Macro photography requires nice, even light in order for your subjects (and all their wonderful textures and detail) to be well lit. We’ve chosen 6 specialist macro flash units and tested how well each will give you controllable and highly effective lighting for macro shots.
Nikon Close-up Speedlight Commander Kit R1C1
The R1C1 macro lighting kit contains a wireless commander, two SB-R200 remote Speedlights, close-up positioning adaptors, five adaptor rings (52/62/67/72/77mm) and various diffusers, colour filters and accessories, all in a large carry case. All the power, sophistication and versatility you could want, but it can be fiddly to set up.
Sunpak AUTO 16R PRO Ringflash
The AUTO 16R PRO offers auto flash exposure, but works better in manual mode using its good range of control buttons and clear LCD. It’s compatible with all SLRs, although an adaptor is required for Sony models. The 360-degree flash tube gives even, shadow-free lighting, and it comes with 58/62/72mm adaptor rings.
Metz Mecablitz 15 MS-1 Digital
The 15 MS-1 is compatible with most SLRs via its infrared trigger, which clips over the pop-up flash. It offers manual power adjustments or TTL flash metering. Its pair of small-ish flash tubes can be independently adjusted for even or differentiated lighting, and the unit is lens-mounted via filter thread adaptors (52/55/58mm rings included).
Canon Macro Ring Lite MR-14EX
A pair of flash tubes that are independently controllable between 1/8th and full power give you the option of even macro lighting or lighting with shadows of variable depth. Automatic TTL metering and manual modes are adjustable, with intuitive controls and a helpful LCD info screen.
Marumi Ring Flash DRF14
Available in Canon, Nikon or Sony versions, this fully automatic ring flash offers TTL metering, but has no manual power options or other onboard controls. Flash exposure compensation therefore has to be adjusted via the camera. It mounts directly to a 52mm filter thread and comes with 55/58/62/67mm step-up rings.
Sigma EM-140 DG Macro Flash
Canon, Nikon and Sigma versions of this macro flash work well in TTL auto and manual modes, with two flash tubes that can be fired separately or together. Two adaptor rings are included (55/58mm), with 52/62/67/72mm rings available. Good value, but could be more intuitive to use.