Innovative LED Lighting for Stills and Video
LEDs have come a very long way from simple uses as indicator lights on your audio and video equipment to a dominant position in the field of signage and display in large public venues. Since developing technology has helped to overcome their initial high cost of production, they are now poised to supplant fluorescent lamps in our homes. Increased power and color temperature control have made them pervasive on video and film production sets. Among the many benefits of LED lighting are:
- Very low generated heat: They run relatively cool to touch, so you can squeeze a light into places that a conventional hot light can’t go without injuring the talent or destroying property.
- Comfort factor: The room or studio stays cool and your talent comfortable.
- Short return on investment due to low electrical draw and savings on studio AC and lamps.
- Efficiency: LEDs convert 80% of their energy into light, as opposed to 20% in a standard tungsten fixture.
- You can clip gels to them without incinerating them or burning your hands.
- Low heat means little or no cool-down period, so you’re on the go faster.
- LEDs aren’t as susceptible to shock as halogen bulbs or expensive HMIs.
- Virtually maintenance free: 25,000-1,000,000 hour lamp life.
- Passive cooling: Nearly all LED fixtures have fan-less operation and are totally quiet on set.
- Available in Daylight (5500-5600K) or Tungsten (3200K) balance or bi-color with user adjustable color balance.
- Available in spot or flood configurations as well as models with variable beam angle adjustment without honeycomb grids.
- LEDs generally have a high CRI (Color Rendering Index).
- Easily adapt to multi-voltage power supplies.
- Most are dimmable and remote controllable manually or via DMX.
Here’s a look at some of the industry’s best LED lights, separated into small on-camera lights and larger stand-mount fixtures.
On-Camera and Handheld LED Lights
bebob has been producing innovative products for the film and broadcast industry since 1995. The LUX-LED60P 60W LED Light with PAG Battery Mount was developed for on-the-go location work. Light and portable, it delivers daylight-balanced output that’s the equivalent of a 650W hot light. It's also fully dimmable with no loss in color temperature and provides stepless focus adjustment for changes in illumination angle. Designed to be mounted on a stand, the LUX-LED60P can also be used as a hand lamp, using an optional handle.
The Dedolight Ledzilla Mini LED Daylight Camera Light with Battery Shoe packs a lot into a pint-sized package. The small onboard camera light focuses from -4° to 56°, with a flip-up diffuser that makes the beam even wider. Built-in barn doors render sharp shadows or a gentle light-shadow transition, while quick conversion from daylight to tungsten light using the built-in dichroic filter avoids fumbling with tape and gels.
An adjustable support arm allows the light to be positioned above and forward of the camera, and employs dimming that works from full power to zero, with no color change. Key attributes include very low power consumption (8W) considering the output, and the ability to power from any 6V to 18V source using an optional power cable (including any Anton Bauer or PAG system, automobile "cigarette lighter" output or battery belt). The included battery shoe is compatible with Sony NP-F and Panasonic VW-VBD1 batteries. The Ledzilla operates from -40°F to 104°F (-40°C to +40°C). A front-end bayonet allows you to add attachments and light modifiers.
ikan's line of on-camera LED lighting was developed with attractive features and prices in mind. Choices include fixed, dual color or variable color temperatures and power solutions from simple AA batteries to models with interchangeable battery plates. The iLED 120 features 5300-5900K color temperature, onboard dimming, a flood beam pattern and AC or built-in rechargeable battery power. It’s also got a top shoe mount to stack another iLED120. The iLED 312 Dual Color LED features variable 3200-5600K color temperature, onboard dimming and a flood beam angle. It outputs the equivalent of 150W and runs on the included AC adapter or the included Sony L series batteries. The more compact iLED 144 also features Dual Color—3200-5600K control and onboard dimming at less than half the weight. Finally, the Multi-K has red, white and yellow LEDs that allow you to vary the color temperature precisely from 2800-6500K, features onboard dimming and runs on 6 AA Batteries or DC battery power. The Multi-K has a Watts equivalent of 44-110W depending on the color temperature in use.
Bescor has always been known for quality products at an attractively low price point, and its current on-camera LED lineup is no exception. The tiny LED-25 measures only 4 x 1.75", runs on 2 AA batteries for up to 4 hours and outputs 25W of equivalent incandescent power. The LED-40 is even smaller but generates 40 equivalent Watts on 3 AAA batteries. The compact twin-lamp LED-60X gives you 60 equivalent Watts, dimming and a 2-3 hour run time on 4 AA batteries. The LED-70, LED-125 and LED-180 generate 70, 125 and 180W on 4, 6, and 8 AA batteries respectively. All are daylight balanced.
The DataVideo LD-1 blue/green LED ring light is an inexpensive and efficient kit for chroma-key applications. It is based around a dual-color (blue/green) ring light that allows you to key out blue or green objects with the simple flip of a switch. The precise, directional LED ring, which gives the perfect amount of light return up to 75 degrees off axis, allows you to make video chroma keys with minimal attention to background lighting. It can be mounted on a variety of still or video cameras with lenses up to 82mm with the included lens-ring adapters.
Flolight made its name with fluorescent fixtures but quickly entered the LED field with many strong offerings. The Micro 128 is a compact, lightweight on-camera light that uses 128 LEDs to output a 100W hot-light equivalent. It’s available in 5600K and 3200K in spot or flood versions. The Micro 128 runs on standard 12VDC video batteries for up to 6 hours and can be ordered with Sony or Panasonic battery plates. The light comes with a set of color-conversion filters, slide-in filter holder, diffusion filters, a hot shoe swivel mount, AC power supply and a case. If you need a bit more power and a wider beam spread, the Microbeam 256 is your answer. It uses 256 LEDs to output double the power of the 128 for a 200W hot-light equivalent. It’s also available in 5600K and 3200K in spot or flood versions. The Micro 256 runs on standard 12VDC video batteries for up to 3 hours, and can be ordered with Sony or Panasonic battery plates. The light comes with a set of color-conversion filters, slide-in filter holder, diffusion filters, a hot shoe swivel mount, AC adapter and a case.
Lowel has been a friend of the image maker for many years, bringing high quality and durability at a moderate price to the table. Keeping abreast of the newest technology, the company has regularly offered new and innovative products like the Blender on-camera LED light. Forget about fiddling with conversion gels on the job. The Blender makes it possible to fine-tune your lights to the ambient conditions. With twin arrays of daylight and tungsten LEDs in one fixture, two simple dials make it possible to tweak the light to exactly the color you need from 3000 to 5000K). This tiny unit (1.2 lb and small enough to hold with a pistol grip) is dimmable and runs on the included 120VAC adapter, or an optional camcorder battery sled (Panasonic, Sony or Canon).
Litepanels was one of the LED pioneers in developing the source for broadcast, cinema, video and still photography and the company continues to fulfill and exceed expectations by releasing new and inventive products to meet the demands of image-making technology. The foundation for its on-camera efforts continues to be the reliable Micro and MiniPlus series. The MiniPlus is a completely flicker-free LED array encased in a sturdy aluminum housing that can run on a variety of power sources including external battery sources, camera batteries (with optional adapter) or car outlets from 10 – 30V. Litepanels also makes a handy snap-on 2-hour capacity rechargeable battery and a multi-voltage charger/power supply. Available in 3200K or 5600K color temperatures and spot or flood beam spreads, the Miniplus offers on-camera or off-camera use, 100-0% dimming with minimal color shift and a 50,000 hour lamp life.
The Micro is a tried and true, compact 5600K on-camera light that can be powered for 1.5 hours by standard AA batteries or an impressive 7-8 hours with e2 Lithium-ion batteries. Alternatively, it can be powered by 5 – 12VDC sources such as camcorder batteries using optional plate or optional AC Power Adapter. The DV- friendly design includes a tilting shoe mount with a 1/4"-20 accessory thread.
The slightly larger MicroPro offers the same power options but with 6 AA batteries for double the output. Still another version called the MicroPro Hybrid addresses the needs of the growing popularity of video-capable DSLR cameras. Use Continuous Mode for shooting video, or the Flash Mode for a 400% brighter strobe burst for still photos. Dimming, power options and accessories are the same as the MicroPro.
The Croma is a lightweight (0.75 lb) on- or off-camera light equally at home in still photography, ENG or film-production applications. The Croma is all about balance. Its output is variable in intensity from 100-0% and color adjustable from 3200 – 5600K. It gets 1.5 hours on standard AA batteries and will support 6-20V external sources via an optional D-Tap cable. Finally, Litepanels meets the demand for a soft around-the-lens source with maximum control and flexibility with the RM-F Ringlite Mini. Available in daylight or tungsten balance, the RM-F employs 72 LEDs selectable in groups of 24, 48 or 72 for maximum control. The Ringlite Mini offers multiple mounting options and fits most popular cameras. Power options include 12-30V battery sources and a 100-240V AC adapter.
The Rotolight RL48-B LED Ring Light outputs warm, shadowless light with a wide beam angle that’s perfect for HDSLR, video and cinema applications. The RL48-B sports 48 ultra-bright LEDs with an 80W equivalent at calibrated 6300K, 5600K, 4300K and 3200K color balances via the filter packs included in several kits. It mounts to tripods, light stands, rail support systems, to a standard accessory shoe or directly over a shotgun mic mounted to the camera. The weather-resistant RL48-B weighs less than half a pound and runs on 3 AA batteries.
Westcott gets kudos for innovative design with the Ice Light. It’s a dimmable, 5200 – 5400K LED source that resembles a 20.25" baton, or maybe wand is more appropriate, given the soft light magic that the Ice Light conjures. Hold it as close as you want; the closer you get, the more Ice Light's 72.6-degree beam wraps around your subject. It’s virtually heat-free so you never have to worry about injuring the talent or damaging the set. The Ice Light is powered by a built-in battery that will run for 60 minutes on a 2.5-hour charge. It includes gel clips to add color or diffusion and 1/4"-20 taps at each end to mount it to support accessories.
The Zylight Z90 LED Light uses HD-LEDs (high density light-emitting diodes) in a 1-inch square panel, which produces a remarkably soft 131° 30W beam with 100-1% dimming. Mixed lighting is always the bane of on-the-go videographers, but with the Z90’s almost unheard of level of control, you’ll be shooting while others are still taping gels to their lights. The Z90’s White Mode allows you to select 3200K or 5600K white light while Gel Mode lets you adjust the color temperature from 2500 – 9000K in 50K steps, as well as allowing +/- green color-correction control. Built-in ZyLink technology allows the ganging of multiple units together as if they were a single unit; you can make changes to lights located across the set while you watch them in the monitor.
Stand-Mounted LED Lights and Panels
In general, stand-mounted LED fixtures offer more mounting options, sophisticated features such as DMX control and more power. ARRI created the Caster series to meet the demand for a powerful light with unique qualities that emulate a single source light. By channeling the light through a mixing chamber before output, both The BroadCaster and the LoCaster are able to cast a single shadow from multiple LEDs that can be cleanly cut with a flag or barn door, eliminating color fringing due to chromatic aberration. Both lights offer 35W of power (550 candelas) with a beam angle of 66 degrees, measure 8.7" at their longest dimension and weigh a little over 2 lb. The LoCaster offers power, dimming and adjustable color temperature from 2800 – 6500K. Power is provided by a multi-voltage power supply or batteries from 11-36VDC. The Broadcaster provides all of the above along with DMX remote control via 3 PowerDMX outlets which can support 4 BroadCasters per outlet. Besides color temperature, it also provides +/- green adjustment. Both lights are available in a variety of kits offering AC, DC and AC/DC options.
Having created a near perfect small LED fixture, ARRI turned its talents to the big guns, with the introduction of the L-7 Fresnel Series. The L-7T, as the name implies, is a 3200K tungsten-balanced luminaire with 50 – 15 degree flood-to-spot beam angle, 100 – 0% dimming control on the light or remotely via DMX, and an output equal to a 1K tungsten Fresnel. And it’s not an energy hog, either. Since it draws only 220W while pumping out that 1,000W equivalent, you can run 9 of them on a 20 Amp, 110V outlet as compared with only two 1K or three 650W traditional tungsten fixtures. And while your spirit might be dampened by inclement weather, your L-7T’s IP20 rating insures that you can keep shooting, even in the rain.
Not content with creating a benchmark LED Fresnel, ARRI introduced another. The L-7C has all of the virtues and features of the L-7T but with the addition of “fully tunable” white light which allows you to go from a toasty 2,800K to an icy blue 10,000K with +/- green control and 100 – 0% dimming, all controllable remotely via DMX or RDM. Both lights are available in classic silver and blue or black, in stand, hanging or pole-operated versions.
When über-tech innovator Dedolight throws its hat into the ring, it does so in a big way. The 1 x 1' Felloni is an extraordinary light, or should I say lights, since Dedo makes them in 3 general categories in various permutations, yielding a total of 27 versions. Under the Standard (324 LEDs), High Output (576 LEDs) and Low Profile (324 LEDs) categories are tungsten, daylight and bicolor iterations and within these sub-categories are 15°, 30° and 50° units. What they all have in common are claims of higher output with lower power consumption than competitors, a CRI of 84 and various battery-power options. All versions come with a multi-voltage AC power supply, diffuser, metal filter holder strips and an 8' cable used to dismount the onboard dimming module and turn it into a wired remote. The module is upgradable to DMX.
Flolight offers 2 stand-mounted lights, each with a very high CRI of 93. The MicroBeam 512 and 1024 are available in 30-degree spot or 60-degree flood versions with either a 3200K or 5600K color balance. The 512 has a hot light equivalent of 500W while the 1024 doubles that at 1000W. Both lights come with a yoke with a 5/8" receiver and a 110-240VAC power adapter. Other power options include an optional V-Mount battery plate. Both lights are available in DMX versions.
Ikan is an apt name for this energetic, proactive company and what they can do is build lights—lots of them (in addition to monitors, teleprompters, rigs, etc.). The core of their LED line is the ID and IB series. The most basic light in the ID series is the 4 LED bulb ID400. The 8.5 x 5.5" aluminum box-style construction holds 4 of your choice of 3200K (spot or flood) or 5600K (spot or flood) lamps. Power is regulated on the unit or with the included wireless remote from 100-25% by simply turning off 1-3 lamps. And speaking of power, besides running on the included multi-voltage power supply, the addition of an optional adapter and plate allows you to use 12v-24V pro batteries. The ID500, ID1000 and ID1500, are more sophisticated multi-LED panels. They all have integrated barn doors and dimming. The panel is divided into quadrants, each of which can be turned on or off to increase or diminish power via back-panel switches. There’s also a dimming knob that dials the whole panel down from 50 – 0%. The knob and switches can be combined for fine control. All 3 lights are rated at 5600K and ascend in power congruent with their names. Tired of taping light-balancing gels on your fixtures? Ikan has you covered with the IB series of selectable color temperature lights. This series, too, has built-in barn doors and power options from 110-240VAC to 12-24 pro batteries that mount to optional plates. But what makes them special is Kelvin control from 3200 – 5600K. The IB500 and IB1500 dual color control from 3200 – 5600K and dimming from 100% down to 10% via the included wireless remote control or the back panel. The IB500 employs a handy LCD touch screen for dimming and color control, while the IB1500 employs traditional knobs.
As one of the early players in the LED field, it’s only natural that Litepanels should offer a broad and diverse array of stand-mounted fixtures for cinema, photography and videography. It all began with the tried and true 1x1. This 12 x 12" luminaire, the equivalent of a 500W tungsten hot light, is only 1.75" thick and runs cool to the touch, making it easy to place it where other lights can’t fit, without fear of damage or injury. The 1 x 1 is available in daylight balance (5600K), in Flood (50 degree), Spot (30 degree) and Super-Spot (15 degree) beam spreads, as well as Tungsten (3200K) balance with a Flood (50 degree) beam angle. All versions have a large, sturdy yoke with a 5/8" receiver, and run on the included 100 – 240VAC Adapter or 18 – 28V battery sources including a handy snap-on battery from Litepanels. The panel is constructed without backing so you can look through it while positioning for optimal placement. The fixture is dimmable from 100-0% and can be controlled on the back panel, with an optional wired remote or via DMX. 1x1s can be ganged in special accessory frames in 2-unit or 4-unit configurations to make a larger panel.
Built on the foundation of the 1 x 1, the Bi-Color uses 2 sets of LEDs that offer 3200K or 5600K light balance; ideal when time doesn’t permit light-balancing with filters. The Bi-Color is available with a 50-degree Flood beam angle. The Bi-Focus is yet a further enhancement of the 1 x 1. Two versions are available in Daylight (5600K) balance that give you 2 distinct beam angles in each—50-degree Flood coupled with 30-degree Spot or 30-degree Spot coupled with 15 degree Super-Spot.
Just when you think that the folks at Litepanels might have exhausted the LED panel concept, they introduce a small footprint, high-output panel made to project its daylight-balanced illumination over a 20 – 25' distance. Meant to replace a 575W HMI, the 5-lb Hilio does that with 72 LEDs in a 14 x 10 x 4" housing without a ballast, that draws only 115W. The Hilio runs on a 100 – 240VAC power supply or gets 4 hours of run time on an Anton Bauer Cine VCLX battery at 28VDC.
Not content with making its name in rectilinear form, Litepanels offers a line of high-quality Fresnels with a 5600K Daylight color balance. The Sola ENG is a 3" Fresnel LED that weighs under 1 lb and outputs the equivalent of a 100W HMI, while drawing only 30W of power, making it small enough to take off the stand and mount on your camera. The 15 – 50 degree spot-to-flood Sola ENG is powered by its 120 – 240VAC power supply or 10 – 20VDC batteries via a 2-pin D-Tap cable. The 6" Sola 6 Fresnel is the big brother of the family with an output equivalent to a 350W HMI and a 15 – 67 degree spot-to-flood beam angle. Like the Sola 4 it is DMX controllable and runs on pro batteries or multi-voltage AC.
Lowel, who made its name on affordable, high-quality tungsten and fluorescent fixtures and systems, won an NAB 2011 Best Lighting Gear Award from VideoMaker magazine with the introduction of the Prime LED series. Both the Prime LED 200 and Prime LED 400 are available in Tungsten and Daylight renditions, have a high CRI of 91+ and self-seeking 90 – 240VAC power supplies. The Prime LED 200 outputs 39 foot candles at 9', while the Prime LED 400 nearly doubles that at 73 fc. Both models have a 50-degree beam angle and come with a 5/8" receiver for stand mounting and a C-clamp for hanging.
Mole-Richardson lights have been a staple of the motion-picture industry for many years with a history going back to 1927, so you know that when it comes out with an LED source, it will be very far from an also-ran. The MoleLED 12 Pack derives its name from the 12 OSRAM KREIOS LED circuit boards that contain a total of 240 film-friendly LEDs that blend into a single soft source, available in tungsten or daylight balance. Mole worked closely with Kodak, Panavision, Technicolor and Shelley Johnson, ASC, to produce a rendition of white light that matches the visible spectrum as well as film’s spectral sensitivity. The MoleLED is dimmable locally or via DMX and runs on a 100 – 240 AC source. Battery options include 12V car batteries, 14.4 Anton Bauer/IDX V-Mount batteries, 24V camera batteries or a 30V battery belt.
Rosco is a familiar name to anyone who has ever used a gel filter, but this company makes over 25 product categories with multiple sub-categories of products for film, video and performance arts. There’s a pretty good chance that virtually every visual event you’ve ever seen had Rosco products in it, so it’s no surprise that the introduction of the LitePad was considered not only innovative but revolutionary. It’s offered in 2 versions: the LitePad HO+ and LitePad Axiom.
The HO+ is an incredibly thin (1/3") LED edge-lit light source with a very soft output, available in 3600K or 5800K color temperature versions. The fact that it emits virtually no heat makes it indispensible in tight quarters where valuable property or celebrity subjects might be harmed by a hot light. Their light weight means that they can be clipped or gaffer-taped to almost any surface. In fact, the light is so even that you can use them as a shooting surface as you would a light table.
The HO+ is available in 8 sizes ranging from a 3" circle to a 24" square. The LitePad HO+ will run for hours on an AA power supply and up to 60,000 hours on its multi-voltage power supply. Accessories include a thumb dimmer and DMX-controlled dimmer. If you’re working in windy situations or prefer multiple mount options with grip gear, then the LitePad Axiom is your answer. Think of it as an armored HO+, or to put it another way, inside every Axiom is an HO+. The Axiom’s steel-and-aluminum housing not only adds heft to the unit but facilitates the mounting options mentioned above through its universal mounting system. It only takes seconds to swap out a 1/4"-20 bolt for a 5/8" stud or a wall plate. The Axiom is available in the same sizes as the HO+ with the exception of the circles.
The Anova LED EcoFlood by Rotolight is a revolutionary LED flood light source with a host of features that will make it indispensible in the studio or on location for large or small productions. Weighing a little under 6 lb and measuring 15 x 13.4 x 2.2", the Anova outputs the equivalent of 1000W of tungsten light with user-variable color temperatures from 3150 – 6300K. Control options include wired DMX, Wi-Fi and back panel control. There's also an ingenious optional iPhone/iPad app that allows you to sample the ambient light's color and intensity and accurately reproduce it on site. The Anova comes with a set of filters and a TVMP connector for 5/8" stud light stands.
Zylight takes the unique technology, control and flexibility that wowed users with its Z90 on-camera light and applied it to a panel form factor with the IS3, which offers a 90 degree beam angle, built-in DMX and wireless control and an LED array that is powered by a multi-voltage AC adapter or 24 – 48VDC battery sources. The panel offers up to 100-0% dimming without color shift and color temperature control from 2500 to a remarkable 10000K. Additionally, +/- Green CC control makes very precise fine-tuning easy.
There are many cool-running lighting options out there for wedding photographers and videographers. What are some of your favorite LED kits? Feel free to tell us about them and how you like to use them, in the Comments section, below.