Litepanels Micro LED Light Review

Micro Illumination

The main problem we have with on-camera lights is the same problem we have with on-camera microphones. By definition, they’re almost always in the wrong place. In placing the light right over the lens, you end up with a straight-on, deer-in-the-headlights look that flatters no one. However, when shooting conditions are so dark that your choice is between bad picture and no picture, it’s always best to go with the former.

There are times, however, when an on-camera light fits the bill perfectly. Rather than using it as the sole light source, you’ll find it much more useful as part of a larger lighting setup. The most common application is to use it as a fill light to reduce shadows on your subject’s face while shooting outdoors in direct sunlight. Another common use is as an eye-light (or inkie) to give your talent a little twinkle in the eye.

However, it would be a mistake to consider the Litepanels Micro as a camera light only. With an optional base plate, it can be adapted for off-camera use, and then it becomes a small, easily-manipulated light source that can have hundreds of applications for your lighting setups.

The Light

The Litepanels Micro light is essentially a small array of 48 super-bright LEDs (Light-Emitting Diodes) that fastens on to your camcorder’s accessory shoe. As a light source, LEDs are far superior to normal incandescent lamps in just about every way. They require less power, give off little to no heat, are completely flicker-free, can be daylight color-balanced and last an enormously long time. So why isn’t everybody using LED lights? Well, the two reasons are power and cost. Currently, LEDs are far dimmer than incandescent lights, so the LED light would have to be unmanageably large to reach the high lux output of studio lamps. Cost-wise, producing white LEDs is still an expensive operation.

So exactly how bright is it? The Litepanels Micro is not exactly a light cannon, but it may add just a little extra oomph to specific places in your shot. Litepanels claims a lux rating of 970 at a 2-foot distance (which seems a bit close to be useful), falling off exponentially with distance as all lights do (230 lux at 4 feet and 92 lux at 6 feet). For scale, a family living room is about 50 lux, and a typical TV studio is about 1000 lux, while most camcorders at full gain can create an image between 1 and 5 lux. A nice touch on the Litepanels Micro is that the light is fully dimmable, using a knob on the top of the unit. This allows you to choose just the right intensity for any given situation.

The Litepanels Micro emits a light at a color temperature of 5600K. This is roughly the same color temperature as sunlight, so you can shoot outdoors with it, right out of the box. The Micro Light also comes with a filter holder and three supplied gels: a tungsten-balanced 3200K orange gel that changes the color temperature of the light for use in a studio setting, matching standard tungsten lamps; a light orange warming filter to give your daylight shots a little romance; and a diffuser, in case you need a softer, more delicate light.

Four standard-sized AA batteries provide power for the Litepanels Micro. This amazing feat is possible only because the whole LED array sips a meager 3 watts of electricity (in contrast to incandescent on-camera lights, which usually draw around 75 watts). Because of this energy efficiency, the Micro runs between 1.5 hours (on a standard set of AA alkaline batteries) to an incredible 7 hours (on AA E2 lithium batteries)! Even with these impressive run times, Murphy’s Law states there will be occasions when you do run out of power, most likely when you need it most. This is where the standard-sized AA batteries really become a real life-saver. All it takes is a quick trip to a convenience store to be up and lighting again, as opposed to waiting for a proprietary battery to charge. What if you can’t wait even that long? The Micro also comes with a 5-12V DC power connector, for using many different power sources, from a wall plug to a car cigarette lighter. With this many options, you have to try very hard to NOT find some way of powering this light.

Build Quality

One of the most important considerations for any piece of field equipment is its durability. The real world is full of flying sand and salt spray, accidental drops and the scourge of all equipment, airport baggage handlers. Regrettably, when something sticks out directly from your camcorder, as a camera light does, it’s just begging to be snagged and yanked around occasionally. Unfortunately, to arrive at this low price point for an LED light, Litepanels had to make compromises, and it looks like quality of casing was the trade-off.

The Litepanels Micro casing is a rather flimsy plastic shell, rather than the aluminum casings on the company’s much more rugged (and three times as expensive) Litepanels MiniPlus. Two areas of concern are the shoe mount itself and the flip-down filter holder. Most of the stress on the light will take place on the shoe mount. Not only is this where the light locks down onto the camera, but it also has a tension screw used to adjust the tilt of the light itself. Litepanels should have made this piece, at least, from something more durable. The filter holder seems to have a lot of difficulty doing its primary job, which is holding filters. The arms that connect the filter holder to the base unit have a tendency to come off, and, if you flip the filter holder back, the filters will fall out behind the unit.

Neither of these problems is necessarily a deal-breaker, but, with an approximately 50,000-hour bulb life (5.7 years of lighting 24 hours a day), one can’t help but think the case will fail well before the LEDs do.


Conclusion

We must congratulate Litepanels on bringing the latest in LED lighting technology to video producers with limited budgets. Once you’ve tried an LED light, there really is no going back to incandescents. The Micro is a light with a thousand uses, and, with its extraordinary battery life, it will surely end up being one of those “go to” devices in any lighting kit.

Conclusion

We must congratulate Litepanels on bringing the latest in LED lighting technology to video producers with limited budgets. Once you’ve tried an LED light, there really is no going back to incandescents. The Micro is a light with a thousand uses, and, with its extraordinary battery life, it will surely end up being one of those “go to” devices in any lighting kit.

Strengths

  • Heatless
  • Efficient
  • Long-lasting
  • Beautiful LED light source

Weaknesses

  • Build quality may be too fragile for long-term field use.

TECH SPECS

Size: 3.3″ W x 3.3″ H x 1. 5″ D (83.3mm x 83.8mm x 38.1mm)

Weight: Under 4 oz (.11kg)

Power Draw: 3 watts

Power Supply: 1.5V AA batteries (4)

Filters: Diffusion and 1/4 warming filter

Filter Holder: Flip-down

Daylight Flood: 5600K (3200K tungsten conversion filter included)

John Burkhart is Videomaker‘s Editor-in-Chief

Litepanels, Inc.

10932 Burbank Blvd.

North Hollywood, CA 91601

www.litepanels.com


$349 MSRP

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