MOD YOUR EQUIPMENT! Pt.1 / by Joseph Donzis

You bought your equipment, you paid your hard-earned money on it, why not make it do what YOU want it to do?  This is part one of little ways I've modified my equipment and I'm going to show you how you can , too.

Let's start with a simple mod for video lights.  In my post about how to take macro photos of your eye, I introduced the Neewer CN-216 (available here) and used these lights as my primary light source throughout recording.  I'd purchased these video lights based on a video I'd helped create a few years ago and fell in love with them.  They are extremely small and durable and very very bright for their size.  I didn't want to eat through a lot of batteries, so my first time using the Neewer CN-216 I'd added a power port to the lights and hooked up some old Playstation power supplies to them.  This was a great fix, but it was costly and time-consuming to make everything look professionally modified.

In a careless maneuver while filming my YouTube video last week, I decided to run my Neewer CN-216 lights off of batteries.  This decision fed into my frustrations by the end of filming as I'd managed to use up over 30 batteries during one shoot.  This is bad for my wallet and bad for the environment.  The complicated thing about using battery-powered video lights is that there is no way to regulate the brightness via capacitor.  This means that unlike flashes, which will simply charge slower, a video light will gradually get dimmer and become ultimately useless quicker than a speedlite will.  I knew I needed to modify my new LED lights, the question was how to do it quicker, cheaper, and more hassle-free than my previous attempt.

The first step was to get a power supply which can provide consistent power for the 216 LEDs to allow them to be bright without burning out.  Fortunately, I know the lights use six 1.5V AA batteries, which immediately tells me I need a 9V power supply.  I know the Neewer CN-216 can run off rechargeable batteries as well as disposable batteries, which gives me a range of 800-3400 milliamp hours.  This number translates to how many hours you can run a battery at 1.5V using 1 milliamp per hour.  Considering that I run my video lights on alkaline batteries, that more realistically puts my range between 1800-2600 mAh, and I know that I usually only get around 15-20 minutes of peak brightness.  This lets me know that a 9V 2A power supply will give me the power I need without paying the extra money for more power.  After selecting my power supply (available here), I ordered a matching female connector with pigtail (available here).

Fortunately, the math and research is the hardest part of this mod.  Next step is to get some alligator jumper clips (available here).  Match the red and black alligator clips to the red and black wires on the pigtail of the female connector, then match them up with the positive and negative terminals on the Neewer CN-216.  Always remember, red is hot, so connect the red alligator clip to the positive terminal of your LED lights.  On a positive note, LEDs don't care if you hook them up backwards, they simply won't light up; less positive, you never know what else is inside your lights if you accidentally put power through it backwards.  I took the liberty of connecting everything backwards to find out if anything will break if you accidentally get confused- it won't.

There we go!  That's all!  Plug everything in and now you're working with LED lights and you don't have to consider changing the batteries while recording. 

Some great things to consider about this mod:

  • At no point did we open the lights, so we have not voided any warranties
  • The alligator clips work as quick-disconnects, so if anyone accidentally steps on a cable, you can worry less about your lights falling down
  • Using direct current (DC) for projects is safe and fun
  • Ordering the parts takes longer than assembling them (easy build)

This might seem overly-simplistic to call a modification, but trying little projects like this are great ways to save yourself time and money in the future.  Maybe you're not satisfied, though.  Maybe you want something a little more extreme....  Check back next week when I show you how we can build a power supply for our flashes using old computer parts.