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03-11-2012, 06:04 PM   #1
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Thinking about a ring flash (AF160FC)

I'm ready to take my close up photography to the next level.

I generally don't do any true 1:1 work, but like to do close ups of flowers and greenery. After looking around at different solutions, I keep coming back to the Pentax ring flash as an easy solution. The only drawback I can see is having the light directly in front of the subject. I've also looked at getting a flash bracket and use my Metz 48 AF-1, but the setup seems a bit cumbersome. Also I'd like to add that I change what I am shooting quite often - might spend an hour or so with the flowers, then go down to the river with my FA*300 4.5 and look for some wildlife. The Pentax ring flash looks to be so easy to mount/dismount, and easily used hand held or on a tripod.

In theory I feel that having the flash with small softbox off to the side and above would give the best light source, but I don't like all the rigging involved with that.

I've looked quite extensively for photos of flowers using a ring flash, and am quite pleased with what examples I see. One thing that I can't seem to nail down are specific images using the Pentax ring flash using one side tube with more intensity than the opposite side which I would think would give some side light to show more detail. The ring light is supposed to have the ability to control either side of the ring light intensity - this part really intrigues me in thinking that I could control the angle of light somewhat.

The Pentax ring light is expensive, and is one of those pieces of gear that serve only one purpose. But if I believe I can get the results I want with it, I'll gladly pay the price to help create the images I have in mind.

Any thoughts or opinions on this?

Edit to add: I would be using my D FA 100 Marco WR for this.

03-11-2012, 06:22 PM   #2
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The Pentax AF160 FC is a very soft, uniform light source. It is also more powerful than most ringflash units on the market and the AF160FC has another unique feature not often seen on competing ringflash units, it has dual 120mm semi-circular flash tubes and the larger the light source: the softer the shadows get - which means the AF160 FC is also an excellent choice for portraiture.

QuoteOriginally posted by stormtech Quote
Pentax ring flash using one side tube with more intensity than the opposite side which I would think would give some side light to show more detail. The ring light is supposed to have the ability to control either side of the ring light intensity - this part really intrigues me in thinking that I could control the angle of light somewhat.
that is also dependant on the lens you use, the wider the macro lens - the more pronounced the modelling effect will be, because you will be physically closer to your subject. I tend to use very long macro lenses Sigma 180mm APO EX Macro and the legendary Pentax FA*200mm f/4 ED Macro so I don't see much difference between using one half of the flash head or all of it. However with a short macro like the FA50mm f/2.5 Macro or the DA35mm f/2.8 Macro the effect of using only one half of the flash head would be more dramatic.

QuoteOriginally posted by stormtech Quote
I would be using my D FA 100 Marco WR for this
An excellent choice, in the box that the AF160FC comes supplied in there is an adapter designed for use on the the FA100mm f/2.8 and D-FA 100mm f/2.8 WR lenses, it fits on the bayonet mount where lens hood goes and it keeps the weight of the flash head itself off the lens tube.


Pentax K-7 with Sigma 180mm f/3.5 APO EX Macro With Pentax AF160FC


Pentax K7 with Sigma 180mm f/3.5 APO EX Macro- AF540 on the foreground AF360 as a rim-light and the AF160 FC used as fill flash.


Eastern Rosella - Pentax K10D Sigma 180mm f/3.5 APO EX Macro with Pentax AF160FC



Last edited by Digitalis; 03-11-2012 at 06:35 PM.
03-11-2012, 06:29 PM   #3
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Oh my Digitalis - your examples are exactly what I am looking for! Just beautiful!

I see on the second image you used a standard flash on the foreground and AF160FC as fill - looks like an easy enough setup which I can accomplish with my Metz unit.

Thanks for sharing your thought and images - this really helps me make an educated decision.
03-11-2012, 06:31 PM   #4
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Use it. Love it. Adapters for a variety of ring mounts but obviously dedicated to the D FA 100mm. I have had to gimp a bit with it - it is TTL compatible of course but most often I'll wind it down a bit since I'm normally looking at it as fill or being certain to freeze an insect or arachnid. Expensive but worth it if you plan to do a lot of macro. On the other hand, you can Google a bit a find DIY assemblies made out of cardboard sleeves and plastic film that produce remarkable results. Look up Thomas Shahan's site for instance.
And don' forget it's portrait capabilities. It shines here too.

03-11-2012, 06:51 PM   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by stormtech Quote
see on the second image you used a standard flash on the foreground and AF160FC as fill - looks like an easy enough setup which I can accomplish with my Metz unit.
Indeed you can use the AF160FC in a wireless set up, because of the size of the flash head itself slave flash units can pick up the pulse of light it provides with little difficulty. However I have only used pentax and Nikon flash units wirelessly with the AF160FC, I do not know how the dummy optical slave on the metz works but I have heard it can be very directional.

When used in a wireless flash set up the AF160FC is a fill light source without equal - because it is shadowless, many strobist portrait photographers use ringflashes.


Pentax K7 Pentax FA*200mm f/4 ED [IF] with Macro AF160FC + wireless AF540 used

Last edited by Digitalis; 03-11-2012 at 07:00 PM.
03-11-2012, 08:01 PM   #6
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jac - while I am still in the learning stage of strobe lighting, I am learning (and loving it). While looking at photos of the ring flash, it seems the controls are very easy to use and don't see any problem with working with in in manual mode. That is one thing I hate about my Metz - the controls which are all in the menu system are hard to find and not in any sensible order.

I've played around the the Metz flash to know where it's wireless sensor is and have had pretty good luck getting it to fire in wireless mode as long as I pay attention to its position. That's one thing that is nice is that I can position the bottom portion of the flash so I know it will pick up the flash signal while rotating the head in any direction to point where I want.

I missed the third image you posted Digitalis when I first responded - the bird in the image just seems to jump off the page! Now that I've seen that, I did the guide number calculation if using my long lens at close focusing distance, and it would work for that. Also my long lens has a 67mm filter thread for which an adapter is included in the kit - now I've just found another use if/when I get the ring flash.

I'm glad I asked about this as it makes me feel better about spending the money for this unit - I'm quite excited that this will open up so many more possibilities for my image making.
03-11-2012, 08:46 PM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by stormtech Quote
The Pentax ring flash looks to be so easy to mount/dismount...
Read this post for an idea of a "ring flash quick release."
03-11-2012, 09:10 PM   #8
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I have the sigma 'ring flash' In reality it's a twin flash and provides shadows if you want them or not. If you get the sigma you will need to have their 52mm adapter and a 52-49 step down ring to fit onto any of the pentax macro lenses. The flash is to bulk to use as 1:1 on the 35mm ltd but is Ok on the 100WR.

I do all my macro work on manual everything and adjust both sides of the flash to provide the shadows i want. I can't recall ever needing to use the full flash power for closeup work, I often start with 1/4 power on one side and 1/8 power on the other and adjust things from there. I like the flash and have not been tempted by the pentax ring flash.

03-11-2012, 11:53 PM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by SOldBear Quote
The Pentax ring flash looks to be so easy to mount/dismount...
The pentax AF160FC comes with 49,52,58 and 67mm filter mount rings along with the pentax specific macro lens adapter - The Sigma 180mm f/3.5 APO EX I use has a 72mm filter thread I can comfortably use a 72-67mm step down ring without even a hint of vignetting appearing in my images, so there is a degree of flexibility there. And the pentax Ringflash is quick and easy to attach to lenses, the only nuisance is that it is practically impossible to obtain extra mounting rings for the ringflash. One thing to note in full manual mode the pentax AF160FC has settings of 1/1 -1/4 and 1/16 In full P-TTL mode the range goes down to 1/128th (Accurate exposure at ISO 100 F/1.7 1/180th) The Pentax AF160FC also has a 58mm internal filter thread, I have used it in conjunction with some close up filters. But due to the very deeply recessed filter mount thread it is very tricky to remove said filter without getting finger prints all over it.

QuoteOriginally posted by stormtech Quote
Digitalis when I first responded - the bird in the image just seems to jump off the page! Now that I've seen that, I did the guide number calculation if using my long lens at close focusing distance, and it would work for that.
Another advantage when using Ring flash as a fill light source is that the relationship between output and how close you are to your subject is practically linear, so knowing your GN tables isn't hugely important - if you are able to get closer to your subject the flash will be brighter, if you are further away you will need more power - or use a wider Aperture. Speaking of which, I have used the AF160FC to produce some interesting portraits with my 50mm f/1.2 - it is very interesting to see how the shadow "halos" interact with the bokeh at f/1.2 to create a distinctive look.




Pentax K7 - Pentax FA*200mm f/4 ED [IF] Macro and pentax AF160FC ringflash + Wireless AF540FGZ

Last edited by Digitalis; 03-12-2012 at 12:17 AM.
03-12-2012, 03:24 AM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by Digitalis Quote
Another advantage when using Ring flash as a fill light source is that the relationship between output and how close you are to your subject is practically linear, so knowing your GN tables isn't hugely important - if you are able to get closer to your subject the flash will be brighter, if you are further away you will need more power - or use a wider Aperture.
True - I didn't take into consideration that it would be fill flash - that makes it all the more feasible to be able to use my 300mm lens for our small song birds and hummingbirds then. I had already thought of trying a Better Beamer for my bird shots, but for those within 10' or so it sounds as if the ring flash would work - great!

And yet another possible use - since we usually have such a long winter I like to experiment with small still life setups indoors - I can use the ring flash along with my Metz (or incoming Yongnuo 560 II) in the same manner.

QuoteQuote:
Read this post for an idea of a "ring flash quick release."
Thanks for that info - if I would end up with the Sigma that would be a nice modification. However, the Pentax unit comes with a bayonet adapter specifically made for the DFA macro lenses which to me is a quick release.
03-12-2012, 06:31 AM   #11
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Wow!!!!!

QuoteOriginally posted by Digitalis Quote




Pentax K7 with Sigma 180mm f/3.5 APO EX Macro- AF540 on the foreground AF360 as a rim-light and the AF160 FC used as fill flash.



As a budding strobist I just love the second picture, can you be a bit more explicit with the lighting details as I'd love to be able to reproduce it, my wife may even get some red roses out of the deal!

Tuggie76

Last edited by tuggie76; 03-12-2012 at 06:38 AM. Reason: Typo
03-13-2012, 05:52 AM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by tuggie76 Quote
As a budding strobist I just love the second picture, can you be a bit more explicit with the lighting details as I'd love to be able to reproduce it, my wife may even get some red roses out of the deal!
From one budding strobist to another, let's reverse-engineer it. Digitalis gave us some rather large hints so shouldn't be hard. The AF540 must be up and left as the shadows go down and right. The shadow gets quite dark in the upper right of the image, so the fill flash must be fairly close, my guess is high and a little right (i.e., aiming right into the flower).
03-13-2012, 06:31 AM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by baro-nite Quote
From one budding strobist to another, let's reverse-engineer it. Digitalis gave us some rather large hints so shouldn't be hard. The AF540 must be up and left as the shadows go down and right. The shadow gets quite dark in the upper right of the image, so the fill flash must be fairly close, my guess is high and a little right (i.e., aiming right into the flower).
Great idea!
Could the 540 be shooting up throught the Rose, and the fill light would be on his lens, surely?

Tuggie76
03-13-2012, 07:05 AM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by tuggie76 Quote
the fill light would be on his lens, surely?
You're right -- I mis-read and thought both flashes were on wireless; ring flash on the lens sounds most likely.
03-13-2012, 08:10 AM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by baro-nite Quote
You're right -- I mis-read and thought both flashes were on wireless; ring flash on the lens sounds most likely.
There's also a 360 as a rim light, probably low and behind the flower?

Tuggie76
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