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Bowens Ringflash Pro Studio Lighting and Flash Review

Bowens Ringflash Pro is a high power flash for studio and location photography

|  Bowens Ringflash Pro in Studio Lighting and Flash
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Bowens Ringflash Pro is perfect for fashion photographyThere's no guessing from the name that the Bowens Ringflash Pro is a professional specified ringflash. Peter Bargh hooks one up to a Bowens Explorer generator pack to see if it's king of the ring.

In the fashion world the desire to make ringflash photographs seems to come and go. From an equipment point of view though, at the moment, the ringflash world has never been as busy. We have consumer models, more aptly titled macro flash, we have adaptors to convert on-camera flash and we have big pro-spec beasts, like this model from Bowens.

Bowens Ringflash Pro: Specifications
  • Max Energy:     4800Ws
  • Flash Colour Temp:     5600K ±300K
  • Guide Number:    86 (3000Ws, 110° reflector@ ISO100)   
  • Flash Tube Assembly     1 x Single tube
  • Modelling Lamp:    10 x 12V 20W Halogen
  • Min Flash Duration t=0.5     1/4500sec @500Ws
  • Max Flash Duration t=0.5     1/1600 sec @3000Ws
  • Cable Length:     5m
  • Dimensions:     20.5cmØ x 7.5cm
  • Central Aperture:     10cmØ
  • Ringflash Pro Weight:     3.17kg (inc cable)
  • Camera Bracket Weight:     0.7kg
The Bowens Ringflash Pro has many advantages over your macro flashes and ringflash converters/adaptors. For one, the guide number of 86 blows these small filter mounted units out of the water in terms of power. The flash flash duration at full power is 1/1600sec, compared with 1/1300sec of the 1500Ws Hensel and 1/2600sec on the Elinchrom. And then there's the size of the flash tube at 16cm diameter, with a silver reflector that increases this to just under 20cm. You also have the mains-operated power pack, offering a fast recycling time that can out-perform the battery operated compact jobbies. These are things that make fashion photographers dig deep into their pockets, or break into the overdraft.
Bowens Ringflash Pro side viewBowens Ringflash Pro: Features

The Ringflash Pro has a 5m cable with a 20-pin Quad connector on the end. This can be used on Bowens Quad generators, but also on location with the portable Explorer 1500 battery generator.

It has ten 20w modeling lamps arranged in a circle to help when focusing and composing your photo along with a choice of clear or frosted glass covers. Both can be replaced if they are accidentally damaged. The lamps are standard household options and cost about £2 each.

There's twin fan cooling to keep things from overheating on longer shoots. 

The flash is supplied with an adjustable metal camera mounting bracket that can be used in horizontal or vertical set ups.

Bowens Ringflash Pro: Build Quality and handling
The flash is smaller and lighter than its predecessor, with a large handle, covered in heavy duty sponge, for comfortable grip. The camera is connected via a metal bracket that has an adjustable camera plate, allowing the camera to go left or right and backwards or forward, while the section that mounts on the flash can go up or down. This enables you to ensure the camera's lens is positioned central to the hole in the centre of the ring flash.

Bowens Ringflash Pro front view with clear glass panelWith longer lenses you can sit the camera towards the back of the bracket, and wider lenses can be moved forward to prevent vignetting. The flash back plate has four screws - using two horizontal ones to support the bracket in landscape position and two vertical ones for portrait camera positioning. 

The base of the bracket has a studio lighting stand mount. If you wanted to sit it on a tripod you'd need an optional adaptor. The bracket is made of heavy duty metal and adds 0.7kg to the overall weight. At one point I was using the flash with a 110º Reflector and Diffuser on a Nikon D700 and 24-120mm lens. The total weight was over 4.2kg and after a few shots my arms were begining to feel the strain, so the tripod rest was well received.

The 5m cable is heavy duty and quite bulky, but makes it  better protected against breaks and the length gives you plenty of space to operate away from the pack.

One big improvement that needs to be made is in the accessory locking nuts and the bracket mounting nuts. The have to be removed completely before the accessory or mount is attached. And each one has a nylon washer too. So if you're in a hurry or don't have a hand spare you end up dropping nuts or washers. I'd prefer a release system where the items don't become detached, making it easier to assemble, and less likely to lose anything. You do really need three hands to attach the bracket.
Bowens Ringflash Pro: Performance
At 3000Ws this is a really meaty flash with a impressive 86 guide number. I was able to shoot full length shots between f/5.6 and f/8 with the Explorer pack on the lowest power setting and the diffuser in place. At full power you could get up to f/16-22 if necessary.

The colour from the flash is neutral and can easily be adjusted if you prefer a warmer or cooler tone. And that familiar ring flash shadow is present. It can be a little overbearing on close up shots so you're better to shoot with a longer lens from further away of you want a tight shadow.

For model photography it's spot on, especially on mid tone backdrops. The overall light on the subject is even, and very pleasing and catchlights in the eyes are central and very sparkly.

The shots right and below were taken with the Ringflash pro with the Ringflash Pro Reflector BW7674 attached. This spreads the light further and gives a bigger catchlight.
Bowens Ringflash Pro - Chloe Bleackley against mid tone background

Bowens Ringflash Pro - Chloe Bleackley against light background Bowens Ringflash Pro - Chloe Bleackley against blue background
Here's the original untidied shot on a white cloth backdrop. There's some work to do to digitally iron out the folds but you see how well the flash has coped with the sequin dress...and there's the lovely halo shadow around Chloe's body.  As you move close the catchlight in the eys becomes bigger and the halo shadow spreads. The ringlight gives a better tonal range than direct hot show flash, but with the same strong head on contrast that can be diluted using normal studio flash.
Bowens Ringflash Pro - product photography - Leica 111f Bowens Ringflash Pro - still-life pot pourri
Bowens Ringflash Pro - still life -dried rose Thre shots showing the quality of the Bowens Ringflash Pro. Above left: A Leica 111F the flash provides beautiful surround lighting, but here the halo shaped catchlight is showing in the lens so it's not the best type of flash for such. Above right: Here's a different still life - a pot pourri and here the Bowen Ringflash excels. Look at the close shot notice how the ringflash shadow all around lifts the individual bits giving a whole 3d feel. Left: A decaying rose against a painted backdrop. For close ups with a more distant flower the flash ring diameter is too big so you need to adjust things to get the best shadow. I positioned the rose close to the backdrop and moved the flash further away to enure a tight shadow around the stem and head.

Bowens Ringflash Pro: Verdict
The power of this unit is excellent for full length shoots even outdoors. The colour is very good and the exposure is even. What more could you ask for? Well, I'd like a bigger catchlight, but that would need a much bigger ring, and currently the only way to do this seems to be to handbuild a unit or add a large circular mask to a octabox. The larger reflector modifier is a welcome addition. Value for money wise it's a little more expensive than the Hensel version, but more powerful so worth the extra cash if you're shooting fashion.

Bowens Ringflash Pro: Plus points
Fragile flash tube protected by glass cover
Powerful quality illumination
Great ring flash style shadows
Comfortable handle
Bowens Ringflash Pro: Negative points
Clumsy accessory and bracket locks

You can buy the item here: Bowens Ringflash Pro

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