Introduction: Make a 48 LED Macro Ring Light for SLR for $10

I really like taking macro shots. There's a problem though, without the proper lighting macro shots are really hard to take. You have to use slow shutter speeds, a tripod and can't use your flash becouse you get ugly shadows. The solution is using a ring flash or ring light, but those cost more than 60 dollars. I wanted to get a ringlight for less than 10 bucks, so I started searching around and found a couple of sites that served as inspiration for me to build my own ringlight.
Those lights are really good, but I took a bit from each of them and used some of my own ideas to get a different ringlight.
I hope you like it

Step 1: What We Need

First of all,  we need:
-48 LED UFO camping light. I bought mine from ebay (search for "UFO camping light") for about $7 including shipping. This will be our ringlight.
-58mm UV filter, or whatever size you want. You can use a broken or old filter, we really only need the threads. I bought a new one from ebay for $2.50
-4 AA battery case. This will power up our lights. I bought it locally for about $1.
-Car cell phone charger with coiled cable. I had a broken charger, so I used the coiled cable for this project.
-Cell phone charger or AC/DC adapter(Optional). This will be our alternative power source. The one I used came with a bluetooth headset.
-Round food plastic container(Optional). This will be our diffuser. It must be round, transparent and the UFO must fit inside it. Just $1 on a local store.
-Heat shrink tubing or tape
-Epoxi glue.

We also need a solder and a cutting tool.

The battery case I got had connectors like those 9V batteries, so I got a couple of those connectors as well.

Step 2: Prepare the Cables

I had a broken car cell phone charger with coiled cable. I wanted to use its cable so I took it apart. The casing comes apart when you unscrew the tip, then I cutted the cable off.
Then I attached the 9v battery connector to it.
I attached another connector to the cell phone charger. It was a nokia charger, it gives 5.5V so it can be used to replace 4 AA batteries.

Otherwise the lights won't turn on, if this happens then detach the connector from the cable and attach it the other way around

Step 3: Setting Up the Ringlight

The UFO already has a hole in the center, but it's too small for the camera lens to go through.
We need to make room for the lens.
The button is right by the hole, so we have to unscrew it. We'll be placing it a little closer to the outer edge later.
Use the UV filter to draw a circle around the hole, then cut it.
Place the UV filter on the hole and glue it.

Also, don't get any glue on the glass or the threads.

Step 4: Connect the Cable

Solder the coiled cable to the UFO, be aware of the polarity. If the lights don't turn on, solder the cables the other way around.
Originally the button was screwed on a little square spacer and the button that comes out on the front is a little button extender.
Now that we made the center hole bigger that spacer is gone, so we need to drill a hole for the button. Big enough for the extender to go through, Then I glued a little metal washer around the hole and finally glued the button on the washer

Step 5: Preparing the Back Cover

We need to make a bigger hole on the back cover as well. This hole has to be a little bigger than the front hole becouse the lens casing has to go through it.
Then I used the dremel to cut a slot on the edges of the front and back cover for the cable to come out.
Glue both covers together and there it is! A fully functional ringlight.

But wait a minute, I still have a few tricks up my sleeve....

Step 6: Looking Like a Pro. Step 1

We have the ringlight, that's fine.
But now we have this battery case that we have to take with us whenever we want to tu use the light. Sure, we can put it in our pocket or hang it from the camera strap. But that's not what the pros do.
The pros put their battery cases on their camera hot shoe. And I want to do that.
So, I took the outer rim from the cap from a can of Axe body spray and cut little rectangular pieces of plastic that I stacked together. I wanted to glue them, but I used the a little screw to hold them together instead.
That screw was originally holding the UFO's switch button. We had to unscrew it on step 3 of this instructable, remember?
I cut 2 squares, the size of the hot shoe, and 4 smaller rectangles to make a little T shape.
Then I glued this T on the base of the battery case.
Now we can put the battery case on the hot shoe and look like a pro.
But still... there's something missing.

Step 7: Looking Like a Pro. Step 2

We have our ringlight and the battery case on the hotshoe, but the UFO still looks funny with all those leds sticking out, so we are going to build a diffuser for it.
First we take the food plastic container and cut a hole in the base, a little bigger than the UV Filter.
It's very important that the container is transparent or white, so that the light comes out OK. If we use a colored container the light is going to be colored.
We also need to cut the side of the container, just about at the UFO height.
Then cut a hole for the button and the cable.
My container was transparent and glossy, so I took some sandpaper and rubbed it against the surface on both sides.
To be able to attach the diffuser to the UFO I cut slots on the sides and used black elastic bands. You can buy these on sewing shops.
After sewing two bands with black thread the diffuser is ready to go.
Now we really look like pros

Step 8: Sample Shots

You're probably wandering how this bad boy performs.
So, let's see some sample shots
Since South Africa 2010 World Cup is coming I used a Bruja Verón doll as a model. Vamos Argentina!!
The first Shot is just the doll on a white sheet of paper, there was light that caused some overexposing on he head and shadows on the face.
The second shot is using the pop up flash on my Canon 450D. What an ugly shadow.
The third shot is using my ringlight. Almost no shadows at all!!

I also took a handheld shot of my own eyes, just to see the ring reflected on my eyes.
The last picture is a belt from a friend's shop. I put the belt on a white paper and used only the ringlight as a source of light.

What do you think?
If you liked it drop a comment below.

Step 9: Testing It a Little Further

My friend Tom, creator of the first UFO ringlight, asked me if the diffuser reduced the amount of light.
I didn't how to answer that question right away, so I prepared a little experiment.
I placed a pot with a little cactus on top of a black paper
The paper was taped on a table inside of a room with the lights off and all of the doors and windows were closed.
The camera was on a tripod and set to ISO 100, Aperture Priority Mode and f/8. The white balance was set to sunny to see if there's any difference in color temperature between shots.
With the room completely dark the only available source of light will be the ringlight, wich was connected to the wall cell phone charger to make sure there will be no power variations during the test.
I took a series of 3 shots with the diffuser on and 3 other shots with the diffuser off.
The first shot in the series is using the outer ring of LEDs, the second is using the inner ring and the third shot is using both rings.
The camera will select the proper shutter speed to get a correct exposure on each shot. According to the shutter speed selected by the camera for each shot we'll know if the diffuser has any effect on the amount of emmited light and if there's any difference if you use the outer ring of LEDs, the inner ring or both.

Final results:
Diffuser ON: 1.3" 0.8" 0.8"
Diffuser OFF: 0.8" 0.5" 0.5"

According to this test ,there is a loss of 2/3EV when using the diffuser.
Also, ther inner ring is 2/3 EV brighter than the outer ring.
There is no difference in the amount of light emmited by the inner ring or both rings together.
The inner ring light is colder than the outer ring.

I noticed that all the LEDs were very white and bright when I put in fresh fully charged batteries, but as the power began to drain the inner LEDs started to turn blueish, while the outer LEDs were still white. When I plug the ringlight to the wall charger I get the same result, the outer LEDs are white and the inner ring is blueish. The cell phone charger I used has a DC output of 5.5v 250mA, maybe if I use a more powerful charger I will get whiter light from all the LEDs and not just the outer ring.