You probably know that I experimented for quite some time with LED lights and was not very happy with the quality of various lights that I tried out. (Check out my misadventures with LED lights here.) I was looking for a quality light that has a strong output but is light and cool enough to be able to travel around anywhere I want.
Now a few months into various productions, I finally found my light kit. It fulfills my two main requirements:
1. They are all LED’s.
2. They are so compact, cool, and light that I can travel with them around the world without adding much weight and size to my normal production luggage.
The whole 3-point light kit fits into a little suitcase and weights less then 4 LB, or 2 Kg. How much power do these lights output? According to Litepanels they output around 1000W. Not only that, I use them battery-powered on location.
So these are the lights in my light-kit:
My key light is a Litepanels 1×1 Spot/Flood. I bought it on ebay from a vendor that bought them from the NFL because they sold their stock of 20 Litepanels to that vendor. They were lightly used – maybe 3 months old – and the vendor sold them for half-price.
This is an incredible light because it first has around 500W equivalent to a tungsten light. I love the spot/flood function. What it does is, it narrows the focus of the beam. This is very helpful for creating vignettes, especially in interviews. I can now adjust that light on the subject’s face and spot it so that the clothes (like a white shirt) get less light. A fabulous effect.
Often I use it with a lead battery from Bescor and it lasts me around 2-4 hours under the free sky.
2. Hair & Background Light
I purchased from the same ebay vendor the brand new Litepanels Sola Eng Fresnel lights. Their output is around 250W equivalent to a tungsten light. Their build quality is not very strong: all plastic. They’re just strong enough to sustain the rough and tough routine of a shooting day, but the light quality is really worth it. I think the Eng is my favorite light. Its fully dimmable and I can focus the beam between spot and flood. Its cool, its the size and weight of a Coke can, and I can’t imagine having lived without them.
I have reviewed earlier the Litepanels Micro Pro. I still use it in interview situations to give a little kick as well as in “run & gun” situations to put my little chupchick in the eye of my subject, the little light spark in the eyes.
The only thing that people need to make a decision about is the price. These lights are EXPENSIVE. The 1×1 is around $3000 retail, unless you are lucky enough to get it on ebay, which almost never happens. The Sola Eng is around $650 per light. But here is my take on that. We all spend money on camera and lens gear and justify every penny we spend but when it comes to light we want the cheapest and spend the least. From an image point of view that does not makes sense because I think my lighting has a far bigger consequence then my choice of lens or camera body. I think a skilled DP with a great lighting setup and an iPhone to shoot can produce great results.
I’m NOT saying camera gear isn’t important. Images are made of light and adding light will enhance greatly your images. Start with one light, then two and three and work your way up till you find the amount of light that suits you.