For filmmakers and photographers looking for a portable continuous lighting kit, COB (“chip on board”) fresnel LEDs offer an attractive solution.
Efficient LEDs and sensitive digital cameras mean a relatively small light can go a long way, even on battery power. A fresnel offers the ability to change the throw of light from a tight spot to a wide flood. Several manufacturers now offer portable LED lighting kits aimed at people shooting on location or on small studio sets.
There are a few different choices on the market, so here is a quick comparison that may help you choose the lighting kit that’s right for you.
- Aputure LS-mini20
- Came Boltzen B-30
- Dedolight DLED4-D
- Falcon Eyes Pulsar P5
- Fotodiox Pro PopSpot / Lishuai J-300
- Ikan Stryder SW50
- Generic FC-500A/D
These compact 30W fresnel LEDs from Aputure were initially only available as part of a three-head kit. As of now (22 November 2017) you can now buy heads individually, though some sellers still only list the kits.
In the Light Storm LS-mini20 kit, you get two LS-mini20d lamps, which are “daylight” balanced, and one LS-mini20c, which is bi-colour. I put “daylight” in quotation marks because the LS-mini20ds, inexplicably, emit a colour temperature of 7500 Kelvin, which is cooler than daylight (usually around 5000–6000K). What’s more, the LS-mini20c has adjustable colour temperature from 3200–6500K. So Aputure’s lights don’t even match within their own kit, let alone with most other brands, without colour correction gels.
If this doesn’t bother you then the lights otherwise look rather nice. They have a bevy of power options: an AC-DC adapter, Sony NP-F batteries, D-Tap or even from a 5V USB power bank (albeit only at 1/4 power). The fresnel on the front of each LS-mini20 gives you beam angles from 20° to 80°, and brightness is adjustable down to 20% of full power. The television lighting consistency index (TLCI) is listed as 96+. Heads have standard 1/4″ tripod mounts and come with small ball heads. There is an active cooling fan, which some people might find a bit noisy.
The Aputure LS-mini20 3-light kit costs $719, or $799 with light stands included. Individual heads are $269.
Came Boltzen fresnel lamps come in a range of different power ratings (30W, 55W, 60W, 100W and 150W) and configurations, but for the sake of comparison with the Aputure mini20 series above, let’s look at the 30-watt versions.
You can choose between the 5600K daylight-balanced B30, the 3200K tungsten-balanced B30Y or the bi-colour 3200–5600K B30S. A three-head kit includes three lamps of the same type, but there’s nothing to stop you getting a smaller kit plus an individual head if you want to mix and match. All the 30-watt lamps are fanless and therefore run silently.
Powering options include AC, with the included power adapter, Sony NP-F-style battery (which clips onto the bottom, as shown below) or V-mount battery, via D-Tap adapter cable. Unlike the Aputure and Fotodiox heads—which come with mini ball heads—the Boltzen has a proper yoke mount for fitting to a light stand.
Beam can be shifted from 15° spot to 60° flood, and power is steplessly adjustable. What’s more, you can control the lights via WiFi with an optional USB dongle and the Boltzen LED mobile app. An optional Bowens mount adapter lets you use any accessories you like, which could be appealing to photographers who already own a studio full of light modifiers. TLCI is 98.
The Came Boltzen B-30 is $258 on its own, or $778 for a three-light kit. For not much more ($868) you can switch to brighter 55-watt lamps, though those have built-in cooling fans.
Dedolight has built a very good reputation for quality and versatility of its compact lighting fixtures. The price is high when you compare it to the cheap kits in this list, but the standard is that to which others might aspire.
The DLED4-D is a 40-watt light with daylight, tungsten and bi-colour variants. (The DLED4.1 is 45 watts.) The focusing range goes from a 60° flood to an incredibly narrow 4° spot, controlled by the yellow ring in the middle. An optional wide-angle attachment lets you broaden this to 85° to 54°.
One of the unique things about Dedolights is the optional DP1.1, DP2.1 and DP3.1 ‘imager’ attachments that let you drop in all kinds of gobos and project them, with variable focus. The head has a proper yoke mount for putting on a stand, though some Dedolight models also have a camera shoe mount.
Output can be dimmed from 100% down to 20% and the head is passively cooled so there is no fan. The daylight-balanced version is rated 5600K, with a claimed TLCI of 97. Run it from the mains or a V-lock battery.
Not quite in the same league as the others on this list! It is $5000+ for a 3-light kit, though the latter includes all kinds of accessories including softboxes and light stands.
Falcon Eyes have built up a reasonably good reputation for their flexible LED panels as well as their Sophiez edge-lit LEDs. The Pulsar 5, or P-5, also known as the 50W Mini Spot Light, looks a bit like the FC-500A but is really quite different.
There is a carrying handle on top of the head. The fresnel, with beam angle from 12° to 51°, is controlled by the rotating yellow ring. Power is steplessly adjustable via the touchscreen panel (which also features a battery level indiactor) or using a 2.4 GHz wireless remote control. Like some other Falcon Eyes lights, it supports “mutual control”, where several Falcon Eyes lights talk to each other via radio and synchronise their power levels as you adjust just one of them. There is no cooling fan so the Pulsar P5 should be very quiet.
You can run the Pulsar from an AC adapter or Sony V-mount batteries. Colour temperature is 5600K and 3000K with an orange gel, though there is also a 3000–5000K bi-colour version of this light called the P5-TD. TLCI is an impressive >96. A range of accessories are available, and included in most kits. These include barndoors, a mini softbox, colour gels, a snoot, a honeycomb grid and a globe diffuser.
Pricing is $350–399 for a single head, including the accessories mentioned above.
Fotodiox probably brought these lights to prominence as the Fotodiox Pro PopSpot, but you can also find it under other names—the OEM name being Lishuai J-500. Like most of the other lights in this list, it is available individually or as part of a three-head kit. At 50 watts, it is slightly more powerful.
The J-500 runs off an AC adapter, or has a removable module in the middle of the head that accepts two NP-F-type lithium batteries, which can keep the lamp running for one hour and 20 minutes at full power. Beam angle is adjustable from 25° to 55° and the output is dimmable from 10–100%. There is no remote control facility. Output is specified as 5600K, with no tungsten option but a 3200K colour correction filter is included with each head. No TLCI is specified.
You get a range of mounting options: the bottom of the J-500 is in the shape of an Arca-Swiss style plate for quick-release mounting on tripods, or there is a standard 1/4″ screw thread to fit on regular light stand tilt brackets. A mini ball head is included.
The Fotodiox Pro PopSpot J-500 is sold as a single head for $274.95, or in a three-head kit for $1099.95. It’s currently out of stock at Fotodiox’s own store, but you can find it at the retailers below.
The Ikan Stryder SW50 is a 50-watt lamp, so the same level as the PopSpot and slightly more powerful than the Aputure LS-mini20. The unusual design features a sloping rear panel that looks a bit like a PopSpot on its side. Like the Came Boltzen, the Stryder has a proper yoke mount, which is less portable than a simple ball head but allows a wider range of movement.
A neat thing about the Ikan Stryder is the batteries—four 18650s—go inside the head rather than clipping to the outside or attaching via cables. Alternatively you can run the light off an AC adapter.
The fresnel is not continuously adjustable; rather, the light has a built-in lens with a beam angle of 60° and then you can manually attach a 30° spot fresnel over the top. The output is daylight balanced at 5600K. Power can be adjusted all the way from 100% to 0% using the dial on the back. There is a “quiet” active cooling fan.
The Ikan Stryder is $399.99 for a single 50W head, or available in a 3×50W kit including light stands for $1199.
An utterly shameless clone of the Dedolight DLED, this is a 50W, daylight-balanced LED that appears under several names. I am not sure exactly who makes this, as it is often unbranded; the manufacturer might be Dslrk Technology, a company based in Shenzhen, China.
The FC-500A supports both AC and DC power (via V-mount batteries) and the FC-500D is a mains-power-only version. The difference is not in the head but in the ballast—the power adapter that hangs on the light stand.
There is an umbrella holder on the bottom of the head, which itself is supported by a one-sided yoke mount. The FC-500 is passively cooled with a copper heat sink—no noisy cooling fan. Beam angle is adjustable from 5° to 55° by rotating the yellow wheel. Colour temperature is fixed at 5600K daylight but a 3500K orange plastic filter is included, that slots in just behind the barndoors. Output is dimmable from 100% to 10%. TLCI is specified as “90+”.
A larger, more powerful version, the FB-800G, has a Bowens S-type accessory mount, if you want to add softboxes and other modifiers.
At $210.99 each, or £490 for a three-head kit, this is one of the cheapest options around.
Is this useful? Did I miss anything important? Let me know in the comments below.