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ePHOTOzine verdict and ratings
|The Orbis £185:|
|The Orbis ringflash adaptor sells for £185 and the optional Arm comes at an extra £49. Will Cheung is your tester.|
Unless you have been living in a cave for the past few years, it would not have escaped your notice that there has been a seismic resurgence of interest in flash photography, especially on-camera flash. The strobist movement is growing rapidly, hence there are more and more gadgets to exploit this marketing opportunity. You can get beauty dishes, barn doors, softboxes and ringflash attachments, like The Orbis. All these gadgets have been designed with one purpose in mind, to improve the light coming from your flashgun.
The beauty of ringflash is that you get almost shadowless lighting and this type of lighting is very popular with professional fashion and lifestyle photographers.
A full blown mains or battery operated ringflash is not a cheap bit of kit, but an accessory that converts the output of your camera flash to give a ringflash effect is much more affordable and potentially easier to use because you may be able to retain through-the-lens (TTL) flash metering with suitable accessories.
The Orbis: Features
Some ringflash adaptors slip on the flashgun's head while it is mounted on the camera's hotshoe. The Orbis takes another approach, the reasoning behind is simple enough, namely to avoid unnecessary strain on the hot-shoe. That is sensible enough and makes perfect sense, but it then means you have to hold the flash in position with the Orbis attached. You can do this either by fitting the flashgun onto a tripod or lighting stand, or by simply holding it in position.
Handholding the Orbis is a practical proposition. Of course this does assume that you are using autofocusing and not doing too much zooming in and out. The downside is that fatigue can set in - try holding something like a Nikon D700 with a 24-70mm f/2.8 in one hand and you will soon tire. That is why the £49 Orbis Arm is an essential option, so you can move around during your portrait sessions and still have your left hand free to zoom, focus and lend support.
|The Orbis: Features|
|The flash just slots into the Orbis||A TTL cord just flash operation simple.|
The Orbis: Handling
Without the Arm, the Orbis is a handful. This might not be a problem for you if you have the Orbis on a lighting stand and your camera on a tripod holding it in position. For portrait shooting, however, this is a rather static set-up and restrictive.
|The Orbis: Handling|
|Uisng the Orbis on its own is perfectly feasible - for a short while, at least.|
The Arm changes all that. I had one end of the TTL adaptor screwed to the bottom limb of the Arm and then slipped the camera flashgun into that - the other end of the wireless cord was put into the camera hot-shoe. The Arm has plenty of height adjustment to suit different DSLRs, whether with or without a grip.
The combination is much more portable but there is still a lot of play in the connection of the Arm, hot-shoe, flashgun and the Orbis. It is not a problem, it just takes getting used too, if you want unhindered access to the lens's zoom control. I did a couple of shoots where I used the whole set-up and everything stayed together and nothing broke.
By the way, you do need to think about how the camera and flashgun work with each other. before going for an Orbis. With other gadgets where the flashgun stays on the camera's hot-shoe, this is not an issue. A TTL cord is one way, wireless TTL control through your DSLR's internal menu is another, as too is using a commander unit on the hot-shoe. Using a slave system is another option although this probably means losing TTL control. Anyway, just think it through and make sure you have the right accessories before buying your Orbis.
|The Arm is well engineered and solid.||The flash sits on the shoe of the cord.|
|The whole caboodle looks cumbersome but handling is surprisingly good.|
The Orbis: Performance
I have used other ringflash adaptors and light modifiers that needed some fine-tuning in terms of exposure. One or two gadgets have needed serious levels of flash exposure compensation dialled in before I got half-decent results - and this was with full TTL control, as here. With the Orbis, it was straight out of the box, onto the SB900 flash set to its maximum zoom with default settings and just shot away - and everything worked fine.
The Orbis: Verdict
I enjoyed my time using the Orbis. It gives lovely results and it attracted attention too, which can be handy in some situations - it's a conversation piece that helps break the ice.
I would definitely pay the extra £49 for the Arm. Having the whole camera and lighting unit as one makes life easier and handling is fine. The total price of £235 is on the heavy side, but if you like the idea of portable ringflash and you intend doing some serious work with the Orbis, I certainly would not put you off it. On the contrary, I would happily recommend it.
|The Orbis: : Pros|
|Really nice light|
|Retains full TTL functionality - depending on your flash/camera combination|
|Simple to use|
|Fits most common flashguns|
|The Orbis: Cons
|The Arm is an essential accessory|
|Handling is a little fiddly - even with the Arm|
|Cheap for a ringflash, expensive for a ringflash converter|
The Orbis: Specification
|Price||£185, £49 for Orbis Arm|
|Contact||www.snapperstuff.com and www.orbisflash.com|
|Flash mount||Most flashguns fit.|
The Orbis costs £185 and is available from Snapperstuff