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




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.

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    5 years ago

    Brilliant.............simple but very well explained

    Many thanks


    6 years ago

    Hi, I've added your project to the "DIY LED Camera Ring Lights" Collection

    This is the link If you are interested


    10 years ago on Introduction

    Wow, this a pretty cool looking camping light. My wife hates when I hang a flashlight from the top of the tent, this would work perfect.


    11 years ago on Step 2

    Sorry for any necroposting (there seems to be alot of this going on, but hey, it's useful, right?) but I'm a bit of a newbie when it comes to electrical wiring or anything; what exactly do you mean by "attaching"the 9v battery connector?


    Reply 11 years ago on Step 2

    I dont mind the necroposting, it means that my article is been read.
    Now, the 9V battery connector is what I called the plug I attached to the charger. It has 2 round terminals, just as the 9V batteries. If you look at the second and third picture you can see it.
    Why I used this particular type of connector? becouse the 4AA battery holder I bought had that kind of connector. You can see it on the third picture in the previous step.


    11 years ago on Introduction

    Necroposting I'm sure, but I really wanted to thank you (and all previous proprietors!) for this instructable... Second cam instructable I've done and it's working out great, mine doesn't look as professional but it is still pretty clean.

    Thanks again. Awesome stuff.


    Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

    Don't worry about the necroposting, it's nice to see that my instructable is still useful


    12 years ago on Introduction

     Cool project. Here is a very similar project from last year.

    Here are a few other cool ones built from circular strips.
    From April 19th 2010
    From November 15th 2010

    There are a few other cool ones that use fiber optics too. I'm thinking of building a fiber optic on that is adjustable with like velcro or something, so I can attach it to different sized lenses.

    Good instructable!


    Reply 12 years ago on Introduction

    Yes, I 'm familiar with those projects. I credited two of them in the intro.
    I took some elements from each of those and added some of my own ideas (like the wall charger or the battery case on the hot shoe) to make my own version.
    I didn't want to use angel eyes for my project becouse they run on 12v and they are more expensive than the UFO. You can use 9v batteries with them, but I prefer using AA's. However, I think those angel eyes may have whiter light than the UFO.

    I used a UV Filter to attach my ringlight becouse I wanted to keep the front thread to be able to use my Raynox macro lenses. You may want to keep that in mind if you plan on using close up lenses with your light.


    Reply 12 years ago on Introduction

     Whoa, weird, I didn't see the intro last time, I remembered it seemed weird because you jumped right into it. I was viewing all steps. Must have been some bug.
    I like your design a lot. How does the light compare to an external flash for you? I feel like LEDs that I have tried haven't really been bright enough but the uniformity of the light is very nice when you use the LED ring flash... Its a toss up. I guess I'll just build one haha. Thanks for the inspiration!


    Reply 12 years ago on Introduction

    Well, it's just like you said a flash (external or not) is way more powerful than the ringlight. Remember that you can use a flash to light up people 15ft away from the camera. Also flashes have the right light temperature.
    On the other hand, when using flashes for macro photography you are likely to get harsh shadows and blown out highlights
    This ringlight is not powerfull enough for taking pictures of a subject that's more than 2ft away from the camera, but for macro is really nice.
    The light is even and soft, you almost don't get any shadows at all.
    Another problem with these ringlights is that you may not get the proper light temperature, but you can solve that by tweaking your white balance.
    Sure, it's not perfect, but for 10 bucks I can't complain.

    Phil B
    Phil B

    12 years ago on Introduction

    You made a brief comment about color shift and linked a partial solution to insuring full power to the LEDs.  Someone did a very similar Instructable a number of months back.  He also had problems with color shift.  This would be really great if the color shift problem could be fully solved without too much trouble.  Color shift is not a problem if the photos are to be black & white, but it is a problem with color.


    Reply 12 years ago on Introduction

    I guess these cheap chinese camping lights do not have a really strict quality control when it comes to light temperature. After all, that's not what they're designed for. You may get a lamp with all white LEDs or you may get a lamp with some blueish ones like I did, some peopple may get yellower lights, I don't know.
    Keep in mind you get what you pay for, I checked on ebay and this exact UFO now sells for $4 including shipping, I payed $7 about a month ago. A proper 48 LED 5600K ringlight costs about $50-60.
    Although I don't think that color shift should be too much of a problem, if you know beforehand what you are dealing with .
    The cheapest most effective solution that I think of is to set your White Balance to a setting that gives you the better results according to the specific camping light that you got. If your camera supports Custom WB set it to your own ringlight. If you have a camera that can shoot RAW files, you can set your WB later on your computer.

    Phil B
    Phil B

    Reply 12 years ago on Introduction

    Thank you for the detailed response. I once saw a flashlight for pilots that used three LEDs of different colors to get white light.  It would be interesting to experiment with red, green, and blue LEDs in combination to get white, but buying individual LEDs would surely be more expensive.


    Reply 12 years ago on Introduction

    That could be a really interesting project, but remember that you will be buying 3 different kinds of LEDs and if any of those 3 colors is a little off  you're still not getting white light as a result.


    12 years ago on Step 7

    This is fantastic, you have made my idea into a fantastic , professional looking ring light. very well done, full marks for the diffuser and the battery compartment!