LED lights are gaining increasing acceptance in the professional video-production industry. When LED video lights were first introduced, they were seen as a smaller, lighter, and often times more convenient alternative to traditional tungsten fixtures, but they were generally considered inferior when it came to the brightness and the quality of light that they produced.
However, significant improvements in LED technology have led to modern LED fixtures that are more reliable and packed with powerful features.
Switronix TorchLED Bolt
From Switronix’s TorchLED line of on-camera lights, the Bolt consists of eight 5600K LEDs and eight 3200K LEDs, with a single adjustment knob that allow users to dial-in a range of color temperatures. A second adjustment dial provides full dimming control from 0 to 100% output with no noticeable color shift. Despite its compact size (4.0 x 5.6 x 2.95" and 1.15 lb), the Bolt provides the equivalent output of a 220W tungsten light. That is up to 4180 lux at a distance of 3.3 feet, or 660 lux at 10 feet.
The Bolt comes with ¼”-20 ball-head shoe mount, a PowerTap cable, a snap-on filter tray, a diffusion filter, and a carrying pouch. B&H also includes a free Bolt Battery Kit, which consists of a rechargeable 7.2v lithium-ion battery and a charger. This battery can power the Bolt LED light for up to two hours and is also compatible with camcorders and other devices that accept Sony’s L-series of batteries.
The Croma is among the nicest-designed LED fixtures on the market. A relatively compact unit with an integrated dimmer and variable color temperature, the Croma provides the “soft light” for which Litepanels is known. The maximum output is approximately equivalent to 40W HMI or 90W tungsten lights and can be dimmed from 0-100% with no color shift. Moreover, the light is flicker free at any frame rate or shutter angle.
The Croma can be powered by six AA batteries, the included AC adapter, or a D-Tap power source through an optional cable. The kit also includes a padded carrying case, a diffusion filter, and an adjustable ball-head shoe mount. At only 0.75 lb, the Croma is among the lightest models in this category. Admittedly, it is not quite as compact or lightweight as its little brother, the Litepanels Micro.
The Micro weights just 4.3 ounces, yet it provides up to 27 foot candles or 293 lux at a distance of 4 feet. Like the Croma, the Micro is flicker free at any frame rate or shutter angle. It may not have variable color temperature like the Croma, but it does have a built-in dimmer that can adjust light output from 0-100% with no color shift. Of course, the Micro’s daylight-balanced bulbs can be easily modified by applying one of the included gels.
The Litepanels Micro can be powered for approximately 1.5 hours on four AA batteries or 7-8 hours on E2 lithium AA batteries. It can also be powered by camcorder batteries with an optional adapter plate. The kit includes a ball-head shoe mount adapter and a three-piece gel set with a ¼ CTO, a full CTO, and a diffusion filter.
In the past year or two, ikan has really stepped up their game. It seems that each of their major product lines—monitors, camera support, and lighting—has adopted decidedly competitive features. The iLED313-v2 is no exception. Its key specifications include dual Sony L-Series battery slots, removable barndoors, and a readout screen for displaying color-temperature settings, brightness level, and battery life.
This display will prove invaluable if and when you need to match the color temperatures of multiple units or the settings of pervious shoots. The 312 LED bulbs can be adjusted for a range of color temperatures from 3200K to 5600K, and brightness can be adjusted from 10 to 100%. The iLED313-v2 also features a ¼”-20 mounting screw and an interlocking rail system that allows users to stack up to six additional fixtures horizontally and vertically.
Vidpro Z-96K LED Light Kit
The Vidpro Z-96K is a more entry-level option. The kit includes a 96-LED video light, an adjustable mounting bracket, a 3200K (tungsten) filter, a diffusion filter, and a carrying case. A Sony F-Series-compatible, rechargeable lithium-ion battery and charger are also included. An integrated dimmer knob allows users to adjust brightness from 0 to 100%, for a maximum output that is approximately equivalent to a 50W tungsten fixture.
One feature that distinguishes Z-96K from most other LED lights is the option to power the unit with either a rechargeable F-Series battery or five AA batteries. You never know when this will come in handy. Versatile and readily available, AA batteries are great to keep on hand if you think you might find yourself in a situation where you won’t be able to recharge your regular batteries.
The Genaray LED-6500T is another entry-level option. Like the Vidpro Z-96K, the LED-6500T features magnetic filter-mounting points, an adjustable shoe mount, and an integrated dimmer. However, the LED-6500T also has a variable color temperature adjustment knob.
The LED-6500T’s 209 LEDs provide a maximum brightness of 900 lux at a distance of 3 feet and a color-temperature range of 3200K to 5600K. The kit includes a Sony NP-F550 compatible battery, a battery charger, an AC adapter, a car charger, a diffusion filter, and a carrying case.
For many situations, a ball-head adapter is enough, but an Israeli arm will give you even greater flexibility. You might also consider investing in a light stand, so you have the option of mounting your light off to the side or even behind your subject. Generally speaking, the closer your light is to the lens axis, the less interesting and/or flattering your lighting will be. In a pinch, on-camera LED lights are the videographer’s equivalent of blasting a camera flash into your subject’s face, but when artfully deployed, they can yield attractive results.
You never know when an on-camera LED light will come in handy. They are an absolute necessity for run-and-gun videographers and news shooters, who risk missing critical shots without one. You may even find yourself using one of these lights for sit-down interviews and more controlled environments. Whatever kind of shooting you do, an on-camera LED light is a great piece of gear to keep in your kit.