What is an LED light panel?
LED, or light emitting diode, light panels are an important tool for both videographers and photographers who work in the studio or subjects like macro photography. Their functions and features can vary, and in this buyer’s guide we’ll explain how to choose the best LED light for your needs and make our picks of the best LEDs to buy.
Why use an LED light for video and photography?
The big advantage of an LED light panel is that it offer continuous lighting. With a standard flashgun you get a short burst of light, but sometimes you need constant illumination – particularly if you’re shooting video.
The other benefit of using an LED light panel for video and photography is that many panels are offered in what’s called a bi-colour option. This means there is a mix of warm and cool LEDs and that you can adjust the colour temperature of your illumination, typically via a controller wheel on the back. Bi-colour LED light panels are often more expensive, but if you can stretch your budget, do it. They’re highly versatile.
Your LED light panel will also typically have a dimmer control for adjusting the brightness of your illumination. Many of the new generation of LED light panels also come with built-in Bluetooth functionality, allowing you to adjust your lighting remotely.
LED light panels are typically powered by AA or rechargeable batteries; others have the option to plug into the mains.
Most LED light panels also allow you to adjust the beam angle by turning the head 40 to 60 degrees. You can also buy coloured gels to mount over your panels for different effects.
What are the best LED lights for video and photography?
Rotolight NEO 2
- Price: £300/$400
- All-in-one HSS and continuous LED
- No recycle time
Aimed at portrait photographers and videographers, the Rotolight NEO 2 boasts no recycle time and employs a Skyport 2.4GHz HSS wireless flash receiver that can control up to 10 lights in four groups at distances of up to 200m / 656ft.
It can also provide 85,000 full-power flashes on a single set of rechargeable AA batteries.
But the main feature of the Rotolight NEO 2 is that it can be simultaneously used as a continuous modelling light and HSS flash, allowing users to achieve shutter speeds of 1/8000sec with 500% flash output.
The NEO 2 is compatible with all Canon, Nikon, Sony, Olympus, Panasonic and Fujifilm cameras.
NanGuang CNLUX1600C LED Light
- Price: £119.94/$150
- Temperature adjustment from 3200-5600K
- 9.6W power output
The NanGuang CNLUX1600C LED light panel is bi-colour, with colour temperature steplessly adjustable from 3200K-5600K. Power output is 9.6W, and it also comes with a supplied diffuser, as well as pink and blue filters.
Designed for use on-camera via the hotshoe, the unit is powered by AA batteries and can deliver a max power of 1,600 lux.
The NanGuang CNLUX1600C panel light features an adjustable angle bracket so the light can be directed higher or lower than the angle of the lens.
The CNLUX1600C also offers a brightness output of 1005 LM at 100% brightness, as well as a stepless dimmer control.
The NanGuang unit might not be the sexiest LED light on this list, but it offers some of the best value for money.
Lume Cube Air
- Price: $69.95/£77
- App controlled
- Waterproof to 30 feet
Only recently announced, the Lume Cube Air is a small LED light for photographers and vloggers that offers remote control via a companion app on your smartphone.
The Lume Cube Air builds on the original Lume Cube micro LED light and offers a 5700K daylight balanced colour temperature, 400 LUX at 1M power and a 60-degree beam angle.
Using the Lume-X app on your iOS or Android device you can then connect to multiple Lume Cube Air lights and adjust their brightness, change the light mode, strobe speeds, check battery levels and more.
The Lume Cube Air also offers Bluetooth functionality.
Weighing just 2ox, the Lume Cube Air is 1.65 x 1.625 x 1.125 inches and waterproof down to 30 feet. It’s also got a built-in magnet and a tripod thread.
Metz S500 LED Light
- Price: £119
- 1000 Lumen illumination
- Colour temperature from 3000-5500K
Measuring in at much the same size as a standard mobile phone – 130 x 65 x 9.3mm – and weighing in at just 135g, the Metz S500’s lightweight flat design makes it ultra-portable.
Its 117 high-powered SMD LED lights produce 1000 lumen illumination, and these are bi-coloured with 60 white and 57 warm. This mix of LEDs enables colour temperatures from 3000-5500 kelvin.
There are dimmer and temperature controls, as well as a standard 1/4-inch tripod thread. It also comes with a hotshoe adapter. There’s also a diffuser that can be easily mounted with the included silicon bands to create a softer lighting effect.
On the back of the lamp is a small OLED which displays the temperature, illumination, percentage and battery runtime.
Manfrotto Lykos LED Light
- Price: £410
- 1500 lux at 1m
Manfrotto’s flagship LED bi-colour light panel is highly portable and packs a lot of power, offering up to 1500 lux at 1m. It also promises 93% colour accuracy.
On the side are dimming and colour temperature (3000-5600K) controls, but you can also make adjustments remotely using its built-in Bluetooth capability.
There are a lot of other nice design touches, such as a colour LCD display to monitor functions and the option to plug the Lykos into the mains.
Phottix Kali600 LED Light
- Price: $170
- 3000 lux max brightness
- 3300-5600K temperature control
The Phottix Kali600 is a large LED Panel aimed at videographers and studio photographers, offering a maximum brightness of 3000 lux (36W) and Digital Color Control from 3300K–5600K.
Digital Power Control also lets you adjust the Kali600’s power from 10% to 100%.
The Kali600 can be powered by both a battery or mains adapter (included in the kit), allowing you to use it in the studio or on location.
The Kali600 panel comes with barndoors and a white diffuser panel, as well as a wireless radio remote.