Review: Roundflash offers an affordable and portable ring light
The RoundFlash Ring and Dish are a collapsible ring light soft-box and beauty dish that work with your speedlight and DSLR. Like the ring flashes used by fashion photographers, they produce a big round light which can be used to create shadowless images with distinctive circular catchlights. Join us as we review the affordable ring flash alternative to see whether it deserves a place in your kit bag.
There are no shortage of products on the market which aim to emulate the lighting effect created by big and expensive ring flashes, but for more budget-conscious photographers. However, while offerings like the Orbis and RayFlash are well-regarded, and set the standard for modern ring flash adapters, the RoundFlash Ring does things a little differently.
The RoundFlash Ring is more portable than most of its rivals because it's collapsible. It comes in a little bag which is just 20 x 16 cm (7.9 x 6.3 in) and once removed it unfurls like a pop-up tent to its full 45 cm (17.7 in) diameter size. All you have to do is unfold a series of magnetic rods and within seconds you're ready to go.
To start using the RoundFlash Ring you need your camera with a lens and flash attached. Then you simply push the lens through the hole in the middle of the donut and the head of the flash through the one at the top, tighten the various straps and that's it. The size of the various holes, and the spacing between them, means the RoundFlash Ring can be used with most DSLR setups, but you'll want to check your measurements before buying.
Once mounted, the lightweight 333 g (11.75 oz) and soft material construction of the RoundFlash Ring becomes apparent and it moves around on your camera more than the more solid alternatives. That said, it's nothing to worry about and in our tests we never felt like it was going to fall off.
Because the RoundFlash Ring is so big, it can create something of a barrier between photographer and subject and also limits access to your lens. As a result of the latter, we found using autofocus prime lenses was preferable, so we didn't need to reach into the middle of the Ring to adjust focus and zoom.
However, once you start taking photographs you'll soon see the benefits of that big size far outweigh any negatives. The light produced is big, soft, round, and thanks to the reflective interior, surprisingly even. Because the light from the RoundFlash Ring arrives at the subject from a variety of angles, it reduces harsh shadows. The image above shows how this differs from using a flash pointing directly at the subject (inset).
In our tests we were mightily impressed by how the RoundFlash Ring lit portrait subjects, and once you start seeing the distinctive circular catchlights in their eyes, you'll want to use it all the time. But this isn't the only way in which the RoundFlash Ring can be used, we also found the round light handy for illuminating macro subjects where a normal flash would have left harsh directional shadows.
RoundFlash has recently added to its line-up with the Dish, a pop-up soft beauty dish which can be used in conjunction with the original RoundFlash Ring, or on its own. Because the Dish is designed for off-camera use, this time there's no hole in the middle for a lens and instead there's a circular piece of black material to create the ring effect.
The RoundFlash Dish attaches directly to a flash using a built-in velcro strap and creates the same 45 cm (17.7 in) diameter as the Ring when set up, on this occasion by pulling it forward to connect two metal tubes. It weighs just 155 g (5.5 oz), which means you are barely going to notice it in your bag.
We found that the light it produced was slightly more powerful than the RoundFlash Ring, though just as even. Combined with the versatility of being able to use it off-camera, this allowed for some interesting uses including head-shots, environmental portraits and still photography.
We were very impressed with what the RoundFlash Ring and Dish can do, and the lighting options they add for anyone with a DSLR and an external flash. There are many ways in which the RoundFlash products can be used, with the Ring a great option for someone who wants to shoot distinctive portraits, events or even macro, but doesn't have the budget or inclination to spend vast amounts of money on additional lighting when they already have an external flash.
However, it's with the addition of the RoundFlash Dish that the system really becomes something special. Using the two together can give the sort of lighting effects normally associated with much bigger budget set-ups. Even on its own the Dish can be used to great effect for head-shots and environmental portraits where it can be used to add a natural soft light.
Given the portability and relatively affordable £100 (around US$155) price-tag of the RoundFlash Ring, and £46 ($70) for the RoundFlash Dish, we have no qualms in recommending either or both of them. They fold up so small that you're sure to be able to find a space for them in your kit bag.
Our only word of warning is to make sure you watch a YouTube video or two showing how to fold them back up before using them on location, or you'll end up looking like a fool fighting to get a giant black and white donut into a tiny bag. However, once you've got the knack of it, it only takes a couple of seconds.
Product page: RoundFlash