Curiosity is probably my biggest downfall, and I end up buying and testing tons of random products. Some make it on the blog, some aren't even worth mentioning. I'm busy getting back into the swing of things after CES set me back, but here's another interesting product I decided to test out and happy to say it's made it this far. These are the Ring Lights that Serge was sharing through the comments of this blog. I did a little diggin' and it seemed to be a solid product with good reviews, so I decided to give it a shot. Now as far as Ring Lights go, there is a cliche way of using them to get that unique catch light reflection in a subjects eyes. I'm all set with that from my DIY Ring Light project, so it's really not what I intended to use them for.
(Above) Popular Z96 LED Video Light
Since ring lights provide a very broad soft light source, I was curious to see what the quality of diffusion and light power output these guys had. Mainly to see if these can be used for interviews and on location use. Just to give everyone a baseline, i've compared it with the very popular Z96 LED light that everyone loves. As you all know, the Z96 itself provides a broad and fairly even light output.
LED type lighting can be very powerful at close range and very directional. As you can see from the images below, the Z96 is very directional and has high output in the center, but was not nearly as diffused as the Ring Light. (This is not a comparison between the two, this is merely showing you the difference in light output.) By the way this is shot at 1/60th F/3.5 and only ISO 200. I underexposed the image to show the diffusion properties.
With my camera at the same distance and with the same settings, here's how much diffusion two Ring Lights can provide for your video or photography. (below)
Build quality is very nice and the entire unit is extremely lightweight. The big square at the bottom is where the ballast lives (CFL's need this), and it also comes with a set of fuses.
The included bracket is designed to hold a camera in the center of the ring, and is adjustable. The bracket is lightweight aluminum with a tapped hole at the bottom. The bracket is ok, but the tapped hole pretty much sucks and is completely useless. I'll have to make my own mount if I choose to use this bracket and one of the simple ideas is to just drill and tap in a new steel insert.
(Above) Using Power Friction Arms on Light Stand
The bulbs are labeled at 5400k and throws very soft even lighting. As you can see from the next set of images (below) I shot this product using two ring lights and the camera set to 1/125th @ F/6.3. Yeah that camera setting would normally block out quite a bit of light, but these lights handled very well with near shadowless lighting.
As you can see, they diffuse light much better than LED video lights. They are also cheaper than LED panels and extremely lightweight, but definitely much more fragile. As nice as portable LED video lights go, there's also been many complaints of close up lighting situations. LED lighting is harder to diffuse if you're working with close range subjects, so these types of ring lights would better serve in those situations.
Unfortunately CFL type lighting such as these aren't normally dimmable. You get on / off and no in between. A small sheet of diffusion paper would be no problem cutting the output though since these types of lights generate almost no heat. No heat is another advantage to be used in very close range to any subject and still provide a very soft even diffused light source without bulky softboxes or any type of light modifiers. Yes they can be used with real people and would be great for interviews.
Ring Light Example 1/60th F/3.5 ISO 400
I saw no noticeable flicker using these lights in video or in photos. I even tested this with my shutter speed up to 1/4000ths. There are smaller versions of this type of light that are a bit cheaper, but I have to say the 300w ones I got would be of more use to videographers. If you do decide to try the smaller versions, there are some bundles that come with battery packs. I ended up choosing the 300w versions, which have no bundles with a battery pack. For myself though, these 300w lights worked fine with my personal portable $99 dollar battery.
So what's my take on these? I like them alot. They would be very easy to travel with and since they are very lightweight, the light stands needed to hold them need only be lightweight too. I'll definitely be using these for situations that require close lighting. A great use would be for close up product video demos on this blog and clean shadowless product photography.
150w, 300w, 500w CFL Ring Light for Video and Photography
My version is listed at 40w. The largest version of this ring light can be found here at a claimed 65w:
Stellar Diva Ring Light 65w Fluorescent Video Lighting
I bought one of these and like it a lot. I broke the bulb and am looking for a replacement. Any suggestions?
65W 5400K Ring Light bulb
is the stellar (or walimex) ring fluorescent a T5??? i found walimex 65 w fluorescent ring light on ebay, but i need to find a proper ballast.....
@Brian - Not at those settings.
Does anybody know if this puts out enough light to shoot a subject that is about 5 feet away. I would like to stay at about f8, 125th iso=400
I bought a couple of these and they work well. I got the versions that attach to the gobi on a c-stand, though they also work on regular light stands. The plastic handle to tighten it onto the stand is super cheap and has already broken. I'm trying to replace the knob and 1/4" stud but it has some weird nonstandard thread. I might have to retap it.
@Travis - The version I have does not come with batteries. It's probably possible to run them from a Jumper pack with an AC adapter. Here's a follow up video with a larger one too: https://oliviatech.com/diva-photovideo-ring-light
What battery set up are you using with these?
18″ Diva Ring Light Review » CheesyCam
Im thinking about getting the 500w version..
I notice you say you use 99$ battery for the 40w light
question i got...
1. Do you recommend any cheap battery to get the 65w version portable.
2. Witch one is more powerful.
your 40w fluorecent ringlight or
your 21w 352 led dimmable ringlight.
as in light output.
im not so familiar with converting the light outputs..
40w Fluor is like 300w ambient ?
21w leds is like ?
Thanks Emm. Im in the u.k and the postage is a bit of a kill. The item from eBay is posted from Germany so not too expensive.
I asked them and they said that it was practically the same to the one you suggested.
Will try it and let you know. Cheers
@DavidG - Looks like the same thing and with 65w. Might be the same.
I found a similar product in Europe can anyone recommend it?
oops, I meant the T9 means 9/8 inch, not 9/10. So my T10 is 10/8 inch. Emm, maybe you can correct that for me and delete this extra post 😉
Hey Mark, I had one last place to call after I posted and I lucked out, they have the ballast. They also had one that could run two bulbs but I didn't think the leads with the 4 pin connectors were long enough to get the bulbs far enough apart from each other so I'm just going to do this project in singles if I do more than one ring light. The cool part about this ballast is it can run either a 12 inch 32 watt or a 16 inch 40 watt bulb... both of those are over 100 watt incandescent equivalent, this 40 watter being 150 watt equivalent and should put out between 1600 and 4000 lumens depending on its efficiency, the cool white are the most efficient. I'll probably pick up that cheap 12 inch bulb from Home Depot too for shots of small things where the 16" is too big. The guy said it's ok to run this FC16T10 bulb on the FC16T9 ballast. By the way the F means flourescent, the 16 is the diameter of the whole hoop and the T9 means the diameter of the tube itself is 9/8 inch inch... so my T10 is one inch. I got this stuff from a local place here in Canada called HD Supply which is a subsidiary of Home Depot. Check it out...
I need to run out and get an AC cord for it... a 3-prong with a ground, there's a warning on the ballast that it needs to be grounded! Be safe.
If Emm says it's ok I'll post a pic or two here of something shot with it once I get it together 😉
Yeah, I just made a bunch of phone calls and I found all kinds of T9 circline bulbs locally in different sizes including 12 and 16 inch T9's at different wattages from local big box stores and home and commercial lighting outlets. The hard part is finding the ballast with the 4 pin adapter plug on it like in my second link. Looks like I'd have to order those online so this isn't something I can conjure up quickly. It was suggested to me that I could find an existing lamp product and rip it apart... if I can find one on sale that might work. Good luck, bro.
SkunkWorks... I might try to MacGyver up something with those links. Thanks for the links.
@Mark - yes they sell replacements, on some video websites.
Looks like you probably need one of these to run it (see my previous post)...
As soon as I saw this I remembered seeing bulbs similar to this at Home Depot. Just went on their site and found this one. Looks like it it's about a 12 inch diameter which is actually slightly larger than some of the smaller rings lights showing on ebay that Emm linked to. The wattage is not that different either since alot of those ebay ones seem to be listing their incandescent equivalent and then the true flourescent wattage later in the description. This is just the first one I came across too, there might be even larger ones locally (I'll keep looking). So, yeah, I might pick up one of these this week from home depot and see how it compares to Emm's product photography example with the pro one... heck, it's only 10 bucks 😉 ...
I was wondering about replacing the bulbs later on... I'm assuming that is possible. Is the bulbs easily found?
Thanks so very much for your excellent blog.
Glad my find was worth this post. I placed an order on 2 still waiting, cant wait! Emm can you please point me to the battery pack you are using just to make sure I get something that works with it well. I purchased 3 of the 300watts.
I have 2 of the larger ring lights. These things are great! Have not used them for extensive video yet, but close ups vids and photography are excellent.
Please note: If you order from stellar, be aware of the shady customer service. Called and asked for a tracking number and got the run around. I told them that I needed it asap and he asked me why I needed early. I have already paid them before I called.
What a clean, great-looking lens product shot! I think when it applies to human subjects, it's almost similar to magic light box(?) effect, used extensively on beauty or facial care commercials.
I have this and to be honest, I don't like them. However, your review is so well written that I might just try something different with them. I think the throw is great but it is limited. There are just an amount of things that you can do. I agree that the price is the most attracting thing about them.
@Victor - Any light stand will work, but these are some light weight ones Light duty 7ft light stand Photography Studio Video light stands
What kind of stands did you use for these lights? The price point and ability of these make them very interesting prospects for me.