Macro photography is taking extreme close up photographs of a subject. As a result of the tiny distance between lens and subject in macro photography lighting is a key area to consider. There are many photography lighting kits for every discipline of photography and macro photography is no different. Arguably, the most effective method of lighting when taking macro shots is using LED ring lights or a macro ring flash. LED ring lights are a continuous artificial light source, whereas a macro ring flash is more of a strobe light.
Canon and Nikon users have access to a genuine macro ring flash unit respectively. However, there are other companies that make these lighting units, including Marumi, Sunpak and Sigma. After much research I decided to purchase the Marumi macro ring flash.
The Marumi ringflash - A great alternative to Canon, Sigma and Nikon ring flashes. It is also much cheaper too.
The Marumi macro flash is a hot shoe flash that is specifically designed for macro and portrait photography. The Marumi flash consists of a flash gun that sits in hot shoe that is connected to a plastic body containing a ring (that lights up like a flash), which is attached to the end of the lens. The Marumi works like a genuine flash in that the photographer controls when the burst of light is emitted, unlike other products that are advertised as ring flashes. These products consist of little more than a ring of LED lights that are either permanently on or off, and are much cheaper than a genuine macro ring flash. These products are LED ring lights and should not be confused with macro ring flashes.
First off, let’s have a look at the build quality of the Marumi unit. Extracting the product out of the box I was slightly disappointed and first impressions were not great. The build quality of the Marumi is poor to say the least. Every component is made out of inferior plastic. This makes it feel cheap and nasty, and it looks more like a toy than a piece of professional photographic equipment. However appearances can be deceptive and this is the case with the Marumi unit. Whilst this product doesn’t look the part the same cannot be said about the way in which it performs.
The Marumi macro ring flash, as its name suggest produces a flash of light, in the shape of a ring, to illuminate the subject. The light given off is even, which many photographers seem to criticise. Many will argue that even lighting produces flat two dimensional and lifeless images that are boring. Whilst using the Marumi I have found this isn’t the case, and whilst it is not possible to alter the power of the light or alter the direction of the light it is still possible to produce three dimensional images where the subject jumps off the photograph.
Using the Marumi is fool proof. Once the flash unit is set in the hot shoe and the light unit attached to the end of the lens it is simply a case of turning the flash unit on, waiting for the unit to power up and the light to turn green and then firing off the shot. There are no controls to worry about and no settings to play with which means the photographer only needs to be concerned with framing the shot and taking it.
The lack of settings, and hence control, may put some photographers off buying the Marumi. This is understandable for those photographers that want full creative control over their flash unit but for those casual users and those simply looking to ensure the subject is correctly illuminated for exposure the lack of settings should not be an issue.
The Marumi is powered by four AAA batteries. This is advantageous since these batteries are available from almost everywhere, therefore if the flash loses power it is possible to replace it without having to revert to a mains power supply. A word of warning is that the Marumi eats batteries therefore the fact that this flash takes standard batteries is a good thing. Whilst the Marumi uses batteries like they are going out of fashion it cannot be marked down for this as this is the case with many hot shoe style flashes.
The Marumi is available for different brands of camera including Pentax, Nikon and Canon. The Marumi is provided with adaptor rings which means it can also be fitted to a whole variety of different lenses, which makes it very versatile.
The Marumi ringflash loaded on to a Canon EOS450D/Rebel, combined with a Canon EF100mm f2.8 macro lens. This trio is perfect for macro photography
The only alternative ring flashes to the Marumi include those made by Canon, Nikon and Sigma. These alternatives are much more expensive than the Marumi although they are more durable and better made, which makes them geared more toward professional photographers and serious enthusiasts as opposed to casual photographers.
The Marumi is ideal for those starting out in macro or portrait photography looking to learn their craft. The Marumi is a genuine ring flash, as opposed to LED ring light, that is much cheaper than its rivals but will still produce the lighting required to make subjects jump off the page which makes it great value for money. Whilst the build quality may not be that good, if you treat it with care and are not too heavy handed with it the Marumi will be a good investment that will last a long time during the learning curve.
So, the key question is would I recommend it? Despite the poor build quality, lack of features and settings and the inability to control how the light is distributed I would definitely recommend the Marumi macro ring flash to those who are starting out in macro photography.
I would not recommend the Marumi for portrait photography as there are better alternatives out there. Neither would I recommend the Marumi for experienced photographers nor those who want the ultimate control over their flash units, as the Marumi just won’t cut it. Unfortunately for these photographers, they are going to need to stump up a lot more cash to get a macro ring flash for their needs.