June 22, 2016 at 11:28AM


Light Kits: LED or tungsten?

I'm in search of a new light kit, and I remember how much I loved using the Arri Fresnel light kits a few years ago. Are these kits future proof and worth the new investment? Or are LED kits now more functional than anything else?


Tungsten light has a CRI of 100. LED sources range from truly horrible to mid 90s. ARRI make nice LED freshness with decent (not perfect) CRI in a range of sizes. But all are much more expensive and heavier than their tungsten counterparts. I like my L7-C instruments, but I still use my tungsten sources, too.

June 22, 2016 at 2:36PM, Edited June 22, 2:36PM


Good LED lights will cost quite a bit more than their tungsten equivalents, but they run cool and can be daylight balanced without using any filters, so they're an easy match to window light. You can also run them for hours on batteries.

As far as what to buy, you'll have to tell us what you want to shoot and what your budget is, as the range of available lights is huge. ( i.e. Mole Richardson has introduced a large LED Fresnel light that runs from a regular household AC power outlet but puts out the equivalent to 10,000 Watts of tungsten light in either daylight or tungsten color balance )

June 22, 2016 at 2:48PM

Guy McLoughlin
Video Producer

Apologies if I'm hijacking at all, but I'm also interested...

I'd like to get a decent LED in the near future. The low power usage matters to me both for convenience and environmental reasons. If I wanted to spend up to £1000 (ideally lower though if still good quality) on an LED panel or fresnel style, is there a good option to start with? Or is that already not enough money?

June 28, 2016 at 9:39AM

Liam Martin
DP, editor, part time director

For current LED lights, here are the ones I would be looking at...

Aputure Amaran AL-H160 Light : $50 US

Aputure LS-C20 Fresnel LED Light : $200 US

Aputure Amaran HR672S Light : $275 US

CAME-TV Ultra Slim LED Lights : Start at $288 US

Aputure COB-120T Light : About $600 US

Aputure Light Storm LS1 Light : $695 US

All of these lights are dimable and produce accurate color, and most can be run from batteries when you are working on location.

June 29, 2016 at 9:39AM

Guy McLoughlin
Video Producer

Some things to consider:

1) Light Quality/Color: I feel that with the newer LED’s, the difference in color quality vs. tungsten is minimal. Check out http://www.gtc.org.uk/members-area/tlci-results.aspx.

2) Type of Light: You had mentioned that you enjoyed FRESNEL lights in the past. The quality of light created by a Fresnel is different from many of the LED lights available today that are of the Panel type (LitePanels, Cineo, ARRI S-30/60, etc). There are also Fresnel LED's too (Mole, ARRI, etc).

I would recommend you determine which of the two types you are most interested in. Personally, if I had to choose just one type, it would a Fresnel/hard light since, "you can always make a hard light soft, but you can't make a soft light hard."

3) Return on investment (ROI): Ultimately, you want the, "best bang for your buck." Consider that, currently, a single ARRI 650 is about $450. A VariMole Bi-Color LED is about $900. The cost to operate a single ARRI 650 for about 8hrs is about $.94 (using $.18 per kilowatt-hour, avg. for NY). The cost to operate a VariMole LED for same period is going to be about 1/3 that, or about $.29.

That represents a $.65 savings per day. With a price difference of about $450, how many days would you need to operate your “new” LED light to get a return on investment? Hint…a really long time (even if you factor in the cost for lamps).

At a studio I recently “spec'ed” lights for, the main concern was power savings. Using a similar formula, we determined that the larger the light source (2k, 5k, 10k, etc) being replaced, the quicker the ROI going LED; lower wattage, the longer the ROI. As such, we opted to replace larger lights with LED but retain tungsten lights for smaller wattages until cost of comparable LED’s came down.

4) Non-tangibles: As a counter argument, a VariMole LED is bi-color, so you could reason that your getting, “two lights in one.” Which could equate to an immediate RIO.

LED lights also afford you the ability to make actors more comfortable (less heat); you can say your, “GREEN”; and you have the “cool” factor of using the cutting edge.

Long story short, you can be practical and not get caught up in the “new hotness” frenzy, or you can think outside the box and look at the non-tangibles. If you were to go the LED route, I think the VariMole 200w LED is probably to closest replacement to the ARRI Fresnel’s you enjoyed so much in the past!

June 30, 2016 at 6:54AM, Edited June 30, 6:54AM

John Dimalanta
Freelance Photographer/Cinematographer

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