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Nissin MF-18 Ring flash for Macro - By Marc Alhadeff

Thanks to Degreef & Partner, Nissin distributor for France and Benelux, I could test the Nissin MF-18 ring flash for Sony.

1 Presentation

1.1 Introduction

The Nissin MF-18 (370 eur) is a ring flash to be used in macro. It exist since a long time for Nikon and Canon but Nissin has now released a version for Sony E count compatible with the Multi interface hotshoe

The only other one I know for Sony E mount is the Metz Mecablitz 15 MS-1 (290 euros) but that has less functionalities (no TTL, only 6 power steps, no graphical user interface) and its performances are less good : Flash lights are concentrated in small areas on the side and not well spread around the ring

1.2 Specifications

You can find an overview of its capabilities here below

  • Guide Number: GN.16 (ISO100)

  • Power source: 4 x AA or optional Nissin PS 8 Ni-MH Battery Pack for Sony Camera (500 full power flashes with 0.7sec recycling time)

  • Recycle time: 0.1-5.5 sec (depending of power)

  • Number of Flashes: 120-800

  • Flash Power Control System:

    • AUTO

    • TTL mode: Sony ADI/P-TTL

    • Fine Macro mode: 1/128-1/1024, 1/6 Ev steps

    • Manual mode: Full-1/64, 1/3 Ev steps

  • High speed sync.: Yes (available in TTL mode only)

  • Ev Compensation on flash : -3.0 – +3.0, 1/3Ev steps

  • LED modeling lamps: 4 units

  • Color temperature: 5600K at full power flash

  • Flash Duration: 1/700 seconds at full power (When A and B tube flash together) 1/300 seconds at full power flash (When A or B tube flash individually) 1/700-1/30,000 seconds (When A and B tube flash together according to selected power)

  • Wireless Remote flash: Wireless TTL: Master, 4 Channels, 3 Groups (A, B and C) Mode: TTL / Manual, TTL flash ratio is adjustable Slave flash: Digital (infrared) Slave / Film (photo-optical) Slave * In Wireless TTL mode, Group C is slave flash setting and EV compensation can be adjusted independently. MF18 only supports Group A or C as slave flash.

  • Firmware Update Terminal: USB

  • X terminal: Yes

  • Adapter Rings: Suitable for lens from 49 to 82 mm. Package includes 52, 58 , 62, 72, 77mm (49, 55 and 82mm are optional for purchase)

  • Dimensions: Main body: 115 x 65 x 85mm Ring flash: 120 x 134 x 41mm

  • Weight: 446 gr w/o battery

1.3 Build quality & handling

  • The flash consist of 3 elements

    • a Commander unit to be placed on the hotshoe with a control panel and hosting the 4 AA batteries

    • an adapter that you screw on your lens

    • the ring flash itself (linked by a fixed cable to the commander unit) that has two curved and diffused flash tubes (labelled A & B), supplemented by LED modelling lamps (you plug it on the adapter)

  • The box is nicely made, it includes

    • the main unit and

    • a series of adapter : 52mm, 58mm, 62mm, 67mm, 72mm and 77mm. You can order 49mm, 55mm and 82mm if you need one of them.

    • A quick user guide printed on the box

  • Overall the build quality is very good

    • The hotshoe is all in metal as well as the (blue) screw

    • All items are perfectly adjusted

    • A door is hiding: a USB port for firmware upgrade , a Synchro X , and an external power supply port (Nissin PS 8 Ni-MH Battery Pack for Sony Camera).

For the Sony 90mm F2.8 macro you will need the 67mm adapter

2 Basic operations

2.1 Mounting the flash

  • Attach the controller on the hotshoe of the camera

  • Screw the adapter ring that is the same size as the filter size of the lens onto the front thread of the lens

  • Attach the flash head to the adapter: Press the release buttons on top and bottom of the flash head to insert the four mounting tabs on the inside of the flash head on the adapter ring.

2.2 Functionalities

  • The tube flash design is divided in half (Left=A, Right=B), allowing you to vary light output depending on the lighting conditions.

  • The ring comes closed as a ring but can be expanded by releasing a switch per side, widening the coverage area. This could help with vignetting issues but also spreads the light for large subject

  • You can rotate the ring, notably, to modify where shadows fall when using light ratios or to place greater emphasis on certain areas

  • Modeling lights. :

    • a set of 4 LED is integrated in the ring head

    • they can be activated by pressing the “select” button for 2 seconds

    • they stay on until you press the shutter and come back after.

    • press again “Select” for 2 seconds to turn them off

    • they are proportional to the A/B ratio used and the power selected

Close / Expand the ring flash

Modelling Lamp


The commander

  • Very good ergonomics : easy to understand color display with 5 main mode + settings menu, that automatically rotates depending on the camera’s orientation.

  • The four way rocker allows you

    • navigue through the menu to select the desired mode

    • once in one mode : control flash exposure compensation on the vertical axis and flashtube power ratio (A:B) on the horizontal axis. You can’t do simpler than that !

Possible modes

  • Full Auto : Full automatic

  • Manual : you can set left of right power individually from 1/1 to 1/64 ratio

  • Fine Macro : you can set left of right power individually from 1/128 to 1/1024 ratio

  • TTL : you can adjust from +3 EV to -3 EV and adjust ration between left and right flash

  • Wireless : you can control other Sony or Nissin flashes

  • Settings

    • Shutter : choose between 1st Curtain synchronization, High Speed synchronization

    • My TTL : choose a permanent correction to be applied

3 In use

The Nissin MF-18 is easy to operate and use and the modelling lights are really helpful.

  • I found is TTL is not well calibrated to my taste with a systematic overexposure so I am using a permanent -2EV correction

  • Results are very good with well spread light

  • Tips : if you want to avoid flattening surface , avoid using 1:1 ratio and try to use asymmetric lighting to create some shadow and volume

some samples

4 Conclusion

Globally the Nissin MF-18 ring flash (370 euros) is very well made and designed and is easy to use like all Nissin products

It is the most complete ring flash available for E mount that I know (some low cost manual Chinese ring flashes also exist as well as a basic Metz ring flash 15MS-1)

  • Auto, TTL, Manual , power from 1/1 to 1/1024, wireless

  • HSS in TTL

  • Quick recycle time

  • Modelling lights

  • Expandable ring

One you practice a little bit and start to use ratio between the 2 sides of the flash you can get very good results

My only complaint being the default settings of the TTL which overexpose quite bit , let’s hope a firmware upgrade may correct this , otherwise you still have the option to set a default correction in the My TTL Option.



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