Litepanels Gemini 1x1 Hard Review: Their Best RGBWW Fixture Yet

Credit: Litepanels
LED innovator Litepanels has released the Gemini 1x1 Hard, a full RGBWW unit that packs a lot of punch in a small package.

The big trade-off we all make with lighting units is, "Will it be soft, which is more flattering, but usually won't throw as far? Or will it be powerful, which usually means a harder, less flattering light?"

Litepanels, one of the driving forces in LED lighting, has released Gemini 1x1 Hard, a new RGBWW light that's designed to bridge the gap between those two worlds. 

Overview

With an incredibly bright output of over 3,000 lux at 10ft (3m), Gemini 1x1 Hard is one of the brightest 1x1 light sources on the market today. The 46° beam angle can be set up for softness when you need it but is versatile enough to give you power and control in a wide variety of situations. The reason Litepanels chose a 46° beam angle is because it's the same standard used by the Astra 6X, a popular LED panel available in daylight or bi-color options. 

Even more impressive is that the Gemini 1x1 Hard bridges two other worlds. It's an RGBWW unit, which means it has the full selection of RGB light output along with dedicated bulbs for both daylight and tungsten white light settings for full color customization.

Pure RGB units often struggle to output high intensity and color-accurate white light, so having an RGBWW unit gives you the flexibility of both a wide color selection from the RGB units and high output and accuracy from WW.

Having an RGBWW spectrum, the Gemini 1x1 Hard will tune a better color spectrum than the Astra series.  

Impressions

We got a chance to spend a few days to test the Gemini 1x1 Hard, and we were impressed, more than anything else, with its pure light volume, especially since it can be rigged to run off a single battery, though we recommend dual battery setups for longer runtimes.

The fixture accepts 10-33V DC power, so it'll adapt well when 24V setups become more common on set.

While technical measures like 3,000 lux at 10 feet are of course useful if you work in lux frequently, I always like to see what stop I'm getting since I more frequently work in f-stops with my gaffer.

The unit at full power in daylight mode puts out around an F/11 at 12 feet if you are shooting at 800 ISO 24fps, 180° shutter. That's a powerful punch that gives you the ability to start thinking of this unit for a hot backlight when you want something giving you 4-5 over key in a dramatic scene.

With its lightweight design, it's going to be easy to rig, and you'll be able to get those glowing halos that aren't always possible with less punchy units.

The fan, necessary for such a powerful LED, was exceptionally quiet.

To be clear, it's still a 1x1 light, so the light itself doesn't get super "hard" in terms of a clean shadow light when working relatively close to a subject. Light hardness is still a function of unit size, and if this unit is close enough to someone's face, you're going to get a soft-ish nose shadow. 

The trick that makes this unit "hard" is that the relative light size diminishes as you get it further away, and because the light unit is so powerful you can start backing it up. As you back it up, it's going to give harder shadows. If you only need an F/4 out of this unit, you can potentially get that punch light with the unit nearly 40 feet away, working at full punch in daylight mode without the diffuser.

That setup is going to give you that "harder" feel just by sheer relative size. 

Nose shadow at 10 feet with a bare-faced unit. Nice drama, but not a "sharp" nose shadow.
For comparison the nose shadow from a phone flashlight. The small relative size creates a harder nose shadow; if you want the same sharp shadow with a 1x1 LED unit you should back the unit away, which the 1x1 Hard allows you to do.
The fixture comes with diffusers, both a flat screen and a dome that can be combined or used individually, to help take the edge of the hardness of the unit when you need it.

They are both easy and fast to mount, and for a lot of shoots, will likely live on the light. What's great about them is they're not going to change the shadow cast dramatically since it doesn't change the size dramatically.  It just takes the harsh edge off.  Unless you need the full punch of the unit, you are likely to leave one or both of them on quite a bit.

The .1% dimming floor is also quite appreciated on the Gemini 1x1 Hard. While the big focus on this light is of course its upper ranges, one of our major frustrations with some lighting units has been the high dimming floor.

When time is tight and you just need a hair less fill, it's great to be able to lower down super low on a unit. We've worked with other LED panels that dim down then have a big drop-off before turning them off, and that wasn't the case with the Gemini 1x1 Hard.

You get very fine control of the light output down at the bottom of the margins, which matters a ton on a low light shoot. If you are using it as fill on a night exterior working at ISO 5000 and T1.4, you'll be doing a lot of tweaking down at the bottom of the dim range.

Down at the bottom of the dim range you can start to see individual LED bulbs.

Conclusion

The Gemini 1x1 Hard is launching at the surprisingly reasonable price of $2,250. It's available in standard or pole-operated yolks and several power options. 

From our hands-on experience, they're likely able to meet this price point despite all the power output by focusing on the key functions, light volume, and letting some more advanced features go.

The fixture does support wired and wireless DMX as well as Bluetooth control, so it has what you need. But it doesn't bother with anything like a color meter and automatic light control, for instance. While some of those features seem interesting in competitors' lights, they drive up the price, and we respect the focus on raw output here.

Overall, the Gemini 1x1 Hard is in a good sweet spot. Simple, robust controls, and a focus on light output and controllability make this a unit that will likely be incredibly popular.      

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It’s a kettle lead mate

April 22, 2021 at 8:28AM

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