Ring light 3.1: CCFL Ring Light

Note from the author: my ring light pages have had hundreds of thousands of visits since I started writing them back in 2005. Fuzzcraft has been stampeded by StumbleUpon, has starred on Hackaday and DIYphotography, and is constantly being linked to from flickr, strobist and other blogs, forums, etc. I thank you all. It's nice to have done something that appeals to so many people.

There's something magical about ringlights. The unnatural light cast, the halo shadows. Yet the idea behind them is as clever as it is simple: looking through the light source.


Want to see more ring lights? See my full ring light overview page

Quick overview:


Fiber optic TTL flash ring light, uses popup flash and 67 fiberglass bundles


Fiber optic TTL flash ring light, uses popup flash and 120 plastic fibers


2 CCFL continuous ring light


4 CCFL continuous ring light


52 mm filter mount 140 LED continuous ring light


52 mm filter mount 90 LED continuous ring light


Simple, 30 LED continuous ring light

The ring light 3.0 project turned out a disappointment for telephoto close-ups. But now that I have a lens capable of very close focus, I have started to rework the CCFL rings to suit this lens. The wide light spread of this ring light is not a problem here, because the source of light is now very close to the subject. If you look at it as a way to fill in the light taken away by the lens barrel, instead of as a total lighting solution, then I think works beautifully.

Anyway. The mount had to be redone to fit the Sigma 17-70 f/2.8-4.5 DC macro. I had to decide on how to attach the ring to the lens; using the hood mount or the 72 mm filter mount. The hood mount is a bayonet type which allows me to attach the ring very rapidly and without the hassle of tangling the wires. The 72 mm filter mount is much more generic, but I wondered if I'll ever be needing this ring light on different lenses, and it would be easy to convert anyway. So, for simplicity, I chose the hood mount.

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1. I prepared a CD to serve as the bayonet part

1. I prepared a CD to serve as the bayonet part

2. Then I added the necessary plastic parts to aim the light at least a <i>little</i> bit

2. Then I added the necessary plastic parts to aim the light at least a little bit

It's hard to make out in the above picture, but there's a black ring around the 100 mm CCFL tube. It has a cutout for the wires. The ring will be painted silver on the inside. There will be a second CCFL, an 80 mm one, inside this one.

Unfortunately, while doing the first test, the mounted 100 mm tube failed. A pin came loose inside the glass end underneith the shrink tubing, so no way of fixing it. Before I even started this ring light, the other 100 mm tube had already failed too. So, with no 100 mm tubes left, this project goes in the freezer. I managed to do one shot, which was a fairly good one:

3. A bunch of LEDs, 70 mm f/4.5 1/50s ISO100

3. A bunch of LEDs, 70 mm f/4.5 1/50s ISO100

I really like the result, even if it's only one shot. Because of the proximity to the lens, there's not even a hint of the halo shadow you see with the LED ring lights, and an exposure value of 10 EV isn't bad either, especially considering this is just 1 tube. The shot was hand held at ISO 100, and although the lens is wide open at f/4.5 and depth of field is very shallow, I think it's remarkable.

At the moment I'm not sure I'll be ordering new tubes, with 2 of them already failing. Maybe I'll look for a different source or just order a box full. Anyhow it doesn't matter much, because while building this ring light, another idea had sparked my mind: fiber optics!


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