Gear & Now: Lighten Your Load With On-Camera Lighting
Posted Jan 1, 2009

New lighting gear can help professional videographers lighten their loads during on-location shoots, while at the same time reducing some of the costs associated with adding light. Light emitting diodes (LEDs), as the foundation of a video lamp, can help reduce power draw, heat output, and bulb replacement frequency. LED technology is so efficient that units emit more light than halogen lights while consuming considerably less power.

Among the various options and accessories for such lights are barn doors, integrated diffusers and/or color temperature filters, shoe or thread mounts, controllable dimmers, DV battery adapters, and custom padded pouches with carrying straps.

Switronix Torches LED Units
Switronix, Inc., for example, has unveiled its new line of TorchLED modular dimmable lights with outputs ranging from 30W to 75W. But thanks to the power efficiency of LED configurations, these light fixtures nevertheless have a max power draw of 10.5W.

The TL-50 (below) is a 30W 5600K daylight LED light fixture that includes an internal rechargeable lithium polymer battery pack to supply up to 2.5 hours of operating time. The retail price is around $300.

Switronix TorchLED TL-50

Switronix’ Ross Kanarek says that the color temperature stays even, regardless of output level. “We’re using Pulse width modulation or PWM to make sure these [lights] are the most efficient and maintain color temperature as well as no flicker,” he says.

Also released are two DC-powered units, the TL-68 (5W draw) and the TL-88 (10.5W draw). Both are portable LED light fixtures that output 45W–75W of soft daylight, and both units accept 11V–18V via a DC input.

Using the company’s proprietary LED “disc” technology—included with all three Torch lights—you can unscrew the front LED disc and change to a different color temperature or switch to varying degrees of output. The TorchLED brand also includes accessories ranging from new LED discs, pop-on filters, cables, and more.

Bebob Ups the LED Ante
New LED luminaries are coming from German manufacturer Bebob Engineering. These should be shipping by the time you read this article, although confirmation was not available at press time in mid-November 2008.

The new lights, the Lux-Led40 and Lux-Led60 (below), look to be excellent for video work in the field. The Led60, for example, is threaded for mounting on a camera or stand, but it comes with an optional handle so it can be used as a hand lamp. The Lux-Led40 is a hand light, but it also comes with an available mount.

Bebob Lux-Led60

Thanks to careful arrangement of the units’ high-output LEDs, the Led40 and Led60 deliver smooth, even, and stepless illumination. Output is daylight color temperature at full saturations, and an innovative incorporated cooling system keeps the lights cool to the touch. The lights can also be dimmed while the color temperature remains in the daylight range using an integrated dimmer.

Because both units have a standard IDX V-Mount for outboard batteries (models with an Anton/Bauer or PAG battery mount are also available), they can be used with ordinary camera batteries—a nice bonus. With an Anton/Bauer Dionic 90, for example, the light can run for 90 minutes at full power.

The company says a mobile lighting kit with three Lux-Led60s and nano tripods in a flight case or a bag will soon be available. The Led40 (as an ENG pack with accessories) is priced at about $1,000.

Camera-Specific On-Board Lights From SWIT
SWIT ELECTRONICS USA, LLC offers both LED and halogen lighting solutions. Its new S-2020 is the third LED in its lineup. Previous units were designed for specific camcorders; the older S-2010 series is still available for selected Panasonic, Sony, and Canon models.

The S-2010 series offers the equivalent of a 40W output at 5600K color temperature with a low power consumption of only 12W with low heat radiation.

The S-2020 is designed for a broader range of applications: It puts out 5600K daylight and can be adjusted to 3200K with the color temperature filter. It features both screw-mounting and hot-shoe mounting options. SWIT on-camera LED lights start at around $500.

Litepanels Joins the Family
Odds are you’ve already heard about one of the companies most often associated with LED lighting—Litepanels. But changes are in the works for this mainstay of the lighting world. Litepanels has signed an agreement to be acquired by The Vitec Group, which, in turn, already owns many well-known video equipment brands, including Sachtler, Vinten, and Anton/Bauer.

Price increases and product lineup rationalization often occur with corporate mergers or acquisitions—so watch for some good bargains as the acquisition finalizes. One dealer near me is already warning of some impending price increases, denying that it is only trying to boost its current sales figures with such reports.

Litepanels’ popular LED soft lights (below) come in flood or spot configurations, with 5600K and 3200K color temperature capability. They are available in both 1' squares (the original Litepanel) or smaller portable units for on-camera use, such as the MiniPlus and the newer Micro, which runs off of AA batteries and can be easily thread-mounted almost anywhere.


VidLed: Out of Luck?
Another manufacturer of LED lighting solutions for video applications mentioned here previously, FJORDLAND Entertainment, Ltd., has apparently run out of housing. Not for the staff, mind you, but specifically for the manufacture of any more VidLed lights.

Until the situation is rectified, that is a shame, as the company—founded by a working videographer—does have a good handle on what working video shooters really need. When supplies are at hand, it makes a range of onboard LED lights, power supplies, and accessories.

Lighting: Here, There, and Everywhere
Barely 2 years after Rosco Laboratories introduced its terrific little lighting product, the LitePad (it doesn’t have to be so little), it is introducing the LitePad HO, for high, even output, based on the 33% increase in overall brightness output. The LitePad DL continues to be available in its original daylight configuration.

The LitePad’s small form factor and light weight are among its greatest assets. It’s not even half an inch thick, so it can be placed almost anywhere—on walls, on desktops, under floral arrangements, on car dashboards, alongside powder room vanity mirrors, you name it.

Although they do come in some preset, precut sizes, LitePads can be custom-ordered to fit any imaginable lighting situation. So while they are an economical solution on film, video, and still photography jobs, they are also finding their way into theatrical, scenic, architectural, and high-end retail environments.

Drawing just a few watts of power, the LitePad LED has an estimated life of 60,000-plus hours. Units are sold individually and include a simple 12V transformer. A wide assortment of accessories, such as dimmers, splitters, glare shields, battery packs, mounting brackets, and adapters, are available to match individual needs and shooting preferences.

As mentioned, LitePads come in a variety of shapes (square, round, rectangular) and in half a dozen or so fixed sizes, starting as small as 3"x6" on up to custom sizing. Rosco offers LED kits, as well: Its Pro Gaffer Kit, for example, includes two each of all available sizes and a host of accessories for just under $3,000.

Pelican RALS—Ready for Prime Time?
Now, I do not recommend mounting this new lighting solution on your camera—it could be the other way around, really! Pelican Products, Inc., the hard case maker, also makes a line of LED-based devices. These include anything from a miner’s head-worn lamp to hand-held flashlights to what are called RALS—remote area lighting systems.

These “lighting systems in a wheeled case” are designed for heavy-duty industrial or even military applications, but I just know there are a few creative videographers out there who could make use of such a setup. There would be some preproduction planning involved, as the Pelican 9460, for example, is a 50-pound kit!

It comes with two 48 LED lamp heads, for a rated output of up to 4,000 lumens. The lamp heads can be swiveled up to 90 degrees, mounted as they are on separate extendable masts. It may look like something from a NASA mission to Mars, but just imagine the illumination you could throw on an outdoor, nighttime wedding ceremony with one or two of these puppies.

Or at a lower output rating you could pump out about 2,000 lumens for up to 14 hours of continuous operating time from the rechargeable, sealed 12V battery, according to Pelican.

Either way, the LEDs are housed in a rugged, durable, and protective carrying case (the Pelican 1510) with a telescopic handle and outdoor wheels. Available in black or yellow, the kit is priced around $1,500.

Lee Rickwood (lrickwood at is a media consultant and freelance writer.