Throughout the past year I have been moving myself in a direction of becoming a Hybrid Photographer. First I switched from using Canon DSLRs to Micro Four-Thirds, which was one of the biggest changes I’ve made in the last few years of shooting professionally. Most recently, I have been investigating what is going to be my best lighting solution for this new form of photography that mixes stills + motion & sound which has lead me to using the Fotodiox of LED panels for the past few months.
I received several different Fotodiox LED panels to experiment and see how they would work out for my style of shooting. At Small Camera Big Picture we like to offer an honest and well-informed opinion of the gear we are using including positives and negatives. Unfortunately, delayed due to a very busy schedule I am finally able to give an honest update and feel I have reached a fair conclusion regarding these lights.
Fotodiox LED Panel Product Recap
There is the PRO LED-1000ASVL, which has barndoors, adjustable color temperatures from 3200K – 5600K and a touchscreen LCD for control. It does not include a battery, but does have the Sony V Mount attachment, which are very expensive batteries. This particular model has 1000 LEDs separated in 2 banks of 500 where each bank represents 5600K or 3200K LEDs.
Next is the smaller and more porable Pro LED876as and Pro LED508as, which are only differentiated by the total number of LED bulbs. Each has color temperature adjustment from 3200K – 5600K and has continually variable dimming. Each come with 2 large Sony NP style batteries and LED bulbs separated in 2 banks representing 5600K or 3200K LEDs.
Some Good, Some Bad
Often times there are products, which immediately stand out as junk and occasionally there are items that blow me away at first use. These Fotodiox LED Panels are neither of the above, but a solid middle ground. They offer some really interesting thought out features, though there are quiet a few quirks that came up after really testing them out. One of the best features, which happened to be my favorite was the use and inclusion of the Sony NP style batteries and chargers in the LED876AS and LED508AS models. This has made these lights easy to shoot on location, which is something I do 90% of the time. On the other hand the Fotodiox Panels have some quirks, including color accuracy issues (which I’ll explain more below) and the limited light output in daylight applications, made me ask the question of “As a professional where do we draw the line between acceptable and not?”
Seeing The Difference With Fotodiox LED’s
As a photographer who has been using off camera lighting in his work for some time, I have quiet a bit of experience with using strobes and modifiers to obtain certain looks. When I started using the Fotodiox LEDs I definitely became aware that there were some big differences between the look of each. The most gleaming thing has to do with the brightness of the lights. Unfortunately they just don’t compare to being able to shoot strobes. You need a LOT more light or will have to find a way to drop the ambient light, i.e. Shooting in the early morning or late afternoon when the sun is rising or dropping. Here is a VLOG I made in which I show some of the differences between LEDs and Strobes.
How They Fit Within My Style
The majority of my photography, including the educational content I create is primarily made on location. I rarely have the use of a studio, and will only rent when absolutely necessary. In fact, I enjoy shooting on location in Los Angeles due to our varied landscape and naturally good weather. The LED876as and LED508as fit the bill nicely for my work, in fact I just took them traveling with me across country this month. The PRO LED-1000ASVL on the other hand is a great light, but not as versatile and I won’t bring it with me unless I know I will have AC power available. Don’t get me wrong here, the 1000ASVL is a great light, but when shooting outdoors on location I need to rely on extension chords and it is not a great solution as of yet, unless I’m shooting close to a power supply or indoors where it works great.
Looking around through the pages and pages of LED Lighting available through B&H Photo Video or any big photo dealer, you will find one trend in common. The majority of LED Lighting requires an AC Power Supply or has a Sony V mount or Anton Bauer mount, which require you to purchase a battery that may cost upwards of $300+. This is unfortunate for a budget hybrid photographer, filmmaker, or emerging pros with tight budgets as this puts many lights out of reach financially. Thankfully there are a few lights, like these Fotodiox LED Panels, which have the inexpensive Sony NP Style battery. What is the drawback though I wonder? From what I’ve heard these expensive batteries keep the power running for a very long time, but I’m seeing very acceptable results from these lights with 4 hour runtimes without running out. There is a new product from Photogenic though, which may be the next good solution for running non-battery LED Panels. It’s the Photogenic ION portable power inverter, which in our initial testing at HybridPhoto.pro has proven to be very versatile and can run multiple LED lights for several hours.
After really getting into using the LED Panels I have discovered a few issues I need to address. Out of the box, each of these Fotodiox Lights does not have accurate color. Without getting too scientific in this article, the problem is within the White Balance of the lights. White balance is made up of the more common CT (Color Temperature) and less common LB (Light Balance aka Green/Magenta balance) The LED876as and LED508as both are producing about 6500ºK instead of the 5600ºK Rating for their daylight balanced bulbs. As for the LB, there is a prominent magenta shift in the daylight rated LED Bank.
When it comes to the 3200ºK LED bulbs things get a little better, but not much. The CT is around 3300ºK (Only 100º off from the 3200ºK) and has a prominent green shift. This is where the major flaw exists. Once you learn to calculate the White Balance (CT & LB) of a light, you will learn to correct the light to be accurate. Unfortunately because magenta is the opposite of green, there is no way to correct these adjustable temperature lights while maintaining the ability to easily change between the different color temperatures using the knob to dial it in. This is a big problem if the reason you are buying these lights is for the ability to have this adjustment on the fly. Maybe the non-adjustable versions of these lights would fair better and be brighter, but until they can be tested properly I really can’t take that risk. On the plus side, you can learn to test your lights and correct them yourself.
As for the larger LED1000ASVL Panel things do get a little bit better fortunately. The Color Temperature is fairly accurate on either end, but it still exhibits a prominent, yet correctable magenta shift. Unfortunately, this light does cost more than the other two and has its drawbacks in the ability to take it on location easily. For this reason, I chose to use it recently for my latest eProduct for Salons.
Drawing The Line For Professional Use
Back to that question I addressed earlier, “As a professional where do we draw the line between acceptable and not?” When it comes down to it I believe it’s going to require you to ask yourself, what are you planning on shooting? These Fotodiox LED Panels will work fine for the enthusiast photographer, who is willing to learn to correct the color issues. These lights are a budget light with a budget quality.
Where the Fotodiox LED Panels shine is with the ability to be a great tool for shooting on location. Once they have been corrected they can be made to give decent results, good battery life, and not break the bank. These lights are definitely not for everyone, but they are one of the best solutions for budget on location continuous lighting. I have been using them for my VLOG Posts and on several professional jobs with fairly decent results, but I am stepping up my budget and looking for a better solution for my professional needs.