Fstoppers Reviews the Flashpoint 14″ Fluorescent Dimmable Ring Light
Flashpoint’s 14” Fluorescent Dimmable Ring Light ($140) is by no means a perfect product. It’s not the sturdiest of creations; it seems to have about as much metal in it as a pair of sunglasses. It’s bright but not powerful; bright enough to want those sunglasses if you find yourself on the business end. With all that said, this light may be the best value in the lighting market today.
One hundred forty dollars. This light comes from Flashpoint, Adorama’s store brand. I can’t say I was honestly expecting very much. Combing through Flashpoint’s other products, most people seem generally pleased with their other offerings, but there’s no denying that the build quality leaves something to be desired. Still, one gets what one pays for.
It’s safe to say that this light follows in the footsteps of their other products. The structural soundness is not wonderful. I can easy bend the frame of the light with little to no effort. I can’t imagine it holding up to any kind of long-term abuse. Or short-term for that matter. From a kitten.
But I still love it.
This is because, in spite of its shortcomings, the Flashpoint Ring Light is extremely useful, and may be the best bang-for-my-buck in all my lighting equipment.
Let’s start with the specs…
Outside diameter: 17”
Bulb diameter: 14”
4500 Lumen Output at four feet
Color Temperature: 5500 Kelvin
120v AC cord
I ordered this light at the Photo Expo at the end of October. At the time, the light was around $110. Apparently, the supply could not keep up with the demand, so I actually received the light just before Christmas – two months later. When it arrived, the box looked like it had been sat on. And as testament to its quality packaging, only one of the support clips that held the light in place was broken. It’s great to include a case with the light, but it does very little in the form of actual protection.
I contacted Adorama and asked for a replacement clip. They requested that I send back the entire unit. I informed them that I was not especially keen to send back the entire unit for a very inexpensive piece of plastic. They are currently searching the warehouse to see if I can get a replacement part. I imagine there’s got to be a drawer of them around there somewhere. Without the clip, the bulb loses only a small amount of stability, and there is no loss of functionality. The mount on the bottom of the light attaches to any light stand, but I did find the adjusting to be a little stiff. This could be a result of it being new, but after a few weeks, I haven’t noticed any change. On the bottom is a dimmer, which changes the output from 50%-100%. This is not a particularly big difference in practice (at close range), but it’s there.
Let’s talk quality of light. I subscribe to the ‘light-is-light-so-long-as-you-know-how-to-use-it’ school (Most cluttered. Letterman jackets. Ever.) of lighting. I also believe a light should have purpose. This is a ring light, and it behaves as such when using it in the traditional manner. The key difference between this, and say, a ring FLASH is obviously the power. This thing will never come close to overpowering daylight. In fact, if you want to use this indoors (and achieve the traditional ring light aesthetic), you had better turn off or block out every other light.
The obvious benefit of it being low power is the ability to have a very shallow depth of field – something that is mostly impossible with a ring flash unless one is using a much larger format or adding ND filters. I do, however, find Flashpoint’s “measurement” of four feet to be pretty ineffective. Cutting this distance in half produces a much more flattering light. Anywhere from two to three feet produced the best results. At this close range, the light is big and soft but doesn’t have much versatility beyond portrait work. Don’t expect to use this at a distance for full body shots. But that was never this light’s purpose.
The ring light in general does get its fair share of flak for having a gimmicky look and overall being a little played out. When it is used untraditionally (not shooting through it), this ring light becomes a wonderful tool to have in your box. It behaves mostly as any other off-camera light. Being far less powerful than a strobe, it balances to your room’s ambient light pretty beautifully. It’s just powerful enough to add dramatic portrait lighting to almost any scene – all the way up to working reasonably well against a disappearing sunset.
Now on to some sample shots. No adjustments have been made to these images in post, but exposures have been adjusted in-camera.
Full power (approx. 2 ft. away), ISO 640, F/5, 1/125th shutter speed.
Half power (approx. 2 ft. away), ISO 1000, F/3.5, 1/160th shutter speed.
Full power with diffusion (approx. 2 ft. away), ISO 640, F/4.5, 1/125th shutter speed.
Full power (approx. 4 ft. away), ISO 800, F/3.5, 1/160th shutter speed.
Half power (approx. 4 ft. away), ISO 1250, F/3.2, 1/160th shutter speed.
Full power with diffusion (approx. 4 ft. away), ISO 800, F/3.2, 1/125th shutter speed.
Full power off-camera (approx. 2 ft. away), ISO 640, F/4.5, 1/160th shutter speed.
As you can probably tell, this light is not color balanced to 5500K. I have found it is much closer to 4600k and requires a magenta shift of about +12. After adjusting the white balance, the first shot becomes much more palatable. The model, however, does not.
Adding the diffusion seems to add too much of a green shift, and adjusting the dimmer to 50% results in a big increase of magenta. It has a hard time fitting onto the light and is easier to attach with four hands. Also, at half power and four feet, the shot appears underexposed by about a stop. I had already increased the ISO from 800 to 1250 and lowed my exposure by a third of a stop. I purposefully left it here to retain sharpness and illustrate how (mostly) useless this light is at a distance.
I was turned onto this light by photographer Coty Tarr – an awesome photographer that we featured on Fstoppers a few months ago. Coty swears by this light and has shared a few examples of portraits that he’s shot using it.
From Coty, “I’m really impressed with how well the ring light mixes with ambient light. The kitchen shot would have never been possible with strobes…well, unless you ND’d the balls out of it.”
It does not cost very much money
Can be purchased with change found between cushions
Easy to use
Great quality of light at close range
Allows you to use a lower aperture
Could probably carry it through a metal detector without setting it off
Might actually be made from licorice
Does not taste like licorice
Positional adjustments require a bit of force
Mostly useless diffuser
Carrying case is more of a bag than a case
Not very practical from more than a few feet away
Requires you to use a lower aperture
Can require a high ISO
The recurring theme throughout this review is “not perfect,” so I do not need to reiterate that more here. It’s a complex light to review. On the one hand, it lacks color accuracy, durability and power. On the other, it’s cost-effective, lightweight, easy transportable and produces a beautiful quality of light when used correctly. The pros easily outweigh the cons, making this a light that is absolutely worth having. You may just have to wait three months to get it.