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KF150 TTL Flash Macro Ring Lite review

  |   Articles and reviews, Hardware review, Lighting, Macro, Review   |   No comment

Review of the KF150 TTL Flash Macro Ring Lite

Dual flash ring light (GN14)


Keith uses a range of equipment related to macro photography.

Lens choices are one thing, but a lot of the impact of images come from attention to lighting. Whether you are looking for artistic images or wanting photography for record purposes, the flat lighting of a ring flash can be just what you need.

Keith is looking at the K&F Concepts KF-150 ring flash. The flash provides an economical way of exploring close-up photography, with a flash that offers quite a range of settings.

This flash is for Canon cameras, however you can get a Nikon compatible version

kf-150 ring flash

Close up lighting

By having your light source close and surrounding your lens, shadows are kept to a minimum.

Lighting for close up record style photography makes use of this consistent lighting, but can easily look a bit flat and dull.

However with a bit of care and experimentation this lack of hard shadow can be very effective for close up shots.

jade plant flowers

Jade plant flowers – TS-E90mm + 52mm extension tube (1/125s f/9 A=B=1/16th power manual) – click to enlarge

I’ll have a look at what you get with the KF-150 and follow up with a few examples of its use.

The KF-150

K&F Concept sell this flash for around $100.  It’s a camera mounted flash that fits to any standard hot shoe mount.

kf-150 flash unit

Specifications: KF-150 Macro Ring Flash Speedlite

  • Flash control: Insulated Gate Bipolar Transistor
  • Flash power : GN14 (ISO100)
  • Working range: 20cm ~ 5m
  • Flash configuration: Two flash tubes can be fired singly or together
  • Exposure Control: TTL, Manual, Multi-shot
  • Flash Ratio Control: ±6 stops
  • Flash power settings (manual): full power to 1/128th power in 1/3 stop increments
    Independent control of tubes.
  • Colour Temperature: ~5500k
  • External interfaces: Camera hot shoe, Flash Sync. port, external charging port
  • Power sources: 4*AA alkaline batteries or AA Ni-MH batteries (not included)
  • Extra Function: Power saving, over-heat protection
  • Size of control unit: 143*73*61mm
  • Size of flash unit: 130*126*28mm
  • Weight: Approx 465g

The flash comes with a stiff case. Very useful in practice for keeping everything together.

case for KF-150

Accessories include a range of adapter rings for different lens filter thread sizes.

adapter rings

52mm, 55mm, 58mm, 62mm, 67mm and 77mm

Fitting flash to lens

The rings fit your lens as a filter would.

ring and 65mm

Here, I’m attaching the flash to my Canon MP-E65mm macro lens [65mm review]

flash and lens

The flash just clips on – press the two small buttons at the side to release.

flash attached to lens

The lens is attached to my Canon 5Ds, on a macro slide rail.

fitted to mp-e65

There are two LED lights at the front that are activated from the rear control panel.

led lights

The rear panel of the flash is clear to read, especially with the backlight.

lit display

The flash is in manual mode, firing both tubes (A and B) at 1/32 full power. The blue light signifies the flash is ready, and also gives a test flash if you press it.

I’d note that the flash will sleep after a short while and a few minutes later will turn off if not used.  Given my habit of forgetting to turn flash units off, this was actually quite useful…

You can trigger the flash via a conventional sync. lead. this is at the side, alongside an external power connector.

power and sync

The adapter rings fit a wide range of lenses – this is my TS-E90 tilt/shift lens

90mm with 58mm

However, the EF-S15-85 lens on my Canon 100D takes 72mm filters, and there is no 72mm ring.

Fortunately I have a collection of adapter rings.

Here’s the mount ring and 72mm to 77mm step up ring.

step up ring

The two fit together.

lens ring fitted

The flash then just clips on to the front of the lens.

kf-150 on 100D

Using the Flash

There are three modes for the Flash – automatic, manual and multi-flash.

The most useful to me is fully manual.

manual mode

I’ve got both flashes firing, but flash B is set much brighter.

The modelling light is off, but the feedback beep is on.

TTL mode

Perhaps of interest to those working in changeable conditions is the TTL mode, which works with the camera to decide the right amount of flash.

The flash is also set to rear curtain firing here (the >>> symbol)

TTL mode

No flash exposure compensation has been set here or on the camera.

Since we don’t know how bright the flash will need to be, there is no absolute setting of flash output, just a ratio (in f/stops).

This goes 1:1 > 1:1.4 > 1:2 > 1:2.8 > 1:4 > 1:5.6 > 1:8 (reversed for setting A dimmer than B)

This means that as I’ve set the flash above, unit B will be 5 stops dimmer than unit A,

TTL auto works very well, but remember that with a guide number (GN) of 14 this is not a flash to light up large groups of people.

Russian dolls

Unless they are on Karen’s office book case…

Taken with TTL and ‘P’ mode on the Canon 100D.

Pressing the FEL button on my camera produced a low power flash for metering purposes.

Look at the slight shadows, showing that I had the flash on the right at a higher power setting.

Vignetting

I should note that the EF-S15-85 lens was fine at longer focal lengths, but at 15mm (24mm equiv) the vignetting was rather obvious.

vignetting

The flat lighting is great where you want to look into something, such as this old CCTV lens.

shadowless lighting

Note though the very distinctive catchlights

The lack of shadow can make a ring flash great for technical imaging.

An igneous rock from Karen’s book shelf collection.

rock detail

Changing the lighting ratio can be used to bring out a bit of surface texture.

You do need to take care with reflections, but ring lights like this are great if you’re photographing non reflective surfaces.

Lastly, there’s a mode I’ve never experimented with.

Multi-shot high speed flash

In this setting I’m creating a burst of 7 flashes at an 80Hz repetition frequency

multi-flash mode

The power levels are well down, which will prevent over heating.

Not something I’ve experimented with before. This detail of a stopwatch balance wheel (3 flashes @10Hz) gives multiple exposures of the wheel arms, showing its non-linear movement.

balance wheel

It’s actually a detail from this shot.

watch back

Care with reflections

The general darkness in the shot above is from trying not to blow out highlights too much, and not having any reflectors behind the watch.

if you are photographing small reflective stuff, you’ll quickly find a use for sheets of white/grey/black card.

This is a similar angle, but with a small sheet of white card just out of shot at the top.

back of stopwatch

Note how the near and far points of the watch are a bit out of focus?

Well, the TS-E 90mm lens I’m using is a tilt lens, so by tilting the lens I can get the plane of sharpness to run more along the surface of the stopwatch.

A bit of tilt, with the flash attached, gives this. (click to enlarge)

stopwatch tilt ring flash

Tilt and macro needs a bit of experimenting to work well. I’ve written up more in an article about macro tilt with extension tubes.

Flowers

Not a lot to see in the garden in mid February, but my Rosemary bush is flowering.

This shot is outdoors, so the background is lit slightly (click to enlarge)

rosemary flowers

You have control over the background by choosing exposure/aperture/ISO and flash power levels.

Reduce the flash power and more background will show. Of course, you’ll need to increase overall exposure, since just reducing the flash will only make the picture darker.

The amount of background can be an important aspect of composition. For shots like the Jade Plant below (also at the top of the article) I like the black. For the Rosemary flowers I wanted a bit more of the rest of the plant.

jade plant flower

Jade Plant (Crassula ovata) – note ‘doubled’ catchlights.

It’s one reason that for studio close up and macro work I much prefer the flash in fully manual mode. The exposure decisions are then yours, not the camera’s.

Conclusions

For its price the flash is solidly built and worked consistently during my testing.

flash front partsIt would be nice if it had ‘A’ and ‘B’ marked on it somewhere, since I regularly forgot which was which

The case and range of adapter rings are useful accessories, although do check if your particular lens needs a step-up ring like my EF-S15-85 did.

My only downside was the quality of the English manual. The translation has numerous errors that might make it difficult to follow if you are not experienced with the different flash modes.

That said I’d figured out most of the operations from the rear panel before I even sat down to read the manual.

The flash does not have the wireless and slave functionality you’d associate with much more expensive versions such as the Canon MR14-EX, but if you needed that functionality you wouldn’t be looking at a basic model like this?

Overall a great entry route to macro and close up photography that won’t break the bank.

Mfr. info for the K&F Concepts KF-150 ring flash See also:Nikon compatible version

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