The Cheap Video LED Light Shootout

LED lights for video used to be a sad gimmick for many years. Color temperature, flicker, angle, and output where not up for professional work. Showing up on set , with a thing that looked like a cheap little bicycle light, was nothing that a self respecting DP could do, without hurting his reputation. Then Litepanels came out with the first pro versions of those panels and they are respected at any set now, though they came with a hefty price tag. Now those kind of lights are getting cheaper and better every day. But are they any good? Time for a Cheap LED Lights Shootout.

Here are the candidates:

  • The popular NG 126 – 650 Lux for 70 Euros
  • The Z96 – 800 Lux for 60 Euros
  • The YONGNUO 135 – 960 Lux for 59 Euros
  • LitepanelsMicro – 970 Lux for 296 Euros.
  • The YONGNUO 160 – 1480 Lux and fancy barn doors for 69 Euro

The popular NG 126 – 650 Lux for 70 Euros

The NG 126 was one of the first and most popular cheap LED lights, that was really usable with a video camera.  The 126 LEDs puts out a good amount of light that is a bit on the blueish side with some vignetting. Depending on where you buy it, it comes with 2-4 filters (Tungsten, frost, blue, magenta) and a Sony or Sony and Panasonic Battery plate. A 4-level battery indicator is at the backside. It is dimable and flicker free.  The swivel hotshoe mount is usable, I prefer a little Manfrotto arm though.

Pros:

Bright, lightwight, lot´s of camera battery options.

Cons:

A bit of a hotspot and blueish

The Z96 – 800 Lux for 60 Euros

This light has been jointly developed by Chinese manufacturer F&V Llight and the well known film light company Dedolight, each adding practical innovations, such as the ability to click up to four lights together to make a big LED panel.

It is a bit strange though, that you can ether buy this light as “Z96″ at Ebay for 60 Euros, or on the Dedolight Website, where they call it “Tecpro Fillini Click” for  a whooping 239 Euros.

The light can be powered by five AA batteries, a Sony L-series battery ( LF570, F770, F970 ,F550,F750), or any 5.8 -16,8V DC source.

It is very well daylight balanced, with just a slightly bias towards magenta. Dedolight claims:  “Daylight as good and as stable as the best selected white LED’s can provide with today’s state of the art.”

The HDV-Z96 can be assembled to multiple units together by using the included link plates.
It comes with a mini ball head that mounts to any hotshoe. The battery lid is pretty hard and cumbersome to open. You need both hands for this.

Pros:
Wide range of voltage, very good daylight balanced, no hotspot, nice build quality, stackable.

Cons:
No battery indicator, no Panasonic plates available, battery lid is tricky to open.

YONGNUO 135 – 960 Lux for 59 Euros

Yongnuo is a well respected manufacturer of camera flash units. So I was pretty curious when the came out with LED video lights. The 135 is very well build, looks and feels great.

It has a 3 stage LED battery indicator on the backside. There is no dimming wheel but two 15 stage push buttons. The light comes with a USB cable for charging – well, yes in an emergency, but I would prefer an AC charger instead.

The light is well daylight balanced and bright, without a hotspot. You can stack those lights together at all four sides, but the hotshoe mount doesn´t hold up very well.

Like on the Z96, the battery lid is tricky to open. You need both hands for this.

Pros:
Good output, no hotspot, nice quality build, stackable.

Cons:
Tricky lid, no dimming wheel, soft cumbersome hotshoe mount.

LitepanelsMicro – 970 Lux for 296 Euros

This was the first usable LED video light. It`s fully dimmable (0%-100%) and powered by four AA batteries or Power can be supplied through a 5-12V input jack located on the back. There are also adapter plates for DV camera batteries available. It´s flicker free and has a nice daylight balance.

The Litepanels Micro comes swiveling hotshoe. To allow multiple mounting configurations, it can also be mounted on the optional base plate for off-camera usage, or on an extension arm.

There are also two filters included, Tungsten conversion (warm white – 3200°K)
and a ¼ Warming Diffusion.

Pros:
The only light with usable filters, nice build quality

Cons:
Not so bright, price tag

YONGNUO 160 – 1480 Lux and fancy barn doors for 69 Euro

This is the new kid on the block and I was holding my breath how it performs.
The YONGNUO 160 is bigger as the 235 – about the same size as the NG 126.
It features barndoors, but to my disappointment they don´t really help (see video).

The swiveling hotshoe mount is to soft and to weak. To make things worse, there is no easy way to mount it on an Manfrotto arm. You have to come up with your own solution. Not a deal breaker, but no fun ether.

The light output is great thou. The brightest light of the pack. It is a bit on the warm side – not exactly daylight, but usable. Powered by 6 AA batteries, or a camera battery(Panasonic CGR-D16S, Sony NP-FH70, NP-FM55H, NP-F550).

4 filters (frost, Tungsten, magenta and blue) are included, also a handle.
LED batery indicator and dimmer buttons are on the backside.

Pros:
Very bright, lot´s of battery options

Cons:
Soft mount, no dimming wheel, a bit on the warm side.

THE SHOOTOUT

10 ft. may sound a bit extreme for such tiny lights, but at 2 or even 5 foot they all look nice. So I decided to push them to the limits.

Verdict:
I´m a bit undecided. The NG 126 and the Litepanels Micro look outdated, compared to the newer lights. The Z96 has the best daylight balance and the nicest overall light, but the YONGNUO 160 is much more powerful. The YONGNUO 135 is somewhere in between them. Non of the provided Tungsten filters is usable IMHO with the exception of the one from Litepanels Micro. I use normal gels instead. Tricky lids, useless barndoors, mounting options, that are not exactly what you want on a professional set, are no deal breakers, but I hope they will be improved in the future. Some guys asked me to watchout for flicker. I had no flicker at all, unless the batteries getting weak, than they start to flicker.

If I have to choose one (and until I need a real strong light), I think I would go with the Z96, because of the superb light quality and it has a dimming wheel instead of that buttons.

Frank Glencairn

About these ads

60 thoughts on “The Cheap Video LED Light Shootout

  1. Wow, the Yongnuo 160 is bright. Doesn’t seem too spotty either. I’ll probably get that and use a gel and maybe take the barn doors off since I will mount this on a DSLR rig and they seem like a gimmick anyway.

    Thanks Frank. Great shootout.

  2. Pingback: The Cheap Video LED Light Shootout « Frank Glencairn « Glen Mulcahy's -VJ Mentor Blog

  3. Pingback: Which Cheap On-Camera Video LED Light is Best? | NoFilmSchool

  4. Hey,
    I received the Yongnuo YN – 160 a few days ago and just tested them.
    I experienced flickering at all shutter speeds except 1/30 and with ordinary batteries it turns of within seconds at its highest setting.
    Did you experience similar behaviours ?

    Best Regards AlphaLX

    • I hear that flickering problem a lot, but I was not able to conform or recreate it.

      Maybe there is a bunch of lights with deflective dimmer circuits out there – who knows?
      Or it is because, I only use good, rechargeable batteries. I saw flicker thou with weak batteries.

      I used an 180 deg. (1/48) shutter and recorded in PAL (25 fps).

      Frank Glencairn

  5. I spent some time looking for a good versatile on-cam light myself. And found that covered a lot of situations, is really bright, can be dimmed down to provide just the perfect filler light for daylight interviews, it uses sony long-lasting camera batteries and comes with a charger.

    Integrated with the light comes with a high beam spotlight style lens, and a tungsten filter. To add to this it fits on camera shoe mount, as well as can be screwed on a 1/4″ or 5/8″ (don’t remember) hole.

    Check it out:

    http://lacoloronline.com/product/?CM1800-Comer-CM-LBPS1800-On-Camera-LED-Light

    I’m an independent filmmaker.

    • It does look very good. But it’s pricey: $339.

      I wonder why none of the affordable video-light manufacturers are not making products using that same high power LED element used on the Comer video light.

  6. Super Test Frank!! great help, I am checking out the yongnuo 160….lets hope it doesnt flicker :-) but @ 55€ incl shipping I risk it…I have the litepanel so this would just be another sidefill-backup whatever…..
    keep testing.
    ciao
    Hanno

  7. Pingback: LED Light shootout

  8. Thanks for posting this. It would’ve been nice if your test video had a person in it so we could see how it renders skin tone.

  9. Frank, great article! I’m from FilmmakingWebinars.com and would love to talk to you about maybe doing a webinar based on this article. Please check out my site when you have a moment and if you are intersted, please contact me via email at marcelo@newmdiawebinars.com
    Keep up the great work!

    Cheers!
    – marcelo

  10. Pingback: Which led panel are you gonna buy ? |Final Cut Pro User Group Belgium

  11. I bought a pile of the NG126 lamps for our TV production course and have been pretty pleased with the result considering the price. Yes, it has a pronounced hotspot and does tend towards blue – also the supplied filters aren’t great. The tungsten in particular is hopeless. I got far better results using standard gels cut down to size.

    The main drawback in my opinion is the build quality. On every unit, the bolts holding the hotshoe mount to the main lamp body worked loose very quickly. However it’s not a difficult job to strip them down and apply a little bit of thread lock to the bolts before re-assembling. I also took the opportunity to replace all the self-tapping screws that hold the rest of the unit together. Since then I’ve had no problems.

    And if it can survive use by 1st year students it’ll survive a nuclear war…

  12. Pingback: ProVideo Coalition.com: Bruce's Blog by Bruce A. Johnson | Founder

  13. Pingback: Cheap LED Light Shootout » CheesyCam

    • With the NG126 I’m using Sony NP-F batteries. Even the smallest version (the NP-F570) gives adequate performance – around 40 – 45 minutes from a battery which is over a year old. The largest (NP-F970) will run for ever but it’s a bit too heavy for the mount and can easily detach itself.

      Also, don’t put too much faith in the built-in battery level indicator – it’s a rough guide, nothing else.

    • Just got both yongnuos… using AA sony and duracell batteries. they both flicker! NTSC and PAL. any solutions anybody?

      • I heard some complains about that flicker ting.

        I have no flicker at all here, don´t know what´s the problem. I´m using them every day on productions. As I said, it starts flickering only on close to empty batteries.

  14. Hi.

    Got my Z96 last week. With Duracell 2450 mAh NiMH AA’s I’m getting only 25 mins before permant flicker sets in at full power. Are Eneloops any better?

    Also, was hoping that Sony M series LiION batteries would also fit on the L series attachment, as I have a few M’s plus charger from my old Sony DV cam. But no such luck. Anyone know of an ‘M to L series’ adapter plate that could be used ?

    Cheers.

    • Reference to my last post. Found Sony L series plate can be modified to take M series batteries. Just requires taking a few mm off one pair of the securing keys (closest to the battery compartment latch). With an NP-FM50 the Z96 was still going strong, with no flicker, after 1.25 hours – not that I’d use it for that long at a stretch.

      Also like the convenience of being able to slip other gels behind the magnetic diffuser plate.

      Cheers.

  15. Pingback: Focos Led libres de parpadeo? (flicker free)

  16. I was pleasantly surprised to see you write on this matter because I follow your blog and had been considering the same topic just this morning. Your opinion about it is not exactly the same as mine but your view has helped sort out my own opinions. I look forward to more. My own newest post talks about dwi felony and is at http://weightlosswars.org.

  17. Pingback: Anonymous

  18. home office deals
    Hey there! Someone in my Facebook group shared this site with us so I came to look it over. I’m definitely loving the information. I’m book-marking and will be tweeting this to my followers! Great blog and wonderful style and design. home office deals

  19. Thank you for every other informative blog. Where else may I get that kind of info written in such a perfect means? I have a challenge that I am just now running on, and I’ve been at the glance out for such info.

  20. I got quite interested on the Yongnuo 160, but I can’t risk having a flicker problem.

    Has anyone, besides Frank, been able to make it work flickerless?

    • Hi Folks – very interested in the comments about “flicker” above. Do the authors mean scrolling bands of interference when the light is running at any level below full power? If you look elsewhere, there is talk of cheaper cameras with CMOS sensors giving “flicker” but more expensive CCD cameras such as Frank’s Panasonic HVX-200 not giving “flicker”. See comments at http://www.dvxuser.com/V6/archive/index.php/t-231111.html Does anyone have experience which supports this, please?

  21. Pingback: Fill In The Blank Studios | Vancouver Film + Photo MakersConverge Magazine | Sports Ethics Cover

  22. Admiring the persistence you put into your site and detailed information you offer. It’s good to come across a blog every once in a while that isn’t the same old rehashed information. Great read! I’ve saved your site and I’m adding your RSS feeds to my Google account.

  23. this is a great test, thanks and as Frank mentioned above when shooting video with these to get around flickering which will happen with most lights – shoot 1/50 24fps iso’s (160, 320, 640, 1250)

  24. I have a sony rx100 camera.

    Sony RX100 Basic Video Specs (cut/paste from a review)

    1080p / 1080i (1,920 x 1,080) high definition video at 59.94p (progressive-scan) frames/second, or 59.94i (interlaced) fields / second (50p/i for European versions)
    28 Mbps recording at 59.94p / 50p, choice of 24Mbps or 17 Mbps for 59.94i / 50i video modes
    HDV 1080i (1,440 x 1,080 rectangular pixels), 29.97 fps, 12 Mbps, HD recording (25 fps in European versions)
    VGA (640 x 480), 29.97 fps, 3Mbps standard-definition recording (25 fps in European versions)
    1,920 x 1,080 video uses AVCHD compression (MPEG-4 AVC / H.264 w/ Dolby Digital audio) in a .MTS container; lower resolutions are MPEG-4 with AAC-LC audio in .MP4 container

    Would I get flicker with the Z96 ? Any advice welcomed.
    Thanks
    Newbie

  25. Wonderful blog! Do you have any tips and hints for aspiring writers?
    I’m planning to start my own blog soon but I’m a little lost on everything.
    Would you recommend starting with a free platform like WordPress or go for a paid
    option? There are so many choices out there that I’m totally confused .. Any recommendations? Many thanks!

  26. Frank,
    Can you do a led light test between the 312 led (you got and posted a video on youtube and somewhere on this site) and YN300. I read the 312 led max lumen output was rated at 1/2 meter while the YN300 max lumen ouput was rated at 1 meter. It would be interesting to see how much light output will the 312 led deliver at the same distance as the YN300. YN300 is less than half the price and it would be interesting to see how much diference will the half meter will make in light output.

  27. Today, while I was at work, my cousin stole my iPad and tested to see if it can survive a 30 foot drop, just so she
    can be a youtube sensation. My iPad is now broken and she has 83 views.

    I know this is totally off topic but I had to share
    it with someone!

  28. They probably have the same issues that all LED lights have, a kind of harsh quality of light. To get them much softer in a very affordable and portable package, you should check out Airboxlights.com inflatable softboxes. They’re great. Much more effective than diffusion on the face of the light, and less than half the price of other LED softboxes.
    ~ Patricia, Airboxlights.com

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s