If you’ve been reading the magazine for a while, we’re sure you’ve noticed that a good percentage of every issue is devoted to lighting in one form or another. Sure, technology is great and it is terribly fun to argue over which camera has the best picture and which one reproduces colors most accurately, but, fundamentally, both of those issues are really about proper lighting. Time and circumstance often prevent us from being able to set up a proper three (or four) light configuration, especially when shooting events in the field. Still, some light, even a single lamp, can do more to improve your video than spending another $2,000 on camcorder technology. Frezzi’s Mini-Fill Dimmer Starter Kit On-Camera Light may not have the catchiest name in the world, but the description is accurate. The light is a small, professional, durable and dimmable on-camera light complete with barn doors, diffusers and a dichroric filter.
Besides the price, your first indication that this is a professional product comes when you remove the metal light from the bubble wrap. From the solid rheostat dimmer to the on/off toggle to the brushed aluminum housing, the light seems to be almost indestructible. Inside, a 35W quartz-tungsten GE lamp (bulb) sits behind a milky glass diffuser. Changing the lamp is a simple process.
The power source for the instrument is a primitive-looking brick of a nickel-cadmium (NiCd) battery. Weighting in at 1 lb. 7 oz., it dwarfs the tiny 7-oz. Light. The kit comes with a nylon shoulder bag to hold the battery. This is not an uncommon configuration for professional portable lights.
A simple trickle charger takes about 14 hours to fully charge this heavy-duty battery. The documentation advises against leaving the battery on the charger for more than 24 hours, since overcharging may damage the battery. Again, there is nothing unusual about this in a rugged professional lighting product, but it seems unsophisticated when compared to the fancy lithium and NiMH quick-charging, high-output battery technologies that power the latest consumer electronics. A full charge yields about an hour and fifteen minutes of run time on the light, which is pretty good.
Towards the end of the battery’s charge, the light dims and you can faintly hear the capacitors charging. The instructions with the light emphasize that you are not supposed to discharge the battery below 10 volts, but unless you carry a voltmeter around, you’ll just have to be conservative and stop using the light when it dims significantly. During our tests, the light became extremely hot when left on for extended periods (more than 15 minutes).
Getting light onto your subject is only half of the battle. Modifying that light is where the artistry enters the picture and controlling the intensity is a big part of that. Intensity is easy to adjust by simply moving the light forward and back. This is a more difficult situation with an on-camera light. This particular Frezzi comes with a rotary rheostat dimmer, which works very well. Throughout most of the range of the dimmer, the color temperature stays fairly stable, but at lower levels, the light becomes, not surprisingly, distinctly yellower (warmer).
The dimmer definitely makes the lighting process easier, especially for run-and-gun solo shooting (and lighting and audio). This light is also ideal when used as an obie, which is a special front-and-center fill light for faces. Another key feature of this kit is the machined-metal barn doors with an additional attached diffuser and a glass dichroric filter. The dichroric filter changes the color temperature of the halogen bulb to match sunlight, which highlights one of the primary uses of this instrument: as a fill light outdoors. If you thought artificial lighting was only for indoor or night shoots, think again. The sun is, of course, a wonderful light source, once you know how to use it. With a dichroric filter on a halogen light, you can put your talent in the sun and fill the hard shadows or put your talent in the shade and use the light as a key.
The output of a 35W bulb will limit you to tight shots and you could always use a very inexpensive reflector for the same thing (if you have an extra pair of hands at the shoot). The tiny size of this light and its durability will encourage you to take it with you everywhere, which means you’ll end up using it all of the time.
This is a professional, portable instrument that gives you a lot of artistic control over your light. We have no doubt that you’d use this light all of the time if it was in your camera bag. The rugged and durable construction suggest that this light can really take a beating, unlike the cheap plastic video lights you’ll find in your local stores. While we were not thrilled with the simple rechargeable battery, that is not a reason to avoid this light. For most of you, the decision is not whether this is a good light or not – it undoubtedly is a great light. The real question is: Can you afford it?
D. Eric Franks is Videomaker‘s Technical Editor.
Instrument: Dimmer Mini-Fill
Lamp (bulb): 35W (quartz-tungsten)
Battery: NiCd, 12V, 2.3Ah (model: FNP-1S)
Charger: 14 hour (120V/ 240V)
Accessory: barn doors (2), white diffusion filter,
dichroric filter (model: MRFA)
Also Includes: nylon pouch, mounting studs
Weight (light only): 7 oz
Weight (total): 2 lbs.
Dimensions (light only): 2-1/8 x 4-1/4 x 3-1/2 (inches, w x d x h)
• High quality, compact design
• Light-modification accessories
• Relatively pricey
• Weighty NiCd battery
• Complex battery charging
Summary: The dimmer on this complete, portable Frezzi light makes it ideal for the solo run-and-gun shooter.
Frezzi Energy Systems
5 Valley Street
Hawthorne, NJ 07506