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Canon Macro Ring Flash / Macrolite

Overview: - Although Canon has designed many flash units of various power levels and in their various form (shoe mount, bracket/handle flash) which were more specific to normal picture taking situations, but when taking photographs at close-ups, ordinary flash units usually performs miserably in getting proper exposures. A typical result is they are simply too powerful and often overexpose (even at their lowest power output settings). For close-up and macro photography, you can go for alternate Macro Ring Lites ("lites" is a term Canon uses to distinguishing their own flash units, others like Nikon termed their flash as "speedlights").

Macro flash at works.. by Thomas Privat
Contact Thomas Privat

" ... I have loads of images taken with EOS-1/ EOS-1N cameras - though mostly with Tamron 20-75/XR DI and Sigma 90/2,8 Macro lenses. Also I have some taken with the Kodak pro DCS520/ D2000 (i.e. the digital EOS-1N). I am a Swedish citizen so my pictures are rather different from most you have on your site. ....." .

Credit: Image courtesy of Thomas Privat from Sweden ® who has his Portfolio. Image copyright © 2005. All rights reserved. Please respect the visual property of the contributing photographer.

The first series of these flash for macro photography is the Macro Ring Lite ML-1 set. It is an auto flash with two small flash heads located on either side of a mounting ring which attaches to the front of the lens. This typical design was used by most manufacturers back in those days (like the Olympus, Minoltas etc. but Nikon has quite a different concept those days ('70) with two types of flash designs, one with a circular ring flash (SM1/SM2) and a lens that has a built in auto flash for the Medical Nikkor). Anyway, the Canon ML-1 unit connects to the second part which is a small control box which mounts in the camera's flash shoe. The setup requires a separate power pack which can hold 8 x AA cells in either alkaline or NiCd. Ring Lite ML-1 does not offered TTL flash control but only limits to auto flash at its best and exposure calculation at close distance often requires user to compute exposure based on lens extension.

Canon Macrolite ML-1 Set (Consists of Macrolite ML-11, Wide Adaptor ML-11, Macrolite Adapters 55 and 52, Tightening Rings 55 and 52)

The Macrolite ML-1 was an electronic flash system designed especially for close-ups with many older Canon cameras and lenses in the A and T series. It uses two symmetrical flash tubes which may be fired simultaneously or individually to create different effects. It also may be used with some lenses such as Canon FD 80-200 mm f/4 zoom lens, with the FD 50 mm f/3.5 or FD 100 mm f /4 Macro lenses which is especially useful in medical or dental photography.
Canon Macrolite ML-1 Set
Technical Specification: -
: three-part construction, consisting of Flash Unit (two lamps); Control Unit (equipped w/pilot lamp and flash confidence lamp; mounts on accessory shoe), and Power Source section
Guide Numbers
: (ISO 100, feet) 53; w/Wide Adaptor ML-1, 31
Usable Lenses
:- Canon FD 80-200 mm f/4 zoom Canon FD 50 mm f/3.5 Macro Canon FD 100 mm f/4 Macro
Pilot Lamp
: (red) lights up when unit is ready to shoot; blinks to indicate full charge; doubles as flash "TEST" button
Confidence Lamp
: (green) lights up for approximately two seconds when sufficient light has reached subject for proper automatic exposure
: X sync. unit usable with cameras equipped with hot shoe only
Power Source
: 8 x "AA" alkaline-manganese or Ni-Cd batteries
Flash Unit 5-3/16 x 3-7/8 x 1-9/16 in. Control Unit: -1-15/16 x 1-1/2 X 2-5/16 in. Battery Case:- 3-1/16 x 6-3/8 x 1-3/8 in.
Weight: Flash Unit-6 oz. Control Unit-2-7/16 oz. Battery Case - 19-3/4 oz. (with batteries)

Download:- Instruction Manual for Canon ML-1 Macrolite, courtesy of Christian Rollinger

ML-1 Set was Canon's only offering until debut of the Canon T90 where the system has upgraded the ML-1 with the newer Macro Ring Lite ML-2. Appearance of the ML-2 has changed the form from the earlier twin lights one a side design to a circular ring light design. It comes with a round front section which attaches to the lens and contains two arc-shaped flash tubes. It also comes with a separate battery storage as well as control module which mounts onto the camera's hot-shoe. However, one big difference between the ML-1 and ML2 is, the latter provides full TTL flash control for easy close-ups at any magnification. However, since the Canon T90 was the only Canon SLR camera with the A & T series models that capable of providing TTL flash exposure control, the ML-2 set was more like tailored for the T90 although it is usable with other Canon SLRs in auto/manual flash control for macro-photography.

Canon_macrolite_ML-2.jpg Canon_macrolite_ML-2b Controler Macrolite ML-2 Inverse section

Credit: Images courtesy of AMR camera & photographic ® who also operates a popular Ebay Store, trading many new and used photographic equipment. All images appeared herein are Copyright © 2003. All rights reserved. Please respect the visual property of the contributing photographer.

Canon Macro Ring Lite ML-2 Set (Consists of Macro Ring Lite ML-2, Macrolite Adaptor 52B, Tightening Ring 52)

The Macro Ring Lite ML-2 is an automatic, TTL flash unit for close-up photography. On its right and left sides are separate flash tubes, which can be fired together or independently for extra lighting versatility. The ML-2 is also equipped with both a low-intensity focusing lamp, for focusing in the dark, and a modeling light, to check where shadow will fall.

Technical Specification: -
Energy-saving flash unit with TTL series control circuit, Clip-on type with direct contacts and lock.
Guide Numbers
: (ISO 100, feet) 36 in Manual Hi mode; 18 in Manual Lo mode.
Flash Control System: TTL control system: i.e., the sensor inside the camera body measures the light which passes through the lens and which is reflected from the film plane. When the subject has received the proper amount of I light, the flash output is automatically cut off. Fill-in flash is possible.
Pilot Lamp
red): Glows when flash is sufficiently charged. As soon as it glows, the camera automatically switches to flash circuit. Starts blinking when flash is fully charged. Also serves as the modeling light.
Auto Check Lamp (
green): Glows for approx. 2 sec. after actual firing of flash when subject is correctly exposed in the TTL AUTO mode.
Focusing Lamp: By pressing the focusing lamp, two small lamps between the two main flash tubes light up for approx. 30 sec.
Modeling Light:
By pressing the pilot lamp, the two main flash tubes flash on and off for approx. 5 sec. Only one tube can be flashed on and off by illumination changeover switch.
Flash Head
: Two main flash tubes are used on left and right sides. One tube flash is possible by illumination changeover switch. Attached to lens by lens filter thread or through exclusive adapters.
Save-Energy Function
: Operates by setting the main switch to "SE" position. When the main switch is left ON and the flash is not used for approx. 5 minutes, power to the flash unit is automatically cut off.
Film Speed: Film speed set on the T90 is automatically transmitted to flash.
Power Source: 4 x "AA" size Alkaline or Ni-Cd batteries
Dimensions: Control Unit - 2-15/16 x 2-3/8 x 4-3/16 in. Flash Unit - 4 x4-3/4 x 13/16 in.
Weight: Control Unit - 8-5/16 oz. Flash Unit - 4-9/16 oz.

Download:- Instruction Manual for Canon ML-2 Macrolite, courtesy of Christian Rollinger

When Canon diverted the FD system to the EOS, the ringlight has also been upgraded as Macro Ring Lite ML-3. Physically the Canon macro flash upgrade looks similar to earlier model, but it was now designed to accept adapter for mounting it onto EOS lenses. Although specifically designed for the EF 50mm f/2.5 Compact Mac and EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro lenses can be used with some other EF lenses for lesser magnifications.

Canon Macrolite ML-3 Set
Macro Ring Lite ML-3 Set

Designed for use with Canon EOS models, the ML-3 macro ring lite flash provides totally automatic through-the-lens flash metering for perfectly exposed close-ups. Combined with the autofocus operation of the EF 50mm f/2.5 Compact Macro, close-up flash photography has been made extremely easy. Automatic fill-in flash is also possible with the ML-3. The focusing lamp function allows for precise visualization of the image before exposure. The ML-3 may be used in shutter priority, aperture priority, program AE and manual modes with most Canon EOS models, which includes older EOS 650, 630, 620 etc. as well as newer series EOS cameras.

In fact, ML-3 can also be used with the FD-mount Canon T90 and FD Macro Lenses (50mm f3.5 & FD 100mm f4.0 MACRO) via Macrolite Adapters 52C or 58C for total TTL flash control. All functions of the ML-3 are effective when used with the T90. Canon recommends the use of Aperture Priority or Stop Down AE mode when uses the ML-3 with EOS cameras although Shutter Priority AE and Program AE mode can be used. Depth of Field AE will be automatically switches to Program AE as DOF mode is not workable in flash mode. Similar to any flash photography, make sure the camera model is set within the maximum sync speed for that particular model.

Multiple flash is also possible with combination of Speedlite 480EG, 420EZ, 430EZ, 300EZ or 540 EZ. However, A-TTL is not always working, normal TTL is safer. The number of connecting cord must be within a combined length less than 29ft.

Technical Specification:-

Automatic, ringlight flash with TTL metering capability, thyristor-type circuitry. Special lens-mounted automatic electronic flash system for close-up photography
Two-part construction consisting of flash unit (two lamps) and control unit with built-in power source
Guide Number
: (ISO 100, feet) 36 or 11 (in metre)
Film Speed
:- ISO 6-6400 auto set according to camera settings
Recycling Time
: (with both flash heads) 0.2-13 seconds w/alkaline batteries, 0.2-6 seconds w/Ni-Cd batteries
Number of Flashes
: (TTL Auto Mode) approx. 100-1000 w/alkaline batteries, more than approx. 45-450 w/Ni-Cd batteries
Flash Duration
: 1.5ms or less
Auto Aperture
:- read above
Pilot Lamp: (
red) Glows when flash is sufficiently charged
Focusing Lamp
: When focusing lamp switch is depressed, two small lamps glow for approx. 20 seconds
Auto Check Lamp
: (
green) Glows for approx. 2 seconds after firing of flash to verify correct auto/TTL exposure
Auto Bounce
:- No
Flash Coverage
: 80 degrees (when used for non-macro illumination, for 35mm format covers angle of view of 28mm lens); Compact-Macro EF 50mm f/2.5 with EOS Cameras; Canon FD 50mm f/3.5 Macro; Canon FD 100 mm f/4 Macro; Canon FD 200mm f/4 Macro
Flash Control System: TTL off the film plane with compatible cameras. Provided with auto flash adjustment system when using fill-in flash.
Working distance/Flash coupling Range: - approx. 20mm to 4m from front of flash elements
Flash Head:
- Two main flash tubes on left and right hand side. One tube is possible by illumination changeover switch.
Energy Saving
: - 5 minutes auto off
Color Temperature: Daylight
Power Source
: Four "AA" alkaline or NiCd batteries
(WXHXD): Control Unit: 215/16'X23/8' X43/16" (74X60.5X106.5mm) Flash Unit: 43/,6'x47/,"X'5/,,* (106X123X24.5mm)
: Control Unit: 77 oz. (225g) (without batteries) Flash Unit: 47 oz. (140g)

Download:- Instruction Manual for Canon ML-3 Macrolite, courtesy of Christian Rollinger

Canon MR-14EX Macro Ring Lite flash unit Setup
Canon Macro Ring Lite MR-14EX

As at 2006. Canon has two macrolites in their product line. The MR-14EX ring flash as well as a twin heads, Canon MT-24EX which remained as the current model for the EOS camera. Although it is more specifically designed for the newer series of EOS film/digital SLRs with a host of features (including wireless setup) added but Canon maintains some form of backward compatibility with older EOS models, except of cause,
E-TTL is not possible when works in such a combination. The MR-14EX consists of two semicircular flash tubes capable of fine flash ratio lighting control between left and right tube (and the ability to flash either or both tubes), for natural looking reproduction. Equipped with a wireless transmitter function, when the MR-14EX is employed as the master flash unit with one or more slave unit Speedlite 550EX for back lighting or accent lighting, wireless multiple auto flash-controlled shooting can be simply performed to great effect. The MR- 14EX also features: - Maximum guide No. 14/46.2 (at ISO 100 in meters/feet) - Minimum control distance - 20 min from the front of the flash unit - E-TTL wireless auto flash - Manual flash - High-speed sync (FP flash) - FEB - E-TTL wireless multiple auto flash (with lighting control) - Modeling flash, etc.

The Speedlite Transmitter ST-E2 When connected to the EOS-1V, the Speedlite Transmitter ST-E2 enables E-TTL wireless multiple auto flash control of the flash output ratio of up to two different 550EX slave groups over an operating distance of from 12-15 m (39 - 49 ft.) indoors.

Transistor Pack E Set *Battery magazine
Pre-shoot preparation of several magazines stocked with new batteries ensures hassle free in long session flash photography when a large number of shots are to be taken. Consists of Battery Magazine TP and Connecting Code ET, and holds six A-size batteries.
Transistor Pack E Set *Ni-Cd pack This set consists of a more cost efficient rechargeable Ni-Cd pack TP, Ni-Cd charger TP and Connecting Code ET. Recharging takes approximately 15 hours.
Compact Battery Pack CP-E2 This pocket-size, lightweight external battery holds six AA batteries and has a convenient tripod socket. This is useful when shooting at remote places when other options of power source is not easily accessible.


Canon Macro Twin Lite MT-24EX w/E-TTL

The Macro Twin Lite is different from the Macro Ring Lite MR-14EX as it uses a twin heads design, something like the first generation Canon ML-1 (top of this page). Except the flash head is moveable and in terms of performance and capabilities, it makes a world of difference. I am not sure why is the change but probably Canon thinks they need to provide users with an alternative rather than a flat evenly distributed flash light for serious close-up, nature, and macro photography as twin heads may able able to permit user with a control over light ratio for modeling light and other TTL flash manipulation of visual effect.

Image cortesy of HK
The two separate flash heads can be swiveled around the lens, can be aimed separately, and even removed from their holder and mounted off-camera. It is a fully workable E-TTL compatible flash and works with all EOS bodies - except for which types of flash function the respective EOS camera can perform; for an example, when using with the Canon EOS-1N, only A-TTL or normal TTL is offer, with the EOS-1V or digital SLRs, E-TTL is enabled and even allows Wireless E-TTL flash control with one or more 550EX and/or 420EX "slave units". It also provides easy ratio control of each flash head's output, over a six-stop range. Further, it even has 9 custom function which expands the capabilities in many aspects during setup and shooting.

Credit: Images courtesy of a few nice guys at HKsupplies ® | Website | who also operates a popular Ebay Store, trading many new and used photographic equipment. All images appeared herein are Copyright © 2003. All rights reserved. Please respect the visual property of the contributing photographer.

Features/Highlights: - Twin-head macro flash unit, for directional lighting in close-up photography with full E-TTL automatic flash control. Each head can be rotated around lens in an 80° arc, swiveled inward or outward over a 90° arc, and swiveled up and down over a 90° arc. Each head is removable, and has both a standard shoe-mount and 1/4-20 female tripod socket at the base to facilitate mounting off-camera. Powerful guide number (72 ft/22m) allows smaller apertures and greater depth-of-field when necessary. Full E-TTL automatic flash control with compatible EOS bodies E-TTL features include FE Lock, FP (high-speed) sync, ratio control of A:B flash heads over a six-stop range, and Wireless E-TTL control of off-camera 550EX and/or 420EX Slave Units. Incandescent focusing lamps, and two different types of 1-second modeling flash allow easy focusing and previewing of lighting effects. Mounts directly onto Canon EF Macro lenses: EF 50mm f/2.5 Compact Macro, EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro, EF 100mm f/2.8 USM Macro, and MP-E 65mm f/2.8 1 5x Macrophoto. Attaches with accessory ring Macro Lite Adapter 72C to EF 180mm f/3.5L Macro.

Canon Macro Twin Lite MT-24EX link from
Technical Specification for Canon Macro Twin Lite MT-24EX in brief: -

Macro flash unit with adjustable and removable twin straight flash heads; separate controller unit attaches to camera's hot shoe
Guide Number (with both tubes firing at full power) 72 (feet) / 22 (m), at ISO 100
Auto Settings Auto Distance Range 16.4' (based on 100/2.8 macro & ISO 100 film)
Auto f/Stops TTL automation at all F-stops

Angle of Coverage 80 degrees in both vertical & horizontal angles
Recycle Time 7 seconds (full power w/ alkaline batteries); 4 seconds (full power w/ Ni-Cd batteries)
Power Source 4 AA batteries in controller unit (Alkaline, Lithium, rechargeable Ni-Cd or Ni-MH AAs are OK)
Optional Power Source: External battery packs - Compact Battery Pack E or E2, and Transistor Pack E
Dimensions (W x H x D) Control unit: 2.9 x 5.0 x 3.8" (74 x 126 x 97mm) WxHxD
Flash assembly: 9.3 x 3.5 x 1.9" (235 x 90 x 49mm) WxHxD
Weight Control unit: 0.63 lb Flash ring: 0.26 lb

Note: -I am not too familiar with the Twin heads Macrolite. But if you are interested, you can Click here to read a pretty good review by Digital (so does the image shown at left).

Remarks: -E-TTL controls: Flash +/- exposure compensation, Flash Exposure Bracketing, FE Lock, FP sync, and Ratio Control of left:right (A:B) flash tubes over a 6-stop range (8:1 1:8 lighting ratios), and Wireless E-TTL with off-camera 550EX and/or 420EX Slave Units; Setting Method: Illuminated LCD panel on Controller Unit (similar to 550EX Speedlite)
Manual flash exposure mode: Variable from full (1/1) 1/64 power; Ratio Control of left:right (A:B) flash tubes from 1/1 to 1/64 power is possible
Custom Functions: Nine Custom Functions on MT-24EX, in addition to any in camera); set on MT-24EX Controller LCD panel.
Modeling Flash: One-second burst at 70Hz in E-TTL or Manual flash modes, showing ratios With C.Fn 4-1 (on MT-24EX), uniform one-second burst at 70Hz with any EOS body by pressing Controller Unit's test button

Relative: -Canon Macro photography lenses: Canon EF 50mm f/2.5 Compact MACRO with Life Size Converter EF | EF 100mm f/2.8 MACRO | EF 180mm f/3.5L MACRO | MP-E65mm f/28 MACRO Photo Lense

Relative: - Canon FD Macro Lenses 20mm 35mm 50mm 100mm 200mm or older S.S.C. range of macro lenses + Main Index Page on Canon FD lens Resources

Selective Canon TTL Flash Models:- 160E | 200E | 300EZ | 300TL | 420EZ | 430 EZ | 480EG | 540EZ | Macrolites | Other non-TTL Canon flash models

Flash Photography
Part 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 - Canon 540EZ site
Suggestive weblink:- Canon Flash Resources at or Bob Atkin Flash FAQ section

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Background and Various Issues | The Basic Features & various Setup
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Reliability Issues:- Body Chassis | Shutter Unit | Electronic Circuitry | Film Transport & film handling Secondary Functions:- Custom Function Part One | Part Two | System Accessories:- Film Back Options - instruction for Command Back E1 | Macro/Close Up Part one | Part two and Part III Flash for Macro-Photography | Power Sources -BP-E1 | PDB-E1 | Focusing Screens | Remote Control with Wireless Remote Set LC-3 | System compatibility

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