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Ring Lights

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Hey, does anyone use Ring Lights for portraits?  If so, LED or what kind?  I'd appreciate some suggestions from anyone who's used one or has an opinion.


brad goda:
"shiyaa-bah diyee it-tiyeen" < chin down in mandarin lol

Ive only use Profoto ringlight and ringlight with reflector.
great power, accurate consistent output with ultra fast recycle and flash duration.
Pro units are best but not what you could consider handheld/walking portable...
Acute model is packable...
Ive looked at sunpack and other brands for speedlight type ringlights but they dont accommodate
the lens diameter I use...

I've been doing a little research into ring flashes myself recently, though primarily for macro rather than portraits. Apart from the default choice of the Canon unit, the nicest third party unit seems to be the Nissin MF18. It's fully featured, accommodates lenses up to 82mm filter thread and has an icon-driven colour display similar to their top hot-shoe flashes. Also, the firmware is updatable via USB.

I've chosen not to consider an LED ring light since they aren't nearly as powerful. I very much doubt an LED unit would be powerful enough for portrait use.

I use rotolights for my video work, but they require a very fast lens, and a close working distance, they are very much a get me out of a dark hole solution, and I wouldn't recommend them for stills photography, unless tripod mounted / still life etc.

Most of the LED solutions I've seen have been similar, low output etc.

For stills I use an old and very cheap Centon MR-20.

My camera has a PC socket, so theres no issue with trigger voltages, but I can confirm I've also used it on a rebel via an adaptor without incident.  Your call.

Cost me about £30 new, has two modes, auto (a sensor on the flash, not TTL) or manual.

I prefer to shoot manual and juggle my aperture.

It does give that ring light and weird shadow halo thing that is de-rigeur at the moment.  I shoot portraiture so rarely that I've never thought to upgrade to anything better for this very specific look.  I would usually have my 430EX either off camera on an L grip synched via a TTL cable, or if the environment allows, entirely off camera on a stand (both my cameras support wireless speedlite control)

If you are playing with the ring flash look then the centon will give you usable power (and thus more choice of perspective) and will also allow you a much faster shutter (up to your cameras max synch) and lower ISO.

I would go for conventional ring flash, and if you are confident using manual expsoure settings get a cheap centon (also sold under vivitar brand) or there are intermediate options with auto TTL by the likes of Murami (?) and then a bit more for the Sigma option, and then of course the canon versions, but it becomes £30 vs £350.

One on ebay just now: item number 350698781079 for reference.

Yes I used to rent Profoto ringlights too, very powerful and built like a tank. But if you need good, controllable power for meaningful portrait shoots, the Profoto can be too strong, even dialed right down. On my 2400 Profoto floorpack I had to run another head on an extension lead out the door just to get the power low enough. Nuts.

The little speedlight style ringlights are very low powered and purpose designed for macro/medical work. As a portrait ringlight they just don't have the horsepower unless you are happy to work with very big apertures and high ISO setings.

Enter the happy medium from Paul C Buff, the maker of Alien Bees and the incredible Einsteins. They have a very useful power range and OMG check out the price! Five cents change from $400.



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