DIY Lighting Kits sent us a copy of their self-assembly Ring Flash adapter to review.
Reminiscent of Gami Light origami light modifiers – or Ikea furniture – the parcel that arrives is flat-packed, and we wondered how a ring flash adapter and a bracket could possibly take form from such a thin package.
As it turns out, putting the Ring Flash together really isn’t difficult and doesn’t take long. “You are holding a killer ring flash kit, which you can assemble in less time than it takes to make a cup of coffee,” the instruction manual boasts. They are an American company so they’re probably not referring to instant coffee – assembly isn’t quite that quick!
Nonetheless, cup of tea in hand, it only takes a few short minutes of folding and taping before you’re there. (Even easier if you put your tea down).
And here’s the finished adapter:
Of course, you’ll need a speedlight and a camera as well. Making those yourself is a bit trickier and requires a couple of extra components (and maybe a qualification or two in electronics), so we decided to use an off-the-shelf Nikon DSLR camera and Viltrox flashgun.
To fit larger speedlight heads such as the Canon 580EX II and Nikon SB-910, just use a pair of scissors. Indeed, Homer Simpson endorses this method, as “this is how the pros do it.” The fully-built DIY Ring Flash doesn’t look too bad, though the bright blue rubber band mounting mechanism can look a bit haphazard and certainly not inconspicuous.
Despite its size, the DIY Ring Flash adapter is mostly empty space, cardboard and plastic, so really doesn’t weigh much. But when using a heavy DSLR camera, it helps to have a “third hand” such as a light stand or tripod as shown above. You can also handhold the whole setup screwed into the bottom of your camera and it isn’t ridiculously unwieldy. Taking it on location isn’t out of the question, but you will have learned during assembly that this is not meant to be a bombproof, everlasting modifier.
Obviously any adapter reduces the effective guide number of your speedlight. Nonetheless, to get the “ring effect”, you’ll find yourself close enough to your subject to get f/11 and above without pushing your battery flashgun too hard. If you’re further away from your subject then you could arguably use a bare flashgun or softbox adjacent to the camera.
As an on-axis fill light, the adapter puts just the right amount of light into the shadows without drawing undue attention.
Of course, straight out of the box it’s also easy to be obnoxious and go for that gritty music photography look with the Ring as your only light source. Get kittens, HDR sunsets and a couple of lens flares in your photo and you’ll have all the boxes ticked for a Flickr Explore! At a close distance, you can already see light falling off on the more distant areas of the three-dimensional subject.
Mixing and matching different power levels, positions and modifiers will produce a range of different looks, some more subtle than others.
Along the way, you’ll also encounter distinctive ring-shaped reflections. A bit of a photographer’s Marmite, you’ll find some people feel strongly enough about them to edit them in – or out – of their photographs.
Overall, the DIY Ring Flash is a decent bit of kit. Cheap and simple to put together, it can give you a gentle introduction to ring lighting without breaking the bank. It won’t last forever, but long enough for you to decide whether it’s an occasional toy or if you want to invest in a long-term solution.
Where to buy
The DIY Ring Flash may be ordered directly from DIY Lighting Kits for US$24.95, plus $9.95 for the Ring Flash Bracket. There are also resellers in America, Germany, Italy, Israel and Australia. Click here for the full list of dealers.