As you may already know, finding the perfect light modifier for the flashgun/hot shoe flash is tricky. there are a lot of options out there. they all have their strengths and weaknesses, the one I want to focus on is the CoCo Flash Adapter.
Part 1: Info surrounding the CoCo Adapter
There is considerable debate on photography forums over this flash adapter and how it’s an almost perfect copy of the Rayflash by ExpoImaging. After receiving the CoCo Flash Adapter the other day, I am pretty sure someone in another country reverse engineered the molds and listed it as a cheaper version.
Disclaimer: I am not supporting going out there and supporting the guys who copy what the innovators spent countless hours perfecting. By all means, support the innovators – be suspicious of knock-offs, and always gather as much information as possible about a product before buying it
So, to summarize the debate over CoCo Flash and the RayFlash is who holds the patent over it and is the CoCo Flash in violation of it. I’m not arguing the similarities between the two – they are VERY similar in construction and design.
So why did I buy the “knock-off” CoCo?
Rayflash was originally listed as $300, now it is selling for $200 online. The CoCo (only available on eBay as far as I can tell) is roughtly $50-60. After doing some research on the RayFlash, I found out that the casing and all the parts are made of plastic. The light channels that move the light around the ring are essentially a clear acrylic that has grooves cut on one side to allow light to diffract out. The plastic housing appears to be stamp-molded, and the acrylic looks like it could have been softened/bent by hand (but I doubt it).
Some forums reported the knock-off Rayflash adapters could potentially lose 1-6 stops of light due to poor construction – this was my biggest fear in buying this adapter. The Rayflash boasts losing only 1 stop of light – I crossed my fingers hoping my CoCo would be similar. Thankfully after some preliminary test shots, it appears the CoCo I received functions identically!
So is the Rayflash worth $200? Not in my opinion. Is the CoCo worth $60? every cent.
Part II: The Review
This ringflash adapter is able to accomodate all my lenses quite comfortably – without hoods attached. My 24-70 f/2.8 L, 100mm f/2.8 Macro, and Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 all fit without any issue. The only one I will elaborate on is the Tokina super-wide because it does not extend past the ringflash, so there is a lot of light coming into the lens, creating this weird circular aura. I will try some black electrical tape to cover the inside-facing part of the ringflash to help prevent it.
The build feels pretty solid, there is nothing rattling around when you shake it. but upon closer inspection, you can see they weren’t exactly clean or 100% careful with the construction. The two arcs of acrylic do not match up perfectly at the 6-o’clock position of the ring. The clear plastic protective covering doesn’t appear to fit perfectly in the black housing, creating this small bump of irregularity. They used excessive glue to glue the housing together, which shows up along the outer edge of the ring. Overall these build flaws do not affect the light quality, and you can only tell these are flaws when you look at it up close. The most important parts, the flash mount and the acrylic arcs do not appear to have any flaws. The flash mount fits perfectly – so perfect that I don’t use the twist-to-lock mechanism to secure it onto the flash. You can see from the picture below how the acrylic pieces are aligned to capture and route most of the light.
Light Output: 9/10
I read online that there can be a wide range of light outputs with the knock-off brands. one guy even said he had a 5-stop difference from using his rayflash knockoff to a bare flash. The original Rayflash has a 1-stop loss of light, so when you use the E-TTL function, you just boost the output one stop to make up for it. Luckily, mine appeared to be a 1-stop loss of light like the Rayflash. The output appears to be really soft, with the “shadow halo” that the rayflash characteristically makes with portraits. Although this is supposed to be a portrait and macro kind of light modifier, I think if you’re willing to boost the output some more, you can get some good distance and diffusion with it. I gave it a high mark for working as expected – just like the rayflash – I would like to see some kind of attachment points along the outside of the ringflash to add on reflectors or barn doors or other type attachments.
Weight. This thing is heavy. It seems to put a lot of strain on my 580EXII. I don’t know the long-term effects, but hopefully this doesn’t snap my 580EXII at the bend-joint. This is an issue with the Rayflash as well – I don’t think there is much difference in weight (if any) between the original and the knock-off.
AF Assist. The AF Assist beam on the 580EXII is blocked by the rayflash and its knockoff – this is really only a concern when you’re shooting in low light or darkness where it may take you an extra second to focus using the in-camera focusing.
No carry case. There is no great way to carry this thing. I ended up sticking it into my photo belt, which worked, but I would have felt more comfortable if it had a pouch or something that could attached to a belt.
Overall I love this thing. There are some improvements they could make, but for the cost ($50, not $200), there is no better flash modifier. This may be the next best thing to the index card + rubber band.