Digital Photo Magazine’s 2017 Editors’ Choice Awards
The Rotolight AEOS is both a continuous LED and a flash, capable of outputting light at 200% of the standard LED output, with High Speed Sync, allowing video and still users to get two tools with one device . The light is super-light and very powerful, and the bi-color LEDs are accurate, and adjustable. Multiple special effects settings are baked in for video shooters looking to simulate things like campfires, thunderstorms, television flicker, and more.
Ultra-thin, the unit is light enough to handhold, and has multiple tripod connectors, making it a great on-locatoin tool. The True Aperture Dimming allows a photographer to dial in an exposure settings and then calculate changes as subject distance changes.
Digital Photo Magazine’s 2016 Editors’ Choice Awards
A few years ago, you couldn’t even find a LED light that was powerful enough to replace a traditional household light bulb, and now there are LED systems lighting everything from photo shoots to concerts in stadiums. Almost overnight we saw a sea change in lighting and a flood of new LED products for photography. At first, these LED lights were variations on systems used for video—bright panels without a lot of control over the intensity or direction of the light—but now we’re getting tools that are designed with the photographer in mind. We predict that this new lighting category will overtake studio strobes in the years to come, thanks to the versatility of the technology, the portability of the solutions and the fact that continuous lighting is so easy to set up and can be adjusted and modified with the results immediately visible. This year, we picked the LED systems that are leading the way, offering photographers a variety of features to enhance any shoot.
BEST SOFTLIGHT LED
Fotodiox Pro FlapJack Lights
We’ve tested a number of different FlapJack lights and have loved them all. Unlike traditional LED solutions where the individual elements face the subject, the lights in the FlapJack line are hidden under the frame of the unit, and point toward the sides and back, where they’re bounced forward in one soft, continuous light. The 18” Dual-Color round model is the most versatile, though the strip lights and ring lights are ideal for a mix of photo and video use, as well. The battery-powered units run off of standard cells and provide hours of light, no matter where a shoot takes place.
BEST LED LIGHT PANEL
Litepanels Astra 1×1 Bi-Color LED Panel
While we liked the original Astra 1×1 panel, we love the new version, which has quadrupled the amount of power output over the original. The Bi-Color LED model is more flexible than the daylight-balanced panel, and it allows for easy adjustment between tungsten and daylight temperatures. To prevent overheating, the panel has a built-in cooling fan, and the AC-powered unit can be switched over to battery power with an adapter mount. The Astra is flicker-free at any output setting, and an optional remote control unit allows for changes to brightness, temperature and the internal cooling from the panel without having to reach the controls—perfect if you hang the Astra from a ceiling mount.
BEST ON-CAMERA LED
Manfrotto LYKOS Bi-Color On-Camera LED
While the LYKOS LED panel will primarily find use with video shooters, thanks to the bright, steady illumination, it’s also a perfect choice for the photographer looking to balance out studio or sunlight with a camera-mounted panel. Adjustable color temperature from 3000K to 5600K allows the panel to match just about any lighting condition. Our favorite feature is the side handle, which Manfrotto says is for “precision adjustment,” but we use it so we can have an assistant hold the light and provide fill wherever it’s needed. An optional LYKOS softbox turns the light into a super-soft fill light, similar to diffuse window light.
BEST HIGH-POWERED PORTABLE LED
Light & Motion Stella PRO 10000C
What’s it like holding a searchlight in your hand? That’s a question you might ask yourself when you shoot with the Stella Pro 10000C. Measuring the output of a light is tricky, as you have to measure it at all angles, so while it’s very hard to express light output in a single measurement like “the output of this light is 10,000 lumens,” it’s pretty easy to say “this light will blind you and anyone in the studio looking directly at it at full power.” Focus is adjustable from 120o down to 25o, and adapters allow the unit to be used with Profoto and Chimera light modifiers. The 10000C is water-resistant, while its smaller sibling, the Stella Pro 5000, is waterproof if you need to shoot in a downpour or underwater.