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The LED Camera Light Shootout…

...that I wish I had gotten to first!

By Bruce A Johnson | January 04, 2011


A guy named Frank Glencairn, whom I think is in England somewhere, has gone and done what we've all thought about:

A shootout between five inexpensive LED sunguns.

(OK, so maybe the term "inexpensive" doesn't quite stretch to cover the Litepanels LP Micro, but I digress.)

The shootout is pretty well done, and even includes a video at the end. But you can look at the video right here:

Cheap LED VIdeo Lights Shootout. from Frank Glencairn on Vimeo.

Check it out, and a tip 'o the hat to Frank!
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Adam Wilt: | January, 05, 2011

Interesting! Also check out They .don’t say whose light they’re using, but the video clips show the sorts of pitfalls that can occur using Solid State Lighting, e.g., LEDs.

Rob: | January, 05, 2011

Price doesn’t tell you everything but here’s some that I found.

YONGNUO 135-LED $66 USD on eBay
YONGNUO YN-160 $75 USD on eBay
Litepanels Micro LED On-Camera Light $260 on BHPhoto
Fillini z96 $120 AUD on eBay

A better test would measure color temperature and give us luminance figures too. Build quality is a factor as well. For example the Lightpanels unit on BH Photo had adapters for various standard DV batteries. Still, I could buy three YONGNUO YN-160 units for the price of one Lightpanels unit.

Just kind of thinking out loud.



Rob: | January, 05, 2011

@Adam Wilt—Wow! The article you pointed to was an eye-opener ... especially the page on “Solid State Lighting Assessment Technical Information” here:

The split Macbeth charts clearly showed the difference between the studio tungsten and the “apparent white light” from the various LED technologies commonly used.

I can see that if you have to match shots made with tungsten to shots made with LEDs then you might have a bit of extra post work to do.

What I don’t have the experience to know is, if you shoot with all the same kind of LED lights, will anybody really notice?

Also, with the color grading tools commonly available now, can you “fix” anything that is really noticeable in the final product?



Rob: | January, 05, 2011

In reference to my post above ... as an engineer I went right to the technical page. Big mistake. Look at the actual tests on the right side of the page Adam linked to ... the makeup, costume and props tests.

What I learned from these is that you can’t trust what you see on set using solid state lighting. The shot will look okay to the eye but may not come out as you expect in the end.

Now I’d like to see similar tests with various florescent lighting bulbs. Do they have the same issues?



Adam Wilt: | January, 05, 2011

A lot of things can be “fixed in post”, but the real issue is to be aware of the spectral characteristics of your lighting and to make sure you pick props, paint, costumes, and makeup using the same light you’re shooting under. If your makeup rooms use the same instruments your studios do, a lot of the problems can be avoided, instead of having to be fixed!

Having said that, there are spectral gaps and spikes in the light from many of these instruments (LEDs and many fluoros, too) that can’t be easily worked around or fixed. Green spikes, red deficits, and an excess or absence of UV (which causes subsurface glow in skin, and adds luster to many dyes and fabrics) can all cause divergence from the desired rendering that may be difficult or almost impossible to correct sufficiently.

Yet it’s true: what shows up onscreen is what counts; if it looks radically different from the rendering under incandescents, but is nonetheless pleasing to the eye and supports the tone of the story, then that’s all that matters. One of the advantages of electronic production is that you can see what you’ve got right away (or at least after a quick decode/deBayer/color-correct/add-LUT pass if you’re shooting RED, S-Log, or LogC), so you can catch this stuff live instead of waiting for film dailies. Does the old mantra of “test, test, test…” ring any bells?

As to LED quality of light / CRI, Litepanels is passable fair and getting better; Gekko Tech has some pretty good looking stuff, and the new stuff from Mole, Nila, Arri, and the like is worth keeping on top of. The cheap Chinese knock-offs I’ve seen have been rather less good in this respect. All IMHO, of course, just based on looking at stuff at shows and using some Litepanels instruments on gigs (I own a couple of Litepanel micros and the studio has a 1x1).

For fluoros, Videssence and Kino Flo have spent a lot of time dialing in their phosphor mix and fine-tuning their fixtures to get decent color. We have Diva-Lite 400s and VistaBeam 600s and are well pleased with them and I expect we’ll add more Kino kit in the next year. I’ve heard of varying levels of satisfaction with other fluoro vendors; again, the general rule seems to be that you get what you pay for. Overall, the same issues exist with fluoros, but they seem to be a bit better understood / compensated for; perhaps just because, as it’s a more mature technology, the vendors have had more opportunity to sand off the rough edges.

All IMHO again!

The quality of light is a critical factor in making good images, and different folks have different criteria by which they judge an instrument and its light acceptable. Once you mix in the different spectral responsiveness of the different sensors and/or film stocks and how they interact with the different lights, there’s no way to make a one-size-fits-all judgement. Sorry, but it all comes down to just being aware of the possible pitfalls, and then testing the lights, cameras / films, fabrics and makeup you’re looking at to see if they play well together.

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