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Litepanels: A special source that beats the heat | B&H Photo Video Pro Audio
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Litepanels: A special source that beats the heat

By Tom Kirkman

To view a demonstration of the LitePanel, click here

Ubiquitous: existing or being everywhere at the same time: constantly encountered: widespread. LED's are nothing if not ubiquitous. In fact, they're use is so pervasive that often times they're hiding in plain sight.

Most of us are familiar with LED's employed in scoreboards, digital readouts and status lights. However, other uses include remote controls, movement sensors, flashlights, flatbed scanners, grow lights, streetlights and large scale video displays. The Times Square New Year's Eve ball, LCD TV backlighting (for expanded color gamut), stage lighting, traffic lights, railroad crossing lights, car indicator lights and headlights all incorporate this technology. In fact there is speculation that LED's will eventually replace most sources used at home.

LED lighting is popular with integrators of various media systems who value its high output-to-size ratio, coupled with negligible environmental impact and virtually no heat. Furthermore, these small, feather-weight, portable sources fit neatly into the immediate-consumption, U-Tube type life-style fostered by the digital revolution which has made tools like these agents of interactive freedom

B&H has a keen interest in the world of imaging products upon which we have built our reputation and has enthusiastically sold LED lighting for photo and video uses over the past 3 years. When LitePanel offered lend us a few of their most popular lights to "play with" we eagerly accepted.

Key Litepanels LED Points

  • Dimming w/ minimal shift: 175-225k
  • Pro, Amateur, Prosumer appeal
  • 100,000 hour long life bulbs
  • Flicker Free w/o ballasts, Proprietary voltage control
  • Lightweight
  • Universal AC/DC powering
  • Crossover popularity: Video, ENG, Film, Photo, hobbyist
  • Low running costs
  • Low insurance liability
  • Remotely Dimmable (except Micro)
  • DMX Compatible (except Micro)
  • Virtually no heat
  • Multiple mounting options
  • Multiple battery options
  • Green (Eco-Friendly)Low Carbon / No UV
  • RoHS-Compliant (Restricted Use of Certain Hazardous Materials)

Litepanels Micro

25W equivalent

Dimming: 100%-0

Color temperature: 5600K (3200K Filter)

Power: AC adapter or 4AA Batteries

Battery life -standard AA 1.5 Hrs / 8hr on Eveready E2 AA)

Shoe mount

Optimal use: Up to 10 feet

Dimensions: 3.3 x 3.3 x 1.5"m


Micro:

This is your go-to light for relatively low ambient situations: clubs, restaurants-anything where the house lights aren't cranked way up. At approximately 3x4 inches, it's a go- anywhere light and weighs so little (8 oz) even with batteries, that you'll wonder if your bag is empty. The shoe mount, with its " 20 screw tap will slip onto any camera shoe or sit atop a threaded light stand or tripod bushing. Besides obvious video applications, this featherweight unit fits neatly on most SLR and point and shoot digital still cameras. In use, although daylight rated at 5600K, we found the color temperature to be a bit warmer (not a bad thing). And if you want to balance the light with tungsten sources you can affix one of two CTO light balancing filters provided into the convenient flip-up filter frame. At 4 feet, the light projects a 36" beam circle and reads about 21 FC, falling off to about half of that at the beam edge. This can be stretched and smoothed appreciably by using the included diffuser. The best news is that in addition to an optional AC adapter, the Micro gets 1.5 hours out of normal AA batteries and a whopping 8 hours out of Lithiums.


Litepanels MiniPlus

50W equivalent

Dimming: 100%-0

Color temperature:, 5600K Spot or Flood

Power: AC adapter, DC Car, 2 hr rechargeable or 2 unit

Camcorder battery adapter

Detachable ball mount base

Spot version: 30 Beam

Flood version: 50

Optimal use: Up to 12 feet

Dimensions: 6.83 x 2.30 x 1.18"

The MiniPlus is the obvious choice for location and ENG videographers due to its light weight (9.6 oz) and multi-powering options. Besides the universal (110-220v) voltage AC adapter and cigarette car-lighter options, the MiniPlus runs off your camera, a 10-30 volt battery or Litepanels' efficient 2 hour snap-on NiMH battery. There's even a DV battery adapter plate that accepts two standard Panasonic, Canon, or Sony camcorder batteries for up to 8 hours of power.

Made of cast aluminum, measuring about 1 " x 6 " and using 140 -5mm LED's, the MiniPlus is available in 30 degree spot or 50 degree flood versions with a daylight balance of 5600K. At 4 feet, the flood head throws a beam of approximately 62" with a smooth fall off of about stop at the beam edge, measuring an impressive 24fc. While the fall-off is a bit more noticeable on the MiniPlus spot, the beam is just a little tighter and the output dramatically higher at 39fc.

Both are dimmable from 100%-0 and flicker and heat-free, a quality the movie and TV industries have seized upon, especially where small lights need to be hidden in tight spots to simulate car interior illumination or computer monitor lighting. They're also adept at producing catch-lights in the eyes of subjects illuminated with subdued lighting.


Litepanels 1x1

500W equivalent

Dimming: 100%-0

Color temperature: 3200K flood or 5600K spot or flood

Power: AC adapter, 1.75 hour detachable rechargeable battery

10-28VDC

Detachable ball mount base

Spot version: 30 Beam

Flood version: 50

Optimal use: Up to 12 feet

Dimensions: 12 x 12 x 1.75"

The 1x1 is the high-profile workhorse of the Litepanels line, 144 square inches of high-intensity LED's that provide the equivalent of 500-watts of tungsten light with no heat and draw only 40 watts of power. The 100%-0 dimming coupled with a slim-line design (only 1.75" thick) makes this light incredibly useful in tight quarters with live subjects. At only 3 lbs, it's very east to squeeze in a 1x1 anywhere on the set with minimal support such as a grip arm.

Available in 3200K tungsten balance (50 Flood) or 5600K daylight balance (30/50 Spot or Flood), the 1x1 features a view-through design courtesy of the ventilation holes in the lightweight metal housing, making the direction of talent easy at any angle while using accessories such as the Remote Dimming Module with 25' cord. The ultra thin Backpack PowerCell provides 1.75 hours in the field and is an ENG favorite.

Finally, a unique feature is the ability to gang up the modular 1x1's to form larger panels such as 2x2' or 4x4' via optional accessories.

In conclusion, there have never been so many consumer-priced products available that are so capable of professional application. Of course, in the realm of on-camera lights, tungsten fixtures are a great value, and because of that will remain a popular choice. Softening tungsten sources' inherently hard-shadows is accomplished in various ways, from taping on sheets of frost to mini softboxes, often requiring a boost in wattage and accompanying battery power. There also remains the fact that when softened, the beam is not very controllable, perhaps not a factor for many practitioners. The same is true for heat, again negligible for some, but in tight quarters and in numbers, tungsten lamp heat can become a real irritant.

Fluorescent fixtures remedy several of these shortcomings (at a cost), adding the need for a ballast to the mix. Nothing however, beats the wrap-around quality of this source, especially at very close range, and the light spread is somewhat controllable by adding a honeycomb grid to handle the spill.

When it comes to LED's, however, the quality of the light is almost paradoxical: soft /specular, what a colleague accurately calls "sparkly." The source is composed of dozens or hundreds of individual specular sources spaced to overlap their beam circles, thus producing not many, but one natural shadow. The look is crisp and directional, the light wraps nicely, and shadows are not as dense as tungsten. Another interesting aspect is a kind of built-in eye-light, the pupil picking up the crisp multiple sources and displaying a single, pleasing catch-light.

LED is a unique source with a distinct look that, due to its light weight, can be customized to one's signature by employing brackets, yokes etc to utilize multiple units. The trade-off is cost, being roughly equivalent to comparable fluorescent units but 2-3 times more than tungsten counterparts. Payback comes into play as you amortize the cost over the long (100,000 hr.) life of bulbs that don't need to be replaced.

At the risk of punning, the future of LED does indeed look bright, since the high cost of producing them should decline as they continue to be integrated into living, public, and work spaces.

As long as photographers and videographers have been making images, they have sought out new light sources to personalize their expression. B&H is proud to feature yet another fine product to add to our stock of diverse tools that help them do it.

 

Please email feedback on this article, or suggestions for future topics, to videofeedback@bhphotovideo.com