best with those willing to experiment or that can calculate that stuff. But that’s all part of the fun of it all!

When using this hack, you should keep in mind the fact that the ring flash attachment causes light loss, so you’ll need to compensate accordingly with your ISO levels or apertures. Because of this, I’d also recommend faster lenses.

And there you have it: using a ring flash with a micro four thirds camera. It’s so much fun! Give it a try and let us know what you think in the comments below. We’d love to see your images in our Flickr Group as well.

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