New, high-efficiency LED lamp technologies have sparked innovations in mobile lighting for videographers on the go. Varizoom is one company that has just added a new on-camera light to its lineup, the VZ S2010 On-camera LED Light, which lists for $399. If you’ve been considering adding a fill or even main light to your event or family videography, but don’t want to lug around a huge power supply, the VZ S2010 may be just what you’re looking for.
Little Big Light
Two important features of any on-camera light are size and weight. The VZ S2010 comes in at roughly 4x3x2.5 inches and tips the scales at less than 11 ounces for the light alone. The rest of the kit includes a separate Mini DV power supply/mount, specifically designed to accept JVC, Canon or Sony batteries, that mounts on the camcorder’s top handle. Add a 1500mAh battery, and the whole configuration weighs just more than a pound; that’s certainly enough to notice but not at all unwieldy. In fact, we particularly liked the separate battery mounting on the handle. By moving rearward, it acts like a counter balance to the light.
The construction is very solid. The main body of the light is thick-walled metal, with plenty of venting for heat. The power switch is mounted horizontally at the rear of the unit, giving you easy access, while also reducing the chances of accidentally turning on or off. The dial that adjusts the light output has enough drag to resist drifting and has a convenient center position detent that makes setting 50% output levels a snap.
The light tilts very smoothly on a non-adjustable pivot point. This allows you to point the light downward to a limit of about 30 degrees and upward to a limit approaching 25 degrees. We found both adjustment extremes adequate for all of our close-up tests. The upward tilt provides a nice feathering effect on nearby subjects. The lack of a way to tighten or loosen this pivot point was not a concern for us with a new unit; however, it could become an issue over the years.
The shoe mount design is one of the sturdiest we’ve seen. A nice large grooved dial gives you ample torque area to tighten the VZ S2010 to the camera shoe mount. We used a Canon GL2 camcorder for our tests and found that it made a wobble-free connection with moderate tightening. When we checked the fit by gently twisting the top of the VZ S2010, we found a small amount of left-to-right play where the camcorder’s mount meets the bottom of the VZ S2010, even when securely tightened. Normal camera jostling would not be a problem, but a bump might turn the light a couples of degrees one way or the other. Whether this is a factor depends on your situation.
We tested several performance variables that included light color and intensity, light quality, and power draw and heat generation.
Color and Intensity
We measured light color temperature and light intensity output by placing a color and light meter parallel to and one meter from the VZ S2010, the same distance noted in the spec sheet. However, rather than use lux, we opted for more easily related f-stops to judge relative light intensity. In a darkened neutral-colored room, we made the following measurements:
- Full power, no filters = 5800k at f16.3
- Half power, no filters = 5700k at f11.3
- Minimum power, no filters = 5500 at f2.84
- With diffusion filter = 5700k at f8.1
- With 3200k filter = 3400 at f11.0
- With 3200k and diffusion filter = 3400 at f4.09
Despite its squarish head design, the VZ S2010 throws a nice, nearly round, beam of light about one meter across at a distance of one meter. This is roughly a 40-degree spread (20 degrees on either side of center). While there is a very subtle hot spot at the center, the rate of light fall-off from the center of the beam is very uniform.
- Center = f16.3
- 5 degrees off center = f11.7
- 10 degrees off center = f8.06
- 15 degrees off center = f5.66
The two filters that come with the VZ S2010 are easy to use. With a flip of a raised tang on each filter, you can quickly position the diffusion, the 3200k or both in front of the four LEDs. The diffusion panel does a very good job of eliminating the hot spot and enlarging the area of even illumination. The two barn doors on the left and right are helpful in containing errant photons at the far edges, but are not as effective in shaping the light, with a defined edge closer to the middle. This is mostly due to their small size and proximity to what are essentially four light sources.
Power and Heat
Low power draw is another big feature of LED lights. The four-lamp array in the VZ S2010 draws only 12 watts of power. So, how long will a standard Mini DV battery power this light? It’s a good question but a difficult one to answer conclusively, as all batteries, including the popular Lithium-Ion type many Mini DV camcorders use, lose their capacities due to all sorts of factors, even just sitting around. In theory, a 7.2-volt 1500mAh battery should provide .9 hours of juice to a light drawing 12 watts of power. Of course, real-world results will vary, so we performed a simple test. With a fully-charged and relatively new 7.2-volt, 1500mAh Canon battery, we turned on the light at full power and took an incident light reading with a Minolta IV light meter at a distance of one meter. Our beginning readings gave us f-stop value of 16.3. We followed with readings at 10-minute intervals and found the following:
- Start = f16.3
- 10 min. = f16.3
- 20 min. = f16.3
- 30 min. = f16.2
- 39 min. = shut down
The light maintained almost perfectly consistent light output until the unit shut off. However, whether intended or not, it appears you get a two-minute warning. At the 37-minute mark, the VZ S2010 emitted a high-frequency noise that was barely perceptible. This is most likely generated by the light’s internal circuitry trying to cope with the last drips of varying power coming from a dying battery, but it’s nice warning.
Heat buildup with standard halogen lights can be source of both major power consumption and injury. After operating for 30 minutes at full power, the exterior of the VZ S2010 stabilized at a temperature of 122 degrees at the top of the metal housing. This is certainly very warm to the touch, but you won’t be burned by any part of the unit, not a benefit most standard lighting fixtures can claim.
The VZ S2010 is a well-built on-camera light with good performance and very useful, basic options. One additional benefit not specified in the Varizoom literature is the longevity of most LED lamps. We won’t speculate, but other manufacturers claim that LED life spans stretch into the hundreds of thousands of hours. The price might, at first, seem a little high, but when compared to similar offerings, the value becomes apparent. Depending on your specific needs, if you need an on-camera light, the VZ S2010 may be a great choice.
Input: DC 6v-9v
Consumption: 12 watts
Color temperature: 5600k
Illumination: 550 lux at 1 meter
Dimensions: 3.9″ x 2.9″ x 2.4″
Weight: 16.7 ounces
- Small, bright, useful filters
- low power consumption
- Barn doors not as effective with multi-lamp lights
The VZ S2010 is a powerful, well-built on-camera light that provides even illumination at a reasonable price.
Brian Peterson is a video production consultant, trainer and lecturer.
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Austin, TX 87853