A Flash in the Pan: Bare-Bulb DIY Beauty Dish

From the south of India comes a new take on the DIY speedlight beauty dish, courtesy Strobist reader Sinu Kumar.

Unlike studio flashes, most speedlights have a tiny, captive flash tube with a reflector already built into the housing. And if you want a true beauty dish design you'll need an omnidirectional light source. So you first have to convert the beam light from a speedlight into a more omnidirectional bare bulb.

Most people do this by diffusing the speedlight with a dome, or scrambling the light with a convex mirror. Both of which, of course, eat light.

Not so Kumar's design. He actually removed the bare flash tube from inside a speedlight and mounted it in the dish. Bonus points for the material chosen for the tube-holding assembly, too.

Before the link, a warning: DO NOT try this project unless you know what you are doing. Here, there be dragons -- or at least some very high voltages. And if you do, please insulate the flash tube leads. It scares me just to look at them exposed like that, Sinu.

Warnings given, the sub-$10.00 bare bulb beauty dish is here.



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Blogger Thomas Caleb Goggans said...

"Here, there be Dragons!"
HAHA, love it!

A largish drop of hot glue covering the solder points of the bulb contacts would cage those pesky electrons :)

June 16, 2011 9:42 AM  
Blogger Paul said...

unfortunately not all the pictures are there :(
good idea, anyway..

June 16, 2011 9:59 AM  
Blogger joe said...

looks like the traffic has knocked his server for a loop. on slashdot they call it getting slashdotted, so i guess he's been strobist-ed

June 16, 2011 10:12 AM  
Blogger Frozen Forever Photography said...

Cool use for some old flash that will never get used. I think I would rather buy a 120J or Q-flash and build something that would last.

June 16, 2011 10:29 AM  
Blogger Tom Legrady said...

If you're worried about the exposed leads, the simple solution would be to install heat-shrink tubing to cover those parts.

Heat-shrink tubing is standard in electrical and electronic systems to provide secure joints. The only concern is I don't know how it handles the high voltages encountered in strobes.

June 16, 2011 11:29 AM  
Blogger Tom Legrady said...

Possibly the best solution in terms of safety would be to install a rigid wire grid above the bulb, made perhaps out of coat-hangar-wire. That way you cannot accidentally come into contact with the exposed wiring.

June 16, 2011 11:34 AM  
Blogger fatcat said...

If you copy the link address and do a google search for it you can still pull up the cached version with all the pics intact. Very cool build.

June 16, 2011 1:12 PM  
Blogger AlbertZeroK said...

Good Job David, you broke their server. :)

June 16, 2011 1:15 PM  
Blogger MASilva said...

David, One question that I've always been curious about with regards to the beauty dish. Does the dish simply give you a larger light source relative to the bare flash (smaller relative to a large softbox). Or do dishes also have a special shape that is intended to eliminate hot spots towards the center of the projected beam of light, similar to the way that I understand a parabolic umbrella to work. Thanks,

June 16, 2011 1:18 PM  
Blogger David Hobby said...

Thanks for the idea. I added the link to the post.


June 16, 2011 1:19 PM  
Blogger A L Mizerski said...

Tom, actually you safe till you dont make a contact and press shutter button simultaneously ;)
Ps: disassembling the thing is a good idea, gives a solid light.

June 16, 2011 2:09 PM  
Blogger WingedPower said...

Nice hack. I'm actually in the process of modifying an LP160 for a similar purpose... just need to get it back together. :) I'm in love with the versatility of the 120J's bare bulb. Too bad the front element of the LP160 is not nearly so easy to seperate out as that flash in the article. ^_^;;;

June 16, 2011 2:17 PM  
Blogger Nikon Coach said...

How is this a sub-$10.00 bare bulb beauty dish? Don't we have to account for the cost of the flash?

While I appreciate the ingenuity and DIY attitude/skills of some of the readers of this webiste, I am not sure why one couldn't just buy a "Beauty Dish 41cm & Grid for Nikon Speedlight Flash" or "Beauty Dish 41cm & Grid for Canon Speedlite Flash" from the same seller on the auction site that DH mentioned in How To: DIY eBay Beauty Dish Speedlight Mount?. I agree such a beauty dish would cost about $90 but it lets you use flash normally (on- or off-camera) when you need to whereas you have to kiss your flash goodbye (for normal flash use) with this hack.

Does this hack produce much better quality light than with the beauty dish on the auction site (or other DIY beauty dishes out there that do not sacrifice a flash)?

June 16, 2011 2:49 PM  
Blogger Silver Image said...

Great project/idea!

Most heatshrink will not insulate really HV. Best to use special insulation for that [digs through parts drawer for HV foam insulation].

As I'm disassembling an old sunpak 611, with caps the size of soupcans, I am wondering how many strobists are now wearing bandaids on their fingers or picking themselves up off the floor ;-)]

June 16, 2011 3:28 PM  
Blogger RXrenesis8 said...

Don't want to destroy your flashgun? There is another tutorial on the same site just for you guys.

June 16, 2011 10:23 PM  
Blogger James Bong said...

Hmm, I may have to try this with my ancient little Pentax flash.

June 17, 2011 12:33 AM  
Blogger Karl said...

Don`t think any amount of insulation is going to protect him over time, the heat coming from that flash is going to melt the insulation. Notice that in the original flash all the wiring is protected by the reflector.

June 17, 2011 12:41 AM  
Blogger claudio.von.grubens said...

Hi David,

nice project! I'm thinking on building a beauty dish myself with cardboard that is mountable on a flash(the flash philosophy must go on ;) )

I only have some issues with the diffuser in the middle but I have a lot of time this weekend! As I'm finished I'll post a blog on my site and keep you'll informed should be a nice gadget in the box ;)


June 17, 2011 7:09 AM  
Blogger Doug Sundseth said...

If you can keep it cool, there is high-voltage heatshrink tubing that will insulate up to an advertised 30kV.

If temperature is an issue, as it might be here, heatshrink tubing is a poor choice. You might want to consider a self-sealing silicone tape like F4 tape in that circumstance. They advertise 500 degrees F and 8kV for a single layer, which should at least reduce any problems.

June 17, 2011 11:21 AM  
Blogger PaulL said...

Hmm, I've got this old Nikon flash...this might be a good thing to do with it! Thanks for the idea, David!


June 18, 2011 3:01 PM  
Blogger IvarS said...

Isn't this just a bigger reflector, not a beautydish?

June 19, 2011 3:36 AM  
Blogger MASilva said...

@IvarS - I think I'm a bit confused by this aspect of this DIY reflector also. I thought that the shape of a beauty dish and not just its size contributed to the effect - or is it the ability to locate the bulb in a certain place? Regardless, what makes a beauty dish a beauty dish?

June 20, 2011 1:47 PM  
Blogger Vonsch said...

I did it! Thank you-- I add Mr. Bhaskar's name in my blog post. Check out a couple pictures of my new beauty-dish flash unit!

July 13, 2011 1:31 PM  

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