11.04.2014

Circling back to LED lighting. There's a bunch of inexpensive new stuff I need to test.

I was working on a book when I shot this. 
Didn't make it into the book but I always loved
the control and previsualization the 
big LED panels gave me.

It's a dangerous time for me when I'm in the final throes of finishing up a big project. Yesterday I was processing images for the client who hired me to shoot at and around the F1 race here in Austin for the previous five days. The images were really good. My appreciation for all the cameras I used is genuine. They all focus quickly (none of them focus fast enough to lock on to a race car whipping past on a straightaway) for social photography and, for the most part the colors are wonderfully accurate---or at least very pretty.  As I processed I started thinking about what I wanted to play with next. And then I can across the LED Lighting for Photographers book. 

I remembered how intrigued I was when I started that project and, while I probably burned myself out a bit cramming in tons of shooting for the book, I still feel that LEDs represent a mow mainstream and very efficient way to light lots and lots of different photographs. 

Five years ago, when I first got interested in the LEDs the big issue was the relatively poor color spectrum, especially when compared to inexpensive flash units. Oh sure, you could get well corrected LEDs but you can also get a Bentley automobile if you have enough spare change rattling around...

Now it seems that the landscape of lighting is different. It seems that the green/magenta spectrum issues have been largely fixed and that most of the newer, inexpensive lights on the market are boasting CRI (color rendering index) scores of 92 and better. A big leap from the 82 and  85 scores that were prevalent just a few years ago. Since I get a lot of use out of the Fotodiox 312AS lights I thought I'd see if those had been upgraded. They have. The CRI is now a braggable 92+ and the lights have more functional accessories such as barn doors and a digital interface on the back of the light that reads out color temperature and levels. The new model is the 312DS (color temp. adjustable, that's what the DS stands for). 

The 312DS looks very cool, comes with two, big Sony style rechargeable batteries and smart charger plus a case. I'll buy a couple one of these days to start replacing the older AS versions--- but only if the color tests out to be much better. To that end I've ordered one of the 312DS's bigger siblings, the 508AS. 

The Fotodiox 508AS uses 508 (duh!) LEDs, half tungsten balanced and half daylight balanced, to make light. While it doesn't have the highly groovy digital readout on the back it mimics the same basic specs everywhere else. Especially in the all important color spectrum area where the sellers are stating a 92+ CRI as well.  I figured I could use a big panel and if it checks out really well it's the perfect foundation for a new family of highly portable LED units. Just as I envisioned when I wrote the first (and still unique) book on LEDs for photographers. 

The first light, the Fotodiox 508AS arrives here tomorrow and I'll get right to work testing it. My #1 test will be to see if I can get a close match to daylight in both color temperature and LB. If I can nail that then I'll move on to the smaller, support lights. 

Should be fun. Almost as fun as reading The Lisbon Portfolio





7 comments:

Frank Grygier said...

These look like an impressive upgrade for the money. Can't wait to get your take on how they perform.

Kirk Tuck said...

Hi Frank, I've gotten a lot of use out of the 312AS panels so I have high hopes for these. I'll get the light in to the studio tomorrow and start working on a review and some real life tests. Thanks for writing.

Fred said...

Kirk,
Having recently received a copy of your LED book, I have been wondering about the current state of the technology and how LEDs would compare with other types of lights that you have been using lately.
I keep thinking up more uses that I would have for using these (or other lights)even though I am only a poor semi-focused amateur.
I look forward to your review.
Fred

Dave said...

I've gotten a lot of unexpected out of the 312AS as well. Nice for fill, using on backdrops and makes a great shop light when the need arises. I'm getting ready to sell off my mono lights so these new versions will absolutely get a close look, especially as I consider creating a portable video workflow.

Gregg Mack said...

Kirk, I purchased three of the Fotodiox 312AS LED lights based entirely upon your recommendation (and after I read your LED book). I have used them numerous times, and they always work out great - but I make sure to do a custom white balance in the camera when I use them.

I am very interested to see how these new DS lights work out for you. I am a bit confused about what you recently ordered, though. In your post you said they are the 508DS units, but the links you provide take me to 508AS units - and searching for 508DS on Amazon.com doesn't turn up anything....

Kirk Tuck said...

Gregg, I just went back and double checked (thank you) and you are correct, the 508's are listed as 508AS. I did look at the stats though and the reason I ordered them is that they are showing a CRI of 92+ I am assuming (perhaps incorrectly) that they'll share the new technology of the 312DS. We'll see in a few hours. I'll test the new fixture next to one of my old 312AS lights and see what I find out. I guess I should have ordered on the 312DS lights as well. But there will be time. Thanks agains for catching that.

Michael Meyer said...

Kirk--I picked up a couple of the 312AS units (not the Fotodiox brand, but the same units) after reading your LED book. I've gotten a lot of use out of them and still bring them on most shoots.

Given their usefulness, I bought one of the 508AS units (Fotodiox this time) when a specific project presented a good use for it. It throws much more light than the 312 units. It doesn't have the magenta spike that my 312 units have, but the adjustable color temp is essentially worthless and it doesn't easily match the smaller 312 units (daylight doesn't equal daylight and tungsten doesn't equal tungsten).

That said, I have used it on several shoots and it has proved useful so long as matching color with the other units isn't paramount.

-m