Light-emitting diodes (LEDs) are incredibly compact bulbs that consume very little power while throwing off absolutely minimal heat. Unlike traditional continuous lighting, this makes them efficiently designed fixtures particularly suitable for working in closed environments like photo studios. What’s more, the light produced by an LED bulb is soft and flattering. While the nature of this light spread is easily overpowered by larger light sources like the sun (a disadvantage of LEDs when compared to the more powerful bursting abilities of flashes and strobes), the light is flicker-free, and color shift is extremely minimal, even when changing output, which more often than not can be controlled on LED fixtures from 0 to 100% without the need for an extra and expensive DMX interface. The average life span of an LED bulb is often measured in the decades, as well. So while the initial cost of LED gear is still higher than most other systems, the savings in power consumption and bulb replacements adds up over time to offset the investment.
The technology has existed for close to 50 years now, but only recently has the unique lighting solution really started to reach a threshold where the output and relative affordability are on par with traditional fixtures. Of course, a quick eBay search will show that there are plenty of incredibly inexpensive options, but keep in mind that older-generation LED technology and lower-end options are using outdated and cheaper bulbs, which can result in uneven shadows and a heavy green cast. Largely thanks to the continuous lighting demands of video, LED technology in the photography space has improved greatly over the last few years, however, and new models are also harnessing the possibilities of digital technology for quite a few significant advantages over traditional light sources, especially when used as a cross-platform solution for stills and video.
A new series from Rotolight called the AlphaNova line promises WiFi control and ambient light measurements and settings that can be reproduced for accurate and repeatable lighting situations across multiple locations. The first fixture in the line, the ANOVA Two, is a bi-color system available with a color temperature range of 3150K to 6300K. The lights produce the equivalent of a 1000-watt tungsten while drawing only 38 watts of power. List Price: $2,598. Contact: Rotolight (R.T.S. Inc.), (631) 242-6801, www.rtsphoto.com.
At this year’s NAB conference, ikan added six studio LED lights to its large line of LED solutions. The 1000-watt equivalent Multi-K XL, the most advanced model, is composed of RGB LED lights that can be individually adjusted for a variable color temperature range of between 2800K and 6500K. Dimming can be performed with or without DMX units. At the other end of the spectrum, the basic ID 500 model includes integrated barndoors and a 5600K daylight color temperature, while other models in the series include a range of tungsten and hybrid daylight/tungsten combinations. List Price: Begins at $499 (ID 500); $2,195 (Multi-K XL). Contact: ikan Corporation, (713) 272-8822, www.ikancorp.com.
Nila‘s JNH lights can be stacked together to combine multiple 200-watt daylight (5800K)- or 350-watt tungsten (3400K)-equivalent fixtures into large light banks with a maximum equivalent output of up to 1200-watts daylight and 2000-watts tungsten. Offering more than 20,000 hours of life, the JNH has a minimal power draw of 65 watts, and each fixture includes a universal 90-240 volt power supply for use overseas. Also available are the more powerful Nila Boxer with an 800- to 1200-watt HMI equivalence and a 1200- to 2000-watt tungsten equivalence, as well as the Nila SL 6000-watts tungsten-equivalent fixture. List Price: Begins at $1,799 (Nila JNH Daylight/Tungsten). Contact: Nila Inc., (818) 392-8370, www.nila.tv.
Litepanels‘ popular 1×1 fixture is available in Flood Tungsten (3200K), Flood Daylight (5600K) and Spot Daylight (5600K), which offers a longer throw thanks to a tighter beam spread of 30º over the 50º angle of light projected by the other two models. The fixtures are economically sized at 2.0 inches in thickness, and they can be affixed together for more powerful output. Litepanels also offers a number of other LED solutions, like the bi-color daylight (5600K) and tungsten (3200K) Croma, and the newer high-output 1000-watt tungsten-equivalent Hilio, which lets you narrow output to a 15º angle for working at distances of up to 25 feet. Estimated Street Price: Begins at $1,795 (1×1); $615 (Croma); $3,195 (Hilio). Contact: Litepanels, (818) 752-7009, www.litepanels.com.
With an average life span of 50,000 hours, the 24.9×4.9×3.5-inch Lowel Prime LED panel is available in tungsten (3200K) or daylight (5600K), with a high CRI (color rendering index) of 91+ for high-quality light output. Two models are currently available in the new line, the Prime LED 200 and the Prime LED 400, with roughly twice the lux output of the LED 200. The lights output a 50º beam, and optional honeycomb grids are available for focusing the beam to produce more contrast. Additionally, the PRM-420 barndoor set includes a Prime Lite Diffusion Gel for shaping and diffusing light output. List Price: $2,775 (Prime LED 400); $2,150 (Prime LED 200). Contact: Lowel-Light Mfg., (800) 645-2522, www.lowel.com.
The Quantum Instruments Omicron QF26 Ring Light for Flash and Video fits over the lens of a DSLR or camcorder, and offers a hybrid still burst of light that can be used as a flash-like strobe. (At ISO 400, flash specifications measure in at 8.5 feet at ƒ/5.6, 6 feet at ƒ/8 and 4 feet at ƒ/11 with a shutter speed of 1⁄60 sec.). There are 80 LED lamps in the ring light, which offers a chromatically correct color cast that has been designed to fully cover the spectral gaps found in white-only LEDs. The continuous Video mode will last for up to 90 minutes at full power, and the system is compatible with Canon or Nikon TTL and manual flash modes when used with the Quantum TRIO or Qflash T5d-R flashes. A mounting bracket for DSLR cameras is included. Estimated Stree
t Price: $799. Contact: Quantum Instruments, (631) 656-7400, www.qtm.com.
At dimensions of 2.95×3.66×1.69 inches and a weight of less than half a pound, the Seculine LED On-Camera Light is available in tungsten (3200K) or daylight (5400K) and a hybrid combination that includes swappable LED modules for switching between the two color temperatures. The light offers a wide, diffuse beam angle of 120º, an internal fan can be set to five levels of operation to reduce ambient noise, and there’s a built-in dimmer with 30 steps of selectable output. It mounts through an included mini-ballhead and 1⁄4-inch screw. Estimated Street Price: $399 (L2S3K/L2S5K Seculine Daylight/Tungsten LED units); $570 (L2S3K5K Seculine Tungsten and Daylight module). Contact: Interfit Photographic, (866) 947-9796, www.interfitphotographic.com.
Most ideal for HDSLR use, the Flashpoint 312 LED fixture offers a compact and affordable solution with both daylight and tungsten options for an equivalent output of a 100-watt bulb. The mini-ballhead mounts to the hot-shoe of the camera, and twin LED arrays of daylight and tungsten can be mixed together through two dials for matching ambient lighting conditions. A diffuser panel is included for controlling shadows, and two AA batteries will power the unit for approximately five hours. Estimated Street Price: $139. Contact: Flashpoint (Adorama), (800) 223-2500, www.adorama.com.