Thin and Bright: Rosco LED LitePads
LED (Light Emitting Diode) lighting systems continue to grow in popularity as power output increases and prices proportionately decrease. The market is crowding as more manufacturers jump onto the LED beam, but Rosco LitePads, marketed in the northeast US by Visual Departures (shout-out to Alan Greene and Peter Levitt) are unique.
The Rosco High Output (HO) LED LitePads were introduced in 2008 as an improvement over their already revolutionary DL series, which are still available. The Rosco LitePad System is comprised of very thin (only 1/3" thick) daylight balanced LED acrylic panels. These are available singly in square and rectangular sizes ranging from 3x3" to 24x24", and in a 3" circular model, each including its own compact power supply. They are also available in a 6-fixture Quick Kit, and 12-fixture Gaffers Kit. Both kits include brackets, eggcrates, a dimmer switch, splitters, extension cables, AA battery adapter, car adapter, XLR adapter, Anton Bauer adapter, gel packs, and a waterproof Pelican-brand 'wheelie' case.
We tested the 12-fixture Gaffers Kit, and the 24x24" LitePads, and here's what we observed. When powered up for the first time and stripped of their protective film, each fixture provides smooth, even, cool-running 6000 degree Kelvin, mesmerizing light. As for light output, the 12x12" provides 1/15 sec @f/8 @ 1' @ ISO 100. The 24x24" (our favorite) pad gets you 1/15 sec @ f/8.5 – pretty good for a head shot, and ample for a small tabletop setup.
We used a Canon 5D with a variety of lenses, Auto White Balance, and Color Balance set to 6000K RGB settings. (Our test images needed a slight adjustment of minus 5G in the mid-tones and highlights in Photoshop.)
All the other sizes are good for kickers and accents, or shooting really small stuff. The eggcrates minimize what little spill there is, and the dimmer can tweak the level of a fixture (or fixtures if linked to the splitter) without any visible color shift. Cable lengths are ample for most setups. The 120VAC UL, CE rated power supplies become warm, but never hot, even after hours of continuous use. (Note- 240V power supplies are also available as well as 240V kits.)
We really got a kick out of using the separate 24x24" LitePads, not just for standard lighting, but for use as shooting tables. The edges of the LitePad are the only places that get slightly warm to the touch – that's where the LEDs live. The working surface stays cool to the touch. Slap on a frosted diffuser, and/or colored gel sheet, lay your subject down and let it bask it in light from below. Or, leave the LitePad naked and incorporate the grid-dot pattern of the interior construction as your background.
Lighting subjects in or nearby an automobile was fun, especially at night. We used the provided car cigarette lighter adapter, one of the provided splitters, and the 8- "AA" battery adapter. The 3x12" and 3x6" LitePads were easy to position out of sight with Gaffer's Tape.
However, once we broke free of the 'magic' of these slim light sources, setting up the fixtures on light stands became the tricky part. While the 3" brackets simply slide into the fixtures, the 3-sided 6" and 12" brackets merely cradle the edges of the lights and are held in place by a single welded ¼"-20 screw which mounts into the included 5/8" threaded stud.
The only thing that will securely hold the LitePads to lightstands and still allow for full rotational adjustments is a Grip Head. We found that the provided stud adapter loosens easily while positioning the fixture on a stand, causing the fixture to rotate precariously on the stud. Gaffer's Tape can be used to secure the Litepad quickly (if unsightly) to its bracket. If the bracket is crimped carefully to more permanently hold the LitePad, this problem can be solved. That's okay if you plan to dedicate a bracket to each LitePad. But since the kit case has space only for separated brackets and Pads, you will need a larger, or second case for repacking the kit on the run. Extra brackets and Gaffer's Tape are also available separately. B&H has all that stuff.
The above issue aside, the Rosco High Output LitePads are compact, solidly built, cool-running and provide bright, even daylight in any setup - in the studio, or outdoors (with your DC power). The variety of sizes and shapes allow them to be placed almost anywhere. They are ideal for video or still photography and are quite suitable for backstage utility or work lights. They also make unique accent lights for your home space or prized chatchkes. The LitePads are a good investment, and if the kits are too pricey as a single purchase, start building your outfit from individual Pads and accessories, all of which are available at B&H.