A hot-shoe mounted flashgun is inappropriate when it comes to lighting macro subjects due to the position of the flashgun. If you use such a flashgun for macro subjects, it is likely to cast a strong lens shadow, especially if the subject is close to the lens.
Even bouncing the flash might not provide the desired results. The solution is a ring flash that attaches to the front of the lens. Apart from macro subjects, it can be used to provide uniform illumination in portraits as well. The Nissin MF18 ring flash joins these specialists.
Design and Build Quality
The Nissin MF18 unit consists of two parts — the main body that houses the control panel, accessory shoe contacts, and wireless transceiver, and the flash head. Both the units are made of engineering plastic, while the adapter rings are made of metal. The flash head consists of two C-shaped flash tubes. The heads can be moved apart without detaching the unit. Another set of two release buttons can be used to attach or detach the flash unit from the adapter ring. The flash unit is powered by four AA batteries (Alkaline, Lithium, or NiMH) and comes with a battery magazine.
The Nissin MF18 system is fully compatible with Canon ETTL/ETTL II auto flash systems and has a Guide Number of 16m at ISO 100. The unit is compatible with the latest cameras including the Canon 5D Mark III. It has a colour display, which automatically rotates to allow easy viewing in both horizontal and vertical orientations. The main functions set on the flash unit are: Full Auto, TTL, Wireless, Fine Macro, Manual, and Custom Setting. TTL flash exposure compensation is available up to +/-3 EV in 1/3-EV steps. If TTL flash exposure is set on the camera, compensation set on the flash will be counted in addition to that which is already set. The flashgun allows you to adjust the output of each flash tube (defined as side A and side B) separately. This can be set in 15 different output ratios. The flash unit can be used as ‘Master’ in Wireless (remote) mode. Multiple flashguns can be triggered in two groups using four channels of communication. The Fine Macro mode provides power ratios from 1/128 to 1/1024 in 1/6 EV steps. In Manual mode, you can vary the power ratio from 1 (full) to 1/64 in 2/3-EV steps. In addition to these settings, the flashgun offers My TTL setting, which allows you to permanently adjust the TTL flash exposure by +/-3 EV in 1/3-EV steps. In Canon compatible units, you can choose 1st curtain sync, high-speed sync, or rear curtain sync.
The flashgun features modelling lamps consisting of two LEDs on either side. The brightness of the lamps are proportional to the flash power ratios set for each flash tube, thereby simulating actual illumination by the flash. As said earlier, the flash heads can be expanded in case the flash unit causes vignetting with the lens used. The MF18 has an external power pack socket to connect a compatible power source. It also features a USB port for firmware update and an X-terminal contact for flash synchronisation with a strobe. It weighs approximately 446g.
The MF18 is very easy to fix and operate. The full instruction manual can be downloaded from the Nissin website, which explains everything about the flash including how to set up each parameter. The display is intuitive and simple. The battery magazine has to be pulled out of the chamber to change the batteries, which is difficult. We feel that this would not be a problem for most users.
The MF18 ring flash performed well in our tests. We were provided with a Canon compatible flash and hence we used it on a 5D Mark III body with 24-105mm f/4L IS USM lens. The flash proved very useful for both portraits as well as close-up images. The ability to adjust the output of each flash head finely is invaluable in close-up photography. The modelling lamps were quite helpful in focussing on the subject in dim light and completely dark environments. These lamps also simulate the lighting ratio set on individual flash tubes and hence it helps to get a clear idea of how the image would be lit up in the final shot. The flash recycled in approximately 3 sec when fired in manual mode with full output with Sanyo Eneloop 1900 mAh NiMH batteries.
Value for Money
The Nissin MF18 flash unit retails at an MRP of Rs.21,000. This price seems fair if you are a regular at macro photography.
+ Excellent performance
+ Fine control of flash output
+ Useful Modelling Lamps
+ Remote flash feature
– Difficult to replace battery
Design and Build Quality 17/20
Key Features 17/20
Recycling time 4/5
Continuous Shooting 2/5
Remote Flash Performance 4/5
Extra Functions 5/5
Value for Money 8/10
Grand Total 81/100
The Nissin MF18 is a very useful tool for close-up and portrait photography. This is certainly a useful addition in any macro photographer’s inventory.