Finally! After many, many months (possibly even a year or so) of research and investigating, I finally purchased myself a ring light, or rather a ring flash modifier that I can use with my existing speedlights.
There are several makes and models to choose from which made the process a little more difficult than I expected, but I made a decision based on my shooting style, what would work with what I already have, and what my pocket book could let go of.
I decided on the Orbis Ring Flash adapter for quite a few reasons. Number one, it will work with my speedlights …all of them. There are a few other ring flash adapters made for speedlights but some of them will only fit specific models. The Orbis is designed to be a universal fit, and it does indeed fit both sizes of my Nikon speedlights.
The next reason I chose the Orbis over other brands is that I like the quality of the light it produces. It doesn't seem to be as hard of a light source as some of the others, and its soft enough that I can use it off axis as another type of light modifier.
Yet another reason I picked the Orbis is that it is small and lightweight. I considered buying a self contained ring flash unit., but I know me, and if it's too much trouble to haul around, I simply won't use it. Plus, with a self contained unit, I would need additional power such as A/C or a battery pack, which is pretty inconvenient in most cases.
The last reason I picked the Orbis is cost. Pure and simple it seemed to me to be the best bang for the buck that I could afford. It cost me $200 which in my book, is more than fair enough, considering the quality of the product, and what it enables me to do. No other light source I have will give me the look the Orbis does.
Now, on to why I wanted a ring flash. I have to admit, I do love the simple portrait-against-the-wall-with-a-ring-flash look, but nowdays it seems way over done. That being said, I have shot a ton of shots like that just because I've never been able to get that "full-shadow halo" effect before as you can see in this pic. It's very big in certain circles, but its not the only trick I want in my bag.
What I'm more interested in with the Orbis ring flash is the ability to create on axis, fill light. When working with off camera lighting, you can create some really dramatic shadows. However, sometimes you might want those shadows to be a little more "opened up" in the darker recesses of your shot. That's where the Orbis absolutely sings! You can light someone or something with a hard or soft light off camera at a sharp angle, and then where you get those deep dark shadows, like in this photo, you can fill it in with just a wink of light from the ring flash. It's pretty much an effect that can be tailored to your own tastes, but the point is, using an on axis fill allows you to control those shadows and details as much or as little as you want.
"Why not just use and on camera flash or the pop-up flash on your camera for on axis fill" you say? Because it's just not the same quality of light–believe me I've tried it. A mounted, on camera flash will throw off a funny angle when shooting portraits and is also pretty harsh light. The pop-up flash will do the same somewhat and is not nearly as powerful as a separate flash unit. So the answer is definitely the Orbis!
Another neat thing about the Orbis is that due to the quality of the light it produces, it makes a really cool off axis light modifier. In this photo, I used my speedlight in the Orbis, dialed way down to just create a little fill light (camera left) to make more of an open, airy feeling shadow side. It's almost not even there, but just enough to make it noticeable. Sometimes less is more. (The main light for this shot was a speedlight in a 24" softbox camera right).
So in a nutshell, my overall impression and view of the Orbis Ring Flash adapter is fantastic. I absolutely love using it and hope to experiment more with it soon.
Oh, and you nature photographers out there, give it a shot with flowers. Incredible!
Learn more about John, view his portfolio and check out his blog at John Adkins Photography.