The newest choice in bulb type is LED, which offers a long life but comes with a premium price tag. Plus, it can be difficult to differentiate between brands and models to understand what you are paying for.
The LitePanels Astra 1X1 Soft is a bi-color LED light that’s simple to operate and delivers high performance when it comes to color quality. It operates with a color temperature range of 3,200K to 5,600K and with the intensity comparable to a 750W tungsten soft light. At $1,800, the Astra isn’t cheap by any means, but is it worth it? We put it to the test so you know where the value lies.
Without a reference point, it can be hard to know what your money can buy. That's why we put the Astra head to head with two other bi-color LED lights. In our tests, we put it against the Kino Flo Celeb 200 with a cost of around $3,000 and the Fotodiox Flapjack Studio with a cost of $550.
We set out to find the color quality for each light when operating at both 3,200K and 5,600K, and we also tested each light’s intensity by shooting with the sun as a key light and each light as the fill and with diffused sun as the fill and each light as the key.
Starting off, we put a subject in a completely dark studio and turned on each light from the same location, matching the intensity of each. Judging each light by a waveform monitor we experienced that the Astra outperformed the other two lights with only a slight red shift, the runner up was the Flapjack with a blue shift and the Celeb 200 came in last with a more substantial red shift. The TLCI rating of the Astra in 3,200K is 99, so we’d expect it to perform well.
Next, we changed each light to 5,600K and the order of best to worst was the same. The Astra came out on top with only a slight blue shift, then the Flapjack with a blue and green shift and last the Celeb 200 with a blue shift. The difference between the Astra and Flapjack at 5,600K was less significant than at 3,200K and the TLCI rating of 96 for the Astra supports that.
A more pronounced difference in value for these three lights came in their intensity. When used as a fill when sun provided the key light, the Celeb 200 came on top, but only by a bit, with the Astra second and the Flapjack with the most significant difference coming in last. The difference between the Celeb and the Astra was very little, not enough to justify the 30% cost increase for the Celeb.
When used as a fill when sun provided the key light, the Celeb 200 came on top, but only by a bit, with the Astra second and the Flapjack with the most significant difference coming in last.
Our last test used the diffused sun as a fill with each light as the key. Again, our results lined up with the previous test. The brightest was the Celeb 200, second was the Astra and last was the Flapjack.
Features and Accessories
The Astra has a few accessories that will help expand the possibilities of the light. The optional communication module will expand the Astra to be DMX or bluetooth controllable. For $155 the light can be DC powered off either a gold mount or V-mount battery, and lastly if you need a bit more direction control, a 45-degree honeycomb grid is available for $195.
Controlling the intensity of the light is done simply with a knob dimmer, giving you a range from 0-100%. The difference in control that the Astra has compared to the other two lights is that it uses just a knob, not a digital dial with a read out of precisely where the knob is set. This could be seen as a negative, but it also means that there will be no glow from the control interface. It was easy to operate, so we see this as neither negative or positive. The color temperature is controlled the same way. This could only be an issue if you need an exact color temp between 3,200k and 5,600k. This is a very minor issue, as these situations are outliers, not the rule.
Who’s it for?
With a great color quality performance, the Astra could be for anyone who values the quality of the light they are using. Although it wasn't as bright as the Celeb 200, the little difference in this area does not justify the 30% cost increase. The Astra is easy to operate, has a nice mounting bracket, which is angled so as not to block the light being broadcasted, and has a slew of useful accessories. If you have a budget for a high-quality light, the Astra is a good choice.
Would we recommend the Astra Bi-color 1×1 LED? Yes; it has great color quality, has good intensity and cost less than other lights we tested in its category. We really enjoyed having a light with a very true color, allowing for better capture in camera. If you’re in the market for a 1×1 soft Bi-color LED light and have the budget to afford the Astra, it’s a good choice.
- Commercial producers
- Corporate filmmakers
- Independent filmmakers
- Event Videographers
- True color quality
- Good intensity
- Dials aren’t capable of precise control
The Astra cost is right in the middle of the lights we tested. Its not as affordable as the Flapjack, but it's not as expensive as the Celeb 200. Would we have liked it to be cheaper? Sure, but who doesn't want more for less. Its got a good price for its performance.
Fixture type: Panel Lights
Colour temperature: Bi-color 3,200k – 5,600k
Beam angle (degrees): 90
Max. power draw (Watts): 110
Comparative output: 750W Tungsten Soft light
Optics: Medium diffusion panel
Remote Control: Yes (DMX or Bluetooth)
Weight: 7.6 lbs
Power supply: 13-24VDC 120-240VAC
Dimensions: 18.5 x 16.3 x 5.3 in
Chris Monlux thinks that keyboards need to be water resista94903333333*>?. He’s also Videomaker’s Multimedia Editor.