onsdag 10 september 2014

Litepanels Astra – first impressions

I’ve only had it for a week and this far only used it for two interviews but since I could not find any reviews or tests of it before I bought it (apart from Litepanels own promotion clips) I thought I’d share my first impressions.

Let me first tell you that I am not an expert on LED:s. I’ve actually been a bit lost for a while when it comes to the new cool lights. I shoot mainly current affairs and documentaries and when I started out I got a really nice set of Lowel Rifa warm halogen lights with softboxes and egg crates. They made my interviews look great. However, a few years back I got tempted to go LED. I was told that CRI (the “purity” of the light and the colours in the light) was important and I found a reasonably cheap light with equivalent light output as the Litepanels 1x1 and allegedly good CRI. 
At first I was happy with it but a feeling that something was missing from my shots started to grow on me. Sometimes I got a slight magenta look on peoples faces, especially when shooting against a window with daylight, and I never seemed to get that great soft light I enjoyed before. When I finally admitted to myself that I was not happy with the light and started to look for something new the Astra was just to be released.
My dealer was lucky to get 15 lights in their first batch so I managed to get my hands on one of the first Astras delivered to customers.
My impressions are not related to the old Litepanels 1x1 but more to my old warm softbox lights - although I’ve used first generation Litepanels.

First of all – it is VERY bright! I can literary light up a wall 8-10 meters away in an already day lit room. My old LED gave me the impression of forming a “light cloud” about 2-3 meters in diameter with no ability to light up anything outside that range. According to Light Panels it outputs four times the light compared to the old 1x1. The Astra blasts out light in a fairly concentrated beam, yet soft, due to what seems to be an array of lenses that both concentrate the light and soften it. You can no longer see the individual LED:s as they are hidden behind this big “lens”.

I had no softbox or egg crates for the two interviews I’ve used it on so far. Only double diffusion hanging from the top of the light attached with a piece of gaffers tape. Due to the angle of the light I got a nice distance to the diffusion film and a really nice soft light.

Here I turned the colour temperature all the way to cold (the Astra only comes as Bi-colour as far as I know) to match the outside light. I placed it about 1,5 meters from the person we were interviewing and cranked up the light to match the light from the window. It still had more to give despite double diffusion. For back light I used my old Litepanels Micro pro.

In this interview using the bi colour feature was great! It is set in a hospital corridor with lots of mixed lights. I white balanced against a white wall and then dialed in a color on the Astra that looked nice on the persons face. Sooo easy! Again I used the Micro pro for backlight. 

When looking at the images I realize that I still have some learning to do to get the subtle sculpturing of the faces that I’m after but my general impression is that the light quality is excellent! And the bi-colour and the amount of light I can get from the Astra will make my life so much easier! I feel relieved leaving my not-so-great LED in the bag, maybe to use as backlight or kick in the future. When comparing the two I almost feel ashamed that I used it as my main light for almost two years.

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