Review: The Orbis and Orbis Arm, Ring Flash On a Budget
By Curtis Joe Walker
The orbis ring flash from Enlight Photo is a modifier for hot shoe flashes that allows them to emulate the functionality of a studio ring flash. Fitting onto the end of a hot shoe flash, it takes the light and bounces it through a highly reflective inner chamber, outputting diffused, characteristic light through its ring.
The high-impact-plastic unit has been expertly designed for maximum efficiency, using the brightest chrome finished plastic available. By adding translucent material to the bottom of the ring and a series of baffles inside, the light output from the ring is evenly distributed and creates flawless specular highlights. Inside, a series of spring hinges ensure a snug fit on the end of your flash. It isn’t designed to permanently marry the two devices, though. In other words, take care to hold the device in a way that protects both units from an unintended free fall.
So, how does it hold up in use? Pretty good, within its limitations. For one thing, it’s limited by the output of the flash that’s going into it, and it loses about 4 stops of light in the translation. That means there’s no way this light is going to light a whole set, but for portraits and very carefully composed full body shots, it’ll work. The instructions suggest bumping the ISO setting to 400, so depending on the camera and lens, it could be possible to get more out of the flash. With the ring flash, portraits show the characteristic wraparound shadow and the highlights are perfect donut shapes. Despite the limited efficiency, it is possible to overpower daylight if you’re able to shoot your subject from a few inches away.
©Curtis Joe Walker
Originally intended to be a hand-held unit triggered optically or with an off-camera TTL connection, the introduction of their sturdy new orbis arm makes one-handed shooting possible.
Unlike other designs that mount the flash on the hot shoe, hanging the ring down in front of the camera from above, the arm mounts everything to the tripod mount on the bottom of the camera.
The arm is outstandingly rigid and sturdy, but all of the weight of the ringlflash unit is placed on the foot of the flash. This shouldn't be a problem for those with metal feet, but could end in tragedy for those with an all-plastic design. Having a way to attach the ring flash to the arm itself would be handy. The design makes portrait-oriented shots awkward and shooting straight down definitely feels like something would eventually break. The arm doesn't so much free up a hand while shooting as it helps keep the photographer from accidentally dropping everything.