The good folks at Orbis were kind enough to send me a review unit of the Orbis Ring Flash a couple weeks ago. I don't accept many products for review, but I have heard great things about the Orbis in the past, so I thought it would be a worthwhile review for the Improve Photography community. Oh, and just in case you're the cynical type, I am not getting paid by Orbis to do this review and I returned the review unit to the manufacturer.
What is it!??!
Basically, you stick your speedlight flash in the Orbis and it spreads the light out across a circular piece of plastic. It is an incredibly versatile piece of equipment since it can be used as a traditional off-camera light, but you can also put your lens THROUGH the ringflash. Putting the ringflash around your lens creates completely shadowless light. It is a very creative effect that simply can't be created any other way.
What do you use it for?
When I first tried the Orbis Ringflash, I started doing typical ringflash stuff with it. Usually, a ringflash is used for macro photography. For macro, a ringflash is ESSENTIAL! Lighting is tough for small close-up objects, so a ringflash is the perfect device. I took some photos of sunflowers in my backyard and loved the quality of light I got from it. But, this was too typical, so I tried out the Orbis for other uses.
Test two was shooting my two year old. I love shooting my kids while they are playing, but the lighting is always terrible in the park and the typical places they like to play. I would, of course, love to get the kids under a nice studio softbox, but they won't stay still long enough. The Orbis was PERFECT for shooting photos of my kids playing. I used the flash around the lens to get creative and fun photos of my kids playing, and then I held the Orbis off to the side of the camera and had great directional lighting only a second later. When the kids bent down to pick up a toy, I swung my arm around to get the light in position. When the kids took off running, it was only two seconds to change the light position and get more great shots.
So, the Ringflash passed test one doing macro and test two shooting kids. The third test was shooting in the studio. I had the perfect project to use it on. I was doing some stock photos of a woman (in this case, my wife) with cucumbers on her eyes and a towel wrapped around her head like a spa. The trick was that the lighting kept throwing shadows in strange places on the model's face because of the towel getting in the way. I grabbed the ringflash and viola! Perfect, high-key, shadowless light.
Although the Orbis was a very versatile tool in each of these situations, I think its best use would be for wedding photographers when shooting the reception. Shooting in reception centers is tough because the lighting is always dim and the ceiling is often too high to bounce a flash. This often means that wedding photographers are forced to use direct on-camera flash. Ick! The ringflash is perfect for this use because you can crank up the power of the flash to full and still not destroy the light quality, and you don't have to worry about shadows at all. Best of all, the creative light quality that the ringflash produces would perfectly fit the mood for people dancing at the wedding reception. I am definitely buying a Ringflash.
Anything You Didn't Like About the Orbis Ringflash?
My experience with the Orbis Ringflash was very positive. There are only two slight hesitations I have with the product. The first is really pretty trite: it was a little cumbersome to get my flash inside the Ringflash. There is a metal gate that keeps the Ringflash on the flash and I had to set down my camera and use two hands to get it attached. With time, I got a bit better at it, though.
The second hesitation is the price. The basic Orbis Ringflash goes for $184 on Amazon. While I am VERY pleased with the versatility of the product and the quality of light I was able to achieve, the price is more than I would have expected it to be. If you're a professional photographer, this isn't such a tough pill to swallow since you will likely use it for every wedding reception and event photography gig you shoot, but a hobbyist photographer will probably have other items on the shopping list before shelling out $200 for one lighting modifier… especially when a knock-off, traditional ring flash can be purchased for $49.
What Did You Like Most About the Orbis Ringflash?
There are a few things the Orbis Ringflash can do that no other light modifier can compete with. First, I LOVE the circular catch-lights in a model's eyes when you shoot with the ringflash. The circular highlight really catches the attention of the viewer and gives the whole photo a fun, interesting look. For proof of this, check out this photo.
The second thing I loved about the Orbis is how easy it was to change my lighting quickly when shooting on the go. For shooting events or kids where you want to change the position of the light quickly, the Orbis was perfect. I never used the attachment bracket that holds the ringflash in position. I preferred to simply hold the ringflash so I could swing my arm to different positions and get the light exactly where I wanted without wasting even a second. This allowed me to get great directional light on the go.
What Other Goodies Does Orbis Have?
Orbis also sent me their new Frio. The Frio is basically a cold shoe adapter. It allows you to mount a flash to a tripod, light stand, etc. I love that it holds the flash in tight and is easy to attach and unattach. If you do any flash photography at all, picking up one or two Frios will be really handy for your more complicated light setups when you want flashes attached to different things. I'm buying.
Here's a video that describes more about the Frio.