March 16, 2018

Small LED Shootout: Can You Replace Your Big Studio Lights with Tiny LEDs?

These tiny LEDs really pack a punch.

One of the trickiest and most frustrating tasks on a film set is choosing, setting up, and adjusting all of those big, bright lights. It takes a lot of time, space, and money to work with a professional lighting kit, but what if you were able to scale down the size of your lights without losing output or even one red cent of your lighting budget?

In this video, Caleb Pike of DSLR Video Shooter reviews five small LED lights that not only work really well with low-light cameras, like the a7S II, D5, and GH5, but also won't force you to deal with a ton of grain. Check it out below:

The five small LEDs Pike demos in the video are the Aputure M9 ($45), the Viltrox L132T ($37), the Aputure H198 ($58), the Came-TV Boltzen B30S ($328), and a pre-release mystery light that he'll talk about in a future video. (Links to all of these lights are in the video description.) He also uses some 4x4s for diffusion and bounce.

Now, the whole point of the test was to see if smaller LEDs could be used in place of larger lighting units, and I think that Pike did a great job demonstrating that, yes, it's totally feasible. However, there are likely some other issues that you'll run into when using small, inexpensive LEDs, for instance, low CRI (poor color rendering accuracy), limited fixture features, etc. So, be sure to compare your options and anticipate potential problems before you're blindsided later on in production.

In the end, if you're tired of lugging around big studio lights everywhere, want to reduce your production's power consumption, or just want to save some money on lighting, you might want to consider giving these five LEDs a look.

Which small LED lights would you recommend to low-budget filmmakers? Let us know down in the comments below.      

Your Comment

10 Comments

Another of those guys where you can't really find any of their actual work that would give them merit to give advice about this gear to others.

Falls in the same category as Peter McKinnon and Travel Feels.

March 17, 2018 at 4:46AM

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Torben Greve
Cinematographer
1015

He as a Star wars Tee, maybe was part of the crew?

March 17, 2018 at 8:50AM

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visionrouge.com
DoP freelance cameraman 4K HK & Shanghai.
107

Couldn't agree more. There are a whole breed of bloggers and you-tubers who don't seem to do anything other than talk about gear or do tutorials, with little to no filmmaking experience.

Also...that trope of earnestly looking into the middle distance at 60fps, I want that to end now.

March 17, 2018 at 9:00AM

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Liam Martin
DP, editor, part time director
840

It seems to be the "norm" now, not just in photography and videography. Sell the dream, I can make you an expert at "fill in the blank" ... If you can sell a few thousand people "something" for $50 from the comfort of your couch ... we'll there you go.....

March 17, 2018 at 11:20AM

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What "merit" do you need more than what he is clearly showing in his videos unless you have your eyes closed. He is talking about the usability of small LED lights with cameras that can shoot cleanly at high ISOs, not advanced cinematography techniques. Caleb is hitting the mark exactly where his target is. Cinematographer snobs can look elsewhere if they require seeing a polished reel from a presenter before actually looking at what is being presented.

March 19, 2018 at 8:19AM

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Benton Collins
Camera aimer
255

I just knew I couldn't have been the only person thinking this about the film vloggers.

March 20, 2018 at 10:18AM

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Don Way
Writer/Director of Photography
967

PWAATSUPP EVERYBODY! HERE ARE 5 OBVIOUS TIPS TO SHOOT BETTER PHOTOS! walks off into the sunset at 120fps :D

Its pretty obvious guys like MacKinnon and travel feels give videography advice for prosumers who want to improve their youtube channel or small wedding videography business.

There are youtube channels with industry pros giving real industry advice (wolfcrow, cinematography database just to name a couple) Just take your pick and subscribe to whoever fits you! or not!

my two cents.

March 28, 2018 at 9:04AM

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Arturo Dickson
WEAR ALL HATS
16

Short answer: no, you can't replace big lights by small ones

March 17, 2018 at 10:50AM, Edited March 17, 10:50AM

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JeffreyWalther
Steadicam Operator/Owner
1592

Cameras that can shoot cleanly at ultra high ISOs is the key factor in using small lights where big lights were once needed. Big lights will always be needed, but as ISO numbers increase, smaller ones will be able to replace bigger ones in certain circumstances.

March 19, 2018 at 8:31AM

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Benton Collins
Camera aimer
255

I just tested our new setup for simple talking head shots and webinars today. It consists of two Nanguang CN-30F 30W LED COB fresnel spotlights with 2’x3’ Godox softboxes. They produce a gorgeous flattering soft light and can be dimmed to taste. That said, the output was a bit underwhelming. I had to remove the fresnel and second diffusion layer in the softbox to ensure enough light was coming through at about 1.5m from the subject. This is for a GH4, not a GH5s though, and I wouldn’t want to push it much higher than ISO800, but for this kind of setup, I don’t have to. Looks great!

March 21, 2018 at 6:20AM, Edited March 21, 6:23AM

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Guido Gautsch
Education Person
338