Friday, April 01, 2011

Product Review: Toptech 35 LED Video Light
While looking for something camera-related on Google’s marketplace, I ran into a piece of camera equipment that I had to add to my eBay watch list.

It was a 35 LED continuous light with a hot shoe mount. It also came with an adapter that lets you attach it to the tripod mount of your camera (my Pentax Optio in this case). It’s extremely lightweight and powered by 2 AA batteries.

The one I first ran into was about $48 with free shipping, but poking around on eBay some more, I found the exact same model of light for $24 shipped, so I went ahead and got it.

I ordered the light a week or so ago and it came in today. Me being me, I spent some time playing with it around the house to get a feel for it and I have to say that I’m quite happy with it and want to get a second one (and possibly a third in order to modify it to use filters).

The light itself is about 3.5 inches by 2 inches, so it’s extremely portable. In fact, due to its size and the way that it’s made, there are actually three ways that you can use it. 

  • It can be used with the included camera mount or on placed in the hot shoe (provided your camera has one). This works quite well for video and fairly well for photos. The downside is that you only have so much range of motion with the length of the bar.
  • It can be used in your free hand. This doesn’t tend to work as well for video but works much better for photos as you have a much larger range of motion so you can light your subject from pretty much any angle you can manage to position your hands in.
  • Due to the way that the camera mount is made, the hot shoe to tripod thread portion can be removed and the light can be mounted directly on a tripod (in my case a flexible mini tripod). This makes it absolutely amazing for photos where you are shooting a fixed object as you can choose the range and position of the light as well as the camera and have the two not be limited by the length of the bar or your arms.

With 35 LEDs, it is extremely bright. Make sure not to have it pointing toward you when you turn it on. Otherwise, you will be seeing large light spots for a while. I found this out by accidentally bumping the switch while looking the unit over.

It works well for providing extra light for videos indoors (and I would assume outside at night since I have not had a chance to test it in that setting yet) as well as for photos without having the washed out colors that using a flash typically produces.

As a set of example shots, I set up a blue background on my desk and took a few shots during the day and tonight after the sun went down. I chose a can of Ski as my subject since pretty much everyone is familiar with the size, shape, etc of a soda can (and if I am going to use a can of soda, I might as well pimp the beverage of my hometown).

All of the above photos were taken at a range of about 2-3 feet with no post production for color correction, etc. The only alterations at all were cropping and resizing in order to be more web friendly as the original photos also contain portions of my desk, are 3264x2448, and weigh in at 3-4MB per photo.

First, let’s look at the day shots.

Daytime shot, no lighting, no flash:

Daytime shot, flash:

Daytime shot, camera mounted LED light:

Not as bright as the flash, but the colors are far less washed out. Also keep in mind that this photo was taken with the light mounted slightly to the side of the camera which, in my opinion, is not optimal for still photography.

The night shots were taken in the same place. This room has a single overhead light (one bulb) on in the shots.

Room lighting, no LED, no flash:

Room lighting, flash:

Room lighting, camera mounted LED light:

Again, not as “crisp” as the flash, but much warmer

And a few with the room lighting turned off so there is practically zero light other than the LED unit for the sake of showing how it does in very low light. (This is why the photos appear somewhat dark)

LED camera mounted:

LED hand held from the left:

LED hand held from above:

I realize that some people prefer the hard, crisp nature of using a flash, but I really do prefer the more natural colors provided by a continuous lighting source. The really great thing, though, is that most flashes have a pretty limited range while this light illuminates pretty well to 12+ feet and works for video as well.

They make a larger 126 LED version as well that I plan to get a few of later when I get a more powerful camera. The reason I want more than one is that I have plans to make a portable light rig for outdoor photo shoots.

Current mood - happy
Current music - Van Halen - Dance the Night Away

No comments: