LED camera lights are gaining momentum as the choice for event photography, ENG use, documentary filmmaking, cinema - even fashion photographers are experimenting with continuous LED lighting now.
The advantages are many: they are solid state, are very robust, last for over 20,000 hours, run very efficiently, can be tuned to deliver accurate daylight balanced light, and do not generate the heat of other lights. The portable LED lights with on board batteries are cord free and can operate off the grid or in any location giving photographers and filmmakers the same freedom they enjoy with their cameras.
If you are purchasing an LED light you will notice that the measurement is in lumens, not watts. We grew up on watts and seemingly overnight watts disappeared and lumens took their place. A lumen is a measure of light visible to the human eye. There are plenty of wavelengths of light the human eye can’t see so lumens simply measure light we can see. But lumens are much harder to measure than watts. This has led to confusion in the market with lots of outrageous claims. Anyone could measure watts with a $20 meter. Measuring lumens requires a fancy integrating sphere as shown here on the right.
Brands looking to get an edge claim high lumen numbers, perhaps based on theoretical efficiency, often overstate the lumens by 30% to 50% or more. Without a standard for measuring and reporting lumens the consumer is given false claims.
Frustrated flashlight manufactures, tired of the lumen wars, got together to hash out standards for advertising delivered lumens. The result is the FL-1 standard. The purpose is to allow consumers to make apples-to-apples comparisons of lights based on a standardized test method. Brands that agree to the standard can use the FL-1 icons indicating that the brand is following a rigorous reporting standard. Once the CE or FL-1 symbol is employed on the product, the manufacturer is legally bound to follow the standard.
The Stella uses the following FL-1 marks:
Like any standard, FL-1 has limitations; it only takes a single lumen reading 30 seconds after the light is turned on. Many battery operated lights will dim during use. A light rated 1000 lumens by the FL-1 standard may start at 1000 lumens and drop to half that amount by the middle of the run time. As steady lumen output is critical across the entire run time for anyone shooting film or video, Light & Motion publishes test data in the form of a lumen to time plot. Shown is a plot for the Light & Motion Stella 1000.
The FL-1 Standard includes lumens, run time, drop test, beam angle and ingress protection (IP) testing. The Stella 1000 delivers 1000 lumens for 90 minutes on high - 11 hours on low, is depth tested to 100meters, has a beam angle of 120 degrees, and as shown in the icons. These icons are published on the side of the box. The drop test requires 6 drops on concrete from the height published in the icon. Light & Motion selected 1 meter as a reasonably height for all their products.
After completing the drop testing, the light then undergoes the IP testing. Light & Motion’s depth ratings on dive lights range from 100 to 120 meters. After 6 drops on concrete the light is placed in a tank and pressurize to the rated depth for 30 minutes. The Standard requires 100% pass on a set of 3 random samples from stock. Below is a picture of the pressure tank being loaded with production lights that will be pressurized to the FL-1 depth, checked for sealing, and then packaged and shipped to customers. Notice the tank’s heavy wall design required to withstand the pressure seen at 120 meters.
Beam angle is an important and widely misreported measure for lights. If you are doing video or photography you typically want as wide of a beam angle and a narrow beam to deliver punch. The standard for beam angle measure is “Full Width Half Maximum” or FWHM. This measures the beam angle from the brightest point or center, to the angle off center when the beam power drops to 50% or half the power of the beam at the center.
Summary: LED camera lights are widely available but the performance of these lights can fall short of expectations. Evaluate a light's ability to perform by looking at the specs, test data, and read reviews. Light output in lumens is a basic measure to consider. When looking at battery operated lights look to lights with regulated power that maintain constant output across the entire run time. This matters for photography and videography and is critical when the cameras are running. You don’t want your light fading when the interview is on!
Stella reliablity is tested and certified in accordanace with the ANSI/NEMA FL-1 Standard. We are the first in the industry to certify our lights, and we hope our competitors will follow suit. Buy with confidence knowing that we deliver what we claim. Find out more on our test site: wetestlights.com