Review: RoundFlash, a Portable Softbox for Portraits

roundflash-1Several years ago, ring flashes appeared out of the need to provide a uniform light on the subject’s face, as a diffused light solution that did not create strong or unpleasant shadows. Of course, you could do this using several skilfully positioned lights and using various modifiers (light diffusing accessories, for example). However, sometimes you do not have room for all the lights or you need a quick solution contained in a single device. That is how ring flashes first appeared, which in addition to the uniform light they generate, also create a charming ring of light in the eyes of the subject.

Ring flashes have evolved over time, and recently a new variant that’s more portable and accessible was launched: the RoundFlash ring flash diffuser. In short, the RoundFlash that I’ve tested is a light diffuser that is used with an external Flash on a D-SLR. Its purpose is to provide a more pleasant light on the face of the subject, and to help you when you need to do portraits under unfavorable lighting conditions.

So let’s see how well the RoundFlash we tested peformed. The RoundFlash is available at $79.

RoundFlash: what is it and how to use it?

As I already mentioned, it is a light modifier that is mounted on the lens and connects to the external Flash on the device via a very simple system. To explain better how it works, I have prepared a series of questions and answers that present the accessory in all its aspects:

  • How portable is it? (weight, size)

The RoundFlash is foldable and tucks into a pouch the size of 10-CD spindle. Folded and in a pouch, it looks like in the photo below. When unfolded it has 18in/45cm in diameter, while folded it has nearly 6.5in/16-17cm. The weight is 10.5 ounces/300 grams.

  • How do I fold it?

As in the videoclip below.

  • What lenses can I put it on?

We’ve used it on a Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8. Although it’s a zoom lens, I’ve never had problems turning the zoom ring. Fixed lenses are ideal, as to no longer be forced to control the focal length. A 35 mm, 50 mm or 85 mm would do the job just fine. But you can use pretty much any lens, as long as it lets you take a photo from 1 to 2 yards away. At larger distances the effect of the RoundFlash gets lost (the round reflection in the eye), but can still be used for light filling.

  • What types of photos can I use it for?

I’ve used it for portraits, event photography, product shots and close-up shots. Of course, it is intended for portraits, but you can get beautiful results while photographing other subjects. The RoundFlash offers great mobility and lets you be creative.

  • How can I control the flash power: manually or by TTL?

Because it’s an accessory that is not directly connected to the Flash, the exposure system has no way to know how much light gets retained by the RoundFlash, which is why the TTL mode might not work properly, at least without some solid overexposure. We used the manual mode in all photos.

RoundFlash is available at $79.

Test: portrait photography

Undoubtedly, that was the first test that I performed. If you are careful and have a good grip on the camera, the flash and the distance to the subject, you can obtain extremely successful portrait pictures. Here are a few things that I’ve noticed and some tips that might be useful to you if you purchased a RoundFlash:

  • If you follow the round circular reflection in the subject’s eyes it is recommended to shoot from distances of up to 2 feet/70 cm between you and the subject;
  • The light can sometimes be hard compared to the ambient light, which is why you can increase your ISO or exposure time to obtain a good exposure on the background, and then you can lower the flash intensity so light is uniform;
  • I noticed that if I leave the zoom Flash at the lowest (24 mm), the diffusion is better made than if I let the flash select its zoom automatically;

I liked how the RoundFlash performed, especially when I used it during the day, as a light filler. During the day there are shadows under the eyes or nose or chin. Using the RoundFlash, I got rid of these shadows and I got a pleasant light on the face. Have a look at some examples.

And a few crops at 100% with the reflection in the eyes of the subjects.

On top of this I did a group photo test. The light diffuses well over the subjects, only you have to be careful to not include the dark edge of the adapter in the frame. That happened to me when I hastily took photos at 24mm and did not pay attention to the upper part of the photo.

Test: Product Photography

Product photograph was the next test. Out of curiosity I wanted to see how the modifier performs when it comes to photographs of products taken against a white background. In the absence of a setup with multiple lights, the roundFlash is a good alternative at an affordable price. Of course, if you really want a higher-end setup, you’ll be able to control the light in a much better way. But if you need photos for your blog, for example, to illustrate something specific, it is more than appropriate.

Here are some product photos that I’ve taken.

Test: close-up photos

Unfortunately I never got to do a lot of close-up photos. It would have been interesting to do a test with a macro lens. The size of the RoundFlash would scare the bugs away, I reckon, but for photographing flowers it might be a good solution.

However, when used from short distances, it generates a rather hard light, which is why you must lower the Flash power and reach a balance with the ambient light, otherwise you will get large differences in lighting.

Conclusions: Pros and Cons

RoundFlash is an accessory that I will buy in the near future. I find it useful for event photos taken in dim light – although it may draw the attention and suspicion of subjects – or for portraits where you need filler light and pleasant reflections in the subject’s eyes. Nevertheless, here are the pros and cons that I’ve discovered.

Pros:

  • compact;
  • cheaper than a ring flash;
  • portable;
  • provides a uniform light on the face of the subject and a nice reflection in the eyes;

Cons:

  • Sometimes it can inhibit the subject (it’s big and if you draw near at a certain speed, the person might not react very well);
  • Although it’s apparently light, you can get tired after 2-3 hours of use;

RoundFlash is available for $79.

How would I look like using the RoundFlash?

Something like that. Looks cute to me! :-)

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