Aputure Amaran Halo LED Ring Flash – First Test…

This article is a follow up to my original post on the Aputure Amaran Halo LED Ring Flash.

I was expecting it to take a few weeks to arrive but I’d underestimated the efficiency of the HK sellers – ordered on the 11th and arrived on the 18th so it took under a week.

The unit comes in a nice packaging box and it feels well made and is simple to use.

I’ve fitted the 55mm adaptor ring to my Tamron 90mm 1:1 macro and as a simple test found an indoor subject in dim lighting to photograph (small coloured embroidered flower on a dark material background).

Test #1 (close macro)

I’ve focused at a certain distance – it’s about 7.5cm from the front of the LED ring in front of the lens to the subject (and about 30cm from the subject to the sensor plane in the camera) – and then set the camera to manual focus so I can reliably repeat the distance at different settings. This would probably be a typical distance for very close 1:1 macro work and down near the minimum focusing distance for this lens.

I first took an ambient exposure which was 2 seconds @ f/8 and ISO 100

NIKON D7000 + 90.0 mm f/2.8 @ 90 mm, 2

Then with the LED at maximum continuous brightness the exposure was 1/100 @ f/8 and ISO 100 – the histograms look roughly the same – if anything the second image with the light is slightly more exposed.

NIKON D7000 + 90.0 mm f/2.8 @ 90 mm, 1/100 sec at f/8, ISO 100

However if we assume they are the same then at this distance the light is adding about 7 and 2/3ds stops of light which is fantastic and would be the difference between a handheld shot of 1/30th @ f/2.8 at ISO 1600 and 1/100th @ f/16 at ISO 800 (i.e. blurry handheld with no DoF and slightly noisy vs sharp with much more depth of field and lower noise).

I also tried the flash mode where it turns off the LEDs before flashing them at double brightness and it also works and does seem to give double the power – I took the shot in manual at 1/200 @ f/8 and ISO 100 and got a good exposure so in theory you could get almost 9 stops of lighting power for close macro work.

NIKON D7000 + 90.0 mm f/2.8 @ 90 mm, 1/200 sec at f/8, ISO 100

Obviously these are fairly ideal conditions so will have to see how it fares in the real world but for macro applications at close distances I think it will do a great job. Obviously the further the subject is from the lens the weaker the power will be so it’s not really for portrait or other work (unless they are very close) so it isn’t going to compete with real ring or other off camera flashes in that arena but for it’s intended purpose it looks very promising.

Test #2 (70cm)

This time a dimly lit subject 50cm from the front of the LED ring (about 70cm from the sensor) so we are well out of macro territory here – this would be near a head shot portrait distance with a portrait lens.

The before shot was 2.5sec @ f/3.2 ISO 100 and the after shots were 1/8th (& 1/15th) @ f/3.2 ISO 100 – so about 4 and 1/3rd stops (+1 for flash mode) – still pretty respectable and the difference between a shot at ISO 6400 and ISO 320 (160) for instance.

I’ll update again when I have had a chance to use it for real out in the field and with real world images to show…

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  1. Hi Rodney,

    I read your thoughts about the Aputure Amaran Halo – LED Ringflash.

    I do macro with a particular difficult macro lenses; the Canon MP-E65.
    http://www.luminous-landscape.com/reviews/lenses/mp-e-65.shtml

    Very demanding lenses to use. Very close to the subject; almost touching and not much natural light to use with such a lenses. But the results are amazing (when in a lucky day).

    I do mostly still life objects in my studio, with tripod, etc. And also video.
    A few questions so you can help me decide to get on Ring Flash.

    1.
    Are you happy with the Aputure Ring Flash, in general?
    Good features? Good piece of gear?

    2.
    for the very close work, it works? Lights enough?

    3.
    will the plastic ring (I don´t if it has a minimum distance to use) put a distance between my lenses and the subject that I didn´t had before?

    4. do you´ve more photos with the ring flash?

    I guess those are my main concerns.
    Love some of your photos, just discover today.

    Thanks a lot for your help.
    Kind regards,
    Luis Cunha

  2. Hi Luis,
    In general I’m still very happy with the purchase – for only $35 it’s a bargain. It does provide quite a bit of light but no where near as much as say a flash would so it isn’t likely to remove the need for flash when you need faster shutter speeds. That said I find it invaluable simply for providing enough light to compose and focus properly even when using other light sources like flash. The unit does stick out in front of the lens however – about 10mm – so it might not suit certain types of lenses and shot styles (i.e. those very very close to the front of the lens). Many of the recent fungi images (over the past few weeks) and some of the more recent focus stacking images (that I’ve posted and will be posting over the coming week or two) were taken using the LED ring light.
    Rodney…

  3. Hi Rodney,
    first thanks for your time.

    So; weaker than a proper flash but strong enough to light small sea shells, etc, without the need for high shutter speeds? My subjects are static and in the studio.

    What I need is to, (for this kind of subjects) cast light enough to keep the ISO at the minimum and play with the aperture when needed.

    Do you use continuous light mode, flash mode or both on your macro work?
    Because flash mode is stronger isn´t it?

    Thank you so much.
    Bests,
    Luis

  4. Augustin – unless your subject is pretty close I doubt that it will provide a sufficient level of lighting to be used as a continuous light source. It may improve AF but is unlikely to “light” any subject more than a couple metres away.