Well, there are several devices available for using a Speedlight as a ring flash. I’ve tried most and some are way sleeker and less cumbersome than Orbis but of all the ones I’ve tried Orbis is the only one
that is universal. That means that when Canon, Nikon, Pentax, Olympus or Sony produce a new flash gun, Orbis won’t become redundant. It won’t become redundant too if you switch camera systems or indeed upgrade from a 5Dmk2 to a 1Ds mk5 when it comes out. I’ve recently switched my Nikon Speedlight set up from SB-800s to SB-900s and Orbis fits both types of Speedlight and similarly my Canon 430 and 580 EX2 fit Orbis too. Having the ring flash as a separate fitment means it can be put down between shots or used as a soft light off camera.
What about light loss?
Most ringflash modifiers suffer from light loss, up to 4 stops in the case of Orbis. What this means is that for interior portraits shot from about 3 metres ISO 200, 1/200th second at f/4 will be easily achieved giving you a three to four stop cut of the ambient light and fast flash recycle times. When a greater working distance is used Orbis suggest working at ISO 400. Out in bright daylight a Speedlight will start to work hard inside Orbis. Work close to your subject and use the fastest flash sync speed your camera will allow. Before long you will have the measure of what you can achieve with Orbis.
Compared to traditional ring flash…
If you want more dramatic effects in full sun or you need to shoot at f/16 your ring flash options become fewer and far more expensive. Pair a Broncolor Mobil A2R battery power pack with a Bron ringflash and you are in another league altogether. At 25 times the power of a Speedlight and 25 times the cost of an Orbis the Bron set up is in a class of it’s own. The Orbis may seem a bit cumbersome but trust me it is way easier to manage than the Bron and will give you 95% of the effect for interior shots or dimly lit exteriors at a fraction of the price. Assuming that is you already own a Speedlight and have a means of triggering it off camera.
How do I use TTL with Orbis?
Anywhere you shoot you can use a dedicated TTL cable with Orbis. For greater flexibility you might decide to use a wireless remote TTL system with Orbis. If you are shooting inside you can use the infra red system developed by your camera manufacturer to trigger the Speedlight. With a Nikon D300 or D700 among others you can use the pop up flash in commander mode with the inbuilt flash set to non firing. With other Nikons you can use the excellent SU-800 commander or you can use a second SB-800 or SB-900 as a non firing commander. With Canon there is the great value ST-E2 commander or the amazing Pocket Wizard TTL system.
What if I only want to use Orbis occasionally?
Just club together with some friends and share an Orbis. It really is that independent of system. Orbis is the sort of kit that all camera clubs should have to make available to their members.
What about the Orbis arm/ bracket?
I have the bracket and I can say it is a very well made bit of kit. It is sturdier and better finished than the pictures would have you believe. I do however think that the Orbis bracket puts too much stress on the foot of the Speedlight especially if it is fitted with a Pocket Wizard Flex. My advice is not to use the bracket but to hold the Orbis in the left hand and the camera in the right hand. That way, it is easy to put the Orbis down between shots. The bracket doesn’t make the unit any lighter or easier to use in my opinion. Some people will disagree with my findings and will find the arm a useful add on and that is why we are stocking the Orbis arm.
Why do Lovegrove Consulting supply Orbis with a Velcro kit?
Well, in their Quest to make a one size fits all unit, the team at Orbis built in a design weakness that can allow a Speedlight to fall out and onto the floor. When I trialled the Orbis I found the flaw in the Orbis design the expensive way and suffered a smashed Pocket Wizard Flex foot. The good news is that with a bit of Velcro in the right places the Speedlight becomes secure and safe from harm. Although Orbis do warn about the risks of Speedlight fallout, it is better to be safe, so secure your Speedlight with the Lovegrove Velcro kit.
Can I buy just the Velcro kit for my Orbis from Lovegrove Consulting?
Yes you can. We have the 8 piece kit available for £4 plus postage and packing.