GEAR REVIEW - SIGMA EM-140 DG Ringflash
If macro photography is something that takes your fancy but your shots are suffering with blur or lackluster lighting, then perhaps this the Sigma EM 140-DG Ringflash can come to the rescue!
We've all been there. You get yourself a macro lens and expect amazing photographs of bugs and other insects right from the get go. We quickly discover that working at such close focusing distances f/5.6 isn't all that deep. Very little is in focus and our images don't look anything like the ones in the magazines.
"Ah ha! I'll just stop the aperture down. F/32 should give me what I want!" Then it dawns on you that smaller aperture means longer shutter times. Longer shutter times means blurred images if there is any movement. "ISO - I'll up the ISO!!" And so you increase the ISO 5 stops to compensate and take a picture. Then you notice things aren't looking so sharp anymore and there is definitely some noise in the image too. What to do??
The simple answer is flash. We don't need to worry about shutter speed and ISO. In fact, if we can kill all the ambient light and use the flash as the only light source, we can freeze the action without any blur. You can use your speedlite, although you will need to mount this off the camera ideally to avoid a shadow being cast by the lens/hood. Depending how you do this, it can leave the whole ensemble a bit unbalanced.
A very effective, although not inexpensive solution comes in the form of the Sigma EM 140-DG ring flash. As seen in the image above, it fits directly onto the front of the lens and the camera hot shoe. The position of the blubs, which can be fired independently of one another, gives great wrapped around or directional light, with shadows greatly softened.
A number of adapters are available to fit the strobe head to your specific lens or lenses. If you're only going to use this on your dedicated macro lens, then you only need the one adapter. If you plan to use it as a modeling ring flash for portraiture too, you could always just buy the biggest available adapter and then attach stepping rings to it as necessary, which is a much more cost effective option.
The 140-DG comes in its own pouch for safe storage and transportation and a 55mm and 62mm adapter rings are included. Optional 52mm, 67mm, 72mm and 77mm adapters are available separately. The build quality is very good and the lead connecting the head to the body is heavy duty. Light is controlled by having either the left, right or both tubes firing to give you a choice of looks. You also have the option of a modeling flash if so desired.
Power output is decent enough for its intended purpose, with a guide number of 14. The strobe can be reduced down to 1/64th power and also has a High Speed Sync option to enable the user to go above their normal syncing speeds. Being a TTL strobe generally the exposures are pretty accurate and takes a lot of the head ache out shooting. Operation is pretty straight-forward and usable right out of the box.
It's not the cheapest lighting solution at around the £300 mark but, then again what is in photography, right? Still when you compare it to the Nikon SB R1C1 which still retails at over £550, the Sigma certainly saves you a few pounds. Granted, the Nikon wins in the looking cool department and is a bit more flexible where strobe placement (and number) is concerned but, I'd rather have the extra £250 in my pocket or to put towards other equipment.
Available for Canon, Nikon, Pentax, Sigma and Sony camera systems, the 140-DG offers great lighting for a fairly reasonable price. If macro photography is your passion then its definitely an investment and can help deliver the results you need.