Wireless video lighting: Pixel Sonnon DL-912 LED review

Barney Shortman tries out Pixel's new Sonnon LED video lights featuring "wireless synchronisation". Are they any good?

Pixel Sonnon DL-912 LED

Straight out of the box, I had a good feeling about these little LED lights from Pixel. Although advertised as continuous photography lights, their application for ‘run and gun’ videography seemed obvious so I was keen to test them out to compare them to LEDs I had used in the past, especially given their handy wireless synch function.

First the un-boxing. Carefully packaged, each light comes with a white and an orange diffuser, a battery adapter for a Canon LP-E6 battery and an adapter for a Nikon EN-EL15 battery. The light has a great finish to it, with no loose parts and a generally sturdy structure that gives it the look and feel of a product well above its price bracket.

Pixel Sonnon DL-912 LED

Another feature I soon noticed, that puts it a step above most other products, is the number of power options available to run these dinky little lights. As with most on-camera LED lights, you have the option to cram a load of standard AA batteries into the body (six in this circumstance), but Pixel have cleverly managed to squeeze in enough power options to keep shooters from every camera preference happy and potentially save money on expensive AAs in the long run.

As previously mentioned, adapters are included for Canon and Nikon batteries, but it is also able to house a number of lithium batteries from the Sony NP range too. And if that wasn’t enough for you, there is an external power socket to connect the light to a larger battery or DC power source between 7V and 12V. Plenty of options for getting juice into those little LEDs, and given their lower power consumption I was able to run these lights for pretty much a full days filming without having to change a battery.

Pixel Sonnon DL-912 LED

The advantages of using LED lighting for most smaller productions are obvious. For example: weddings. I used two of these LEDs at a recent wedding to throw a little light on the bride and groom for the first dance. Set up on a separate little tripod, the lights were unobtrusive and didn’t blind the couple. They also weren’t getting hot, which was essential in a packed room of wedding guests! Plus, the photographer thanked me afterwards for the additional light provided as it helped with his photos!

The functionality of the lights is pretty straightforward and gives you a decent range of flexibility when it comes to lighting a subject. Light output is controlled by one dial, with an ‘On/Off’ button in the centre, that can be twisted clockwise and counter-clockwise to adjust the brightness. The dial is however quite small and I found it easier to scroll the wheel up and down with my thumb rather than spin it with my fingers.

Pixel Sonnon DL-912 LED

Fiddly bits aside though, the 106-LED light packs quite a punch for its size. With filters removed, it provides around 500 lumens of pure white light, enough to fill a small room on its own. The addition of the white and orange filters gives you a little more freedom to diffuse the light slightly or to change the colour temperature, giving off a softer, warmer light. The filters also help to hide the glare of the LEDs from subjects, and while filming interviews I found the white diffuser invaluable for this reason.

If more light is needed, you can join several lights together with a simple built-in screw system. Although easy to use, the joints are a little flimsy and I’m not sure how comfortable I would feel attaching loads of these things together as I doubt the lower row of lights would be able to withstand the weight.

Pixel Sonnon DL-912 LED

However, the introduction of more lights does bring about another nifty feature of the Sonnon DL-912: wireless synchronisation. On the back of each light are buttons labelled ‘A’, ‘B’ and ‘C’. Set all your lights to the ‘A’ function and adjusting the brightness on one adjusts them all to the same level. Brilliant! This feature is especially useful when several lights are joined together so you don’t have to adjust each light individually, and likewise if you have several lights set up in different locations.

Pixel Sonnon DL-912 LED

Different button combinations can be activated at the same time, allowing you to group certain lights under certain combinations. Essentially this means you can have loads of different lights dotted about set to different frequencies, and they can all be controlled individually from one central unit. Pretty cool. The wireless transmission distance is good too and there doesn’t seem to be a limit on how many lights you can hook up at one time. In the field, I didn’t find any issues with the wireless synch function of these lights, and I was happy to see this function working so well in a product of this price category.

So, a quick breakdown of the good and bad points of this product. On the plus side, these little lights have truly surprised me in terms of functionality and build quality. They feel like a premium product and unlike some pieces of kit that market themselves as “professional” or “premium”, these LEDs actually deliver.

However, there were a couple of niggling issues I had with them. First and foremost, they lacked any kind of basic accessories (other than the filters) out of the box. Granted, these are marketed as photography lights and they do have the standard 1/4-inch screw hole to attach them to tripods, but I was expecting to see at least a hot-shoe adapter. Also, and this was more of a test to see how rugged the lights actually were, sometimes the adapters for the Canon and Nikon batteries would lose their connection and turn off if the light was accidentally knocked. This was particularly annoying as it resets the wireless synch on that particular light. Thankfully this didn’t happen often and was a pretty easy issue to rectify.

If I’m honest, for the price you pay I can’t really fault these little lights. Sure, there are better, more expensive LED lights available out there, but if you are looking for a light that is packed with functions, features and flexibility at an entry-level price point, the Sonnon DL-912 gets my vote any day.

Pixel Sonnon DL-912 LEDs are available on eBay for around £40 (about US$60). Contact Pixel Enterprise for further information.

Barney Shortman is a freelance videographer at Shortman Productions. Follow him on Twitter @BarneyShortman.