In this article I’ll list 5 professional-level LED panels for cinematography.
Why only five? There are many companies making LED light panels for video and cinematography. How do you figure out the best from the not-so-best?
What makes an LED panel the ‘best’?
Why do the pros spend a lot more money for these lights when cheaper options exist?
Here are some important features professionals focus on:
- Dependability in terms of construction. You can abuse these lights over many years and they’ll withstand it.
- Dependability in terms of light output. The light output of cheaper LED lights fall over time. Professional-level lights maintain their output over the lifespan of the LED chips, and they tend to use the most expensive and/or most dependable.
- Dependability in terms of color accuracy. You’ll find many reviews online of cheaper LED lights with excellent color accuracy. What most people miss, is that the color accuracy reduces over the lifespan of the LED panel. In fact, it is not uncommon for the color accuracy to shift over just a few months of use!
- Availability of accessories. Many cheap LED products change year after year. If you want a part or accessory for a particular panel in about 5 years, you might not be able to get it if the manufacturer moves on. Higher-end panels made by reputable companies are designed after a lot of thought, and they tend to support their products a lot longer.
- Interoperability. The lights are designed as part of a system. You can mix and match and not worry the colors will match. You can also use DMX or wireless systems to control and program lights to do whatever you want them to. Manufacturers also augment panels with other kinds of lights, like spotlights, tube lights, etc., so you can solve large scale problems.
The basic idea being, you spend more now, but you’ll save money in the long run.
1 Arri Skypanel
Arri Skypanels are the best LED lights right now. And this is as per the rental houses worldwide. Nowadays, you’ll be hard pressed to find a decent lighting truck that doesn’t carry a few of these.
They come in different sizes, like S30, S60 and so on. The larger the number, the bigger the light in terms of size as well as light output. The most useful one is the Arri Skypanel S60-C, which has color effects and filters as well.
I’ve found them to be dependable tools and I’ve been consistently using them for a couple of years now.
2 Kino Flo Celeb
You could make the argument other LED panels on this list deserve to be placed higher up than the Celeb. But here’s the thing. Kino Flos have been around for decades, and they have established themselves as a dependable brand.
Moreover, some older accessories and products that interface with Kino Flo fixtures can be used with these modern designs that share similar physical characteristics. From a business continuity perspective, it makes a lot of sense to continue with the tried and tested.
Even if you are an independent filmmaker, I would recommend Kino Flos if you’re traveling around the globe. You’ll find replacements, dealers and accessories a lot easier to match your existing lineup or to replace them when things go south.
Celebs come in multiple sizes, out of which the Celeb 250 is probably the most useful.
3 Litegear S2 Litemat
Litegear LED “panels” are very popular in some markets, like the USA. They are non-existent in India, so I’ve never even seen one.
They are technically flexible LED mats that are designed as panels. So if size and weight are your primary concern you should give these babies a look.
The downsides are that they don’t have the same functionality as multi-color RGB panels, nor are they as durable.
They come highly recommended, though, and the size that’s comparable to the other ones on this list is the S2 Litemat 1.
4 Litepanels Gemini
The biggest draw about the Litepanels Gemini is the balance between price and the brand. Litepanels don’t have the pedigree of an Arri or Kino Flo, but they are a reputable brand that have been around for long.
This makes the Gemini series, especially the Gemini 2×1, the most attractive for independent filmmakers looking to invest in lights.
If you want a real-world comparison of lights, check out this article I’ve written:
5 Rosco Silk
The Rosco Silk 210 is probably the most useful size. It’s even cheaper than the Gemini, but the brand is just as popular, if not more so.
Rosco have been designing filters for a long time, and some of their filters are available as presets on the bigger lights in this series. Here, you get the same directly from the source, and that would be a good reason to invest in Rosco lights – for the color.
That’s it for my simple list! I hope you found it useful.
What do you think? Let me know in the comments below.