Good quality soft lights are essential in any cinematographers toolkit, but have always been expensive to buy and something most of us could only ever rent. But those times are over! These 7 LED Soft Lights will change the way you can light low budget projects as each of them costs under $1500. Since the dawn of digital cinematography, I’ve always been a fan of soft lighting. It’s often the magic ingredient that makes the difference between digital or cinematic looking images and skin tones. Regardless of your lighting style, good lights are essential when you’re on set and fortunately, with the arrival of high output LED’s, the times when quality soft lights were unaffordable are over! Lighting With Soft Lights I need to make one thing clear upfront: I see many people use different LED lights to light all kinds of scenes and subjects, without a clear intention of size, shape and softness of the light source. Often there’s a 1×1 LED in people’s kits and it is used to light interviews, close-ups, wide shots, different skin types and other elements too, regardless of the purpose of the shot. If you went to film school, you probably learned how in an ideal scenario every scene and every shot requires a different light to paint your intention into the frame. Unfortunately, for the longest time many of us couldn’t afford anything other than a 1×1 or a weak tungsten light with a small soft box on the front, so we had to make do with that. When the budget allows, my first act of duty is to rent a quality soft light to add to my kit. This is often an Arri HMI with a Chimera or a Dedo Kit, with varying output and size depending on the scene in question. But I never got around to actually buying a soft light myself as the investment was too great. A proper HMI soft light like this costs upwards of $6,000. The Alternative: LED Soft Lights In recent years, we’ve been closely observing the evolution of LED lights here at cinema5D. For some reason everybody manufactured them without a soft box or soft surface in mind. For years there were hundreds of 1×1 panels that created ugly multi-shadows and unnatural looking skin. At the beginning, they had very bad color rendition ratings too. In short, the lights we’ll be looking out for in this article should match the following criteria: High power output The characteristics of a soft light (evenly lit large surface) High CRI rating These days, LED technology is finally at a point where LED soft lights can actually replace expensive HMIs in terms of quality and light output, at a lower weight, lower power consumption and, most importantly, lower cost. The leaders in professional lighting solutions have taken note of this new trend and have adapted their technologies accordingly, with proper LED soft light fixtures finally making their appearance. For example, Dedolight has announced the introduction of a 500W LED version of their popular Panaura soft lights and they call it “Ledraptor”, certainly a rental light to look forward to! But for now, let’s look at 7 awesome LED soft lights you can get for under $1,500: 1. ALZO 3200 Low Noise LED Power Consumption: 200 W Light Output: 17000 LUX at 1m CRI rating: 94 Color: Daylight Softbox Mount: Bowens We have worked with this light on numerous occasions. It is currently part of our kit and it has held up very well. This light by ALZO Video is the successor to the popular ALZO 3200, also sold as RPS CoolLED, which was considered unreliable by many, had a lower CRI value and created some considerable fan noise which wasn’t ideal for video. The ALZO Low Noise Version seems to have fixed those problems to a certain extent, but there have been very few reviews of the product out there. Our unit works well, the fan noise is acceptable, but our only concern is that the soft box by ALZO does not lock well to the Bowens mount. You can combine this light with any softbox with a traditional Bowens mount, like the Westcott RapidBox, which is very handy. Alternatively, you can use the more affordable ALZO Square Box. Cost: $629 AVAILABLE HERE 2. Aputure Light Storm LS C120t LED Power Consumption: 135 W Light Output: 2500 LUX at 1m CRI rating: 97 Color: Tungsten (3000K) Softbox Mount: Bowens This model by Aputure is also part of the cinema5D lighting kit. It is lighter and smaller than the ALZO 3200 LN, so it is useful for using it on the go. The downside is that the output is a lot weaker, and is a tungsten light (why?). The build quality seems very good, and it can also run off a V-mount battery. For documentary or small crew shoots without daylight (evening or indoors) this could be a great solution. You could equip this with a Westcott beauty dish or any other Bowens mount softbox. The spread is not ideal, but the light quality and color are really good. Cost: $629 US – AVAILABLE HERE EU – AVAILABLE HERE 3. F&V Ultra Soft Z400S Power Consumption: 90 / 180 W Light Output: 1841 / 3650 LUX at 1m CRI rating: 97 Color: Bi-Color If you have smaller subjects or close-ups, what makes sense is a smaller soft light with a traditional LED array. We looked at the F&V Ultra Soft Z400S at this year’s NAB and they are available as 1×1 and 1×2 sized LED soft lights with a plain soft front surface. The CRI ratings are exceptional and the bi-color tuning is handy. At around $1,000, they are still reasonably priced for the kind of performance they offer. Of course, these lights are not as powerful as an HMI or the ALZO 3200, but they are easier to carry around and use, and should be strong enough if you need a smaller-sized soft light. They would definitely make a great addition to the ALZO in a budget kit. The price of the 1×2 has not yet been announced. Cost: $989 – ? AVAILABLE HERE (1×2 not available yet) 4. RAYZR 7 / 300 W Daylight Power Consumption: 300 W Light Output: unknown CRI rating: around 98 Color: Daylight / Bi-Color Softbox Mount: unknown This is a very new light that just hit the market in China, and will slowly make its way to the West. It is a seriously powerful fresnel LED light with a very high color rendition index and numerous features like a V-mount battery option and also available as a bi-color version. A Chinese shop compares it to the Arri L7 (a seriously awesome LED light): I would say the Arri L7 is in a different class in terms of the company’s target market. But the RAYZR still looks like it would rock as an affordable alternative, and the fact that it is a fresnel makes it even more interesting. Unfortunately, this light isn’t cheap: you’ll have to put $1000 bucks on the table just for the 100W version. Although this is the most affordable model, the output seems too weak to make any sense at all: the 200 and 300 watt versions are probably more suited as LED soft lights and worth the extra investment. Only the 100W and 300 watt versions are currently available on Amazon. It looks like it uses the same 7″ diameter barndoor mount as the Arri L7, so you could presumably mount a Video Pro Softbox with a speedring, or look for another similar barndoor softbox for fresnel lights. I did not find a cheaper softbox solution, but maybe you will. Cost: $1450 AVAILABLE HERE 5. ikan White Star Fresnel / 350 W Daylight Power Consumption: 350 W Light Output: unknown CRI rating: around 95 Color: Daylight Softbox Mount: unknown If I bring up the RAYZR 7, I must also mention the ikan White Star, simply because it is so similar. Actually, this light is produced by Taiwanese company Visio and not by ikan, is also available in 100 or 200 Watts and is very similarly priced as well. Here’s a nice review by DOP Karl Kim: In order to use this as a soft light you would also require a matching 6″ speedring and softbox. Cost: $1445 AVAILABLE HERE 6. LEDGO D1200 Power Consumption: 120 W Light Output: 11,760 LUX at 1m CRI rating: 95 Color: Daylight Softbox Mount: Bowens This LED light also caught my attention. Though much smaller and with less output than most others in this list, it has a few practical features, like a battery mount that can be clamped to the tripod, a Bowens mount, a noiseless fan, and a fresnel lens that can be refocused. Furthermore, the color seems to be quite accurate. Though relatively weak, this could be a good light for smaller subjects and close-ups. Unfortunately, this one doesn’t seem to be available in the US just yet, only in Europe for now. There is also a larger 300W version, but it’s a lot more expensive. The light comes with a removable Bowens mount that the fresnel is attached to. This is actually a very clever solution that easily turns the fresnel into an LED soft light, and you could attach any Bowens mount softbox. It looks like this is the one they used in the video review, but I can’t be sure as they all look the same. Cost: $1099 EU – AVAILABLE HERE 7. Intellytech Light Cannon F-485 Power Consumption: 485 W Light Output: 17,500 – 47,000 LUX at 1m CRI rating: 93-95 Color: Daylight Softbox Mount: unknown Light Cannon – 485 Watts! Now we’re talking. Even though it doesn’t get much more cheesy than “Intellytech” when it comes to name choices, the power consumption of this light reveals some monster output performance that’s worth a second look. At $1399 for the daylight version and $1499 for the bi-color version this is the most powerful high CRI LED lamp we could find in this price-range. It even has DMX controls and apparently the fan noise can be avoided when running the lamp at 50%. The reviewer used a dedicated Intellytech softbox on one of his lights, which he mentions cost $150. Unfortunately, I did not find this softbox on the internet and hope to get a reply from the manufacturer soon. This original Intellytech softbox used in the review is available HERE. By the way, there is also a 300W version for $999 and a 165W version for $749. Might be worth a look, but certainly the 485W version is the one that intrigues me the most. I would love to try this light. Cost: $1399 US – AVAILABLE HERE Other LED Soft Lights with Lower Output Of course I could also mention LED lights like Mole-Richardson’s Varimole, the Kinotehnik Practilite or Fiilex P360EX. They all have good color accuracy, are bi-color with fresnel heads and cost below $1000, but they did not make this list as they have too little power output to work as a practical soft light in my opinion. If less output is fine for you, go for it! I did not mention lights with a CRI below 93 either. Hopefully this article was useful to you. If you have experience with one of the lights, let us know your thoughts in the comments. And if you are aware of any other new lights on the market that follow the criteria of this article, feel free to share those as well.Read more
Aputure has announced a new modifying kit to their Amaran HR672 and 528 lights. The EZBox+ is a frame, soft box and 35degree grid that gives you much more control over your super cheap and color accurate LED light. The new EzBox+ is a response from Aputure from the high levels of requests they received from users looking for a light modifying kit for their Amaran panels. Whilst this maybe quite a specific item to write about, I wanted to take the opportunity to highlight the specific lights themselves, as they’re one of the few products out there that manage to combine true affordability and color accuracy. Enter all camera gear analogies here: Buy cheap, buy twice/ you get what you pay for/ Cheap Fast Good – Pick just two (albeit gear doesn’t always fit the fast part), then throw them out the window. Aputure Panels break the mould in offering affordable LED lighting that has fantastic color accuracy. Just Check out Ryan Walters glowing review of the Aputure LED line: The review touches on a few subjects including the lack of relevance CRI is for modern LED solutions. For more on this and considering Extended CRI, check out this other video. Back to the new product, the Ezbox+ works with Amaran HR672 and 528 lights only, not the Lightstorms or smaller on-camera panels. It mounts via ears on the side of the light and is a three step process. The frame adds a small amount of direction as well as forming the foundation to the modifier. Coupled with the diffusion front the frame makes up a softbox, increasing the size of the light by 1.5 times and therefore creating a softer cast. The final part is the 35 degree crate, which gives the light more direction (35 degrees more funnily enough). If you haven’t already I’d strongly recommend checking out the Aputure Amarans. I own the HR672D and find its a great affordable lightweight solution, the fact that they run off Sony NP-F batteries also can make them an easy investment for beginner filmmakers. Here’s the Amaran HR672 in action as a backlight. I used a make-shift softbox and some velcro solution for this look; the EZBox+ will be a warmly welcomed accessory.Read more
Dedolight introduces a new kind of LED panel lights that is covered with an array of micro-lenses to improve light direction and focus as well as providing a higher light output. Dedolight is a company that is focused on creating high quality lights for professional cinematographers. They are known for their versatile and compact tungsten and HMI lights and their continuos efforts to invent new lighting solutions. In recent years Dedo has been working on making LED lighting available for professional applications. We saw their newest concept at Photokina this year, the LedRama Studio Light. The whole panel is covered by an array of micro-lenses that help focus the light correctly and offer an impressive light output over a large distance. Furthermore the light is very power efficient and according to Dedolight offers a very high color accuracy. The LedRama light is for now only intended for studio applications as it weighs a shameless 40 pounds (19kg). We are looking forward to see this technology adapted for portable applications. Pricing will start at $4000 when the LedRama becomes available next year.Read more
The respected lighting & accessories company F&V just updated their LED panel line-up. Additionally to their good quality affordable large and compact LED’s they’ve added ultra-high CRI (color rendition) panels to the mix. Nice! We’ve been following the development of F&V lights very closely over the past years and this has several reasons: – Even their affordable LED lights the F&V K4000 had very good CRI values (85). The 3 light kit for example – Their lights have very strong light outputs. – Their lights are very affordable. The 3-light kit for example goes for $1000 (LINK) – The lights might not look supercool, but their built quality is solid and lightweight.Read more
This is one of the last NAB 2011 videos by cinema5D, yet it’s one of the more intriguing new products we’ve seen. Especially if you’re into LED lighting this one could be very interesting for you. Where I come from (Austria) Dedo Weigert is a name well known in the film industry. His lighting company carries the same name and you can find their stuff right next to Arri and KinoFlo lights in production houses. This year Dedo Weigert introduced the “Felloni” LED panel which they have developed under their partner company Dedotec (a bunch of electronics and precision mechanics specialists) and some other foreign technicians and named the series TECPRO. It’s all very confusing with the names I know, but the result is a pretty decent LED lighting solution. Here’s what this light can do: – very high CRI of 84 ( = good light color) – half the price of most other LED panels – water resistant (rainproof) – lightweight and robust fixture – Detachable/Extendable dimmer (included) – Foldable diffuser (included) – Uses 24 watts (half of most other panels) – more output than most other panels – magnetic frame for filters Powering options: – V-Mount battery plate 14V – Sony NP-F battery plate 7,2V – Ac input 12V (mains ps included) . . Pricepoint: Normal version either tungsten or daylight: US: should be around $900 Europe: around 600€ You might say that’s a lot, but if you know LED panel prices this should shock you. There is also a Bicolor version (continuosly adjustable from tungsten to daylight) for around $1000. The 1×1 LED series by Litepanels is a great tool but I think at $2600 they will have to do something about their pricing. TECPRO also has a high output (576 leds instead of 324) version for around 1000€ and low profile versions (for ceiling mount) as well and all of them are available in 15°, 30° or 50° angles (spot/flood). Unfortunately in the US and the rest of the world these lights are not available in a click to buy kind of fashion. You will have to either contact resellers or order from Dedolight USA directly. In Europe the lights are more commonly available. For example here. Wired DMX control unit: And here’s one more mindblowing gimmick: [UPDATED] I roughly remember one of the major developers of the Felloni telling me that you can control I think some hundred thousand of these units simultaneously via a wireless DMX module across 1000-1500 feet (400 meters). Price and availability for these units is not here yet, but it certainly won’t be cheap. Here’s the Dedo Weigert website: Dedo Weigert Europe Dedolight USARead more
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