Which Cheap On-Camera Video LED Light is Best?

On-camera lighting is mostly used for ENG/documentary filming, but in a pinch it can be used to subtlety add to a dramatic scene. Especially in tracking shots, you'll often see a grip walking a Kino-Flo alongside the camera, to keep a consistent light in the talent's eyes. Of course, that's not really "on-camera" lighting; while cheap LED lights that mount to a camera's hot shoe are not going to offer the same quality, for news gathering and other uses they can certainly be handy. Thanks to Frank Glencairn, we now have a shootout between five different LED options, four of which are in the sub-$100 range.

The models Frank tested:

Here's a video comparing the light output of these models:

Video is no longer available: vimeo.com/18375201

Frank's conclusion (the full article is linked below):

I'm a bit undecided. The NG 126 and the LitepanelsMicro look outdated, compared to the newer lights. The Z96 has the best daylight balance and the nicest overall light, but the YONGNUO 160 is much more powerful. The YONGNUO 135 is somewhere in between them... If I have to choose one (and until I need a real strong light), I think I would go with the Z96, because of the superb light quality and it has a dimming wheel instead of buttons.

I have a Frezzolini Micro on-camera light, which I bought years ago before the advent of LED lights. If memory serves me right, I paid over $500 for the Frezzi (which I've used only a couple of times over the years), so regardless of which one of these LED lights you might be interested in, it's nice to know that there are some good, inexpensive options out there.

Link: The Cheap Video LED Light Shootout - Frank Glencairn

[via ProVideo Coalition]

Your Comment


I have the Z96. Loved it till it died on me just this week. Ergh!

January 5, 2011 at 12:09PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


Don't forget the Microlight 128 from Flolight. I purchased 3 of them months ago and love them. They have a few issues (heavy, filter holders distort from the heat of the light, and of course the price). I've used just those 3 lights for many formal interviews, but always wanted a bit more. Today, 4 Z96's arrived. I just had to order them because of the price. $350 for 4 of them! Light output is fantastic. Completely different color temp than my Microlights which are significantly green and require a filter, but the build quality of the Z96 is a joke!! I cannot open the battery cover without significant effort! When shooting in the field, I am often in a rush and screwing with a stupid battery cover will be a big frustration! You cannot attach a Sony battery to the back without first swinging open the cover. I'll likely have to "fix" them with some sandpaper making the cover a bit smaller. Linking the 4 lights together required so much effort, using cheap plastic connectors, I was afraid I might not get them apart without damage. I did get them apart, but it was extremely difficult.

I purchased the kit of for from coollcd.com. It includes a single Sony battery holder, and a cable so that one battery can power all 4 lights. But, even with the LARGE Sony battery, the 4 lights require too much power and when all 4 are on, an internal fuse in the battery shuts it down. This occurred with all 6 of my batteries! They were not permanently damaged - simply placing them on the charger for a few seconds reset whatever internal fuse tripped. But, this problem makes that battery holder useless.

One more test: I loaded the light with 5 AA NiMH batteries, 2600 mAh and turned the light on bright, just to see how long the batteries would last. I was very happy to see they lasted 2 full hours before I noticed significant dimming. When I removed the batteries, they were so hot, I could not hold them in my hand. So, as long as you don't keep it on that long at once, you should be fine, but that much drain causing that much heat is not good for batteries.

Conclusion: for the price, the Z96 is worth it, but in comparison to the Microlight, you get what you pay for as far as build quality.

January 5, 2011 at 6:02PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


I just popped for an ALZO 790 - 1000 LUX for $93. Takes AA batts and Sony Li-ion. Adapters available for Panasonic and Canon EP batteries. Came with 3 filters (diffuser, CTO & minus green). First studio test was really impressive - lots of light, nice dimmer. Looking forward to field test next week.

January 6, 2011 at 1:33PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


Thanks Rich, let us know how it goes!

January 6, 2011 at 2:27PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM

Ryan Koo

No flicker?

May 22, 2012 at 8:04AM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


Real useful piece. Very informative.

Thanks Koo!


January 8, 2011 at 6:45AM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


Looks like Yongnuo 160 is now only $75 (free shipping) which leaves the competition far behind. Mine is on the way.

January 11, 2011 at 11:56AM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


Just ordered the Z96. Very excited to get it.

January 22, 2011 at 7:57AM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


Apparently some people have had flicker problems with the Yongnuo 160.

Did anyone had such problems?

May 22, 2012 at 8:01AM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


If because the battery is in low capacity, the flicker is not a problem. Nearly all of the led lights would flick when the battery power is not enough. It indicates that you need to change battery or charge the battery.

Z96 LED Light is a great on camera lighting. Since it came into people's eye, the light was worthy the price. But you should distinguish the knockoff one. some in low qulity lights were branded "HDV-Z96". The right one is from F&V company from China.

June 8, 2012 at 12:38AM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM