For almost two decades, Astera has been developing battery-powered LED solutions for narrative filmmaking, documentaries, and events, culminating in its popular Titan Tube lights.
With the new Astera HydraPanel, the German company is taking its first step into panel lights, bringing its Titan LED Engine to a new form factor.
Since the Titan Tube line is such a popular choice for filmmakers, how will the new light benefit filmmakers? Well, we met with Astera at Cinegear 2022 and spoke with Thor André (what a name!) to get all the info. Here’s what we discovered.
The Astera HydraPanel
The new panel light is a step away from Astera’s usual products. While it is entirely a new form factor, the HydraPanel builds upon the existing tech already in use.
Popularized by its tube lights, you can now find the Astera Titan LED Engine inside a panel light. This integrated assembly of full-spectrum LEDs comes in a unique array of RGBMintAmber, and pumps out an impressive 1300 Lumens. 1298 Lumens at 5500K, to be exact. All while drawing 25 watts.
Astera also includes TruColor Calibration for exact color reproduction of color temperature and filter gels, with a claimed CRI of at or above 96 between 3200-6500K.
Each unit includes a built-in CRMX module and wired DMX via Astera PowerBox, along with the ability for users to adjust green/magenta correction. All of these features can be controlled via the rear panel. Furthermore, because it uses pixel LED technology, users can quickly build programs out of colors and effects, which can then be triggered or made to match a beat. The music video applications are super cool to think about.
The slider is also touch sensitive.Credit: Astera
A single unit weighs just 604g (or 1.3lb) and measures 6.53 inches in length. It comes with an adjustable stand that connects via a hot shoe to the light, which makes it super versatile. The stand can be used on its own or rigged to literally anything via its many connection points.
The rear of the unit also has a powerful magnet, so you can stick this bad boy on anything metal. But that's not all, you'll also get a BabyPin that can be used with a grip head or other clamps.
screw it into a 4x4 or onto a tripodCredit: Astera
The HydraPanel is rated at IP65, which makes it "dust tight" and protected against water projected from a nozzle. This means you can keep it out in the rain while shooting, and you won’t have a problem. Just don’t go dunking it in the water. At least on purpose. If it's an accident, there may be a chance you can get away without any damage.
Best of all, the entire unit is powered by an internal battery. But this is where things get interesting.
Power and Output
The Astera HydraPanel is said to run for up to 20 hours. However, that won’t be at peak brightness. When set to max output (just under 1300 Lumens), the runtime will be reduced to a claimed 1 hour 45 minutes. But the whole unit can be recharged in about 3 hours via a DC input.
Now, this is where Astera throws in a twist. You can run a HydraPanel based on how long you need it to function. By setting the runtime in hours, the unit adjusts the max output.
Did we mention it's magnetic?Credit: Astera
For example, if you have a quick shoot, set the runtime to Max, and you’ll get 1300 Lumens of output which you can dim as needed. But if your project is running long and you know you won’t need all that brightness, you can adjust the unit to 5 hours or 8 hours (all the way up to 20 hours) and have your unit run longer with reduced maximum brightness. While setting the runtime to 20 hours will barely give you enough light for a fill, there are definitely a lot of use cases for effect lighting.
It’s a different approach to lighting and power management that will take some time to get used to, but it opens up a lot more versatility for creatives.
Accessories and Expansion
Each HydraPanel unit comes with six modifiers, either to diffuse the light or adjust the beam angle.
Two egg crate modifiers can adjust the beam angle from 40° to 100°, while two diffusion panels help soften the light. There’s also a clear plastic panel for attaching gels. Finally, there’s a unique diffusion panel that has a fresnel-like quality to it which Astera calls an Intensifier. Not only does it soften the light, but it also magnifies it. According to our friend Thor, this diffusion panel only reduces the output by 5 Lumens.
HydraPanel modifiersCredit: Astera
The coolest thing we discovered about the HydraPanel is that you can connect four of them in a row. But this isn’t just a dummy connection. The new Astera panel light uses IR to provide a seamless connection between all four (or fewer) panels in the row. When all of them are connected, you can control the entire collection from one panel.
You can also use the dual DC ports on each unit to daisy chain HydraPanels together so they can share power. This means that not all of them have to be fully charged for this setup to work.
Finally, the HydraPanel can be wirelessly controlled via the Astera ARC1 app, an AsteraBox, or via a LumenRadio transmitter.
Three units acting as one.Credit: Astera
Availability and Review
The Astera HydraPanel is now available for preorder and will cost $400 a pop. This will get you a single unit, along with the six modifiers, a connector plate, and a 1/4″-20 BabyPin for clamping it onto grip heads.
While it’s not as cheap as an Aputure MC light, you’re getting a whole lot more versatility and output.
- Measures 6.53 x 3.34 x 1.71"
- Up to 1300 Lumens Output
- 3200-6500K Color Temperature Range
- CRI/TLCI: 96
We were graciously loaned a preproduction unit to test out, so keep an eye out for our review of the Astera HydraPanel. If you’ve already grabbed your credit card and put in your pre-order, let us know in the comments what you think when it finally arrives!