|If you want to make a beautiful close-up, portrait or macro picture, then you can almost never use artificial light. There is often insufficient natural light, or the lighting angle is not flattering. For portrait photography, in order to light the subject more nicely, a flash with a soft-box or beauty disk will be applied; for close-up shots and macro shots, a ring flash. That professionals on location can’t do without artificial light sources is clear to see from the many square (soft box) or ring-shaped (ring flash) and round (beauty dish) reflections in the eyes of models. If you don’t like flashes, then LED light is an attractive alternative.
|With LED light, you see what will appear in the photo. In mixed-light situations, you simply add the right amount of artificial light. No one will be shocked by an unexpected, sometimes disturbing flash. Because the energy usage of LEDs is low, with a couple of penlight batteries, you have enough power to run your alternative ring flash on location. LED lighting produces very little heat and has a very long life. The LedGo R332 has a list price of less than 200 euros and is an LED-light alternative for a ring flash or beauty dish. What’s that like in practice?
LED Ring light: LedGo LG-R332
|The LedGo R332 is delivered in a black nylon bag with two battery pack holders, 2 battery holders and two brackets. With those you can place the LED light on top of the camera (on the hot shoe) or under the camera, in the tripod connector. You can also place the system further from the camera on a tripod. The LedGo R332 weighs 700 grams and consists of two half circles, each with 166 LEDs, for which the amount of light can be adjusted with two knobs on the back. According to the specifications, the LedGo R332 delivers 2,450 lumen and an intensity of 4,260 lux at 1 meter distance. The dimensions (WxHxD) are 271x222x44 mm.
|Backlight shot of a Morpho peleides butterfly. Without a fill light, the butterfly would only be visible as a silhouette. The ring-shaped light source ensures even lighting of the butterfly, without cast shadows. By varying the distance, I can quickly choose the desired ratio between artificial light and sunlight, without having to take my eye off the viewfinder.
LedGo LG-R332 power: battery, battery pack or plug-in power
This LedGo LED panel can be used in the studio or living room in combination with an (optional) 7.2 to 12 volt electrical connection, and on location with various kinds of battery packs or 12 (rechargeable) penlight batteries in two included battery holders. Behind the panel there is a button to check the status of the battery or battery pack: the battery indicator on the back shows with four LEDs how much energy there is still available in the batteries/battery packs. On the back of the LED light there are two turnable knobs, with which you can dim the light intensity of the left side and the right side of the panel. In situations with very little existing light and for macro shots, you simulate a natural light source by letting one side of the LedGo R332 shine more brightly than the other.
LedGo LG R332 vs LedGo B160C
We previously reviewed the LedGo B160C, a square, expandable LED panel with 160 LEDs. If we compare the LedGo R332 with the less expensive LedGo B160C, a couple of differences jump out. First of all, the LedGo R332 is significantly larger than the LedGo B160C. You can take a LedGo B160C panel along in your photo bag, but that won’t work with the LedGo R332. You transport the R332 in the included carrying bag. If you want to play with color temperature a lot, then the LedGo B160C offers more options, since it consists of two different kinds of LEDs, for which you can dim the light intensity independently.
On the other hand, the LedGo R332 consists of twice as many LEDs, and thus gives more light. A ring-shaped light source around the lens has the enormous advantage over a light source on top of the camera that the lens will not cast a shadow on your subject. For close-up and macro photography, you can’t really use ring lighting. For portraits, it’s a question of taste. There are many photographers who think that round reflections in the eyes of their model is more natural than a square or rectangular reflection from a soft box or LED panel.
Attachment: below the camera, or on the hot shoe
Most ring-shaped LED panels will be attached to the camera with a ring, which screws on to the filter mount of a lens. The LED light will be delivered including an adaptor ring or a set of adaptor rings, usually larger than 49 mm. I would rather not hang a weight on the front element of a lens. In particular, with light sources with reasonable light production, you’re talking about more than half a kilo that you’re hanging on the front lens for an extended period. In theory, that should be fine. But if I can avoid it, I will. Another disadvantage of other ring flashes and macro LED ring lights is fiddling with adaptor rings: if you use lenses with different filter diameters, then you have to change the adaptor ring when changing lenses. With the LedGo R332, that’s not necessary, thanks to the attachment directly to the camera.
The LedGo R332 connects with a bracket to the tripod connection or hot shoe of the camera. Mounting on a tripod is also possible, of course. Changing a lens is thus fast and problem-free. For owners of a compact system camera (Nikon 1, micro-43) that uses a lens with a filter mount smaller than 49 mm, you don’t have to go looking for an extra adaptor ring to be able to use ring lighting.
Color reproduction LedGo R332
|No light source has precisely the same color spectrum as the sun. The ratio of the different colors depends not only on the color temperature of the light source, but also on the way in which the light is made. To indicate how accurate the color reproduction is, use is made of a scale that runs from 1 to 100. LedGo LED panels have a very high, 90+ CRI color reproduction. We see that in our practice shots, and it also appears in the color measurements that we carried out previously for our review of the LedGo B160C LED panel.
Colors are strongly dependent on taste. Different image styles and the auto white balance of a camera have a big influence on the colors of a photo. Some photographers drool over the natural colors of Nikon cameras, while other photographers find the standard Nikon colors too cool and prefer the warm colors of Canon cameras. The color temperature of the LedGo R332 is variable with the aid of filters. The filters are simple to click onto the LED panel using a pattern of holes in the filters. On 1 side, the filters have a cutout, making them simple to remove again.
Because I photograph in RAW, with which you can always adjust the white balance afterwards without loss of quality, and because the use of filters always leads to a (bit) lower light production, I prefer not to use color filters.
LED light as a “fill-in flash”
|Here you see a test shot of a smooth white surface, made with a wide-angle lens (12 mm lens equivalent). You see here the sum of the vignetting of the lens and LED light—in total 1 stop—in the most critical test that I can think of. When we review a lens on a camera with a full-format sensor, then vignetting of 1 to 2 stops at full aperture is quite common. The intensity of light diminishes quickly with the distance. Therefore, you benefit most from the LedGo R332 when you’re relatively close to the subject (macro and close up) and when you use the LED light as a supplement to the existing light (“fill-in flash”).
In the picture below of a larger-than-life head, the shutter time without LED light was 1/5 second, with a 24 mm lens (ff equivalent). It produces a motion-blurred photo, with not very flattering lighting. By using the LedGo R332, it was possible to make a sharp picture with a shutter speed of 1/25 of a second. The image is much better, but just as with a fill-in flash at short distances, you do see a hard cast shadow. If you want to make a portrait from a bit further away than the photo below, then the LED light will benefit you by about 1 stop.
Ease of use of the LED light for macro, close up and portraits
|Playing with light. LED light is exceptionally suited for playing with the combination of daylight and artificial light. Accurate focusing on a partially hidden butterfly is, thanks to the LED light, more accurate and faster. Even so, LED light is not snake oil, offering a solution to everything. Indoors, or on cloudy days, you’ll have to choose longer shutter times on your camera, or ISO values above 1000 ISO in order to have both a short shutter time and sufficient focal depth. If you want to take a picture at 100 ISO, with a short shutter time and a small aperture (f/16), then you’ll need a powerful flash.
Because the intensity of light decreases quickly with distance, you profit most from the LedGo R332 with macro photography. I would sooner use the LedGo LG-R332 for table-top photography and macro photography with a tripod. From the EXIF data of the practice shots it appears that the LedGo LG-R332 delivers three times as much light for close-up shots and twice as much for portrait shots. For portraits shots in daylight, the effect is limited, and I would choose a brighter light source like the LedGo LG-160S4 Kit, which consists of 640 LEDs, or a studio panel with 600 or more LEDs.
Conclusion review LedGo LG-R332
LEDring lighting delivers, just like a ring flash, beautifully even light when you’re close to a subject. If you’re looking for an alternative to a ring flash, then the LedGo R332 is an attractive option that gives a surprising amount of light with an even light distribution, accurate color reproduction and great ease of use. Your camera does get a lot bigger, and that takes some getting used to at first.
If you look at the picture at the top right of the test, then the LedGo R332 seems to have an impressive appearance. The impressive part is correct, but in another way than I had expected. During the practice test in Artis, no one was intimidated by an SLR camera with LED lighting. Most people were impressed by the amount of light. A young boy asked his father whether he could have a camera light that. “Just ask the gentleman whether you may have it,” his father answered.