Metz Mecablitz 15 MS-1 Digital Wireless Macro Ring Flash

Cut the cords with this wireless ring flash with directional control.

Oct 14, 2009
By Dan Havlik

Metz's new ring flash offers wireless control and plenty of options to change the direction and power of the light.

Metz's new ring flash offers wireless control and plenty of options to change the direction and power of the light.
There are some things in photography I hope will never go out of style. Ring flash is one of them. Along with being an ideal light source when capturing close-ups of flowers, fauna, bugs, and other tiny critters, ring flash has found a huge following among fashion photographers for some of the same reasons it appeals to Macro shooters—no shadows. (Ring flash was actually invented for dental photography proving that root canals and saliva bibs aren't the only things you need to associate with your local dentist's office.)

Whether you're shooting a close-up of an arachnid or Heidi Klum—sorry, bad juxtaposition there—having even illumination can make the difference between getting your photo in National Geo or Vogue, or the local Pennysaver newspaper.

Metz, one of my favorite third-party flash makers, has just come out with an excellent new "wireless" ring flash that can sync to any of the major on-camera flash TTL systems out there, whether it's Canon, Nikon, Olympus, Panasonic, etc. Called the Mecablitz 15 MS-1 Digital, the ring flash's near-universal TTL compatibility means you can use it either as a remote flash for those difficult to position shots; or as a slave, using your camera's pop-up flash or an add-on flash, to trigger it. (The ring flash can also be used manually via a sync cable.)

Metz may not be the flashiest company out there—sorry, that pun really wasn't intentional—but they do add subtle touches to their products that increase their usability. In the case of Mecablitz 15 MS-1, there are two plastic tabs on either side of the flash that let you manually adjust internal reflectors to up to 20 degrees to precisely direct the light. This control, coupled with the ability to adjust the light output left-to-right via the flash's menu from 1:1 (even) to an 8:1 ratio, means the illumination goes exactly where you want it on your subject. You can also adjust the actual output of the flash from full all the way down to 1/64th power. Perfect for control freaks like me.

The design of the Mecablitz 15 MS-1 is fairly user friendly. I paired it with a Tamron AF60mm f/2.0 1:1 Macro lens (reviewed online at and the supplied 55mm filter ring clipped easily into the ring flash for a comfortable fit. Three "drop-in" rings of up to 62mm are included with the flash

Since I was automatically syncing it to the pop-up flash on my Canon 50D, there was no need for a dangling and distracting sync cord, which was a plus. Metz includes an infrared clamp with the Mecablitz 15 MS-1 which goes over your pop-up flash to prevent stray illumination from creating unwanted shadows, while still letting the control impulses to go through. While the flash seems well built, it's not heavy, so once it was on the front of the 50D, I almost forgot I was using a ring flash at all.

The only stumble I had was getting the flash to "learn" to sync to the Canon's E-TLL system. It took a couple of tries but once the Mecablitz recognizes it, the setting is saved so you don't have to do it again. As a side note, I've always had a problem with the poor translations of Metz' instruction manuals. In this case, the confusing manual even accidentally slipped in the German word to press (drücken) by mistake. A simple "how-to" set-up guide or a nice online video tutorial would have been helpful.

Once I was rolling, however, there was no stopping me. The Mecablitz 15 MS-1 was the perfect compliment to the Tamron Macro lens, allowing me to get virtually shadowless close-ups of flowers and insect life, along with even illumination for product photography. The next time Heidi Klum drops by, I'll try it on her too.


Tired of shadows in your macro and fashion shots but don't want to put a heavy-duty ring flash rig on the front of your camera? The light-as-feather, wireless Mecablitz 15 MS-1 will help you cut the cords while giving you even and precise illumination for close-up photography.

Metz Mecablitz 15 MS-1 Digital

Pros: A nice, wireless ring flash with helpful directional control.

Cons: Manual suffers from poor translation.

Price: $400

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