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Using the Cool-Light SL-1 for shadowless illumination when shooting close up

Cool-Light SL-1
The Cool-Light SL-1 Ring Light shown here on the Nikon CoolPix 990

Doctors and Dentists rejoice. Nikon has listened to the demands for a ring light for the 28mm front lens thread of the swivel body CoolPix line, and any other digital camera that takes 28mm accessories. The Cool-Light SL-1 is a self-contained, battery operated, constant light source for shooting small objects close up with no shadows. The battery power is provided by two CR2 batteries (about $7.50 each at my local camera store), and there is also a plug for an optional AC adapter.

The light source is a series of eight LED's arranged in evenly spaced circular pattern around the threaded center which screws onto the filter threads of the lens. The top mounted screw allows positioning so the battery contained base doesn't get in the way. This is especially useful when using a tabletop tripod to support the camera during a macro shoot.

Because it's a constant light source the internal flash needs to be shut off and the camera set to Auto Exposure. We found that the light output intensity was such that we were using shutter speeds in the 1/30 of second range. This makes using a tripod or other form of support, or the use of a higher ISO setting on the camera, important to insure sharpness. An additional issue is the color balance of the LEDís. The camera was able to correctly white balance with them, but mixed lighting, such as daylight or indoor light could cause some unexpected color distortions. Make sure to turn the room lights down as not to affect exposure and lighting.

Reflections can be troublesome. The LED's were visible in reflective subjects, like a stamp. But werenít visible on less reflective items like a map and less noticeable on the coin or teeth.

We used the CoolPix 4500 for all the pictures and the lens had to be zoomed to telephoto to achieve macro focus which led to the lengthy exposure time. Using BSS (Best Shot Selector) could prove to be useful when handholding the Cool-Light.

Nikon has provided a useful new tool for use with its swivel body Coolpix line. It will be very helpful for those who depend on even lighting for critical close up work. All ring lights are specialized tools, and require some experimentation to achieve excellent results. If you need a flat even light with no shadows for working in macro mode, this may be a tool for you.


The perfect application for the Cool-Light is shooting teeth. The photographs would have to be done in section due to the limited depth of field when shooting macro.

You can see the hot spots from the LED's reflected in the surface of the stamp.

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