Review: RoundFlash Ring Flash Attachment for Speedlites

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer RoundFlash product images (6 of 8)ISO 2001-250 sec at f - 5.6

RingFlashes are used by many photographers and are primarily responsible for getting two different types of looks. One can either try to achieve a look typical of what Terry Richardson is famous for (with harsh shadows) or when matched with the appropriate shutter speed and ISO setting, it can render a totally shadowless look. One thing that these modifiers are also praised for are the ring shape they leave in a subject’s eyes.

We reviewed the first version of the RoundFlash before; and though it gave us some excellent results, it had its caveats. Toward the end of last year, the company refreshed the product with some minor upgrades.

To say the least, this is the ring flash modifier that could replace all the rest.

 

Pros and Cons

Pros

– The best light output of any ring flash modifier out there.

– Very soft light due to the larger surface area

– No light loss throughout the entire ring area

– Much better build than the previous version

Cons

– Very big

– Not as durable as an ExpoImaging Ray Flash due to the cloth design vs fully plastic

Gear Used

For this review we used the Sony A99, 24-70mm f2.8, HVL-F60M, Canon 5D Mk II, Sigma 35mm f1.4 EX, 580 EX II, and the RoundFlash version two.

Tech Specs

Taken from the company’s specs page

Diameter 45cm / 17,7″

Lens up to 10cm / 4″ diameter

RoundFlash™ fits all standard & tele lenses that can fit the internal dimension2, especially large professional portrait lenses (such as Canon 85mm f/1.2L or similar). With smaller lenses, a lens hood or a step-up ring can be helpful in keeping RoundFlash™ in place

RoundFlash™ fits all Body+Lens+Flash combos within the range between 313cm / 5,3″ and 4 21cm / 8,3″ measured from the lens’ axis. The smart flash mount allows you to take both portrait & landscape pictures

RoundFlash™ is designed to work with standard & tele lenses. Some wide angle lenses may show vignetting. The position of the front lens is the key factor. Some lenses work properly throughout their zoom range, e.g. Canon 24-70 F/2.8L

Net weight 307g / 11 oz

(333g / 11.75 oz with the pouch)

Pouch dimensions 20cm x 16cm / 8″ x 6″

No power supply is required, the light is provided by the flash

Performance depends on the strobe used. The performance of the most powerful ones (like Canon 580EXII or Nikon SB 900) is:
~F/16
ISO 400
1m/3,3ft distance
full power output

Ergonomics

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer RoundFlash product images (1 of 8)ISO 2001-250 sec at f - 5.6

The RoundFlash comes in its own portable case that shields it from damage and makes it easier for transport. I’ve shoved it into my DSLR bag and have had no issues with it bending out of shape or any other problems that might occur.

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer RoundFlash product images (2 of 8)ISO 2001-250 sec at f - 5.6

When taken out of the case, it unfurls from its Taco folding technique to become something like a photographic reflector that one would use with natural light. Here you see the fully white surface–also known as the business end. This is what faces your portrait subject.

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer RoundFlash product images (3 of 8)ISO 2001-250 sec at f - 5.6

Now you’ll need to expand the RoundFlash.The previous version required that you put rods in place but this time around they are collapsible. The rods stay in place via magnets in the center.

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer RoundFlash product images (4 of 8)ISO 2001-250 sec at f - 5.6

Once those are established, it is time to look at the back of the unit. In the middle is where your camera’s lens will go and on top is the hole where you’re camera’s speedlite will be placed. Your lens will be supported by the strings that go around it to help keep the RoundFlash in place.

The interior is silver beaded to add extra punch to the light before it gets diffused by the white panel.

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer RoundFlash product images (5 of 8)ISO 2001-250 sec at f - 5.6

You’ll eventually nuzzle them all into place just like this. When your speedlite goes into the hole, there is a belt to fasten around it and hold it into place.

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer RoundFlash product images (7 of 8)ISO 2001-250 sec at f - 5.6

This is what your lens will look like once it peeks through the front end.

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer RoundFlash product images (8 of 8)ISO 2001-250 sec at f - 5.6

Now, you’re ready to shoot–providing you can move the thing around with you.

Ease of Use

We’ve been using this light modifier for quite a while now, and we found it extremely simple to use. With Canon’s old metering system, we preferred to add +1 to the EV compensation on the Speedlite, while with Sony’s newer system, we had no problems with metering at all. For the most consistent results though, we often set the flash to 1/4 output and the lens to f5.6 while ISO 100 was our standard choice.

Putting this unit together is significantly simpler than the previous one was.

Build Quality

The quality of the build on the RoundFlash is extremely good for a cloth modifier. Granted, it’s huge–but it needs to be in order to give off the light that it does. In fact, when holding this unit while attached to your camera, you may feel a bit like a Spartan holding a giant shield. In this way, it’s pretty bad ass.

The rods to keep the unit expanded and the those around the unit to keep the donut shape haven’t bent out of place in the nearly one year that I’ve been using the unit.

Light Output

In a hand-held light meter test, the RoundFlash was used with the Canon 580 EX II set to 1/4 output. It gave off a meter reading at f5.6 and ISO 100. We did a meter reading at five spots around the circumference of the white section and it all read accurately and evenly.

Not at all bad for a light modifier for speedlites.

Image Quality

Images from the Round Flash are punchy, deliver lots of specular highlights and most of all create that beautiful ring that we love seeing in the eyes of subject. It also balances very well with skin tones.

Here are some sample images that we shot with it.

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Sony A99 Studio Samples continued (4 of 9)ISO 100 Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Sony A99 Studio Samples continued (3 of 9)ISO 100

 

Retouched Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Images of Grace RoundFlash Review (7 of 7)ISO 4001-200 sec at f - 5.6 Chris Gampat The Phoblographer RoundFlash Ring Flash Review with Grace (2 of 7)ISO 1001-200 sec at f - 5.6

Retouched Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Images of Grace RoundFlash Review (4 of 7)ISO 4001-200 sec at f - 5.6 Retouched Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Images of Grace RoundFlash Review (5 of 7)ISO 4001-200 sec at f - 5.6 Retouched Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Images of Grace RoundFlash Review (3 of 7)ISO 4001-200 sec at f - 5.6

Conclusions

As far as image quality goes, the RoundFlash V2 seems to be very much the same as the first version–which we thought delivered some stunning results. The newer version just provides easier ergonomic functions and improves upon the design when it is being transported. We still believe that the RoundFlash is one of the best Ring Flash modifiers out there, but something like ExpoImaging’s Ray Flash will still deliver killer results while keeping the package down and while giving the user a tougher ergonomic shell to work with.

If you want softer light, we recommend you go for the Round Flash. If you want Terry Richardson’s look, we recommend that you go for the ExpoImaging Ray Flash. I did a ton of work with it at Comic Con, and loved it.

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