REVIEW: Litepanels Sola ENG LED Fresnel Light
Bright, Light And Oh So Cool...
By Bruce A Johnson | July 20, 2011
I've gone on record in the past as not being a big fan of camera-top lights. The last thing an interview subject needs is a glaring "sungun" to impart that "deer-in-the-headlights" look. Of course, sunguns of the past were crude tools, usually a low-to-medium wattage tungsten lightbulb that - if you were lucky - might be hiding behind a piece of bathroom opal glass. (If you are one of the six shooters in all the world that ever had an HMI sungunâ¦ good for you.) In almost every setup, the light was mounted directly above the lens, right on axis with the optics - a recipe for flat, unflattering light if ever there was one. And powering this device almost always required external batteries - anyone that has ever had a battery belt pull your pants down on a shoot, raise your hands now, please.
Wow, that many? Impressive.
About a decade ago, Litepanels came to the rescue of this sorry situation with the first practical LED-based sunguns.
The first models were long rectangles stuffed with around a hundred LEDs. A year or so after they came out, I managed to talk my chief engineer into buying two for our videography department, and slowly my attitude towards camera-top illumination began to shift. For one, the Litepanels were fully dimmable; they came with a swath of gels that slid onto the front of the light to adjust color temperature or add diffusion; if you had an Anton-Bauer battery plate, you could power them from the camera battery; and most important (to me) - they came with what is generically called an "Israeli arm," a triple-jointed arm of varying length that could be loosened and tightened with one central knob. This one thing made it possible to get the light off of the center axis and provide some "modeling" - that is, cast shadows in a relatively controlled way to allow for 3-D objects, not flat like a sheet of paper. Finally, a way to get a little sparkle in the eye! Of course, it wasn't all unicorns and glitter; for one thing, while the original Litepanel is really bright, for some reason it doesn't have an awful lot of "punch" - that is to say, the light seems to fall off quickly. If only it hadâ¦a lens!
Fast-forward to the 2011 NAB Show. Now part of the Vitec Group, the Litepanels display featured just that - an LED sungun with a Fresnel lens, complete with a zoom control and a dimmer. No longer is the light in the rectangular shape of a king-size candy bar - the Sola ENG Fresnel looks just like a shrunken studio light. Of course, when you jettison a halogen bulb for a single LED emitter you lose two other annoyances, namely energy draw and heat. If the light isn't hot, there's no need to make the lamp housing out of metal - the Sola ENG is made out of plastic, weighs in at a svelte 15 ounces, and draws a maximum of 30 watts. Most of the kit fits snugly in a 6"x6" black nylon bag, including the light, a snap-on two-shutter barn door, several color correction gels and a small bag of mounting gear.
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