Canon produces two macro rings, MR-14EX and MT-24EX, and many other manufacturers also produce such rings. I have a Canon Speedlite 440EX II external flash, which I use when I don't use a tripod for my shots (that is quite seldom, actually).

The macro rings aren't exactly cheap, and my question is whether it is a good idea to get one for macro shots, or not, if you:

  • 1) Use a tripod (no flash) for macro shots, what I do most of the time


  • 2) Use the flash extensively while shooting macro

Remember that I already have a Speedlite, and I can remotely control it from my 7D, so I can put it at a wide variety of angles.


4 Answers 4


In my opinion flash tends to be better than a tripod for macro as you get more control, faster shutter speeds and you can close the aperture really far down. That's not to say you can't get good results with available light.

You can also get good results without a dedicated macro ringlight, if you have a off camera cord. This will let you get your 430EX close to the subject and allow you to find the optimum lighting angle. Diffusing the light will fill in shadows like a ringflash, though shadows aren't usually a problem as even a bare flash is a large (i.e. soft) lightsource compared to a macro subject.

It's definitely worth experimenting to see what you can do with your current gear before investing in a ring light or adaptor.

  • \$\begingroup\$ The 7D lets me remote control the flash. I will experiment with it a bit. \$\endgroup\$
    – Anto
    May 11, 2011 at 16:19
  • \$\begingroup\$ Do also take a look at the links in @ysap 's answer, however I think this better addresses your question. \$\endgroup\$
    – nchpmn
    May 11, 2011 at 19:54

There are several tutorials available to how to construct your own DIY ringflash:

This one is very sexy:

You can easily find many more through a quick search. Not all are macro rings, but it certainly gives you idea for making your own.

  • \$\begingroup\$ the last link, flickr:iamclaus, is dead. :( \$\endgroup\$
    – knb
    May 30, 2015 at 19:53

I tend to do both, quite often...

In terms of the ring flash, it's around the lens, so the light is more accurately focussed on the subject and, for that matter, is closer to the subject. This is especially handy when the distance to the subject from the front element of the lens is very tight as another form of flash is going to be angled quite off axis, if it can even illuminate the subject properly at all.

In terms of the tripod, I'd use it anyways for stationary subjects to improve the steadiness and sharpness of the shot. For a moving subject, I'd skip the tripod since it's going to be hard to move in time to the subject moving.

Now, that all depends on the macro subject... For insects, small parts and devices, and the like, the ring flash works really quite well. For falling water drops, for example, off camera flash is a better approach.

Anyways, you can adapters that allow you to turn your regular speedlight into a ring flash. One example of this is the Orbis Ringflash. I went for the Metz ringflash myself, rather than an adapter, since it supported every major brand nicely and it was future proofed for me, not to mentioned had some finer grained control.

  • \$\begingroup\$ How is Metz's ringflash? I was drooling about it a few months ago but I haven't had the "courage" to buy it.. \$\endgroup\$ Oct 10, 2011 at 7:38
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @AndreiRinea - It works great, I'm very happy with it, so no regrets. I haven't used it as much as I would have liked, but that's not a reflection of its ability. \$\endgroup\$
    – Joanne C
    Oct 10, 2011 at 12:18

It depends on what you are photographing, and how you want to light behave. If you want to get good light no matter is happening with available light, then flash is fantastic. But if the available light is working for you, use it.

A ring light creates a bigger light source, therefore making softer light. Compare the size of the ring flash(9" - 10" across) to your flash head (which is just smaller than a credit card). When you are shooting macro, the subject size in relation to the light source will dictate how the shadows will look. By creating a bigger light source the shadows will become more subtle.

Plus it also is a different shape. Round light anyone? Being round it can mimic natural light. and if you are shooting anything highly reflective (eyes, metal, water) the shape will be reflected back.

Since you have a 7D a ring flash could be a good piece of studio lighting. You have a bigger, rounder light source, which you can put anywhere the wireless system can pick it up. So you could use it for more than just macro.


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