My wife hates having her picture taken, so when she showed me a portrait out of Cosmopolitan that she liked I begrudgingly said that specific look requires a $500 ring light. Later that night though I started looking for alternatives, I remember seeing a few DIY’s in years past, but I’ve never had too much luck with DIY’s. There are a lot of cheaper alternatives out there, but some where designed for Macro, others didn’t have enough power output and all of them didn’t have a gallery of samples that I liked. But then I stumbled upon the RoundFlash.
Essentially, it’s a flash modifier that gives you that balanced shadowless look along with the signature ring light reflection in the eyes. A picture is worth a thousands words so we’ll just straight to the samples:
For more samples from other photographers visit this FlickRiver page, it’s a collection of the best photos from the Flickr RoundFlash group.
A single light setup was all I needed, and I loved the look it produced for Brenda. And it could do more than the flat shadowless look, with a bit of post processing you could give it the high contrast look.
Overall, I’m happy with results, especially considering I used a pair of <$50 lenses to get the job done.
They just dropped the price from $140 to $113 and it’s now available on Amazon.
Things of note:
For Brenda, I used the Canon FD 50mm f1.4, the 100mm equivalence provides the perfect field of view to keep everything in proportion. Keep in mind having to manual focus is a PITA because I have to reach either through or around the RoundFlash to adjust focus. The Olympus 45mm f1.8 should fair just as well (if not better). I wouldn’t use anything shorter for a shoulders and head portrait for women. I’d probably avoid the Oly 75mm f1.8 if you want to see the signature catch ring light in the eyes.
For my photos, I wanted a bigger catch ring light reflection in the eyes. The 20mm f1.7 I own was far too wide, and as a pancake it didn’t quite fit that well. The only thing I had in this focal range was cheap Sigma FD 28-70mm that I found in the closet years ago and only tested it once. The focus ring is almost broken and the front lens element isn’t in the best shape for a 20+ year old lens, but it did a decent job. The 28mm (56mm equiv.) was perfect, I’ve since bought the Panasonic-Leica 25mm f1.4 and will post some shots from that soon.
The aforementioned picks considered lenses with a focal length that could produce the signature catch light. Keep in mind that this type of lighting is used for a lot more than that, eg. fashion.
Does RoundFlash fit on Micro Four Thirds cameras?
I’d like to get this out of the way first, because this was a primary concern of mine – especially since I never return things I buy online out of sheer laziness. The RoundFlash should indeed fit almost any m43 camera, even though my measurements for distance from lens to flash were slightly shorter than RoundFlash’s requirements. I just had to tilt the flash up a little to get it to fit (I used a Panasonic GX1 w/ Vivitar 285HV).
This is via the RoundFlash FAQ:
Avoid the fakes
The original price of $140 was a little steep for such a specialist light modifier, thus I wanted to see if they had any cheaper competitors. Turns out, they’ve patented this design and their only competitors are a pair of Chinese bootlegs who stole sample photos from the RoundFlash to advertise their product. I didn’t want to take the risk on an inferior product, especially if they don’t have any samples they could call their own. Plus, I never buy fake S%^#.
What do you think about the RoundFlash? Let me know in the comments below!