field macro light improvement options

Started 5 months ago | Discussions
sanosai Regular Member • Posts: 237
field macro light improvement options

As I m learning to use light properly in order to get better results, I would like to look into equipment that will allow me to speed up this process a bit.

Seems that a setup based on the Venus Optics (KuangRen) KX-800 (+diffuser obvsiouly) can produce some really good results, due to the extra reach/flexibility provided by this system. Because even having e.g. 2 slaves at hand, its hard to position whilst on the field - those need to be supported and relative to the camera lens > subject. Problem with the KX-800 is that a) it is too expensive and b) its no reliable. Flexing the arms, eventually eats the internal wiring and it goes off relatively quick. Not very efficient if I have to pay 300 bucks every so often for replacing it..

So I m trying to think of a system that will provide similar reach/functionality, but be more reliable (and affordable in the long term)

How about something like this ? Does anyone have any experience with such system? If so, any advice on the flash units mounted there? I presume they have to be light as possible, if it is to last!

 sanosai's gear list:sanosai's gear list
Sony a6300 Sony a7R III Sony E 16-50mm F3.5-5.6 PZ OSS Sony FE 90mm F2.8 macro Sony FE 200-600 F5.6-6.3 +3 more
Gregor Samsa
Gregor Samsa Regular Member • Posts: 309
Re: field macro light improvement options
3

I'm currently looking for something similar, and I'm on Sony too.

I had a Sigma ring flash, but one tube isn't firing any more, so I'm taking the opportunity to upgrade to something more flexible.

I'm going to go with the Meike MK-MT24 wireless twin flash:

https://www.macrodojo.com/product/meike-mk-mt24-nikon-wireless-rf-macro-twin-flash-mk-mt24n/

And this dual articulated arm bracket:

https://www.macrodojo.com/product/fotopro-dmm-903s-macro-twin-flash-flexible-articulating-arms-bracket/

It was the curly cable that went on my Sigma flash, so I want to get away from wires and take advantage of the versatility of wireless. The MK-MT24 system uses RF, so line of sight isn't needed. The price of the MK-MT24 is the same as the KX-800, and you'll have the added expense of the bracket and arms (you can probably get cheaper than what I linked to above), but the whole system is modular. You can add extra MK-R200 flashes if you want (I think to a maximum of 8), or individually replace a flash, the control unit or the arm assembly separately if anything breaks. Joints for the arms can even be bought individually.

I'm going to figure out diffusion when I get the flash. I believe the supplied diffusers aren't very good, but that's not a very difficult issue to solve.

There's a good review of the whole setup here:

https://www.nickybay.com/meike-mk-mt24-review-wireless-macro-twin-flash-comparison-vs-nikon-r1c1/

I haven't got this setup yet, so I can't comment on it with any experience, but it's what my research has led to, and I'm placing my order for the bits today (I'm in Euorpe, so I'll be getting the flash and maybe the bracket from a more local online store).

 Gregor Samsa's gear list:Gregor Samsa's gear list
Sony Alpha NEX-7 Sony SLT-A77 Sony a7 III Sony 70-400mm F4-5.6 G SSM Samyang 8mm F3.5 Aspherical IF MC Fisheye +7 more
OP sanosai Regular Member • Posts: 237
Re: field macro light improvement options

Hi Gregor! Did you got those items? Have you had any chance to test it?

I m serious in investing to something similar, so hopefully I can get more impressions on this setup. I m a bit put off by the total cost to be honest, but at least if maintenance cost is low (and results are good!), there it might worth considering..

Gregor Samsa wrote:

I'm currently looking for something similar, and I'm on Sony too.

I had a Sigma ring flash, but one tube isn't firing any more, so I'm taking the opportunity to upgrade to something more flexible.

I'm going to go with the Meike MK-MT24 wireless twin flash:

https://www.macrodojo.com/product/meike-mk-mt24-nikon-wireless-rf-macro-twin-flash-mk-mt24n/

And this dual articulated arm bracket:

https://www.macrodojo.com/product/fotopro-dmm-903s-macro-twin-flash-flexible-articulating-arms-bracket/

It was the curly cable that went on my Sigma flash, so I want to get away from wires and take advantage of the versatility of wireless. The MK-MT24 system uses RF, so line of sight isn't needed. The price of the MK-MT24 is the same as the KX-800, and you'll have the added expense of the bracket and arms (you can probably get cheaper than what I linked to above), but the whole system is modular. You can add extra MK-R200 flashes if you want (I think to a maximum of 8), or individually replace a flash, the control unit or the arm assembly separately if anything breaks. Joints for the arms can even be bought individually.

I'm going to figure out diffusion when I get the flash. I believe the supplied diffusers aren't very good, but that's not a very difficult issue to solve.

There's a good review of the whole setup here:

https://www.nickybay.com/meike-mk-mt24-review-wireless-macro-twin-flash-comparison-vs-nikon-r1c1/

I haven't got this setup yet, so I can't comment on it with any experience, but it's what my research has led to, and I'm placing my order for the bits today (I'm in Euorpe, so I'll be getting the flash and maybe the bracket from a more local online store).

 sanosai's gear list:sanosai's gear list
Sony a6300 Sony a7R III Sony E 16-50mm F3.5-5.6 PZ OSS Sony FE 90mm F2.8 macro Sony FE 200-600 F5.6-6.3 +3 more
robgendreau Veteran Member • Posts: 8,337
Re: field macro light improvement options

As to the double-arm hot shoe mounts, why would that be better than two off-camera speedlights? Seems much more awkward.

The devil here is in the details, since it depends a lot on exactly how close the working space is. I had a relatively meh ring flash, and it's only ok. Kind of weak, not always in the right direction, and hard to manage.

I recently switched to Godox lights and triggers. the TT350 speedlights are quite small. With them I can place them right next to the lens, even closer than my ring flash with adapter was. I've used a snoot to direct light, http://extreme-macro.co.uk/snoot/

Not having the wires or attachment to the camera makes it a lot easier to use these, and the Godox/Flashpoint stuff is of course terrific for other stuff. I use one for HSS shooting of semi-macro stuff like flowers out on hikes. And two TT350s and a trigger is cheaper than the a Meike macro two-flash and trigger, and a better system IMHO.

xtam667 Regular Member • Posts: 137
Re: field macro light improvement options

I did not want to buy a dedicated macro flash so I tried several brackets. The Wimberley F-2  macro bracket was by far the best. It is rock solid, easily keeps in position a large flash like the Canon 600EX. I found that with a diffuser on it I do not need two flashes.

OP sanosai Regular Member • Posts: 237
Re: field macro light improvement options

robgendreau wrote:

As to the double-arm hot shoe mounts, why would that be better than two off-camera speedlights? Seems much more awkward.

I have no objection about the choice on TT350s (small, cheaper than the Meike)

But regarding position, for my needs, they have to be fixed on camera (cage), as vast majority of my macro shots are on areas I can't position the units where I want to. Most of the bugs are on a branch or somewhere I can't just place the flash units and take the shot (someone would have to hold them whilst I take the shot)

So an articulating arm is a must for my needs. I was considering a cage plus this: https://www.amazon.co.uk/SMALLRIG-Adjustable-Friction-Monitor-Rig-2066/dp/B076HLBZDX

Which commander do you use for the TT350s? The Meike will set me back 300EUR (and I don't need the ring mount!), so perhaps the Godox combo could save me some money

 sanosai's gear list:sanosai's gear list
Sony a6300 Sony a7R III Sony E 16-50mm F3.5-5.6 PZ OSS Sony FE 90mm F2.8 macro Sony FE 200-600 F5.6-6.3 +3 more
OP sanosai Regular Member • Posts: 237
Re: field macro light improvement options

xtam667 wrote:

I did not want to buy a dedicated macro flash so I tried several brackets. The Wimberley F-2 macro bracket was by far the best. It is rock solid, easily keeps in position a large flash like the Canon 600EX. I found that with a diffuser on it I do not need two flashes.

I would like to go on a twin flash setup. The Wimberley looks solid indeed, but its way too expensive as a solution (especially if I need x2)

 sanosai's gear list:sanosai's gear list
Sony a6300 Sony a7R III Sony E 16-50mm F3.5-5.6 PZ OSS Sony FE 90mm F2.8 macro Sony FE 200-600 F5.6-6.3 +3 more
Gregor Samsa
Gregor Samsa Regular Member • Posts: 309
Re: field macro light improvement options

sanosai wrote:

Hi Gregor! Did you got those items? Have you had any chance to test it?

I m serious in investing to something similar, so hopefully I can get more impressions on this setup. I m a bit put off by the total cost to be honest, but at least if maintenance cost is low (and results are good!), there it might worth considering..

I did. I'll post a pic up of the rig a bit later.

Apart from a few test shots at home, I haven't had the chance to test it properly yet due to the lockdown situation here in Ireland.

 Gregor Samsa's gear list:Gregor Samsa's gear list
Sony Alpha NEX-7 Sony SLT-A77 Sony a7 III Sony 70-400mm F4-5.6 G SSM Samyang 8mm F3.5 Aspherical IF MC Fisheye +7 more
OP sanosai Regular Member • Posts: 237
Re: field macro light improvement options

I m considering the following setup (pardon my rough drawing!):

Parts:

-- hide signature --

SmallRig Light Cage for A7RIII (2918)

https://www.smallrig.com/smallrig-light-cage-for-sony-a7-iii-a7r-iii-a9-2918.html

---SmallRig Articulating Rosette Arm 7" (1497) - there's option for 10inch arm, but I dont think I need that long. The arm can be screwed either on the sides of the cage or at the top of the cage. I guess!!

https://www.smallrig.com/smallrig-articulating-rosette-arm-7-1497.html

---SmallRig Magic Arm with Cold Shoe (1639)

https://www.smallrig.com/smallrig-magic-arm-with-cold-shoe-1639.html

---twin flash options (x2 MK-R200 or x2 Godox 350s)

This could also work, right? I need a cage for my A7RIII anyways, so why not make use of it and attach the flash units that way. Those arms should be more than capable holding the twin flash setup into place...

In terms of flexibility (to position the flash units) is not ideal if compared to the KX800, but on the other hand, it should be more durable than the KX800

Do you see any parts that I m missing (or that I didn't get the right ones?)

This is waaayy cheaper compared to the "Dual-Arm Setup for Camera Bodies" option here: https://www.tripodhead.com/products/flash-bracket-macro-brackets.cfm and could serve just as well (as Smallrig also make quality items)

 sanosai's gear list:sanosai's gear list
Sony a6300 Sony a7R III Sony E 16-50mm F3.5-5.6 PZ OSS Sony FE 90mm F2.8 macro Sony FE 200-600 F5.6-6.3 +3 more
xtam667 Regular Member • Posts: 137
Re: field macro light improvement options

sanosai wrote:

I m considering the following setup (pardon my rough drawing!):

Parts:

I am afraid this will be a bit frustrating in the field. Tried it and was not happy. The arms and the heads are weak. The setup was wobbly and difficult to adjust. The Wimberley bracket proved to be much stronger and easier to use.

You can remove the middle piece of the F-2 for a more compact setup. If you have a longish camera plate or any nodal slide then you do not need the perpendicular plate.

My flashes are quite large so with some smaller ones your setup might work out well. But you risk spending more in the end, just as I did.

xtam667 Regular Member • Posts: 137
Re: field macro light improvement options
1

xtam667 wrote:

sanosai wrote:

I m considering the following setup (pardon my rough drawing!):

Parts:

I am afraid this will be a bit frustrating in the field. Tried it and was not happy. The arms and the heads are weak. The setup was wobbly and difficult to adjust. The Wimberley bracket proved to be much stronger and easier to use.

You can remove the middle piece of the F-2 for a more compact setup. If you have a longish camera plate or any nodal slide then you do not need the perpendicular plate.

My flashes are quite large so with some smaller ones your setup might work out well. But you risk spending more in the end, just as I did.

Here is my rig in the simplest configuration. It is very sturdy and reliable with just two pieces of mounting kit. I do not use a separate wireless controller. If I want a second flash then I mount it with a second F-2 and configure it as wireless slave controlled by the first.

Wimberley F-2 macro bracket with the middle piece removed.

Gregor Samsa
Gregor Samsa Regular Member • Posts: 309
Re: field macro light improvement options
2

My apologies for the delay. Here's the rig:

  • Sony A7iii, Sony 90mm 2.8 Macro
  • Meike MT24 twin flash
  • FotoPro DMM-903s Macro Twin Flash Flexible/Articulating Arms Bracket
  • some random Arca quick release clamo
  • Three Legged Thing Elle L-Bracket
  • Neewer 6x5 inches/15x12.5 cm Speedlite Softbox Flashlight Diffusers.

And some macro samples:

(Black Vine Weevil)

Enhanced with ACR's new "Super Resolution" feature

 Gregor Samsa's gear list:Gregor Samsa's gear list
Sony Alpha NEX-7 Sony SLT-A77 Sony a7 III Sony 70-400mm F4-5.6 G SSM Samyang 8mm F3.5 Aspherical IF MC Fisheye +7 more
Gregor Samsa
Gregor Samsa Regular Member • Posts: 309
Re: field macro light improvement options

The FotoPro DMM-903s articulating arms seem well built and are very flexible. You can add or remove joints to change the length. I removed one joint from each arm to suit my needs.  You can tighten each joint, and it's sets in place very well if you do do. The base is a long Arca compatible plate itself, but it also has two mounting slots. I put an Arca clamp on it, to make it easy to mount the camera which already has an L-bracket on it.

The whole rig is easy enough to hold in the hand, but I think I'll get a hand strap for the camera to help make it a easier to hold.

On the Meike MT24 twin flash set, the thing that annoyed me the most was that the buttons on the two flash units are black with no painted inscription, just a black indentation for the text/graphics. This made knowing which button did what - despicably in low light - difficult. I used some Molotow paint markers to colour in the indentations with white and red, to make them much more visible. Also, the battery door on the trigger unit has a tendency to open, so I just stuck some electrical tape on it. The battery doors on the flash units are very secure. Both the flash units and the control unit can shine a guide light to illuminate your subject for composition or focus before the shot.

 Gregor Samsa's gear list:Gregor Samsa's gear list
Sony Alpha NEX-7 Sony SLT-A77 Sony a7 III Sony 70-400mm F4-5.6 G SSM Samyang 8mm F3.5 Aspherical IF MC Fisheye +7 more
Jack Calypso Contributing Member • Posts: 554
Re: field macro light improvement options

Gregor Samsa wrote:

My apologies for the delay. Here's the rig:

  • Sony A7iii, Sony 90mm 2.8 Macro
  • Meike MT24 twin flash
  • FotoPro DMM-903s Macro Twin Flash Flexible/Articulating Arms Bracket
  • some random Arca quick release clamo
  • Three Legged Thing Elle L-Bracket
  • Neewer 6x5 inches/15x12.5 cm Speedlite Softbox Flashlight Diffusers.

That is a nice rig. That bracket is a nice update to something I've seen on the Web for years; looks very usable. Can it be disassembled for transport? Can you adjust the friction in the joints?. Could you go minimal, and put just a cold shoe on either side?

I'm buying so many accessories lately, what's one more, right?

Gregor Samsa
Gregor Samsa Regular Member • Posts: 309
Re: field macro light improvement options
1

Jack Calypso wrote:

That is a nice rig. That bracket is a nice update to something I've seen on the Web for years; looks very usable. Can it be disassembled for transport? Can you adjust the friction in the joints?. Could you go minimal, and put just a cold shoe on either side?

I'm buying so many accessories lately, what's one more, right?

Very easy and quick to disassemble and it it all (the flash system, the bracket and the diffusers) fit easily in a small bag that I used to use for an old Sony Nex camera. Or it would fit in the top pocket of my camera bag (a LowePro Slingshot AW 200). Each arm has a cold shoe on the end, so the flashes just slide into those. They then fold across the bracket. I have the camera mounting on to the bracket via an Arca clamp and an L-bracket on the camera, so it's just a matter of tightening/loosening the retaining bolt.

You can adjust every link on the articulating arm for friction, using a small hex screw hidden under a rubber ring.

You can screw the cold shoes off off, and while I haven't tried it, I think you can screw the arms off the bracket and then screw the cold shoes straight onto the bracket.

It might not work with heavier/bigger flashes, though. The arms might not stay  in place with the weight. But it suits the small flashes I'm using.

 Gregor Samsa's gear list:Gregor Samsa's gear list
Sony Alpha NEX-7 Sony SLT-A77 Sony a7 III Sony 70-400mm F4-5.6 G SSM Samyang 8mm F3.5 Aspherical IF MC Fisheye +7 more
xtam667 Regular Member • Posts: 137
Re: field macro light improvement options

Gregor Samsa wrote:

Jack Calypso wrote:

That is a nice rig. That bracket is a nice update to something I've seen on the Web for years; looks very usable. Can it be disassembled for transport? Can you adjust the friction in the joints?. Could you go minimal, and put just a cold shoe on either side?

I'm buying so many accessories lately, what's one more, right?

Very easy and quick to disassemble and it it all (the flash system, the bracket and the diffusers) fit easily in a small bag that I used to use for an old Sony Nex camera. Or it would fit in the top pocket of my camera bag (a LowePro Slingshot AW 200). Each arm has a cold shoe on the end, so the flashes just slide into those. They then fold across the bracket. I have the camera mounting on to the bracket via an Arca clamp and an L-bracket on the camera, so it's just a matter of tightening/loosening the retaining bolt.

You can adjust every link on the articulating arm for friction, using a small hex screw hidden under a rubber ring.

You can screw the cold shoes off off, and while I haven't tried it, I think you can screw the arms off the bracket and then screw the cold shoes straight onto the bracket.

It might not work with heavier/bigger flashes, though. The arms might not stay in place with the weight. But it suits the small flashes I'm using.

I also tried a two-flash setup but it turned out one is usually enough:

OP sanosai Regular Member • Posts: 237
Re: field macro light improvement options

Gregor Samsa wrote:

That looks great Gregor!

Those arms seemed to be made for those R200 units of the Meike

I was about to ask how on earth did you manage to fit the Neweer softbox on them (I ve for the same one..) As the R200 has very little room at the front in order for the softbox strap to be secured. But then I saw this photo; you ve actually teared the softbox bottom 3-4cm in order to slide it in, with the strap securing after the R200 mount

As I ll have the cage for my A7RIII arriving shortly, I m thinking that the 7inch version of the magic arm should suffice. This may not have the absolute flexibility of the DD903s, but I know it ll be strong enough to support even heavier flash units than the Meike..

Which brings me to my dilemma about going either for the Meike or a pair of Godox TT350S (+X2 commander). The Godox is more bulky and heavier (250g each, inc battery) and lacks the focusing beam light of the Meike. But I feel that the Godox is more expandable, plus is cheaper and more well supported where I m located

Just a question - does the Meike flash stand has an 1/4'' hole underneath?

I just want to know that it will sit directly on the Smallrig 1/4'' screw, without a cold shoe adaptor!?

 sanosai's gear list:sanosai's gear list
Sony a6300 Sony a7R III Sony E 16-50mm F3.5-5.6 PZ OSS Sony FE 90mm F2.8 macro Sony FE 200-600 F5.6-6.3 +3 more
Jack Calypso Contributing Member • Posts: 554
Re: field macro light improvement options

I have a caged Canon M6 II, and have used Magic Arms to attach stuff, and it's worked out well. What appeals to me about the FotoPro is having the mounting point at the front of the lens, rather than the arms "wrapping around" from the rear.

I think I may get one of them along with a couple of TT35s, as I already have one of the wireless controllers.

OP sanosai Regular Member • Posts: 237
Re: field macro light improvement options

Yes, the 903s seems more practical solution here, for the reasons you ve mentioned

I m put off because of its price and also at this time, I don't have the time luxury to wait for it to arrive from China. I ll be on a trip shortly, so the Smallrig magic arms is my only way to go

My only dilemma now is the flash. Should it be the Meike macro system or a pair of TT350s..? One thing about the Meike that I can't overlook is that it doesn't work with non-electronic lenses. Which means it won't work with a Laowa - which at least at the moment is the only high magnification option for Sony

 sanosai's gear list:sanosai's gear list
Sony a6300 Sony a7R III Sony E 16-50mm F3.5-5.6 PZ OSS Sony FE 90mm F2.8 macro Sony FE 200-600 F5.6-6.3 +3 more
DanRN
DanRN Regular Member • Posts: 111
Re: field macro light improvement options
1

sanosai wrote:

Yes, the 903s seems more practical solution here, for the reasons you ve mentioned

I m put off because of its price and also at this time, I don't have the time luxury to wait for it to arrive from China. I ll be on a trip shortly, so the Smallrig magic arms is my only way to go

My only dilemma now is the flash. Should it be the Meike macro system or a pair of TT350s..? One thing about the Meike that I can't overlook is that it doesn't work with non-electronic lenses. Which means it won't work with a Laowa - which at least at the moment is the only high magnification option for Sony

I’m using a magic arm with a TT350 and small softbox. Works fine, but another magic arm with a TT350 would make it heavier than I’d want (it’s on a D810).

I’m considering the Meike units.

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