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Zacuto's Plasma Light is the Cheapest and Softest 1x1 in Existence, But is It Better Than LED?

05.8.12 @ 8:18AM Tags : , , , , , , , , ,

We all know that LEDs are the next big movement in lighting technology — or are they? Zacuto is introducing a one-of-a-kind light panel that uses a patented micro-plasma technology not unlike what is found in a plasma television — which has phosphors that glow when energy is introduced. Of course, it’s a bit more complicated than that, but the bottom line is that this panel is softer, and has a greater lumen rating than any other 1-foot-by-1-foot panel on the market today. In the embedded video below, Steve Weiss from Zacuto gives us an introduction of the panel, as well as a walk-through of their Recoil rig, Tornado Follow Focus, and FS100 rig.

The video is a big long, but it’s very detailed, and gives a complete overview of the plasma light:

At $1350, it compares favorably to $1550 for a mono LED from Litepanels, considering this is already a soft source. LEDs are not the nicest looking source (though Arri is certainly improving the technology), but their versatility cannot be ignored. This micro-plasma display improves upon that versatility by being even thinner and lighter, and even outputs more light. Soft lights won’t be good for every purpose, but since the panel has a tremendous amount of output, it will be able to replace hard lights with soft boxes in some situations. The technology is being developed by a company called Eden Park Illumination, and some possible applications (besides filmmaking) could involve making entire walls out of these panels or simply put these panels in very tight spaces, like the shelves in a refrigerator (I’m actually really excited about those possibilities). The light isn’t available yet, but it should start shipping sometime in the next couple of months.

Here are the full specs on the Zacuto Plasma light:

  • 1×1 in 5800K Daylight or 3000K Tungsten
  • Microplasma Technology
  • Daylight: 2,000 lumens
  • Tungsten: 2,200 lumens
  • Beam Angle: 120 degrees
  • CCT: 5800 +- 100 & 3000 +- 100
  • CRI: Daylight: 82 +- 2 & Tungsten 82 +- 2
  • Lifetime: 50,000 hours
  • Surface Luminance Uniformity: 5%
  • Surface Color Uniformity: 1-step ME
  • Refresh Rate (PRF): 10,000Hz to 35,000Hz
  • Input Voltage: 100-240VAC, 50/60Hz or 14.4VDC
  • Input Current: 1.2 amps at 120VAC or 10 amps at 14.4VDC
  • Price: $1350 and a 1 year warranty


As for the Recoil rig and the Tornado, they are very interesting products that they seem to have perfected. The follow focus technology is nothing new, but it’s been integrated into the Recoil rig in a very nice way that allows for one person to completely operate the camera with the camera without moving their hands from the grips. If you don’t have a C300 (most of us don’t), then the Recoil rig will allow controlling of the main functions of the camera using the Okii device which we’ve covered here. The FS100 rig is perfectly designed for that camera, and it’s going to be very competitive with what Cinevate is doing with their own FS100 rig. The customized parts of the recoil rig and the tornado are not yet available, but the link above or below will take you to what is currently available for purchase, which doesn’t include any camera controls or follow focus.

Steve Weiss and Jim Jannard might not agree on everything, in fact, they agree on almost nothing, but they’re both introducing new and interesting products that will only help filmmaking in the long run.

Links: Zacuto & Recoil Rig

*It’s the cheapest American Made 1×1 (for clarification)

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  • Nice design. They should make versions for the $100 – $600 price range.

  • Zacuto Recoil – this is looking more and more like the shoulder mount camcorders I’ve been using for 25 years! Come on Sony, Canon and the rest , give us the shoulder mount form factor back – it’s the only thing that really works.

    • john jeffreys on 05.8.12 @ 11:21AM

      Id rather have a modular system that can be built out for different kinds of shoots, thats what the trend is now and im totally okay with it

      • c.d.embrey on 05.8.12 @ 4:29PM

        I agree with Andy. A properly designed digital cine camera needs to be no larger so-called modular designs.

        How about a Canon C300 re-design as a shoulder mount as an example.
        1. A removable hand-grip on the right side, like a 16mm Aaton http://www.aaton.com/products/film/xtera/index.php or Eclair ACL http://www.erkanumut.com/?s=acl You can also buy this hand-grip from Vocas http://www.vocas.com/accessories/wooden-handgrip-right-hand check-out the last pic (#6) to see what I like.

        2. Move the view finder from the rear to the front, just like a real camera (Arri, Aaton, Sony F65, etc) Then there would be no need to spend extra money for a Cineroid http://www.cineroid.com/ or Alphatron EVF http://www.alphatron.tv/evf.html?utm_medium=brandpage&utm_source=AlphatronTV

        Check-out this video from Solid Camera on how to do an articulated EVF right http://vimeo.com/31465467 The camera shown is a Sony F 100, with a Solid Camera rig, but this kind of dove tail/finder system could be mounted from the C300 hot shoe.

        3. With the hand-grip and the forward mounted EVF, you would be able to set the C300 on your shoulder (nothing else needed), without spending another dime, NO RIG NEEDED. By removing the hand-grip and moving the EVF to another position (or removing it entirely) the C300 would be no larger than the present camera. BTW there is NO reason to equip the C300 with a shoulder pad. We didn’t use no stinkin’ shoulder pad with either 16mm or 35mm film cameras, why would you need one with the light weight C300?

        Canon could do these simple mods without affecting the price very much, if at all..

      • Daniel Mimura on 05.15.12 @ 8:01PM

        I’m with John. A modular system offers more flexibility. Not just for different cameras, but for different features on the c300. Like if you had a monitor instead of (or in addition to) an EVF, it’s suddenly too front heavy. And I regularly use v-mounts on the back to power a BFD or an eyelight or the camera…then suddenly the shoulder mounted idea suddenly doesn’t work so well—this was easier when cameras weighed at least 15 lbs (without film), but now they’re so light, one formerly insignificant addition to weight now makes a big influence. Even looking at the D-SLR version it’s clear that, as light and comfortable as it may be…he’s using muscle to hold it upright. Those grips and rods are clearly making the center of gravity forward of the shoulder.

  • Plasma light is actually pretty impressive and by the looks of it, would be easy to pack a few of them into a pelican case for travel. I’m not even put off by the pricepoint considering the apparent quality. What I’m interested in is the warranty and support since it’s a new technology and the worst case scenario is you buy into this thing only to have a 90 day or even a single year warranty run out and then sudden the panel dies as a whole. And speaking of dying, if it’s a single glass panel, if something burns out I assume the whole panel dies?

    Regardless, looks like a nice product. I’ve never been that impressed with the LED stuff I’ve seen that wasn’t obscenely expensive so it’s good to see alternatives taking shape.

  • The Plasma and the Recoil look nice.

    It’s important to note that a Litepanels 1×1 is not $1800, if you add it to your B&H cart the price drops to $1550. And if you have a B&H discount from a group like ASMP or similar thy price is ~$1425. So, the price difference vs. the Plasma is not that great.

    Differences will depend on the quality and the output of the light but also what’s included with the LP 1×1 vs the Plasma -> it would be great if Zacuto included a battery adapter (e.g. v-mount) and a nice high quality filter pack (e.g. CTO’s for the daylight light, CTB’s for the tungsten light.) The LP 1×1 includes neither of those and it can add a bit to the price.

    • Joe Marine on 05.8.12 @ 3:11PM

      You’re right, thanks for that. The Litepanels LEDs have been out for awhile so it makes a lot of sense that the price would come down.

      • Great in depth video. Thanks for all the hard work.

        That Plasma light does look nice. While the LP 1×1′s are plastic they are very rugged. It’ll be interesting to see if the Plasma have a better CRI and if the glass on them is a plus or if they need more care in handling because of it.

        • Joe Marine on 05.8.12 @ 5:57PM

          Absolutely – yeah Steve was kind enough to spend as much time as I needed. Just looked at the Zacuto sheet that I got at NAB, it looks like CRI is about 82, which compares to 84 and 75 for the LitePanels daylight and tungsten panels, respectively.

  • Great video! Nice job. It feels like the plasma light is a must have for me right now. Really fell in love with it by just watching.

  • Zacuto Recoil as in most of us will be sent recoiling back in horror at the ridiculous price of it? For those of you who insist on shiny pretty red highlighted things I’d just wait a couple of months – I’m sure Gini will have an equivalent rig out soon that will be a fraction of the price. I’m all for “Buy American” but come on guys, who are you competing with? Bugatti? Rolls Royce?

    • john jeffreys on 05.8.12 @ 9:32PM

      Is there stuff made well at least? I have used cheapo ebay/”indie” rigs and they are awful, some of them are not even machined straight and all my shots were lopsided. I would certainly pay more for something that is built well, accurately, and will last for most of my career

  • “Steve Weiss and Jim Jannard might not agree on everything, in fact, they agree on almost nothing, but they’re both introducing new and interesting products that will only help filmmaking in the long run.”

    With all due respect this seems completely unrelated to the article Joe and a bit instigative.

  • Thanks for the news. To be honest, the plasma light looks great. the beam angle and CRI are both improved compared with LEDs. For some guys the price is affortable according to its qulity and light out, but for more folks, the price is high. Anyhow, we are all looking forward to the new product and technology.

  • Interesting… But how does 5800K / 3000K mix with 5600K or 3200K? Guess most of us will be combining several light sources.

    • Also, they don’t say anything about the continuity of the color temperature when you dim it. To me, this is key.

    • is low 80s CRI the standard for LED panels still? and the price on the plasma light is indeed expensive. It’s worth noting that despite the luminosity of the panel, the accuracy of the color temperature, as well as the purity, per se, I feel, are more important when shooting. though things can be fixed in post, adds time to the project as a whole, aside from matching colors in the first place. I only say this because of ikan’s efforts to sell high CRI led panels–coming soon, at that.

  • For me the most exciting lights were from PRG with new Remote Phosphor tech:

    http://www.prgtrucolor.com/node/8

    400 watts for 4k of output anyone? HELL YES!!!

  • This is not the cheapest 1 x 1 panel in existence. The manda CN 900 is, you just have to go to china for it.
    http://www.dslrnewsshooter.com/2012/03/22/a-tale-of-two-led-lights-litepanels-1×1-compared-to-a-manda-cn-900-hsa/

    • Joe Marine on 05.9.12 @ 3:11PM

      That’s an interesting light. I should add *American Made* to the cheapest part.

  • Plasma lighting rocks! LED’s are handy for some applications, but I agree they are “harsh” as softlights. Many DP’s, including myself, often put diffusion on LED’s to soften them. Of course this reduces footcandle output. The quality of light looks really nice for a small unit. I hope they will enable users to “gang” panels together to create a larger panel. Better yet, I hope they will be able to engineer larger panels that are still very thin. A
    4 x 4 would be awesome. That would compete very nicely with Kino flos which I prefer over LED’s in most cases. I predict that plasma lighting will seriously cut into the HMI and fluorescent light markets as the price comes down. The plasma hive lights are very impressive – though pricey. Many advantages of plasma over HMI’s: more lumens for lower wattage, less heat, more color consistent, tungsten color option. Having thin square panels would make softer light and easier to hide units than current fluorescent units. Like Richard, I’m very curious about color temp with dimming. They are so bright, they will need to be dimmed at close range. I think making tungsten balance at 3000 is a good move as far as mixing with other sources. When you are working with tungsten sources for soft lighting, the color temperature is always warmer due to the effect of diffusion or bounce boards. That’s why Kinoflo came out with 2900 tubes. Many DP’s feel that the 3200 tubes are too cool when used with other soft tungsten sources. I’m not so clear as to why they would make their daylight source 5800K and not the standard 5600 or 5500. For the same reason as above, I would prefer a warmer “daylight” at 5200 – 5300K. It remains to be seen how durable the Zacuto units will be.
    But they look pretty nice!

    • Daniel Mimura on 05.15.12 @ 8:13PM

      I too am very skeptical of those color temperatures. I just want all my lights to be of matching color temperatures out of the box. When I want to deviate from this, that’s when I want to gel it…not just to match my other fixtures!

      My kinoflo four bank and diva 400 have 3200 bulbs. They dont even make 3200 9″ mini-flo bulbs anymore and 2900 is noticeably different.

      It’s weird that Zacuto & Kinoflo and others want to second guess what a DP should be deciding. Give us a baseline like Kodak used to do. (3200/5500).

      I’m stoked on seeing the plasma lights. It couldn’t be worse than LEDs.

  • I priced the PRG HS here in aust, at $3500′ish, that’s more then I cam buy a 1.2k HMI for :( … However I’d love to check them out as the size n heat etc should leave any HMI for dead :)

    I’m over the hundreds of tiny multi shadows that my led 1×1 etc make, then try diffusing any thing gets light output cut down by half etc … LEDs suck!.. I’m now using a bunch of comer 3w led x 10 diffused which is barely ok..

    Gimmi plasma now Zacuto!

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