How to Use the L Ring Ultra II Ring Light

For Macro and Dental Photography

By Paula Sanders

I just purchased a macro lens for my Canon Rebel XT (Canon 60mm F2.8) and a Ring Light. The one I chose was a Digi-Slave L Ring Ultra II Ring Light. The following quote I took from the company's website. The company's website is:

"The Digi-Slave L-Ring Ultra II is more powerful, more versatile LED ring light ideal for macro photography. Equipped with 24 oversized, super-bright white LEDs, it features a variable power dial to quickly and easily optimize the light output. A larger inner diameter makes the Ultra II perfect no matter the lens size of your digital camera. It can be used as a continuous light source, and can also be triggered from a standard PC or hot-shoe sync. A function switch allows half of the LEDs to be switched off to aid in resolving surface details. This compact, lightweight ring light is perfect for any kind of close-up photography – dental, catalog, jewelry, etc. Takes 4AA batteries or optional power adapter. Contact SR Inc. at 800-324-7745 for more information."

At first I was not too sure how to use it since I was trying to use it as if it were a TTL flash unit. Which it isn't. I called the company and got immediate help. The customer service was excellent. They suggested I use it as a continuous light source. When you use it in any mode, you can vary the intensity of the light by turning a little knob on the side of it. So I set it in continuous mode and did some experimentation. It also comes with a diffuser. These are two views of the diffuser. The diffuser sort of slips into the front opening covering the lights. It does tend to slip out. However, I found that I didn't need it because none of the settings were affected by it other than to slow down the exposure. The effect was not harsh without it.

The first experiment I did was to see how the light effected the exposure of an image. I took the picture at varying distances from the image. I set the camera at AV, which is aperture priority, and set the aperture at f8. The closer you are, the stronger the light. For these, the light was on full strength. Testing outside was hard because the differences between no light other than daylight and the use of the ring light varied depending on the ambient light (sunlight). The less sunlight, the more the differences showed up between the various settings of the ring light. Also, outside the sunlight varied as I was shooting on all the various days.

As one moves away from the object, the time will change (exposure will lengthen) when using the ring light. This is obvious. I took this type of sequence a number of times including a shot just using sunlight. This required the longest length of time. Depending on the circumstances, the variations in times were different. But the more sunlight, the less of a difference in either time or fstop.

The screen shot below show how I kept the distance to the flower the same as well as the fstop and varied the intensity of the light from the ring light. In bright sunlight, the dimmer intensities will not have much of an effect. When the ring light was on full, it always lessened the exposure that was necessary.

Lastly, I tried the ring light indoors using a regular overhead tungsten light and a tungsten lamp.

Notice how the full ring light changes the color of the orchids to their CORRECT color. Also, look at the sequence of times.

I used a tripod for the first and last sequence of pictures.

One can also set the ring light to provide light from the right side or the left side. Since it mounts on the camera so that it moves with the position of the camera, it will always be on the right or left. Right and left are determined by looking from the back of the camera toward the subject.

In the next sequence of pictures you can see the slight variation. Look at the color of the curtain and the arrows. Notice, also, how the exposure will change a little when only half the lights are used.

Since the above differences were so small, I recreated it looking down at a bunch of flowers in a fairly dark room.

Again, the differences were very small. The arrows are pointing to the area surrounding the flowers that became a little lighter. It does coincide with which bank of lights were used, left or right lights. But the difference is still marginal.

Any of these formations can be run in two basic ways: as continually on or in bursts. Also, all these configurations can be dimmed with the knob shown in the first image.

I found that I used the ring light on full both outdoors and indoors with different ambient light conditions. I never found it gave me harsh shadows so I didn't need to use the diffuser. It enabled me to take pictures which would not have had enough ambient light without harsh light from a flash. It is so easy to use and for macro work, I don't want to be without it. It is a fixture now on my macro lens.

I decided to take a portrait of my dog using the ring light. It worked very well and the light didn't bother him at all whereas a flash does. I realize that I was closer in one picture, so it is possible that the time would have been the same had I been further back.