Inexpensive Ring Light Makes Macro Photos Easy

DIY Camera Light Ring

[edyb] uses his relatively inexpensive Cannon camera quite a bit. However, in dark areas or extreme closeups, the camera’s image quality leaves something to be desired. [edyb] hopped on the ‘net and found out that a ring light may cure his photo faux pas. Ring lights are nothing new but nothing existed for his lower-end point and shoot camera. With a USB-powered lamp and a spare AA battery pack kicking around, [edyb] decided to make his own.

First, the USB lamp was disassembled, luckily the LEDs were already laid out in a ring shape. The clear protective housing and gooseneck were discarded and the remaining PCB ring was glued directly to the camera. A female USB jack was then glued to the top of the camera and soldered to the two leads connected to the lamp’s PCB. The AA battery holder received a small switch and a male USB plug, also courtesy of a few dabs of glue. The now-assembled battery pack plugs directly into the camera via the USB connector and is its only method of attachment.

DIY Camera Light RingThe utilitarian modification may look crude but the results are anything but. Check out this close-up macro shot of a Canadian penny. Not too bad.

[edyb] has done some similar mods to other cameras, attaching components with magnets and even using an old Blackberry battery to power the LEDs showing that there is no one way to solve a problem. Check out the video after the break…

Want more DIY ring lights? Check out this one made from automotive lights or this fiber optic beast.


18 thoughts on “Inexpensive Ring Light Makes Macro Photos Easy

  1. It’s a bit ugly but I guess it does the job. Would adding some kind of diffuser help things?

    I think i’d be more tempted to buy the off-the-shelf LED rings made to go around car headlights. Although I don’t know of an easy way to power those since they required 12v. Unless it’s easy to swap out the resistors and power them from a lower voltage?

    1. Least space-consuming option is replacement of current limiting resistors. Works if LEDs are connected in parallel. If they’re in series then you need step-up converter, those are about two or three dollars a piece.

      1. I actually took a look earlier but couldn’t find one.

        I know boost converters are available but they’d likely eat up too much space. If you have a sample link, I’d be quite interested :)

      2. Been doing that for years. A brake light LED happens to fit my camera perfectly. I just use a 12 volt LiPo pack to power it.

        The only problem is with shiny things that reflect the light. Sometimes that is good and adds highlights. Other times I have to move the ring off to the side.

        Very useful for quick ebay photos.

        1. I made one of these years ago, out of three different sizes of ‘Angel Eye’ lights. It worked very well. One tip: get a polarizing filter for your camera, and cut a sheet of polarizing film to fit over your light; the system cuts out very little light. (I put a piece of film over my regular camera flash, as well, and was able to take straight-on shots of aquariums without a problem.)

  2. Good work!

    Some point-and-shoots are beginning to incorporate these into the design. I have a Pentax WG (waterproof) that has turned out to be one of the better near-micro cameras I’ve used and it has LEDs built into the lens enclosure.

    Two suggestions:

    -If possible, size the ring to fit around the lens rather than the camera body, to prevent odd shadows. If you look at most “macro lights” they’re as close as possible to the lens for this reason.

    – Diffusers can be made of nearly anything from drafting vellum (remember that?) to scotch tape. The caveat is that sometimes the pictures look better without them.

    1. I had one of those waterproof pentax cameras (WG-2). Very rugged physically; it refused to break under all the torture I put it through, but proceded to brick itself when I accidentally put an SD card with CHDK on it in the camera. Now makes a good paperweight unless I can jtag new firmware into it.

      Now I’m stuck with an ugly Canon D20 (no macro LEDs, and no shut-down timelapse function).

  3. LED rings crop up in various cheap disguises – one I like, but have never tried, is automobile tail lights. Searching for things like “LED headlight ring” “car tail light ring” on EBay will bring up some results. I’ve seen them up to 6″ diameter for dirt-cheap prices.

    They usually consist of LEDs wired in parallel, so probably not the best in terms of LED “happiness”, but for something that cheap it’s a no-brainer.

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