The first impression of Light & Motion new Stella Pro portable lights is how small and light they are. They come in a soft padded stewardess case with orange trim and “Stella” tastefully embroidered on the side that would be right at home in a Wes Anderson movie.
This combined with their diminutive size lends them an unserious air right from the get-go. What kind of hard-core photo kit could this be? Any misunderstandings are dispelled the moment you pick one up. The Stella Pro feels too heavy by half, like it’s heavily overbuilt. They sit in the hand like the handle on the door to a Sub Zero fridge. The first heft startles, nothing toy-like or unserious here; this is industrial grade.
And then you turn Stella Pro on, and it’s blinding. A smoothly dimming or brightening stepped LED produces a brilliant continuous light. Light ready to be molded and manipulated with the 360-degree ball or Fresnel lens included. Or any of the softboxes, umbrellas or other light-shaping devices readily available through Elinchrom and others.
These lights are really kind of unbelievable: battery powered, remote controlled, LED (so you can use them for video) monolight that’s weatherproof. Not “shoot in the pool” waterproof, but certainly “shoot in the gnarliest downpour you’ll ever see” waterproof. These lights saved my bacon (Strunk and White wept) on a multi-day commercial shoot. What’s most impressive is that I believe that used to be rather out of their wheelhouse. Yet they came through in the pinch, so much that the client looks likely to buy a pair to permanently install in his gallery.
What they’re for is anything that requires repeatable, daylight-balanced, continuous lighting. Location photographers, fashion, portrait, wedding—all could get great use from these tiny powerhouses.
I found myself on day three of a five-day furniture shoot. We had been shooting by daylight under an enormous skylight in New York in the winter. Four of the five days were nice and sunny, so though the sun was low in the sky, the light was gorgeous and we happily rotated furniture in and out of our makeshift set. Day three: snow delay at the school, on and off snow showers and snowy fog all day. On deadline, putting off our shoot seemed inadvisable. I eyed the Stella Pros, which had just arrived in the shop. Oh, they so totally couldn’t be expected to make enough daylight to light furniture. Could they? Oh yes child, I bolted them up in the rafters, pointed the two of them (one each of the RF5000 and RF8000 units) up into the angled ceiling and prayed for the best. And boy did they save the day. Only after we realized how well they were going to work (the first few shots on battery) did I rig power cords to allow us to shoot all day uninterrupted.
It’s not all good. I found two issues with the Stella Pros: jaw-dropping price. The 8000RF runs $2,199 while the 5000RF a mere $1,999. For the price though you get a fully-waterproof, blazingly bright light that is good for still or video work. The other flaw is so silly I almost don’t want to mention it: There’s no umbrella hole in the handle.
The Stella Pro series of lights is a solid, versatile, bright and portable LED lighting system. A couple or few of these units with some light modifiers and you’d be ready to tackle everything from a solo portrait to an elaborate location wedding video. Just be sure to shoot the living daylights out of them to try to amortize that sticker shock, and you’ll feel better with every shoot.