10932 Burbank Blvd.
North Hollywood, CA 91601
LED There Be Light
You've seen them everywhere. Alarm clocks, instrument panels, watches, the warning light in your car indicating you've run out of gas; we're speaking, of course, of light emitting diodes, or LEDs. And now, you'll find these tiny energy efficient emitters in video production. Enter the Litepanels DV Camera Kit.
Being an event videographer, I find on-camera lighting is an absolute necessity. And the three things videographers always complain about are harsh light, power consumption, and heat output. So I jumped at the chance to try out this LED light system from Litepanels, Inc. that boasts soft light, low power drain, and virtually no heat output.
Opening up the package, we find one Litepanels Mini LED head, one battery adapter plate, and a hotshoe adapter. Also included in the kit is an 8-piece filter set (four varying values of color temperature orange and four different degrees of diffusion.)
The Main Ingredient
The head, measuring in at 6.75" W x 2.25" H x 1.25" D and constructed of cast aluminum, is surprisingly lightweight at only 9.6oz. The heat efficiency is due to a heat sink covering the back of the unit. An array of 20×7 white LEDs is mounted inside, covered by a Plexiglas lens. Threaded mounting sockets on the top, bottom and left side of the head allow for multiple mounting and attachment options. The right side features a dimmer control knob allowing light output to go from 100 to 0% without color shift, thanks to the efficiency of the LEDs. Next to the dimmer knob is the AC power socket.
The battery adapter plate, which you can configure to accept Sony, Canon, or Panasonic camcorder batteries, mounts to the back of the unit using four snap-in posts. The addition of the battery adapter and the two camcorder batteries added a significant amount of weight to the light head, perhaps making it more difficult to use with smaller camcorders.
A 2½-inch power cable connects the battery plate to the light head. One thing to note here, there is no on/off switch, and simply dimming the knob to 0 doesn't completely cut the power. Therefore, pulling the power cable out of the socket is the only way to completely turn off the light. I have to wonder how the AC socket will stand up to the constant plugging and unplugging that it will surely endure over its lifespan.
Using the supplied hotshoe adapter, we mounted the light head in the horizontal position (the light head is mountable either vertically or horizontally) and turned the dimmer knob to 100%. We were quickly impressed by the amount of light emitted from the array of LEDs.
Our first test took place indoors with fluorescent overhead light and supplemental window light. We placed our subject 2 feet from the camera and found the light a bit cool at 5600K and slightly bright at 60 foot-candles (690 lux). Easily adding the ¼ CTO (color temperature orange) gel provided in the kit, we converted the light's color temperature to 4600K to better suit our environment. Dimming the light to about 75%, the soft light effectively separated the subject from the background and created a very natural-looking image, a welcome change from the harsh, spotlight effect created by most tungsten camera lights.
Moving our subject 4 feet from the camera drastically reduced the illumination value. Turning the dial back to 100%, and opening the iris slightly to compensate, we still noticed a pleasant soft light, pulling the subject from the background and adding a nice specular highlight to the eyes.
At 6 feet, the existing room light overpowered the Litepanels light, therefore making it useless at distances of 5 feet or greater except in situations of very low light.
For our next test, we moved our subject outdoors, and again started at 2 feet. After removing the CTO filter, we found the daylight color-corrected LED array created a very nice fill light from the harsh shadows created from the bright sun, and it brightened up the eyes of the subject very nicely. Move the subject much past 4 feet, though, and again, you lose the value and effectiveness of the Litepanels.
The sturdy construction and power efficiency of the LED system make this a valuable addition to any videographer working in run-and-gun type situations where space and lighting is an issue. The size and portability make it perfect for fitting into small areas to create a nice soft fill light, adding production value to any project.
The little LEDs working together produce a very nice even light and are extremely power-efficient, consuming less than 1/3 the power of standard tungsten bulbs.With a lifespan rated at over 100,000 hours, LED lighting could become the standard in the near future. But does the price justify the added benefits? That's between you and your wallet.
Number of Lights in Kit: 1
Accessory: shoe mount, batteryadapter plate, 8-piece gel pack
Weight: 9.6 oz (head only)
Dimensions: 6.75"W x 2.25"H x 1.25"D
Power Draw: 0.6 amps at 12V DC (7 watts)
Light Output: 60 fc/690 lux @ 2ft, 12 fc/130 lux @ 4ft
- Very soft light
- Low power consumption
- Virtually no heat output
- No on/off switch
- A bit heavy for smaller camcorders
- Price tag
Soft light, low power consumption and durability make this a worth while investment.
Brent Holland is a wedding/event video producer, and owns a production company.