Here is my new and improved version of the Canon Ring-Light Hack! I made a version a while back using external batteries (either 3 AA or AAA's or a cell phone battery). While those cameras were still awesome, it required the need for added bulk to the outside of the camera, and also needed me to charge another battery.
With this newer version, I will show you how to tap energy from the internal battery of the camera itself and power the ring-light without the need for any extra batteries! Watch the video to see the entire explanation, and click on the photos to understand what is going on.
As always, please note that your camera model may differ significantly. The most challenging part of this entire modification was not the electronics.... that was easy! The hard part was working with the very tiny intricate parts of the camera, making sure I opened and closed the camera without ruining anything, and soldering to the PCB directly without damaging neighbouring parts. You could toast you camera if you aren't careful!
Step 1: Gather Your Parts
The first thing you will need is of course your camera and a ring-light made up of LED's. You can buy these already as cheap as $2 on eBay by searching for "laptop magnifying light USB". Buy one (or make it a dozen, you'll love them) to hack open and grab only the bare ring of LED's.
Aside from camera and LED's, you will need:
- soldering iron and solder
- some thin wires
- a small switch of some sort
- screw-driver to open/close your camera
- hot glue gun and hot glue
A multi-meter will come in handy as well.
Step 2: Open Up Your Camera
Now it's time to open the camera and find out where you need to "tap" your battery voltage from. You are essentially connecting in by parallel to your battery directly, milking it for a few amps to power your LED ring. It's as simple as that. Because your LED's use such little power, there is no effect on your camera's operation. As well, since you are only turning on the ring-light when you need it, will have minimal effect on the battery life.
Step 3: Analyze the Battery Compartment
If you look in your battery compartment, you will see 3 pins at the end which make contact with the battery. The outer ones (in my camera) are for "+" and "-" and these are the ones you are going to want to connect your wires to, so you can skim some voltage off the internal battery.
Step 4: Connecting Wires
If you trace the battery contacts to your PCB board, you will notice where it is soldered to the PCB. You should be able to "tap" some wires to the "+" and "-" contacts. The easiest way to do this is to find the solder pads on the other side of those battery contacts. Make sure they are the right ones by doing a continuity check from the pad to the contact. You can have your battery in the camera and even check the voltage across the pads.
Solder your wires to the pads and then run them towards the optical view-finder as you will pass them through the hole in the case (see the video and photos to understand). You may have to remove a bit of plastic from the view-finder or hole to make space for the wires. You probably never use your optical view-finder anyways. If you do, make another hole by drilling through the case. The ring-light obscures it anyways.
Ok, now close up your camera! It's time to work on the outside!
Step 5: Connecting Ring-light and Switch
Ok, by now you have attached 2 wires to your battery contact pads on the inside of the camera, and they are protruding from the hole of the optical view-finder. It's time to connect your ring-light and switch.
You are going to want to connect your wires in series across the switch and ring-light. Keep your ring-light switch (if it has one) in the "ON" position or bypass it altogether. You are not going to use the switch on the ring-light to toggle it on and off.... they are simply too fragile and will break.
Polarity is important!
It is likely marked on the ring-light PCB where the "+" and "-" go. Make sure you connect it up the right way, otherwise your LED's won't light up. Test your wires with a multimeter and see if you can sense your battery voltage coming out. This should be happening whether your camera is on or off, because you tapped directly off the battery. If your ring-light is not turning on, flip the polarity and try again.
Step 6: Hot Glue Time... All Done!
Once your circuit is completed and tested and working, it is time to permanently fixate your light and switch to the camera. Take some hot-glue and squeeze is in a circle on to your camera, just under where you want your ring-light to go. Then press it firmly into the hot glue and hold it until it cools. You will also mount your switch somewhere to your camera or to the ring-light.
Before you glue your light on, make sure that there are no short-circuits when you put your light on to your camera. This may happen with cameras that have a metal encasing, as I found with my camera. Usually the hot-glue insulates the camera case from the ring-light but just check to be sure.
Test your light and camera, turn them on and off independently. You should notice consistent performance, no effect at all on the way the camera operates. Now go take some amazing photographs! Thanks for watching and reading my updated Canon ring-light hack!