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Review: RoundFlash Ring Flash Light Attachment

by Chris Gampat on 02/19/2012

As far as Speedlite Ring Flash lighting modifiers go, my favorite for a while has been the ExpoImaging Ray Flash (overtaking the Orbis, DIY, and the GoPro.) However, when the RoundFlash, was announced, I immediately needed to try it out for myself. Promising to turn your hot shoe flash into a larger (and therefore softer) lightsource that is also collapsible, what’s not to like, right?

Marketing is one thing: actual trials and real life use is another.

Editor’s note: Product photos are from the company’s Flickr page.

Gear Used

Canon 5D Mk II

35mm f1.4 L

24-105mm f4 L IS

Canon 580 EX II

RoundFlash

Tech Specs

– 44cm diameter 17″

– 8 oz.

– Accommodates lenses up to 4 inches in diameter.

Setting It Up

Ergonomics

First off, yes: the damn thing is huge. And to be honest, I appreciate that because it is also still quite manageable. There are quirks though: the collapsible rings around the edges do tend to get bent out of place. But in general, they’re fine. I just hope that the company has better quality control in the future.

I have to say that the whole system of using carbon fiber rods is excellent.

The RoundFlash takes your lens and flash through the back end. It holds the flash in place through use of a Velcro adjustable strap while the lens goes through the center and if held into place by strings that wrap around it. To be honest, this needs to be tighter. And in practice it won’t always hold the RoundFlash straight on. Instead your lens may actually capture the outer edges when shooting at 24mm or 35mm.

Image Quality

First off, what’s nice about this modifier is that it gives of full and complete circle of light. My general method of use is at 1/4 power, f5.6 and stand around three feet away from my subject. That gets modified based on distances, apertures, flash output, etc.

Three photos in yesterday’s OCF Gear post were shot with this modifier.

In general, the lighting from the RoundFlash is very neutral in color and reminds me quite a bit of the ExpoImaging Ray Flash. Indeed, the interior is silver beaded for such a look.

Because the surface area is also so large, I feel that it delivers the softest light output: even softer than the Orbis. Portrait photographers will really appreciate this.

Still though, it can be harder to use than the Orbis and ExpoImaging Ray flash for one reason: the outer rings that keep the modifier’s shape can bend. Thought I didn’t see any major difference in image quality when it came to real life use, it does indeed shift the way that the light travels through the tunnels a bit more. Additionally, the fact that the unit could never straight totally straight on was also a big bummer.

Though I really like the photo above, it could have been made better if the round flash didn’t get in the way of my lens in the top left corner.

And in some ways you can get around that problem. Modern cameras have more than enough megapixels for you to crop to your heart’s content. Additionally, you can use the clone tool and heal brush to help in Lightroom or Photoshop. However, it is still a pain: but if you’re heart is into it, you’ll understand and just move on to create a better photo.

To get these looks, I ensured that I had the maximum control over my lighting scenario. There are normal ceiling lights in the area, but I’m often shooting at a very low ISO at 1/50 or 1/60th of  second to balance the ambient light and flash output. Then I’ll shoot at f5.6 and 1/4 flash output.

I didn’t find that this flash modifier works the best in TTL mode. The best for TTL users is still the Orbis.

And to get the blue light from the object in Chrissy’s hand, I needed to slow down the shutter speed even more and then try to kill the light output a bit via flash control or f-stop control (which adjusts the exposure.)

Conclusion

The RoundFlash has me extremely excited. For ring flash users, you’ll really appreciate the portability in a collapsible modifier mixed in with the awesome light efficiency and softness in quality.

However, a part of me also wants to beat the engineers over the head with my Speedlite. The outer rings are built not so well and the inner strings to hold the lens in place need to be either better designed or lost altogether. Indeed, it reminds me a bit of an old school shock mount system for Shotgun Microphones. However, this can’t keep itself straight around a lens to save its life. I often needed to hold an edge of the modifier up: or have an assistant do it.

In the end, I can still recommend it. But I also recommend that you read the instructions carefully on how to pack and unpack it. This may help prevent the warps in the outer rings. However, the company should also provide much better directions. It took experienced photographers I know a good 15 or 20 mins to figure out how to do it correctly.

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