Ring lights are both fun and functional tool for photographers. Ring lights are great for macro work, creating even light when shooting still life images as well as producing flattering light (or really funky light) when shooting portraits.
While many think of ring lights as a tool for nature and fashion photographers, I know countless wedding photographers, children’s portrait photographers, corporate photographers, location photographers, etc etc who all pack a ring light for a variety of reasons.
For years I struggled between packing my equipment in a space saving manner while also wanting to pack the Canon MR-14EX Macro Ring Light. More often than not my Canon macro ring light stayed home on my shelf due to the space it took up in my kit and its limited versatility.
A few weeks ago the solution to my ring-light conundrum appeared on my doorstep, the Orbis Ring Flash. The Orbis Ring Flash while having a larger flash surface area than the MR-14EX packs easier and is actually more versatile than the MR-14EX.
Where to begin with the Orbis Ring Flash … hmmm … for starters the Orbis Ring Flash utilizes the ‘hot shoe’ flashes I already travel with, generally a Canon 580ex Speedlight and Canon E-TTL off camera cord. The base of the Orbis Ring Flash has an opening for inserting whatever flashes you may have. Every flash I tested fits easily into the base of the Orbis Ring Flash (Canon 580ex, Nikon SB-28dx, Vivitar 283).
By using the on camera flash I already travel with (and by ‘on camera’ I mean via an E-TTL cord, my flash is almost never ever on the camera hot shoe) I am able to use the tools I am already in the habit of packing with minimal changes.
For added versatility the Orbis Ring Flash works with a wide range of lenses without the need for step-up or – step down rings, such a when using the Canon MR-14EX or Nikon R1C1 macros ring lights (Nikon no longer makes any true ring flash). The larger ‘ring diameter’ also allows you to use lenses that are often too large in diameter for Canon and Nikon macro lights.
For Nikon shooters, the Orbis Ring Flash provides a true E-TTL ring flash that is compatible with all of Nikon’s shoe mounted flash units.
The Orbis Ring Flash can be quickly adjusted and affixed into place with the Orbis Arm that provides a fantastic platform for the Orbis Ring Flash and allows for quick adjustment to whatever lens you may be using with the unit. Th Orbis Arm is great for both use on a tripod and for hand-holding the entire kit with the weight of both the camera and the flash being transferred directly to the Orbis Arm.
The flat design of the Orbis Ring Flash allows for incredible easy packing. While the unit looks fairly sizable, it easily slips into my Mountainsmith Tour waist pack (with fully loaded Mountainsmith Kit Cube) for in the field use. This was the clincher for me. To be able to load my Mountainsmith Tour with two lenses, a macro tube, a Canon 580ex Speedlight and the Orbis Ring Flash and head out to go shooting made it ideal and really sold me on making the Orbis Ring Flash part of my regular kit.
On a technical front, the quality of light created by the Orbis Right flash is excellent, on par with what I expected from the Canon MR-14EX when it was part of my camera kit.
What about E-TTL metering for your flash The Canon and Nikon E-TTL functions work perfectly with the Orbis Ring Flash means there is really no learning curve. Like anything else when using E-TTL I highly suggest not relying on straight E-TTL, and you use the flashes exposure compensation to increase or decrease your flash output…but that’s not the point, the Orbis Ring Flash is “plug and play.”
Below are three photos of my Orbis Ring Flash and Orbis Arm on my Canon EOS 5D Mk II with 50f1.4 and 580ex Speedlight, and a photo of the Orbis Ring Flash packed into my Mountainsmith Tour with Mountainsmith Kit Cube inserted into the bag as well.