As I wrote about already, I got a TG-5 and the Nauticam housing for it specifically for the light ring so that I could have a more compact (pun partially intended) camera setup. This article is a compilation of everything that I know about using the light ring.
Screws Onto the Housing and Over The Lens
The light ring screws into the 52mm threads on the housing itself. This requires that you take off the adapter that fits over the camera flash and holds fibre optic cables for strobes. There are 2 hex screws that hold the adapter in place. Then you place the light ring over the lens glass and over the glass where the adapter previously was. The center of the light ring screws into the housing with a special wrench.
Remove this with a hex wrench:
And screw this onto the center of the lens port:
One of the downsides to the light ring is that you lose the ability to add any diopter or other “fun stuff” like a magic tube, magic ball, etc. That’s OK, using the toy adapters is fairly infrequent, and with the macro mode on the TG-5 and manual focus set very close to the lens, in my opinion you don’t really need to use magnification diopters unless you’re looking for subjects that are <5mm in size.
Uses The On-Camera Flash
The light ring is a fairly simple thing. It’s just a channel for the flash from the camera. The one bad thing about this design is that the camera has to put out more light than normal–water “eats” normal flash–so that the subject is well-lit. I’ve had to mess around with camera settings to get this to work at longer distances, but the general rule is to get closer to your subject. But this also applies to normal macro anyway, since if you get closer to the subject, you can also fill the shot with it. That is, use manual focus, push the focal point as close to the lens as you can, and gently slide the camera in close to the subject.
However, some camera settings….
Full-Strength. From the quick menu, use “Full” flash mode. Then change the flash exposure compensation (EC) to +2. This is because water “eats” flash, and the further away the subject is, the more flash gets eaten. I use this setting maybe 95% of the time when I use the light ring.
Slow Flash. For shots at a longer distance, you can use the “Slow” flash setting. This fires the flash early on in the exposure so that the flash has time to reflect off the background. this setting is made for use inside a room where you want to use a fill-in on some of the darker areas of the room. What this does for me underwater is that it gives more time for the flash to reflect off the subject. (sidenote: I should try using this full-time for the light ring.)
Can Still Use a Strobe
One of the nice things about the light ring is that it still has a hole for a fibre optic cable. So one of the setups that I’ve used pretty well is to add a single Sea and Sea YS-03 mounted on the top of the housing. That gives me the reach out further for larger subjects like fish. But most of the time if I’m shooting true supermacro subjects like nudies, little shrimp, little crabs, etc, then all that I need to light up the subject is the light ring and I leave the strobe turned off.
Hole for fibre optic cable:
However, when I use a strobe, I change the flash mode to “RC” which turns on the optical TTL setting of the camera. At that point, the strobe does most of the work and the light ring acts as a “fill-in”.
One problem with using a strobe is that the light ring still works. That does create up-close backscatter when you do wide-angle photography. IE, the light ring does its job and lights up any objects near to it which means sand and dirt in the water.
I Sometimes Use My Focus Torch
Using a light ring with the housing means that I can use my torch in a couple of different ways.
In one mode, I can use it for UV light for the black light effect combined with the light ring that does the job of making the right exposure. I don’t think it’s a secret anymore… I love using the UV feature of my focus torch to make white subjects pop out.
Or I can use the torch as supplemental lighting when the light ring needs a little bit of help. Or as the prime light and then
One thing that I haven’t tried is using the torch in red light mode with the light ring as flash for shrimp and crabs–they hate white lights but strobe is OK.
Or I don’t have to use my focus torch at all if I have enough ambient light to frame and focus. Just let the light ring do its job.
Uses Battery Faster
One thing that I’ve noticed is that running the on-camera strobe “very hot” means that I use the camera battery a lot more than I normally would. So I can get 2 long (60-minute) dives out of it and I’m done… have to change the camera battery for the third dive. So I take every effort that I can do to not use battery power. Shut off the camera when I’m hunting for subjects, don’t look at photos on the boat, etc.
Since the light ring creates a flash all around the lens, it does have a tendency to “flatten” subjects by reducing the amount of shadows that are created. The answer is to add a strobe or torch from the top and/or increase contrast in post-production.
I do get some strange effects where the light ring doesn’t travel far. And by that, I mean that while the subject is well-lit, the background keeps an unlighted white balance. And where I add in other lights like UV or red from my torch, far subjects keep that coloring instead of reflecting the light ring light which normally happens for strobes.
The bad thing is that it’s hard to see if this is happening unless you do some serious pixel-peeping during your dive.
Weefine makes 2 light rings that screw into a 67mm mount. You’ll need a 52-to-67mm step-up ring to use them. They work well–one is a strobe triggered by fibre optic, the other has a simple on-off button like a torch–and have more light than the housing light ring. They hold their own battery, which solves some of the problems about light ring power. They also are bigger, which creates new problems in getting close to the subject. Alas, everything in photography is a tradeoff….
See You Underwater!!