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Even if you don’t know what a ring light is, it is probable that you have seen photos made using them. As the name suggest, they are a light source in the shape of a ring, often, your camera is mounted on the light so the lens points through it. This on-axis lighting provides even, shadowless illumination on the front of your subject. It is a very distinct style most often seen in fashion photography.
In the past, ring lights were expensive or required a solid set of DIY skills to build your own.
The effect is not to everyone’s taste, and that’s fair enough. Sometimes, the light can appear flat and lifeless, which puts some people off. Also, a lot of photographers don’t like the distinctive ring-shaped catch-lights. That is also fair. If, however, you do like what can be achieved with a ring light, but you’ve been put off by price in the past, then the Interfit Fluorescent Ring Light may just be for you.
There are a lot of things to love about the Interfit Flourescent Ring Light. In no particular order, they are:
At $100, the Interfit Fluorescent Ring Light is cheap. No, it’s not a strobe, but when you compare it to, say, Bowens’ dedicated Ringflash Pro (listed for $2021 on B&H), the Interfit is close to $2000 cheaper. This makes ring lights accessible to almost every photographer who wants to use one.
The unit itself is quite large, but at 1.3 kg it’s light enough to carry anywhere without much trouble. If you often shoot in a studio or space that isn’t your own, throwing the Interfit ring light in the back of your car is not going to be a logistical issue.
The ring light itself is rather large. But because you are not attaching the lens to the light, it gives you a lot of space to move around with the camera while still being able to see your subject through the light’s aperture. It also means that you can use a longer lens, such as 200mm while keeping the light really close to your subject.
With the Interfit INT812 being a continuous light source, you gain a few advantages. The first of these being that replacement bulbs are cheap, despite the size, they are only around $14 each.
Another is that after being on for about an hour, the bulb never gets particularly hot. This is great if you’re photographing people as you don’t have to worry about that aspect of your subject’s comfort.
Finally, there’s the matter of your subject’s pupils. With strobe lighting, you are usually in dark environments with periodic bursts of bright light. As we all know, our eyes adjust to the dark and our pupils dilate to allow us to see. In bright light, such as this ring light offers, it’s the reverse and your subject’s pupils contract, revealing more of the color in their eyes.
The real beauty of this light is the bendable arm that it is mounted on. This arm, combined with the fact that the light is not mounted to your camera, means that you are not limited to using it as a traditional ring light. You can use and position it as you would any other light source. It’s also possible to point it straight down, a feat usually reserved for boom arms.
At one point I found myself using it as a hair light, alongside a softbox fitted to a strobe as my key light. The versatility all of this provides is more than worth the price tag, even if you never use it on-axis as a traditional ring light.
As much as I like this light, it does have a few problems as outlined below.
As I’ve mentioned already, the Interfit Fluorescent Ring Light is not an expensive piece of equipment. In terms of build quality, it’s reasonable to not expect too much from it. The entire casing is made out of lightweight plastic and does feel a bit flimsy at the best of times. That said, both the bulb and the bendable arm seem to be of good quality. So far, I’ve used it about a dozen times and I have yet to have an issue.
Because this is a continuous light at the cheaper end of the market, the intensity of the light isn’t exactly the brightest. Because of this, you will be limited to working with large apertures and high ISO settings. Depth of field is unforgiving at apertures like f/1.8, so I would encourage using a tripod and taking your time focusing.
At the other end of the scale, it is very bright to look directly into from less than a foot away. This may be uncomfortable for your subjects if you have them in front of it for a long period of time.
If you’re used to using high powered strobes, you need to keep an eye out for other light sources that may affect your images. As the ring light isn’t very high powered, any ambient light around will add unwanted color casts to your images.
When used on axis, chromatic aberration appears around the catch-lights in almost every photo. This isn’t much of a problem as Lightroom will make short work of the aberrations, but it is important to know about.
In terms of mixing multiple light sources, The Interfit INT812 does pose a few problems. It is not daylight balanced, nor does it match the fluorescent light balance preset in camera or in Lightroom. If this is the only light source present, you can eyeball the sliders in Lightroom or use a simple grey card to solve the problem.
However, when you’re mixing light sources, for example, if you use the ring light in combination with studio strobes, you will have to overcome unwelcome color casts. With the white balance set to flash, the color from the ring light is an unpleasant green. It’s an easy fix with all of the color correction tools in Photoshop and Lightroom, but it’s a problem easily avoided if you’d rather not spend the time correcting it. Of course, you could just use this as an excuse to shoot in black and white.
So far, I have only come across one real problem while using the Interfit ring light. Because it is so light, I was happy to put it on one of my cheaper light stands. When I started using the bendable arm to put the light at weird angles, it became top-heavy and off balance and started to fall over. Putting it on a heavy duty light stand solved the problem. However, watching one of your lights start on its way to the floor is not an experience that I recommend anyone replicating.
The problem here is that good quality, heavy-duty light stands can start at around half the price of the ring light. If you don’t already have a good light stand before you consider purchasing the Interfit INT812, please be sure to include that into your pricing considerations.
For $100, I love this thing. No, it isn’t perfect, but it does add an awful lot of versatility to my toolkit. I like it so much, that as long as there’s a place to plug it in, I will be going out of my way to take it with me from now on.
It might be obvious, but I do like the ring light effect a lot. However, even if you hate ring lights, the Interfit Fluorescent Ring Light INT812 brings a lot to the table and does so in a price range that doesn’t make it cost prohibitive to give it a try.