Homemade light box...

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  1. #1
    Member JohnF's Avatar
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    Homemade light box...

    Hi -

    Last weekend I had a few hours time and finally completed a small project I've been trying to get finished: a useful lightbox that I could quickly put together and use.

    Like the most of us - I think - we've tried to get good shots of our watches. While there's something to be said for ad-hoc solutions, I decided a while ago that I really needed something that would give me a wonderful, diffused light from above. as if I were shooting under a large skylight on a slightly overcast day, but without being dependent on the weather.

    I tried converting a frosted plastic waste can from Ikea, which was brittle and broke when I tried cutting holes in it; I tried a white plastic box from Ikea (we live near one, and they're cheap...) with a hole cut in the side for a flourescent lamp, and while that was okay, it was hard to put anything in the box (it was simply too small) and the light wasn't strong enough to do any hand-helds. It was also too specular (hot spot) to be really useful, hence back to the drawing board...

    So I found myself a A4-sized CCFD light, using the same kind of light as the background lights on a LCD screen. The A4 size also meant that there wouldn't be any hotspots, just clean nonspecular light. Further, it stays cool, very useful when doing long photo sessions...

    As always, a plastic bin from Ikea served as the holder. A little bit of velcro tape to ensure that the light would stay put when mounted on top, a piece of hand-made deep black art paper for a background, and I think I've got a very good start on making the perfect portable macrostand that doesn't require a huge amount of space and gives me good results...

    Here's what it basically looks like:



    That just sort of shows the basics, so let's take a step backwards:



    and let's back out further...



    and



    and let's zoom back out further so that you can see how little room I actually have...





    Whew. That's all the space I have: my small study at home isn't much larger than what you see right there...

    So what kind of results do I get?

    Well, there's these shots. Bear with me: these are straight resizes to 800x600 with no work on them, really a proof of principle after setting things up.

    A fairly recent acquisition, a vintage Gruen...



    and the movement:




    Wait a moment: that's not a Gruen movement: it's a Durowe 410! One of the last pre-war movements that Durowe built, dates from the late 1930s/early 1940s. Of course that's not in Gruen, but rather...



    ...a Stowa.




    Fifteen jewel movement, it's hard to capture just how nice it is.

    But that's not all:

    a lume shot of a new sterile titanium beater I bought a while ago...







    Now, adding a ring-LED light to this completes the setup:



    and back to that Gruen: it needs some work done, but it's got a great piepan dial...



    Anyway, that's my new homemade light box. Total cost: around €80 for the A4-sized panel, another €2 for the plastic box, and €3 for three sheets of that background hand-made art paper (gives me a total of 6 backgrounds before I have to get new ones...). It's highly portable and all I need is access to normal electricity. I can store the light panel (which I got on UK eBay, just search for light boxes...) in the box, as well as the paper sheets. Self-contained and easily transportable!

    Pictures with Olympus E510, 35mm f3.5 macro, movement shot with 100mm f4 Leica Macro-Elmar on bellows via Leica R-->4/3rd mount...

    JohnF
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  2. #2
    Member om-4's Avatar
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    Re: Homemade light box...

    Very interesting setup. That A4 panel, what is it's normal purpose? Is it a lightbox to view slides or a frame for tranceparencies like backlit billboards.

    What kind of output do you get from such a panel set at the brightest setting.
    Nice Gitzo, btw and is that a 50-200 I see next to the box?

  3. #3
    Member JohnF's Avatar
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    Re: Homemade light box...

    Hi -

    It's a frame for transparencies. There is only one output level, i.e. on/off, and don't ask what the lumens is, as it doesn't say. Bought from a chap in England who makes them in all sizes, A5 is the smallest, and he also does very large units. Aluminium frame, power supply is on the power cord.

    I've had that Gitzo for about 10 years now, got it as a travel tripod for my Pentax 67, had to handle that with a 300mm+2x extender, used the big Manfrotto ball head. Since moving to digital I bought a significantly smaller Manfrotto three-axis head instead.

    I wish it was the 50-200: it's the 40-140 kit lens. I've got the 14-40, 40-140, 70-300 and the 35 macro, and will be adding the 11-22 this summer. For low-light work (one of my daughters is in a theatre group) I've got an OM 50mm f1.4, a Nikon 85mm f1.8 and ... the incredible OM 180 f2.8, plus that Leica Macro Elmar 100 f4 on bellows for macro work (2:1). The ability to use older lenses on the 4/3 system led me to choose the E510, and I may get an E30 or E3 body this summer as well, depending on price etc. The older manual focus lenses can be hard to work with, especially focussing with that small screen on the E510, but price/performance is nothing short of amazing. I got that 180 f2.8 (which on the 4/3 system is the equivalent of a 360mm f2.8 lens!!!!) for less than what I paid for the 35mm autofocus macro...

    JohnF
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  5. #4
    Member GuySie's Avatar
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    Re: Homemade light box...

    Hey John, just wondering... why did you choose a setup like this instead of a collapsible light-tent with external flash? While I admire the DIY work involved, I think the light output of a (even highly diffused) flash would probably outperform the A4 frame and a collapsible light-tent could be stashed into a far smaller amount of room.

    A frame like that would make excellent ambient light for macrowork though... that's the thing I'm having the most problems with, getting enough light in the tent pre-flash to be able to do thing like, say, focus

  6. #5
    Member JohnF's Avatar
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    Re: Homemade light box...

    Hi -

    Two reasons:

    1) Space. This is fast and easy to set up and occupies very limited desk top space. All of the light tents I've seen are significantly larger. I'd have to clean off the desk a lot more than I need to with this, and that would tend to reduce my photo-taking well below where it is now. Which is low enough. Seriously: all the tents I've seen take roughly an A3 space on the desk, this takes only A4. I don't need more for the macro stuff I want to do.

    2) I don't have the right flashes. I've got ancient Vivitar flashes (283 and 365) and an ancient umbrella set from when I did weddings, but these are rather dangerous to use with modern digitals, and I simply haven't had any real reason to spend several hundred Euros to acquire a new flash. This was a lot less, and the A4 light frame can also be used to view slides and negatives (I've got roughly 10 000 35mm, medium and large format slides and negatives from my film days), so it's a dual-use acquisition. Add to that the fact that if you want a good, powerful modern flash working well with modern digital cameras, you need to spend quite a bit of money, and you know why I took this route.

    JohnF
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  7. #6
    Member GuySie's Avatar
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    Re: Homemade light box...

    Quote Originally Posted by JohnF View Post
    1) Space. This is fast and easy to set up and occupies very limited desk top space.
    Ah! My misunderstanding, I thought you meant it needed to be small when stored, which is why I thought a collapsible tent would take up much less space. My tent is 40x40x40cm, which is a good deal bigger than an A4 footprint. I don't have room for it on my desk either, I photograph on my bed or the floor



    2) I don't have the right flashes. I've got ancient Vivitar flashes (283 and 365)
    Yeah, that would really kick up the costs. The venerable 283 is a nice classic though. Have you considered using them with off-camera flash radio triggers? I'm not sure if the really cheap ones (I bought a dual receiver set for $30 on eBay) can handle the old voltages, but the guys at Strobist would know which ones work. Your digital camera is safe and it might still give you some use out of your old flashes. Never hurts to have more options to light your box.

  8. #7
    stuffler,mike
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    Re: Homemade light box...

    for the set up

  9. #8
    Member JohnF's Avatar
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    Re: Homemade light box...

    Hi -

    Thought you'd like it...

    JohnF
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  10. #9
    Member om-4's Avatar
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    Re: Homemade light box...

    The price on the E3 has dropped. Got mine in November with flash or cash. I took the FL50R. Have a FL36R too which I got together with my e510 last spring. The off camera ETTL does work on the E3 but unlike what the manual says the popup flash does influence the shot in close-up.



    I use a Manfrotto carbon tripod with a Manfrotto mag3d-head but am looking into a Acratech what they call the "ultimate ballhead".

    Yep, Oly has some fine glass. How do you find the 35mm macro in practice. I tried it in the shop but at the closest distance I was ontop of my watch. The 50mm 2.0 is a bit pricey and I've already got that covered twice in the 14-54 and the 50-200. Instead I got me an OM 50mm/3.5 macro which you see in the pic on top.

    I've the 11-22 also. Couldn't let that one go because the shop had it priced wrong. Got that one for €250. The €400 differance went into the 50-200.

    my watch pics are shot in ambient, flash or an combination of both.


    shot in the windowbay on overcast day.


    shot with brollybox


    one shootthrough umbrella and the green/yellow cast is a fluorescent light from behind. 1/30 sec flashdrag.

  11. #10
    Member JohnF's Avatar
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    Re: Homemade light box...

    Hi -

    Nice shots!

    I like the 35mm a lot. It's not quite as sharp as the 50, but like the ability to get right on top of the watch with the lens. After all, I have that 100mm Macro Elmar for the really tight shots (2:1!). Given the small area I have to work on, the smaller the distance the better. Hence it works for me, especially in conjunction with a Ring LED that I use.

    I bought it used on eBay for less than €160, which was a decent price.

    I was seriously considering the 7-14 lens, but am too paranoid about so much glass at the front end that can't be protected. Hence the 11-22.

    Right now I am really edging towards the E3 for the next body because the price is barely more than the E30! Sure, the E30 has 12MP rather than 10MP, but I'd prefer the really large viewfinder (in comparison with the E510). I've contemplated the E620, but why oh why did Olympus move to the smaller battery???? I don't want to have to deal with multiple prime batteries!!!!
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