Buying a flash is the worst idea of 2022. Why? Any modern photographer once starts shooting video, and there is a need for on-camera light. And what kind of illuminator will cover all the needs at once? Of course LED!
Pros and cons of LED lighting
Light-emitting diode (LED) illuminators are gradually becoming the most popular type of studio lighting. And this is not surprising, because such a light has many advantages:
- suitable for both photos and videos;
- does not overheat (unlike halogen lamps);
- durable: light bulbs almost do not burn out;
- low power consumption;
- the ability to adjust the color temperature on many models;
- some models have built-in RGB lighting.
LED lighting also has disadvantages:
- lower power compared to pulsed light;
- the price is higher than other types of permanent lighting.
This is the most versatile and convenient light source. There is only one weak side — the ratio of price and power. A really strong LED lamp is very expensive. However, if you don’t need lamps to “freeze” motion (you need fast shutter speeds around 1/1000 of a second and a very powerful light output), LED illuminators will cope with most tasks in both video and photography.
Characteristics of LED illuminators
Let’s see what characteristics of LED illuminators to pay attention to before buying.
Everything is simple here: the larger the illuminator, the more powerful it is. Hence the difference in the purpose of illuminators: large studio and compact portable ones.
For a studio, large panels and monoblock illuminators with a power of 50 W or more for video, 80 W or more for photography are suitable as a main light source.
More compact light bulbs act as additional light: they create accents, highlight the background. Here the power is selected individually for the task, but 8–15 W is enough for a compact lamp for location shooting, and for additional light in the studio.
There are two types of lamps. Some shine with a constant color temperature (usually universal daylight around 5500K), while others can change the “degree” from warm to cold.
Naturally, temperature-controlled lamps are convenient and versatile. But usually they are more expensive or weaker than the same single-color lamps.
The point is this. Different color temperatures are achieved with different types of LEDs. For example, in the Yongnuo YN-600 L LED 3200–5500K panel, there are 300 cold and warm light LEDs each. To achieve a certain color temperature, they are included in different proportions. And if you need the most cold or, conversely, warm light, only one type of LED lights up.
The ability to change the color temperature is also useful if you have several lamps in the setup that shine differently. Then it will be easier for you to pick up the overall color temperature by aligning the white balance in the picture.
Color rendering index
The color rendering index (CRI) measures the ability of a light source to accurately display the colors of illuminated objects. The higher the CRI, the better. It is worth taking lamps with CRI 95+. But it is important to consider that manufacturers sometimes embellish the indicators. The ideal option here would be to compare with a “reference” lamp like the Aputure LS 300D, you can rent it along with the model you want to buy. Well, or just evaluate the test material — whether you like the color reproduction or not.
RGB illuminators allow you to use not only standard white light, but also choose any color shade (from red to purple). This is made possible by additional colored LEDs.
RGB lighting is very popular on YouTube, and is also used to create various creative effects. But in general, this is an optional option.
Best LED Lights
Consider the best LED illuminators in terms of price and quality. We understand that not everyone can afford the “reference” Aputure Light Storm for 300 thousand rubles (accurate color reproduction, shines brightly, does not make noise, does not break), therefore, in our top there are not extremely expensive options, but more “folk” options.
The best portable light
It seems impossible to count the number of models of on-camera LED lamps — they have so many clones. Therefore, we will choose the classics.
Boling BL-P1 is the gold standard for vloggers. It’s a one-size-fits-all RGB panel — not too big, not too small. It has light temperature settings, RGB mode and lighting effects.
Charging via USB‑C, indestructible case and CRI 96+ made it a favorite. A very useful “chip” is a bracket that allows you to install the light bulb at any desired angle.
Unfortunately, Boling does not come with a diffuser that can soften its rather harsh light.
The model has a very decent clone with the same bracket and a larger battery — Ulanzi Vijim R70. Of the cheap alternatives that do the job — RL-LED08RGB. A big plus of the Raylab light bulb is the diffuser included.
Popular with YouTube bloggers and LED wands. They allow you to accurately choose the direction of the light flux and look super impressive.
We recommend paying attention to the classic model Yongnuo YN-360 II LED 5500K. This is a bright wand (19V for normal light and 8V for RGB) that can be placed vertically on the floor and powered from the mains, which is convenient for a home studio. For outdoor shooting, it is also suitable: the battery lasts for 4 hours at 100% brightness.
Using the application, you can control several “swords” at once, creating neon effects.
I’m not a big fan of ring lights: the luminous flux is very difficult to control, the lamp shines everywhere and at the same time nowhere. But for blogs in the style of “talking head” that are undemanding to the picture and online broadcasts, they are quite suitable.
The legion of ring light models can compete in their vastness only with on-camera panels. At the same time, the quality of ring lamps usually leaves much to be desired.
You can kill two birds with one stone, having received both a lamp and a full-fledged video tripod in one set, with the Raylab RL-0310 RGB Kit. As the name implies, the lamp can work in RGB. It changes the color temperature, and thanks to the tripod, it can be tilted up and down at the desired angle. Perfect for smartphone photography.
Large LED panels can be used as the main source of illumination. Powerful cinematic panels — for example, Yongnuo YN10800 — cost a lot of money, so this time we pay attention to the favorite of YouTubers — Neweer RGB 660 Pro.
The panel allows you to adjust the light temperature and is equipped with an RGB option, which is convenient for backlighting. The illuminator can work both from the mains and from NP‑F batteries, which means that it can be taken on location shooting.
The Neweer 660 RGB Pro has a 50W output, which is great for home studio video shooting. In practice, Neweer shines brighter than many competitors, especially in RGB mode.
The color accuracy of the panel is not ideal, despite the manufacturer’s claim of CRI 97+, but in most cases there are no problems with it.
The panel has a strong case with metal shutters, which also gives bonuses when working on location.
If you’re willing to spend more, take a look at the Aputure P60c. It is more powerful (60 W) and more accurate in color reproduction. And the brand’s reputation among videographers is very high — the company’s lamps are traditionally of very high quality (great color reproduction, strong assembly, quiet operation, etc.), but not cheap.
Usually studio flashes (pulsed light) are called monoblocks, but we mean constant light sources.
The main plus is the presence of a bayonet (mount) like studio flashes. You can attach any modifiers to it — softboxes, honeycombs, reflectors. Light modifiers allow you to effectively control the light pattern: soften it, precisely direct it.
In addition, monoblocks are usually larger and therefore more powerful than other LED luminaires, which makes them a better option. Monoblocks are equally suitable for both video and photo.
In this category, perhaps, the largest range of prices, so we offer three options for different budgets:
1. The classic high-end monoblock — Aputure 120D — has been on the market for a long time, about five years, so if you have about 50 thousand rubles, you can stop at it. Like all Aputure devices, it boasts perfect color reproduction, a quiet fan (which is especially important for video shooting) and decent power, which is enough for most tasks (the 300D will suit the more demanding user).
2. The main competitor at the mid-budget level is Godox. Godox VL150 is practically a copy of Aputure’s “one hundred and twenty”, but it costs almost 20 thousand rubles less. So the manufacturer saved on trifles like the quality of cables, but in the main characteristics of VL — light is of a very high level.
3. In the budget segment, there is a decent LED monoblock from Raylab — RL-100 Sunlight 5600K. It gives out good power for its money, but it works noisily when compared with more expensive competitors. Like other models from the list, it is equipped with a super versatile Bowens mount, for which there are many light modifiers.
Life hacks for working with LED lamps
Some useful tips for using LED lighting in practice:
- use lamps from the same manufacturer in the setup. So you will not have a situation where the same color temperature is set on different sources, but they shine in different ways. In addition, you can manage all sources from one application (if the manufacturer has it);
– If you are using a small LED panel as a key or fill light, place a 5‑in‑1 diffuser in front of it. So you get softer diffused light even from a small lamp;
- Place the light as close to the subject as possible to get a softer light. This technique works well in conjunction with the previous one. Usually small panels create too harsh lighting, and the farther the source, the sharper the light from it;
– when shooting a vlog, you can place a square panel right behind the blogger’s back to highlight the background. The device will “hide” behind the person, and the background will be illuminated brightly and evenly;
- pocket rgb panels (like Raylab RL-LED06RGB) can be used for color accents in the background. If you highlight the background with multi-colored light bulbs, it will look even more interesting;
– for neon shoots, there are several interesting and harmonious color combinations that are easy to reproduce with two RGB lamps. From the classic — blue / orange, purple / yellow, orange / turquoise, bright green / magenta. A combination of blue and red, blue and yellow will be more dramatic.
LED lighting is a versatile option for photo and video shooting.
When choosing a lamp, you need to pay attention to the following characteristics:
- power. For the main studio light, it is better to take lamps from 60W for video and from 100W for photos;
- Colorful temperature. Daylight around 5500K is a classic option. Illuminators with the ability to adjust the color temperature are more versatile, they are easier to “make friends” with each other if your setup has several lamps from different manufacturers;
- C.R.I. We take from 95+, but it is better to check the quality of light in practice (rent equipment before buying);
- RGB. Bloggers and lovers of neon photo shoots will need one or two of these lamps.
The next choice depends on your goals:
- powerful monoblocks (for example, Godox VL150) are better suited for studio photography and video shooting;
- if you shoot video more often, a couple of panels (like Neweer 660) will do;
- for blogs on the go and mobile shooting, an excellent option is on-camera illuminators (we recommend the classic Boling BL-P1);
- a spectacular alternative is “lightsabers” (for example, Youngnuo YN-360 II);
- if you are broadcasting online without special requirements for picture quality, a ring light is enough (with the Raylab RL-0310 RGB Kit you get a video tripod in the kit).