Jansjö Positioning Lights

by Johan J Ingles-Le Nobel
Last updated August 31, 2017


Small but very helpful, Jansjö lights from Ikea are the perfect positioning lights for extreme macro stacking work, and they're an excellent continuous illumination source as well.

Jansjö positioning lights

Jansjö lights from Ikea, the perfect positioning lights for extreme macro stacking work and a great budget choice for continuous lighting work as well.

The Jansjös that I bought use clamps, but you can also buy Jansjös that have their own base that they stand on. Both are good.

If you're going to buy Jansjös and use them as continuous light sources as well, buy several together so that you have LEDs in the same batch and the same colour temperature.

I've always personally found it very difficult to get good results using continuous light of any variety. But that's very much a failing on my own part because the desk that my extreme macro studio is on is not steady enough for sharp pictures with continuous lighting, and not because the technique is no good.

Jansjö Lights From Ikea

Ikea produces a range of lights called Jansjö that are much favoured in photomacrography circles. Favoured because they are nice and bright, quite small, cheap to buy and easy to position into place. It's nice to have a small 3W focused light source to focus and position your subject.

Jansjö lights use LEDs rather than bulbs which means the they're not quite as hot as small light bulbs, and tend to produce a bluer light that lasts a bit longer. The Jansjös that I bought use clamps, but you can also buy Jansjos that have their own base that they stand on. Both are good.

Jansjo lights use an LED, a class 2 LED product, rated at max. 3.6W, 450nm, IEC 60825-1:2001.

Buy Several Jansjös!

One thing to be aware of is that these things are produced in various factories around the world using various components. So the LEDs used in one batch are not necessarily the same as those used in the next batch.

Therefore, if you're going to buy Jansjös and use them as continuous light sources as well, buy several together so that you have LEDs in the same batch and the same colour temperature. Otherwise you'll be fighting difficult colour casts that you won't be able to do much about. Mixing the fixed base model and the clamp model will run you into much the same issue so that's probably best avoided.

Why Use Macro Positioning Lights?

Positioning lights are useful to move your specimen into the desired position to be able to photograph them. Being on a long gooseneck Jansjös are perfect for the task as they give you lots of light in a little area. You can also make the light come from above or below quite easily, which you just cannot always do with large fixed flashes because there isn't the room for them. Use a small snoot to make them even tighter.

Jansjö Settings

For continuous lighting, I tend to use Jansjös at times varying from 1/4s to 2s, using ISO 800-ISO 100. A 3000° colour balance seems to work for me, although you can also run a custom balance off a gray card to find your own. LED spectrums are not as smooth as a thermal source but I have seen enough excellent work using Jansjös that I suspect my issues are vibration rather than blaming any LED deficiency. Jansjö lights are very cheap costing £5-£10 each through plenty of sellers found using a Google search.

USB Jansjö

Please be aware that the USB version of the Jansjö is much weaker and thinner than the stand and clamp versions - they're not the same thing. In fact I made an advantage out of this because if I need less light I use the USB one, and if I need more I use the other. The USB version is rated at .15W 10 Lumen, standing/clipon, 3W, 70 Lumen.

A Better Jansjö

A nice trick for concentrating the light that comes out of a Jansjö is to buy a 10x loupe and attach it with a tube contraption and tape. This is a cheap item easily found on eBay costing a couple of pounds or so at most. Alternatively, I have a box full of lens bits that I've disassembled over the years and tinkered with, and I was easily able to add a few lenses together to make a focus mechanism. The downside of a Jansjö is that there's no way to vary the intensity of the output, but there are plenty of CCTV lenses with manual irises that could be altered to accomplish a measure of control. Even buying a manual diaphragm on eBay will do the trick.

Deyellowing Lenses

Jansjo lenses have another nice feature, namely they deyellow old lenses. The radioactivity in old lenses causes them to yellow (Thorium), and by removing the clear acrylic UV protector and shining the Jansjo on the lens for a day or two they'll deyellow nicely. This is great for some of those old Takumars that are quite prone to this.

Other Macro Lights

Although I have described Jansjo lights mainly in terms of positioning lights, they are of course perfectly good and economical light sources for continuous lighting inside during the dark winter months as well. Another light that comes highly recommended for this purpose, albeit a little more expensive, is Trond Halo flat-panel LED lamps ("TROND Halo 11W-C LED Clamp Light Desk Lamp with USB Charging Port"). Various models are available including a model with adjustable colour temperature, but this mixes colour temperatures to create an average and that can look a bit odd. The best advice for using these would be not to use a mixed colour temperature but to stick to one of the extremities and adjust your image colour temperature accordingly. According to my friend Beatsy "The new selectable-temp ones are quite a bit brighter though (better diffusion panel). They can be used successfully without extra diffusion, especially if you get two or three, but the usual ping-pong ball diffuser still helps with particularly reflective subjects". One thing to be noted though is that jansjos do have the advantage in getting closer to the subject, because the lamp head is small.