LitePanels Sola 9 Fresnel LED Spotlight Review

UPDATE July 29, 2015: Litepanels has since reduced the price of the Sola 9 LED Fresnel to $3,150. Criticisms levied at the Sola 9 in the review below should be considered reduced due to this greatly reduced price. As such, we have stricken price concerns from the review, but are making our edits transparent for the sake of posterity.

The Sola 9 is billed as a “Daylight Fresnel” spotlight on the Litepanels’ website. However, the color from this light is extremely cool, and even a bit on the green side. With a stunningly large price tag of $4,295 one may expect some sort of temperature control or, at the very least, a glass fresnel lens.

The Bad

Upon unboxing, we found packing material and dust coating the inside of the lens, which can cause spots in your light pattern. The body doesn’t seem to have any means of filtering dust and debris away from the lens of the spotlight. If you hang these in a studio, you’d better have a regular cleaning schedule to bring the lights down and blast out the lenses. These are far from a hang-and-forget solution.

Furthermore, these are certainly not lights for close proximity. There are cooling fans in the light that will register on nearby microphones. In all fairness, they are extremely quiet, but at roughly 10 feet away from our interview subject, the hiss when the fans kicked in on our single light did register on a condenser mic. 

When compared to an ARRI spotlight, this light falls short. Between the plastic lens, the lack of color temperature control, plastic parts and — let’s face it — ARRI has the name recognition; you may want to turn your nose up at this light.

At least upon first blush… 

The Good

When Litepanels claims the Sola 9 is flicker free at any frame rate, they really do mean at any frame rate. We tried it at 23.976, 24, 25, 29.97, 30, 50, 60 and even 96 fps. Zero flicker. If you’ve used lesser LED lighting, you’ve doubtless run into some sort of flicker issues.

Once the dust and debris were cleared away from the lens, the light was actually very even. Photo of LitePanels Sola 9’s Adjustable dimmer and cone angleYou can even control the cone angle (lens focus), and dimmer via a remote control over an RJ-45 connection. The dimmer control is also very responsive, at least past 10 percent. From 10 to 100 percent, the knob was smooth, and the light never jumped in brightness. However, the first 10 percent of movement on the knob does nothing. The light remained black.

Power consumption is extremely low. We had no problem plugging into the same surge protector we had two editing systems powered from. As with most LED lighting, no need to go looking for individual circuits for each light. When measured, this thing put out more than 133,000 lux for more than an hour with no breaker pops. According to the “Lux to Watts” calculator on Rapidtables.com, 133,000 lux from a lens of this size is the equivalent of 2.5 kilowatts of tungsten lighting. That in itself would pop any surge protector. 

Conclusions

It’s a good light, but it’s certainly not a great light for its price point. The color curve seemed a bit weird when color correcting footage shot with this light in Adobe Speedgrade. Skin tones came out very olive, and accent lights looked almost pumpkin-hued because the temperature of this light is so cool. Because of this, you’ll definitely need gels. If you buy the Litepanels’ fitted gels, they run $30 a piece! Yes — $30 for each gel.

Don’t get us wrong. In general, Litepanels offers some quality products. This light is no exception. It’s nice. Just not $4,295 nice.

If the price point were significantly less than intergalactic, this would be a great sub-ARRI price point light. However, we just have a very difficult time getting over the plastic lens. Let’s face it, plastic scratches too easily when compared to glass, and even a single scratch would make a fresnel lens have hot/cold spots in the lighting. Would you buy a $5,000 lens for your camera that was plastic? It’s especially troubling since the lens is essentially what a fresnel light is all about.

Before actually looking up a product online, this author likes to play a game: test it, and guess how much it is worth. At around $1,000-$1,500 this light would be a good value. Needless to say, the price point of $4,295 was a shock. In this price range, when looking to light your studio, we’d suggest taking a close look at the Kino Flo Celeb 400 DMX. There is far more bang for your buck out there.

Litepanels, Inc.
www.litepanels.com
$4,295 $3,150

Tech Specs

Color Temperature: Daylight Balanced
Beam Angle: 53° to 14°
Field Angle: 67° to 25°
Fresnel Lens: 9” / 22.86cm
Size: 12.5Lx16.25×19” / 31.75×41.28×48.26cm
Weight: 16.6 lbs / 7.53kg
Maximum Power Draw: 190W
Power Supply: 100-240V
Includes: Fixture, 8-way Barndoors, Standard Yoke with Junior Pin, AC Power Supply, AC Power Cord

Strengths

  • Flicker free at any frame rate
  • Responsive dimmer
  • High output for low power consumption

Weaknesses

  • Undesirable color curve
  • Plastic lens
  • High price point

 

Ty Audronis owns a media company that contracts for several film and national cable shows. He also has acted as a consultant to build several top-tier studios and post-production houses.

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