The Aputure LS 600x Pro Brings Flexibility to Power

The LS 600 has been Aputure's most powerful unit for a few years, but now it adds flexibility to the table.

The other day I was teaching a night exterior workshop and was all set up to have a backlight rigged on a 1.25K HMI with a generator.

It's a pretty standard night exterior setup on lower-budget productions. Get the biggest HMI you can afford (18K on a big show, 4K on a medium show, and an M18 on a little show), put it as high in the air and as far back as you can, and get a little gentle backlight on your performers to help separate them out from the background.

Unfortunately, the generator in this case needed oil. While someone went out to get some oil for the generator, I remembered I had just that morning received a demo unit of the new Aputure LS 600x Pro, and I thought, Well, it runs on batteries, so it'll work, let's try it.

Within about 10 minutes, we had the light up and powered by batteries. 

Of course, I wasn't planning on using the LS 600x Pro, so I hadn't charged my batteries to prepare, and we were running off whatever charge was still sitting in them from another shoot a week earlier. But we got the unit up on the stick, powered up, and were back to teaching and shooting relatively quickly, off battery power.

That lasted us way longer than we expected, easily still having juice an hour later when the generator was back up. Open faced on the unit, about 10 feet away from the head, we were getting a reading of a 4 when set to 800 ISO on our meter. Plenty to work with when we walked our actors further away to separate out foreground and background. 

When we finally got the generator working, the 1.2K HMI only gave us a 5.6 in the same spot, and that light had a fresnel on it, which usually doubles or triples output depending on the spot/flood setting.

It was a really great moment of feeling, "Yes, LED units have absolutely arrived."

The Aputure LS 600d has been the most powerful unit from Aputure for a few years now and has been incredibly popular. It seems like every time you are stopping by someone's apartment for a Sharegrid pickup, you see at least one 600 case sitting by the door as the "affordable to own, but flexible and useful light" that a lot of filmmakers have embraced. With the new 600x version of the light, you get almost the same power, but with the added benefit of shifting color temperature.

The perk of the 600x units from Aputure is that you can dial in the color temperature, from 2700K all the way up to 6500K. Since in the digital era we largely shoot daylight balanced (CMOS sensors are lower noise when shooting closer to 6500K), X isn't something that we always obsessed about, but it was actually a real perk here and one we think will be really useful. 

We could adjust the unit from its control pack on the ground to gently match the background lights. Whenever you work with a night exterior, you are working with whatever base level of light the scene offers and building off of it. What are the streetlights/skyline/etc giving you and how can you match it so your lights feel natural? With a straight 6500K LED unit, you either need to gel to match or hope your pure light source will match whatever is there. 

With an X unit, you can tweak.

A lot of streetlights land a bit warmer. Low-pressure sodium is super duper warm, but even high-pressure sodium tends to be a little bit warm. Even if you just want to lower the kelvin down to 5000K or 4500K to match a specific set of streetlights or building lights, being able to do that quickly is a real perk when matching your lights to the scene.

The drawback to the X units is of course a slight decrease in peak brightness, about 1/3 to a half stop off from what you would see with the equivalent D unit.

It's a trade-off that is well worth it for a lot of situations, but if you are planning shoots where the absolute output is all that matters (an all-night exterior indie feature with lots of slow-motion shots where you will want the units as far away as possible), the 600d might treat you better, though having that 600x flex to really match your ground lighting is huge.

One thing to appreciate about the Aputure LS 600x Pro as well is that it's compatible with all the modifiers that Aputure has rolled out over the last few years.

A lot of bi-color lights have issues when mounting fresnel filters with excessive color fringing, but Aputure has designed the LS 600x Pro and accessories together to make for light that filmmakers can slot into their existing workflows. 

According to Brandon Le of Aputure, "We use a CSP LED chipset with a checkerboard array of warm white and cool white LEDs. These LEDs are then mixed by a custom-designed optical prism that effectively outputs a cohesive illumination circle like a COB."

They've designed the LED array to output in a fashion that mimics a single point source of light so that it will work more effectively with adapters like fresnels, which focus output.

Where the unit really comes alive is in combination with those fresnel lenses or other modifiers. The vast majority of traditional film lights come with a fresnel lens built right in to give you more output forward from the light, and to help give you control over the spread of your light.

Pop on the F10 modifier, and all of a sudden, the LS 600x Pro starts to feel like a real direct competitor to a unit like a 1.25K HMI, which is an absolute workhorse on film sets large and small. The F10 pops up your frontal output about 3x, which would have been more than enough to match the HMI unit in our teaching demo. All while only drawing 720 watts of power versus the 1250-watt draw of the HMI.

You could get two LS 600x Pro units in a typical wall outlet while you can only get a single 1.25K HMI.

The LS 600x Pro is also, like the LS 600d Pro before it, weatherproof, which is a first for Aputure lights and a real benefit considering the typical situations these lights are going to find themselves.

While you can use a smaller unit like an L300 wherever you want, and the LS 600x Pro will obviously work indoors, it's going to be a workhorse on smaller productions outdoors. For that, it's great that it will work in light rain.

This is a good time to remind folks that "weatherproof" means light rain for pretty much all film gear. The kind of rains we saw with Hurricane Ida is not what any film lighting gear is designed for, and please don't use "weatherproof gear" as an excuse to shoot through truly dangerous conditions. But if a gentle rain starts to fall, you don't have to freak out, and you can use this unit as a backlight to pop out that rain and really see it on film if you want.

There are a ton of little details you shouldn't sleep on with the LS 600x Pro as well. It's a base unit, which can be set up with either V or Gold mount plates, and can also work as a battery charger. So roll up to set, and you've got your charger with you that you can use to keep your batteries ready to go. It has a dual junior and baby pin, which is especially useful for the wide variety of mounting settings you are going to run into. 

The whole system comes back all together in a rolling case with a handle and wheels, which makes it easy to get around, and occupies a fairly small footprint. The case has a little bit of room for stuffing in spare batteries, if you are so inclined.

The ballast is larger than previous units like the 300d, meaning that it's less likely to be something you want to rig up onto a stand the way you might with that light. It's going to be most comfortable on the ground, but it has enough of a generous head feeder length to make that a doable scenario.

In a really nice touch, the LS 600x Pro comes with an attachment to mount the base unit on a stand. It's a slick design, with a small mounting block on the ballast that doesn't get in the way when you aren't using it on a stand, but is secure enough to hold the unit when you need to. 

Color, which once was the bane of LEDs, is coming along quite nicely, with the unit putting out pleasing numbers to the color meter and looking pleasing on subjects. 

As someone who never loved HMI lights for their discontinuous color spectrum, LEDs definitely feel like a step up. They still don't match tungsten units for color, but tungsten units need so much power, and get so hot, that they just aren't practical on a lot of smaller sets where the room can get roasting hot.

This unit will give you strong output, and while it does get hot, it doesn't seem to get tungsten hot.

Overall, the benefits of the LS 600x Pro outweigh the 1/3 of a stop loss you get from adding Bi-Color.

Aputure has done an impressive job of creating a flexible unit that is going to benefit a whole host of workflows and productions. While we wait on final pricing on the new 1200-watt unit they have coming, the price/power ratio on the LS 600x Pro makes it an attractive unit. 

Available now.     

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