The Good, The Bad, and the Real World Review of RayFlash – Ring Light for Your Portable Flash

This one goes out to all of our strobist friends out there. Peace.

[photopress:DSC_0242x.jpg,full,alignright] The right tool for the right job
. Said it once or twice.
Love the great shadowless light that a ring light can give you. Essentially, it’s a circular flash tube whose output is shaped by reflectors, dishes, or shot full frontal.

When this item came up, the RayFlash, there was now an option for a ring light with no wires, using your Canon 580 or Nikon SB800 flash. Same TTL exposure control as your portable flash, but a series of light baffles and reflectors to distribute the light in a circular pattern, with no electronics involved, except the burst coming from your unit. All you lost was 1 f/stop of exposure.

Great idea, not as great in execution.

OK, this is what we used: used a Nikon D200 with an SB800, and shot with, and without the RayFlash unit.

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Here is what we found:
First of all the rings weight brought down the flash head so to keep the RayFlash parallel to the sensor plane, we had to shim it. Not a good sign, especially with a plastic unit.
Now the light it gave was another story.

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With the shadowless soft light, it was perfect for flora and fauna. Especially head on.

As you can see in these shots, although subtle, the additional light was just right to punch up the coming buds.
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But is the shot without a flash horrible? No. Just a little different.
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When it came to shooting people, it did help.
In these next two shots, you can see the softness of the ring light, as compared to the obvious straight on flash.

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Above is shot with RayFlash

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Above is shot with straight on SB 800
Notice the blue of the water is the same but the shadows on the face are softer in the 1st photo.

Check out the dial on top of the unit that you tighten to attach to your flash. You slip the unit over the flash head and turn the dial to tighten. This felt very secure, although I would be concerned over repeated mounting and unmounting. Plastic is not the best gripper.
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So should you add this to your lighting kit?
It has its purpose, and may fit your needs if only for the quality of light you will discover. Or if you are a CSI.
It is a bit expensive, although we understand the development costs that had to go into it.
But for $300 USD, we feel that you would be better served investing in a more durable and professional product. Like a Profoto ring flash (about $850), or some folks like the Alien Bee unit (about $400.).
The Profoto is what we use and we had the connector changed to fit a dyna lite pack.
More on all on that later, and why we love Dynalite.

Of course after all of that you may still think this is what you have been looking for.
OK, here is the deal – if you need to work with a wireless lighting system (battery powered) and are on a budget, this may do the trick for you. However, after working with this unit, we suggest you put one in your hands and see for yourself before you shell out the dough. Or keep the receipt.
Watch for the Orbit ring flash to enter he market in this category shortly at about $100 USD less. We think the addition of the Nikon line-up to include the SB900 changed the delivery date for them. A little retool perhaps.

As much as we need and use our SB800, with rechargeable batts or a Quantum battery, the ring flash may be best suited to a proper power source.
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Shot with a Profoto ring and Dynalite pack. Much more powerful ka-flam. Which is tech speak for flash output.

And we want to talk to about more of your lighting choices. As in using power packs. With digital photography you can easily adjust your flash exposure after the immediate review of the image if you like. TTL is cool, but you’ll be surprised by how affordable the pro goods can be. And you’ll probably only buy them once.
We’ll talk.

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