Home > Geeky > Super-easy macro ringlight to make

Super-easy macro ringlight to make

May 12, 2008

imageI have always wanted a ringlight for doing macro photography.  Especially now that I own an Olympus D5050, which must have some ‘microscope’ in its ancestry. 

Ringlights are neato because they produce shadowless lighting for macro shots. But I couldn’t afford one – they are usually over two hundred bucks. 

Then I happened to be browsing the aisles in Wal-Mart and saw this Ozark Trails camp light, and smiled broadly.  With minor modifications it makes a dandy ringlight.  It runs on plain old AA batteries and uses 24 white LEDs.  Here’s a first sample result:


So here’s one for seven dollars instead of two or three hundred, and it gives very professional results.  The modification is pretty much just a matter of moving the switch and enlarging the hole so it fits around your lens. Since the thing is made of soft plastic, this is easy.  Here it is over the lens of my Canon S5-IS:

The switch was very close to the center hole.  So I drilled a 1/4-inch hole farther from the center and hot-glued the switch into it.  Then I used a coarse-toothed half-round file to enlarge the hole, touched up with a box knife (careful!).  Other good tools would be a hole saw + drill-press, or a sheet-metal nibbler from Radio Shack.  Or a scroll saw or a fine-toothed coping saw – it doesn’t matter much because the plastic is very soft.

Other suggested modifications include taping colored plastic over some of the lights to modify the color balance (I shot this picture with the white-balance set to “cloudy day”), or cutting up a cheap page-reading fresnel lens to make a centering filter. 

Once the ringlight is around the camera lens, I just hold it in place with my fingers, though a couple dots of Velcro™ would be more convenient.

Clearly, it isn’t a substitute for a $350 Sunpak ringlight that you would use for fashion photography (the LED’s are not bright enough, and should be closer to the lens’ center axis) but for seven bucks, it’s great for small subjects.  At some time in the future I’ll build one from scratch. 

Categories: Geeky
  1. May 13, 2008 at 05:12 | #1

    Amazing.  I never thought of a used teabag as an objet d’art before now… that’s beautiful!

  2. Yukoner
    May 13, 2008 at 13:49 | #2

    Love the result…and agree, tea bags can be beautiful :-)

  3. May 13, 2008 at 21:41 | #3

    Very cool that you tried this.  I thought of the same thing when seeing one of these, plus decided that other types of LED light fixtures would be just the ticket for small product work when a ring-light isn’t required.  Cheap and good.

  4. May 14, 2008 at 05:57 | #4

    Doncha just love it when you stumble on to one like this, a plan comes together, it actually works, and you feel like a freaking genius. For about 10 minutes before a spouse or friend who is bored to death with you telling them about it responds with a monotone, “OK.”

  5. Mickey Oberman
    May 14, 2008 at 08:04 | #5

    Thank you George.
    I am finally going to have a ringlight.

  6. negativechris
    May 14, 2008 at 10:11 | #6

    I can give a first hand testimonial that the full size tea bag picture is also amazing.  And that the black tea made from those particular tea bags shown was quite delicious.

  7. May 14, 2008 at 21:06 | #7

    You are a genius!

  8. January 23, 2009 at 22:47 | #8

    How did you made the hole bigger to fit to your lens? Could you show us how and post a pic of the ringlight attached to your cam/lens. thanks!

  9. January 25, 2009 at 16:25 | #9

    Hi Nixtaytay!  As you requested, I’ve updated the post describing the tool I used to enlarge the lens opening, and some suggested improvements.

  10. January 25, 2009 at 18:19 | #10

    wow! really amazing, thanks for the more in depth instruction. You ara a genius indeed!

Comments are closed.