Advances in LED technology have made portable video lighting more convenient than ever. You can simply attach a lightweight light source to your DSLR or dedicated video camera. Or you can quickly set up multi-light kits for on-location interviews that run on standard AA or lithium batteries; they provide hours of steady, reliable light. Moreover, most run-and-gun lighting units let you adjust light levels. Some even let you dial in color temperature to match the ambient light.
In addition, these light sources run relatively cool. Many are cool enough that you can touch them after they’ve operated for a while. Some also offer special effects that emulate lighting, such as flames in a fireplace or even lightning.
Here are 10 lights for on-camera use that you can add to your kit for fast, steady lighting for video projects, anytime, anywhere.
For Vloggers and Videographers on a Budget
Aputure Amaran AL-MX Bicolor LED Mini Light
This pocketable light from Aputure is the size of a credit card but has variable color settings from 2800 to 6500K in five steps. Further, it has 128 LEDs that throw up to 259 lux at 3.3 feet with a 120º beam angle.
Its included diffusion filter attaches magnetically. The unit also has an internal rechargeable battery and LED indicators that show battery strength. Made of aircraft-grade aluminum, it also features an efficient heat management system. It’s ideal for close-up interviews as well as stand-ups. $150.*
Boling BL-P1 LED RGB Video Light
This small, incredibly versatile light offers 140 minutes of full power per charge and rotates 360º. Moreover, RGB mode lets you select from 360 colors. It provides color temperature selections from 2500 to 8500K, with the brightest output at daylight. The output is also dimmable from 0–100%.
In addition, the Boling video light has nine special effects modes. They include lightning flash, TV flicker, RBG cycling, candlelight effect and police lights—just like pro lights. $150.
Genaray LED-7100T 312 LED Variable-Color Light
With a 7.5-inch panel and 312 LED lights, this on-camera light in Genaray’s pro series offers a bright but soft light output. Color balance is adjustable from 3200 to 5600K with up to 1400 lux brightness at 3 feet. Brightness is also adjustable from 10–100%.
What’s more, a magnetic snap-on diffuser is included. Power comes from two included NP-F550 batteries or an AC adapter. A ball head and shoe mount are also included for on- and off-camera use. $180.
Lume Cube Air Portable LED Light
This budget-priced, daylight-balanced little LED light from Lume Cube is waterproof and ideal for vlogging and underwater video and still photography. It has four brightness levels and strobe mode, with up to 400 lux at 3.3 feet.
Achieving 5600K daylight color temperature, it also comes with filters for incandescent light. You can control it remotely using the Lume-X app (iOS/Android). It also offers versatile mounting options, such as magnetic and tripod. In addition, its built-in battery runs for 30–45 minutes at full brightness. $70.
GVM LT-10S Smartphone Video Camera Rig Light
To give smartphone users high-quality light, this GVM rig light has two light sources, above and below the cameral. It also features two handles and has cold shoe mounts. In addition, a 1/4″–20 screw accommodation lets you add mics, tripods and other accessories.
The device has a color temp of 5600K and a 97 CRI value. Moreover, power levels are adjustable from 0–99%. It’s powered by a Sony F550 battery or 9v/12W adapter and includes white and orange color diffusors. $70.
Run-and-Gun Lighting for Professionals
VariZoom Cineo Matchbox Kit
The VariZoom Cineo Matchbox lets you swap out panels for lighter output and greater color accuracy. It has high CRI ratings of 98 at 3200K and 94 at 5600K. Output from the 3.25×5.25×1.5-inch panel at 3 feet is 315–362 lux. A wide 160º beam angle allows for better coverage for two- or three-person interviews. Weather resistant and rugged, the unit has 1/4″-20 accessory mounts and an AC adapter.
The kit comprises the on-camera light; an L-series-type battery adapter for Matchbox lights; a swivel shoe mount; a Sony NPF 47Wh battery/charger; and a case. $550.
Quantum Instruments Omicron 4 LED Video Ring Light
This Quantum video ring light uses four big LED light sources in a circle surrounding the camera lens to create a light popularized by trendy fashion photos. The light source is adjustable to color temperatures of 2500–6500K with constant output throughout the color range. And you can create eight temperature presets.
Moreover, the light provides a soft, diffused 60º angle at 2700 lux at 1.5 feet. In addition, it can be used around the camera or off-camera. Its runtime is 60–300 minutes depending on battery. Mount options include the QF29 camera mount bracket or OM42 video rail mounting bracket. $700.
Litra LitraStudio RGBWW Photo & Video LED Light
The versatile LitraStudio has one of the widest color temperature ranges, from 2000K to 10,000K. It also provides various special effects. They include full hue, saturation and intensity, as well as more than a million dial-in color possibilities compatible with common industry-standard digital gels.
Its LEDs are patterned to ensure even light with no hot spots or harsh edges. Special effects include emulating police lights, candle flicker and also paparazzi flash. The integrated 9000 mAh Li-ion battery provides one hour at full power (2400 lumen) and 20 hours at low brightness. Bonus: It’s waterproof to 30 feet. $650. litra.com
Sony HVL-LBPC LED Battery Video Light
This light offers up to 2100 lux brightness at 3.3 feet and has a variable color temperature range of 3200–5600K via a side dial. It also features built-in barndoors, a flip-down diffuser and a condenser lens.
Powered by an NP-F970 L-series battery (sold separately), the light provides a runtime of around 3 hours at full power. With a proprietary Sony multi-interface shoe, it mounts to the Sony NXCAM and XDCAM camcorders; however, a standard shoe mount adapter is included for other models. $550.
Rotolight AEOS Location LED Light
Rotolight’s AEOS, measuring nearly a foot in diameter, is a powerful bicolor light with 5750 lux at 3 feet and a 3150–6300K color temperature range. Despite its size, it mounts to a video camera or DSLR. Plus, its round shape provides a more natural soft box look.
It has a 3-hour runtime at full power with the optional 95Wh battery or AC adapter. The AEOS also has a high-speed flash sync mode for photos and an integrated Elinchrom Skyport HSS flash receiver. Several effects emulating fire, lightning, TV flicker or police lights are also built in. An included professional ball head provides 360° rotation and 200° of tilt when mounted on a light stand. $875.
Don’t Forget Scrims, Reflectors and Diffusers!
Sometimes it’s better to simply modify existing light. There are plenty of 5-in-1 reflector/diffuser combinations in different sizes. With the help of an assistant or light stand, you can reflect light into a subject’s face or hold a diffuser to soften harsh light (such as sunlight). There are plenty of options out there, but that’s the topic of a future column.
Editor’s Note: This article marks the inaugural rendition of a column that will cater to filmmakers and videographers. We thought it was only fitting to introduce it in the issue that was to present our NAB Show coverage.
Mason Resnick is a veteran imaging industry writer and editor. He has more than three decades’ experience writing about everything from still photography to video capture products and accessories.
*All prices are average selling prices.