Wednesday 24 June 2015

Macro Flash Diffusion (again)

This is a follow up post to my main macro flash diffusion page (here).

I am regularly asked about my macro flash set-up and have recently written a couple of magazine articles on this topic. During some recent experimentation I thought I would try to illustrate the power and importance of macro flash diffusion for those still unconvinced. The following example is far from perfect and I would have ideally used an example from the insect world such as a nice shiny ladybird. Unfortunately I've yet to find a shiny insect that will sit perfectly still while I fiddle around with diffusers only 5-10 cm away. So, the best I could come up with is a shiny laurel leaf covered in water droplets.


The above shows a comparison between the 'naked' MT-24EX twin flash (top) and a diffused MT-24EX (bottom) diffused in the manner described in my other macro flash diffusion page (here) and as shown below:

Hopefully the comparison shot shows how useful diffusion is. Gone are the harsh highlights and extremes of light and shadow to be replaced by much more even tones. It is however possible to have too much diffusion which can result in images with insufficient contrast. So my aim is never to remove all highlights but just to ensure that the highlights aren't burnt out and that the contrast is reduced.

I have used the above diffusers for several years and have generally been happy with their performance. I have achieved slightly superior performance using a single sheet of plastic rather than the two domes but find this to be more cumbersome. The above therefore provides a nice balance between performance and practicality.

Until recently, no effective commercially available diffusers were available for the MT-24EX (as far as I am aware). As a result, most users of this twin flash unit constructed their own home-made diffusers as I did above. However, I recently became aware of an individual named Ian McConnachie who was producing diffusers for the MT-24 and selling them on Ebay. I duly bought a pair and have been testing them in recent weeks. The image below shows the diffusers attached to my MT-24EX and my MP-E 65mm macro lens.

 The diffusers require a certain amount of construction but this is well explained in this YouTube video. I also find the diffusers a little tricky to get on and off. But, they do a fairly good job of diffusing the flash, especially if you add an extra layer of kitchen towel over each individual flash head. Below I have made another quick comparison image, this time showing (1) no diffusion, (2) my original home-made diffusion and (3) Ian McConnachie's diffusers. Please excuse the fact that the focal point moved slightly in image 2.

I still think my home-made diffusers are my preferred choice but Ian McConnachie's are not too far behind. They are certainly the best commercially available option for the MT-24EX.

Note that to purchase these diffusers on ebay you need to search for 'MT24 diffusers' or look for listings by user 'redstag101'. I notice that he doesn't always have them for sale but would hope that some will be listed soon if none are currently available.

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