Orbis Ring-Flash Adapter
A fit-over adapter for softening the light from electronic flash guns.The orbis ring flash adapter has been developed with the specific aim of providing SLR photographers with a softer light source from their accessory flash guns. Made from tough ABS plastic it has a ribbed grip with lugs for the supplied tethering strap. Above this sits a 42 mm thick annulus with a translucent front panel and internal mirrors that direct the light forward. . . [more]
The orbis ring flash adapter has been developed with the specific aim of providing SLR photographers with a softer light source from their accessory flash guns. Made from tough ABS plastic it has a ribbed grip with lugs for the supplied tethering strap. Above this sits a 42 mm thick annulus with a translucent front panel and internal mirrors that direct the light forward.
There’s no hot-shoe connection. All that’s required is a standard flashgun plus an off-camera cord – or some other way to trigger the flash. It can be used with most camera manufacturers’ wireless flash systems, although the flash output power must be set manually.
The orbis ring flash adapter kit, as supplied. (Source: enlight photo.)
The orbis ring flash adapter showing where a flash-gun is fitted. (Source: enlight photo.)
The review unit was supplied by the manufacturer’s subsidiary, enlight photo in Auckland, New Zealand. It can be purchased through many specialist camera stores and professional photography suppliers around Australia.
The orbis is compatible with all commonly available accessory flashes but requires a flashgun with a head that can be tilted to face vertically. It has been tested with the Canon 300TL, 420EX, 430EX, 540EZ, 550EX, 580EX I and II, Nikon SB28, SB600, SB800, SB900, Cosmos 360, Vivitar 283, Olympus FL36R, FL50, Sunpak PF30X and 5000, Sony F56, Minolta 5200 and Sigma 500, Metz 48 and Metz 58 and Pentax AF540.
Other flashguns similar in size to these models should be usable as well. The Vivitar 285, the 285HV and the Metz 45 are slightly too large.
The lens tunnel in the centre of the annulus is 85 mm wide, which also imposes some restrictions on the lenses you can use. The orbis works with commonly used Canon 16-35, 24-70, 70-200 (IS and non IS), Nikon 16-35, 24-70 and 70-200 (VR and non VR) as well as the kit lenses offered with most DSLRs. Check the lens specifications first and don’t attempt to force a larger lens through the tunnel.
It’s possible to mount this accessory on the camera with an optional bracket arm that screws into the camera’s tripod socket and has fittings to hold both the orbis and the flash. The illustration below shows how the arm works.
The optional bracket arm for attaching the orbis to a camera. (Source: enlight photo.)
Build and Ergonomics
Despite being made from plastic, the orbis is quite solidly built, though its appearance isn’t exactly elegant and it’s pretty large and bulky. This can make it awkward to hold in place and manoeuvre, particularly during longish shooting sessions.
The circular head is roughly 220 mm in diameter, with the grip extending it a further 60 mm. You’ll need plenty of space in your camera bag to pack it as it’s about 65 mm thick at the base of the grip.
With a weight of 680 grams, you’ll need to fit the strap for additional support, since the orbis needs to be hand-held for normal usage. The photographer’s flashgun fits into the hand grip and its light is reflected around the annulus and out onto the subject in a soft and even beam.
The plastic case is hard (and probably brittle) but should be able to withstand normal usage, provided it’s not dropped onto hard surfaces. The arrangement of the mirrored surfaces inside the ring looks very stable and unlikely to be shifted without considerable impact.
How to Use
There are a couple of ways to use the orbis once you’ve fitted your flash. One way is to slide the camera’s lens through the central aperture, holding it in front of your face.
The orbis flash in use on the camera’s lens. (Source: enlight photo.)
This distributes the light from the flash evenly across the subject, softening it at the same time to produce shadowless lighting. This look is often used for fashion photography and portraiture as the light fills wrinkles and shadowed areas around the subject’s eyes, producing rather flat, evenly-lit skin tones, as shown in the illustration below.
If you’re after more tonal modulation, you can also hold the orbis and flash slightly off camera and take advantage of its softening effect to produce angled or side lighting that is soft and flattering. The effect is similar to a small softbox.
Ring lighting can also be used for macro photography and it’s ideal for photographing small, valuable items for insurance records. It also produces better results than on-camera flash when taking product shots for online auction sites.
Although the orbis is a bit big and bulky for larger-than-life-size macro work and can get in the way when you’re setting up shots, it works quite well for reproduction ratios up to half life size. An example is shown below.
The image on the left was taken with on-camera flash. Note the shadow from the subject. The orbis ring flash adapter was used for the flash photograph of the same subject on the right. The shadowing is eliminated and the overall lighting is softer without compromising the rendition of detail.
The orbis ring flash adapter is most effective at balancing light levels when ambient light levels are relatively high. In dim lighting, it can produce a large bright spot that fades off to black. The end result will appear quite artificial, although it may be seen as a ‘special effect’ by some.
The orbis ring flash adapter is very much a niche product. It will suit some photographers but be totally irrelevant for others. If you’re looking for an affordable way to obtain shadowless lighting from an accessory flash-gun, it’s a good solution and will certainly perform as promised.
For a device made from plastic and with neither moving parts nor electronic components we feel its selling price is slightly on the high side. Its size and weight must also be taken into account before you consider adding it to your camera bag when bulk and weight are cirtically important.
Buy this device if:
You do a lot of flash photography involving portraiture and product shots.
Don’t buy this device if:
You need to travel light.
Maximum effective range: 4 metres (at ISO 400)
Light tunnel technology: Patent pending internal reflectors combined with variable lens diffusion and V-shaped reflector
Ships with: Instruction manual, protective bag, shoulder strap, rubber pad
Dimensions (hxwxd): 280 x 55 mm (at grip)
Depth at lens: 38 mm
Internal lens aperture: 86 mm
Weight: 680 grams
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Rating (out of 10):
- Build: 8.5
- Ease of use: 8.0
- Versatility: 8.5
- OVERALL: 8.0