Thanks to Jeremy Mudd, I had a quick chance to review out the Meike® MK-14EXT Macro TTL ring flash for Nikon yesterday. After an hour with the flash, the jury is definitely out on this flashes' usefulness for serious macro photography.
Easy set-up. The build quality of the MK-14EXT is nice. A few concerns. Plastic Attachment Rings - screwing the ring onto your lens makes you seriously worry that you'll cross-thread the plastic rings. Aluminum screw on rings would be a nice replacement for the cheap plastic rings Meike includes. Free Spinning - the flash wants to slide around the lens, some tension between the ring and flash would help hold the flash in place. See Jeremy's free red rubber-band "repair" in the image below.
Adaptability. The Mieke MK-14EXT won't work with my reveresed 50mm lens set-up. The kit does come with seven (7) different adapter rings (52mm - 77mm), but the Raynox DCR-250 I use has a 49mm front fliter size - too small for use with the Meike.
My most anticipated feature - the Modeling Light. A nice idea, but brighter would be more useful. I shoot in a stepped-down macro system, and the modeling light was just barely visible on an overcast afternoon. Secondly, the modeling light automatically turns off after each shot - why? When shooting a burst of shots, the last thing I want to do is take my hand off the trigger after each shot to turn the modeling light back on.
Brightness is the key to this light. Too bright? Maybe. But the MK-14EXT definitely lets you max out your f-stop and ISO. Was able to easily shoot at ISO 100 1/250 sec. and f/16 (or smaller).
The above images show the rear display and the four different primary shootting modes: TTL, TTL A:B, Manual and Manual A:B. The Meike MK-14EXT gives macro photographers flexibility and control in the flash settings - Manual mode adjusts from 1/1 all the way down to 1/128, and easy to set A:B side power programming.
What the Meike provides in brightness, it lacks in diffusion. As my sample images show, the light is very harsh. The samples images were taken in TTL mode at -3.0 exposure compensation. (The perfectionist in me even had to airbrushed out a few ridiculous highlights on the ladybug.) To see my preferred lighting for a ladybug, check out this link.
Biggest issue, missing the shot? Tried a dozen times to capture a picture of a long-legged Dolichopodid Fly. Each time I ended up with an empty leaf. These flies tend to jump at a flash, but I've never missed the shot with my off-body flash (a Meike MK910 i-TTL)? Something in the timing of the flash is making the fly jump before the shutter fires? Not good - I hate missing a shot.
In conclusion - would I buy the Meike® MK-14EXT Macro TTL ring flash? The answer is maybe. At $83 on Amazon, the price is definitely right. Unfortunately the first thing I would have to do out of the box is make a DIY diffuser to balance out the light. Secondly, I was disappointed by the modeling light - not enough power and doesn't stay on. Next steps - need to get my hands on a Venus Flexible Macro Twin Flash KX800 to test out. While more of an investment at $280 and diffusion is still a DIY solution, the KX800 looks to offer some interesting flexibility - pun intended.