Published Jun 17. 2019 - 3 months ago
Updated or edited Jun 18. 2019

Flies Photo Gadget

This 3D-printed contraption is a fly holder with built in light designed for fly photography.

A package from Siberia
A package from Siberia
Martin Joergensen

I stumbled over this gadget on Facebook, where Russian fly tyer, inventor and photographer Ramil was advertising it for sale under the phrase Photography system "Flies photo gadget".
Ramil – whose personal Facebook profile simply names him "Ramil Fly Fishing" - is really named Ramil Yamaliev and lives in Krasnoyarsk in Siberia, and it's only thanks to the wonders of the web that I know of his product and have been able to buy it. This Internet thing is really something! I think it's here to stay, but that's a whole other story…

Back to Ramil's gadget. From the description it was obviously 3D-printed, consisting of a fly holder – a simple electronics wire clip – and a ring of LED lights, designed to be powered via a USB cable. The price was just shy of 40 US$, and I immediately ordered one on Etsy, where it's for sale.
And the wonders didn't cease. The gadget arrived less than two weeks later, packed in a small cardboard box, adorned with a gazillion Siberian stamps.

A ringlight
The stem and clamp
A ringlight
Martin Joergensen

The gadget is fairly simple, and the version I bought contains all that's needed to get started apart from power. You can supply USB-power from a simple phone charger or similar, or you can use a power bank for more mobility and independence from an AC outlet.
The gadget comes with a clamp and a stem that allows you to mount it on a table, and is also supplied with a small clip to hold the fly. Mine was blue, which is probably not what you want. Something neutral like black is usually more suitable, but it's easily replaced with a different color clip, which can be found in most electronics stores, off- as well as online.

The background holder
Rough finish
No design icon
Martin Joergensen - Ramil Fly Fishing

The gadget does not win any prices on design and finish. 3D-printing has come a long way, and modern, high-end printers can print very smoothly and clean, but the printer that made this product, and obviously a cruder model, which has left clear stripes in the subject as well as some pretty ragged edges. Of course finish isn't critical when it comes to the final result: the photos. In them, the gadget isn't visible at all, but still, a nicer final look and feel would of course leave a much better initial impression.

Mobile pics
Mobile pics
Martin Joergensen

The concept is pretty simple: a ring shaped light shines on the fly, mounted in the center of the ring on the clip. You point your camera or phone at the fly and snap pictures. You make sure the background is suitably uniform or far away, or you buy the optional extra: a background holder at less than 10 US$, which is a simple holder for a sheet of paper or cardboard, meant to stand on the table behind the photo gadget.

I plugged the USB-cable into a power bank, and one thing was quite obvious from the start: the light source is not very powerful. Using a AC-USB converter didn't change this. Many cameras and phones can handle low light, and most do so by turning up the ISO and opening the camera aperture, but unfortunately that can lead to grainy images and will give you a very shallow depth-of-field. The key to good fly pictures is lots of light, and my usual setup consists of a powerful flash or an LED panel with hundreds of LED's and a power consumption in the 200 Watt range. Of course a USB-powered light source like this cannot be expected to compete here, but I do find the light too dim for really good photography.
You cannot turn up the light by supplying more power. Such is the nature of LED's. You need sufficient power for them not to be weaker, but supplying more will not brighten them.
When I cranked up the ISO in my DSLR-cameras to 1600, I was able to expose at 1/100 of a second f/4-5.6, which is not optimal, but definitely enough to get some good pictures. Using the phone was something different. My phone automatically upped the ISO to 400 or 640 ISO and set the exposure time to 1/25 of a second. This will make it very hard to get good photos. At the same time phones do all they can to adjust color and sharpness in images, not always with good results. Phone cameras like light, and the Flies Photo Gadget falls a little short in that respect.

Using my SLR's was a different talk. Here the superior quality of the cameras could easily manage the weak light, and I could get sharp and well exposed images. The gadget is a ring light, and as such it gives a very evenly distributed light. I can recommend blocking some of it in the bottom of the ring to get a more shaping light. Simply covering 1/3 of the ring with black gaffer tape does the trick. Of course this means even less light to play with, and might be seen as slightly esoteric by some, who will be all satisfied with the evenly diffused light that is provided out of the box.

After publishing this review, I was contacted by Ramil who told me that a brighter and adjustable version of the gadget was underway.

So, what's my conclusion? Well, it's a really neat idea, not that pretty in execution, but not expensive either. I'd certainly like to see more light from it, which would make it much more useful to me, and definitely enable it to produce much better results for the average fly tyer, who just wants some quick and well lit pictures of the finished flies using whatever camera or phone is at hand.
At 40 US$ for a tool like this, it's hard to complain. Most photo gadgets will run you many times more, and powerful LED panels or flashes are much harder to use and at least 10 times as expensive.
For quick and easy fly photos, the Russian Flies Photo Gadget is an option worth considering, and it's convenient to have sitting on the edge of your tying table, ready for a quick fly photo.

Contact and purchasing

Buy the Flies Photo Gadget on Etsy here. The light is 40 US$ and the background holder is 10 US$. Postage is surprisingly inexpensive. I paid 7 US$ to have the gadget mailed to Denmark.
See the Flies Photo Gadget on Facebook here.
Follow Ramil Fly Fishing on Facebook here.

Squirrel Zonker
Nutria Zonker
Klympen
Buzzer
Sample photos shot with an SLR-camera
Martin Joergensen

Comments

great option for inexpensive photo tools...

This is a great option to the Nikon/Canon light rings which are quite expensive. Probably if is fixed in a soft box ( simple made of cardboard with white paper ) will provide very good photos.

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