I was enticed by the price and the slick looks of the inexpensive Meike LED Macro Ring Flash FC100, which I found on the internet for about $40. I decided to give it a try and see how it performs. Before rendering a verdict, let me list its specifications to give you an idea of what this device is capable of.
The Ring Flash attaches easily with the adaptor rings and could be used with many types of lenses. Mine has seven adapter rings with the diameters of 52, 55, 58, 62, 67, 72, and 77 millimeters and fits all my lenses. It is comprised of thirty-two LEDs (Light-emitting diodes) and the manual says that they produce an average color temperature of 5500k. You can also modify the power, i.e. intensity of light, of the LED by pressing the power adjustment buttons on the body of the flash. It works with four AA batteries.
Find Meike FC-100 Ring Flash on Amazon.
This ring light has two modes – continuous light and flash mode. Be aware that there are many similar products that produce continuous light only and don’t have an actual flash mode. This is not a TTL flash so those of you who don’t feel comfortable going beyond the auto-mode may have problems with exposure. You need to set aperture and shutter speed manually because otherwise, in auto-mode, the camera will meter ambient lighting without taking into account the light produced by the LEDs, which will result in overexposure.
So, I needed a good lighting to freeze motion and, as you know, insects rarely sit still. A few tests with the new flash turned out to be rather disappointing. Although it is called a macro ring flash, the light effect is really weak and, in my opinion, is not sufficient for 1:1 macro photography, especially when you are shooting bugs from a distance with macro lenses with a medium to long focal length. With the addition of extension tubes the effect is even less significant.
Photo taken with Meike LED Ring Flash FC100. F-stop: f/13, exposure time: 1/10, ISO 400. This photo taken in a dim room on a tripod, with additional light source to eliminate the background. Half a stop added in Photoshop.
Nevertheless, it is not a bad product for its price and you can still find a use for this flash. When shooting macro, you need to use it at a very close distance. Also, when you do object photography, it can provide an even illumination to your subjects without casting harsh shadows, but of course you should use additional light sources, too. In your portrait work it can add to your photographs an interesting halo effect around your subject when you shoot against a background. I’ve read somewhere that the ring flash was originally invented for dental photography, so you can definitely use it for that.