Fotodiox Pro LED-100WB-56 Studio LED Kit
$1000 | fotodiox.com | Buy Now
The LED100WB-56 is a wall-powered, dimmable LED light source with that should be a little bit different. Fotodiox has done quite a bit, not just to negate the issues of using LEDs for continuous lighting but also to address some inherent issues of using continuous lighting in general. This is enough to warrant a closer look, as it could make these more useful for a wide number of users.
The lights are sold as single units for $299, and as a 3-light kit for $999. Included with the 3-light kit that we tested are three lights, reflectors, slip-on diffusion covers, power adapters with XLR cables (not pictured), and a set of remotes. The kit also includes a set of light stands as well (not the short one pictured above), making the 3-light kit an entirely complete set for those getting started, as you are given more flexibility with three lights for a key, fill, and hair light, than you are with two.
One inherent issue with LED lights is the source itself. Bright LEDs are never a single diode: they're often an array of diodes arranged closely together. At first we saw LED panels grow in popularity, which spread single individual diodes in a grid to create a big and bright source. The issue is the individual diodes when spread out act like a series of point light sources, with each diode creating its own set of shadows. These complex shadows get distracting very quickly, and the bare bulbs are tough on the eyes.
As time has moved on, the diodes have shrunk down to a tight grid on a wafer, much like the chips in our cameras, just not quite as dense. Fotodiox has taken a panel like this and then put it back behind a glass lens with a frosted back. The back of this lens becomes the single light source instead of the hundreds of individual LED spots, creating an even light source with a single shadow, much like a classic tungsten source.
Speaking of 'classic' tungsten sources, one of the biggest advantages of LED lights over these sources is heat production. Anyone who has used even a120-watt modeling light knows these things get extremely hot. So hot, in fact, that any skin contact with the bulb will leave behind oil residue that creates a hotspot - eventually resulting in the bulb's failure. While the Fotodiox does produce some heat, a small quiet fan keeps inside temperatures steady. During use, no outside part of the light becomes hot to the touch.
Another historic issue with the LEDs as a photographic light source is color - or lack thereof. This handy YouTube video dives a bit more in to the issue:
The Fotodiox is rated at 95+ CRI, which is quite a high rating for the price. This is also a drastic improvement over Fotodiox's own LED100WA, which is only rated at 85 CRI. CRI isn't a perfect way to assess color output but the spectrum Fotodiox shows for the lamps shows a fairly consistent output across most colors, with the only significant spike being in the blue region, meaning there shouldn't be any nasty surprises.
So these lights promise to take care of the light source and color issues, what else? How about flicker? All lamps flicker to some degree if they're powered by the alternating current of mains electricity but different lighting technologies have different dimming characteristics during the 'off' half of the power cycle. Tungsten bulbs stay fairly hot (and hence bright) throughout the cycle while poorly-designed LEDs abruptly switch on and off as the power cycles. You won't always notice this with the naked eye but set your shutter speed faster than the frequency of the lights and the difference can become apparent.
This effect can be seen with the Sony a7R II in 'low light' mode with 'electronic shutter' and maximum ISO in our studio scene - the line-by-line readout of the sensor happens at different parts of the light's power cycle, resulting in exposure differences that render as bands across the frame, despite the use of a tungsten bulb.
Fotodiox claims its LED100WB lights are flicker free, so we tried it out for ourselves by shooting some super slow-motion with two of the lights and a Sony RX10 III.
In these clips, the lights were at full power with their intensity controlled by their distance from the subject. When the lights are partially dimmed banding does begin to happen at 960fps/1000sec shutter speeds, but at full power there was no banding to be seen.
So, these lights are looking pretty good so far right? They also work quite well for portraits, especially when diffused or modified. The mount is the classic Balcar type, better known as the Paul C. Buff mount. This mount not only has a lot of affordable modifiers from Paul C. Buff, but also has adapters made for mounts like Bowens (which is what we own).
|You'll find this shot on the back of Dan's debut bestseller novel (if he ever writes one). Olympus E-M1 Mark II, 75mm F1.8 lens, 1/200 sec, F2.2, ISO 200|
This portrait of Dan was lit with just one LED100WB shot through an adapted Bowens mount beauty dish and two sheets of foam core: black for the background, and a white 'fill card' to the left of the camera. The light was at full power, and wasn't placed very far from Dan's head. That short distance meant the light was intense enough for a short shutter speed and soft enough to be flattering and smooth. However, the requirement for the short distance means that a lot of the light's output was being lost in the beauty dish, so those hoping to use existing light modifiers may find the LED100WB lacking in power in certain scenarios.
Using the lights outdoors on a dim day can also be an interesting experience, especially when a camera is left in any sort of priority mode where it can control either shutter speed or aperture automatically. Here's why: It essentially makes the 'B' button on the light's remote an overall exposure control. Let's look at this shot of Carey to explain further:
|The lights can easily balance with lower light conditions, and the 5600K temperature balances relatively well with daylight and overcast conditions. Sony a6500, 50mm F2.8, ISO 100 1/60sec F4|
What I wanted to achieve with this shot was to combine an F4 portrait (where this particular lens is very sharp) while also bringing attention to the shape of 'bokeh' balls in the background. After putting one of the LED100WB's with its diffusion sock where I wanted it relative to Carey (just over my head and a little to the left), I let the camera control shutter speed as I adjusted the light with the remote and watched the exposure change through the viewfinder.
When the lights were dimmed the camera's evaluative metering was mostly reading the brightness of Carey's face, and as the light was turned down the background got brighter. As the lights were brightened, the background got darker as the camera shortened the exposure time to keep Carey's face from over exposing. I ended up somewhere in the 25-50% power area to brighten up the 'bokeh balls' in the background.
While these lights can be used in limited cases for stills, the best application for the 3-light kit is for video. A 3-light kit gives photographers or videographers a key, fill, and hair light ready to go. Plus, their extremely quiet operation means they don't get in the way of a simple sound setup. We ended up using them when shooting our Game Boy Camera video a few months back:
One frustration we encountered was with the remotes. Having them was extremely handy but the implementation is a little clunky: each light has its own dedicated remote, which can make using multiple lights at once a bit fussy to use. Also, the buttons are just labeled alphabetically, with no indication of their function. The 'A' button works as on/off. The 'B' button cycles through 25%, 50%, 75%, and 100% power levels. The 'C' and 'D' buttons act as an incremental adjustment up and down, with 'C' being brighter and 'D' being dimmer. That said, they're better than nothing, and came in handy several times while using the lights.
At the end of the day these lights are some of the easiest to use continuous lights we've encountered. Their nearly flicker-free output allows use of extremely high shutter speeds. Their lack of heat output means they can be used with any Balcar mount light modifier, not just special expensive ones made to withstand the heat of a tungsten bulb. Plus, the remotes make it easy to adjust power level, even when the lights have been placed out of reach.
For beginners, continuous light is a great option for mastering studio work, as you get to see the light as you shape it, and with mirrorless cameras you get to preview the results constantly. For photographers that need to match or even overpower bright ambient light, these lights aren't always powerful enough, so strobes would be a better choice. However, in the studio where ambient light can be controlled, these LED lights find many uses quite quickly, and for photographers looking for a set of lights to accompany them on a foray in to the video world, this 3-light kit is a great place to start.
|Japanese Schoolgirls (Kyoto) by Litho|
from In their uniform
|Lonesome Decay by Domenick Creaco|
from -Rain and the Empty Space: Wet Landscape- (in Full Colours Only)
Gimbal manufacturer Zhiyun-Tech has introduced zoom control as well as focus control for its new flagship model, the Crane 3 Lab.
We spoke to wildfire photographer Stuart Palley about his experiences shooting the recent Woolsey fire, why the Nikon Z7 isn't quite ready to take a permanent spot in his gear bag, and 'that' Tweet from Donald Trump.
Cinematographer Martin Lisius has shared the video and detailed the work it took to create his 16K HDR video titled "Prairie Wind."
The Z7 presented Nikon with a stiff challenge: how to build a mirrorless camera that measures up to its own DSLRs and can deliver a familiar experience to Nikon users. Chris and Jordan tell us whether they think Nikon succeeded.
National Geographic has shared a collection of entries hand-selected from editors showing off some of the best entries so far.
Rhino has launched a Kickstarter campaign for its new Arc II 4-axis robotic camera system.
Skylum Software will be supporting 10 artists on the EyeEm platform with $10,000 to help them focus on their photography.
Researchers have been able to exploit an iOS vulnerability in order to access photos stored in the Photo app's Recently Deleted folder.
Nikon's D3500 may be an inexpensive DSLR, but the company didn't cut corners when it comes to image quality. See how it handled fall colors and tropical seas in our sample gallery.
Nikon has released firmware version 1.02 that resolves a flickering issue when scrolling through images, an ISO limitation problem, and an occasional crash that could occur when displaying certain Raw files.
500px has announced an update to its Home Feed that's aimed at getting more photographers more exposure.
DxO announces the latest update to Nik Collection (version 1.1) that brings better compatibility, fewer bugs to the plugin suite it acquired from Google a year ago
The Nikon Z6's oversampled 4K video impresses in both our studio scene and real world shooting. See for yourself.
Bailey Richardson, one of the original 13 employees at Instagram, has deleted the app, saying it's lost its identity.
Fujifilm says firmware updates for its GFX 50S, X-T3, and X-H1 cameras are around the corner, with plenty of new features and functionality to boot.
NASA has shared satellite imagery of the wildfire that's been confirmed as the deadliest in California history.
Google has published a post, explaining the technologies behind its new Night Sight feature in detail, on the company's Research blog.
The new Lume Cube Air is a small, lightweight and affordable portable light source aimed at vloggers, casual photographers and other content creators.
Nikon USA has announced that its Z6 full-frame mirrorless camera will be shipping Friday, November 16th at a price of $1999 body-only and $2599 with the Nikkor Z 24-70 F4 S lens.
The Insta360 One X is the company's latest consumer 360-degree camera, supporting 5.7K video, including excellent image stabilization, as well as 18MP photos. And, in our experience, it's a really fun camera to use.
The New York Times has opened up applications for its 7th annual portfolio review. Applications are due December 10, 2018, less than a month from now.
Picfair has announced Picfair Plus, a paid version of its service that adds custom domains, template options, and more to its Picfair Store platform.
ON1 Photo RAW 2019 brings an updated interface, more powerful Lightroom migration, better camera/lens support, and more to ON1's flagship editing program.
We've just started shooting with version two of Tamron's SP-series 15-30mm F2.8 – take a look at how we're getting along with it so far.
Gear Offer is an online marketplace for selling and buying used camera gear with fees lower than both Amazon and eBay.
Experiencing life through the lens of a camera might mean you miss out on special moments, warns Casey Cavanaugh as he shoots a short film through the viewfinder of his Hasselblad 500CM
The New York Times has teamed up with Google to start the process of digitizing more than five million photos stored in a vault nicknamed "the morgue."
Lastolite has announced HaloCompact, a new collapsible lighting tool with a patent-pending design.
Ambitious goals, new challenges and looking ahead to 100 years of the Z mount – we spoke with senior executives and engineers at Nikon about what lies ahead.
After years focused primarily on landscapes, Erez Marom leapt on an opportunity to return to his roots in wildlife photography. A trip to the mountains of Uganda photographing endangered mountain gorillas yielded some stunning photos – and an experience of a lifetime.