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The Orbis Ringflash Adaptor Review

The Orbis offers portable ringflash and quality lighting. Will Cheung gives it the ePHOTOzine treatment.

|  Portable Flash and Lighting
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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: Performance Click on the thumbnails for larger images.
Direct flash - harsh shadows, contrasty light, not great - but convenient. Bounce flash gives a softer light and background shadows are much better.
I shot this set of three pictures using a Nikon D700, 24-70mm lens and an SB900 flashgun. Our model Charlotte was positioned a couple of feet in front of a white background.

For the direct and bounce flash images, the flash was hot-shoe mounted. For the Orbis image the flash was off the camera but TTL flash control was retained by using a Nissin TTL cord. The SB900 can be controlled wirelessly via the camera but the camera's onboard unit still fires which gives a horrible result, hence the TTL cord.

The Orbis image came out spot on without having to resort to any exposure compensation. The characteristic soft shadow around the model looks okay but there is not much evidence of the other characteristic of ringflash, ie the doughnut ring highlights in the eyes. Still a fine result, though, and I am happy.
With the Orbis. An all round better result and nice eye highlights too.

The Orbis: even lighting test. Click on the thumbnails for larger images
 24mm, 1metre  24mm, 2 metres  24mm, 3 metres
 50mm, 1metre  50mm, 2 metres  50mm, 3 metres
Granted, these are not interesting images but they show the evenness of the light output of the Orbis with a Nikon SB900 set to 200mm zoom. Images were shot of a white wall using a Nikon D700 with a 24-70mm. You can see light fall off on the 24mm shots, especially close to the wall. At 50mm, output is good throughout.

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 and
Flash mount Most flashguns fit.

The Orbis costs £185 and is available from Snapperstuff

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