Today I took the Orbis Ringflash (USD $199 available at B&H or http://www.orbisflash.com/) for another spin. I had purchased the ringflash for a while now and have played with it on Commercial Fashion shoots and even just messed around with it in different occasions.
Firstly, there are quite a number of Ringflashes available in the market. The O-Flash, The Godox, Alienbees, Elinchrome, Profoto, just to name a few. The reason why I decided to purchase the Orbis Ringflash was based on a few things. Portability, Price, and Quality.
While some flashes were of great value in price they had inconsistent results and often had uneven light falloff or that the loss of light was a bit too much for my satisfaction.
While the expensive ones (Profoto, Elinchrom, and Alienbees) were just a bit too pricy for a lightshaper(or light) that I consider as nice accessory but not necessarily a necessity for my light kit. Also the expensive ringflash kits often required a battery pack which made it clumbsy and difficult to carry for location shoots.
Elinchrome Quadra Eco Ringflash Kit
The orbis was one of few that really excelled in all areas. One thing to be aware of is that although the ringflash itself is quite light but once you have a speedlight attached, the weight gain is very significant. I was first very reluctant to purchase the Orbis Arm (A flash bracket that cost an extra $60USD)
but after using the Orbis on a fashion shoot for about 100 photos, I found it quite tiring to keep the Orbis in place. I decided to get the Orbis Arm hoping that it would be much more pleasant to hold the ringflash during a shoot. Unfortunately, it did not fully meet my expectations. The Orbis Arm does help a lot but where it did not help was holding the ringflash and the speedlite together in place. I still had to make sure I had a firm hold on the Orbis Arm and one must be careful while leaning forward, for the Orbis Ringflash could easily slip out and drop on the floor. This is one good thing about the Orbis and that for something made of plastic, it is quite durable, and I believe it may survive a fall or two (but maybe not three).
Although the loss of light (caused by the spread of light in the inner tube and the diffusing panel) is a lot better than most inexpensive ringflashes, you still lose about 2-4 stops. This is alright if you are using a professional flash such as the Canon 580 EX II or the Nikon SB900, but an inexpensive prosumer speedlite may not be sufficient to get the best out of the Orbis.
Here are a few photos I took today at the office. Have a look yourself!
Conclusion, overall I think the Orbis is pretty much a good buy and it's of great value for those that own speedlites. For those that don't own a speedlite, make sure you put the cost of purchasing one into account before deciding on to buy the Orbis (ex. a decent speedlite like the Canon 580 EX II will cost about $3400HKD @ zhaoxiangguan, and the Orbis costs about another $1700HKD = $5100), the cost of the kit with the speedlite is almost the same price of the Alienbee ABR 800 which does not rely on a speedlite and has greater power. So please keep this into consideration when you plan to buy.
1) Great value for those that own speedlites
2) Light and durable
3) The quality of light is consistent and evenly distributed.
1) Cost of the kit can add up if you don't have speedlites and the cost of the Orbis arm is quite expensive.
2) Light Falloff is very short, making the reach not too distant. With the Orbis you are quite restrained to shoot quite close. This may not be of preference to studio fashion photographers that may need to use black cards or fill.
3) Due to the power constraint and short light falloff, using the Orbis for long Macro shots may not be too suitable. A 50mm Macro lens is probably the way to go.
4) Photographers need to be careful while using the Orbis Ringflash. While it is sturdy in some sense, the attachment for the speedlite is not really strong in terms of it's hold. If careless, the Orbis can fall off from the speedlite very easily.
I would definitely recommend this product to anyone. I believe most DSLR users do have speedlites and in this case spending an extra $1700HKD for a Ringflash is quite a deal. The quality of light is more than acceptable (while it would be nice to be able to shoot more distant objects without losing it's light quality, but I am sure the people at Orbis would blame that on the speedlite rather than their design).