New Light. I like it. Godox SL 150 II.

This is the heavy, rugged and highly desirable (by me) Godox
SL150 ii. It's a COB LED light with features.
Daylight balanced.

Obviously much attention was paid to cooling. Note the vents on the all metal chassis.

The back panel is straightforward and has a special button (the white one)
that changes the power ranges to turn off the fan. It also comes with a very
simple remote control that only turns the output up and down.

Much attention was paid to heat management. The fan isn't very loud.
It's only noticeable in very quiet rooms. Note also the robust yoke style 
stand connector and the umbrella connector on the bottom. 

I wrote a book about LED Lighting for Amherst Media. It was published in 2010. That was ten years ago. 

LED fixtures for photographers and filmmakers were pretty primitive at that time but I saw a lot of promise, even with what was on the market back then. I purchased a bunch of different LED panel lights and used them for lots and lots of projects, and I could make a good argument that LEDs were useful for nearly all studio still-life projects and for most videos.

At the infancy of the LED revolution for photographers LEDs were plagued with two major faults. First, unless you spent thousands and thousands of dollars on a single light (I didn't) you were going to get lights that had poor color rendering with spikes and deep holes across their color response. This would never have worked for people working in color with actual film but it was possible with digital cameras because you could do custom white balances to cover most of the sins of the lights. If you could measure where the biggest dips in color response occurred you could go a long way towards helping out your lights by finding/assembling filter packs that helped pump up the lost parts of the spectrum.

But that was time consuming. And expensive. And robbed you of many photons.

The other fault of most lights was the fact that their output (sheer level of lumens) was nothing to write home about. I had several big panels that each had over 1,000 individual LED bulbs set in rows up and down and across the panels. But even with several big lights I was hard pressed to get enough light on a subject to shoot, say, a portrait of an active person. If they sat stone still and I could use a tripod and drop the shutter speed way down I could manage but if the person I was photographing was animated and moving then all bets were off. 

One measure of color accuracy is called CRI (color rendering index). My earliest lights measured between 81 and 85 CRI. All of my current lights are billed at CRI 95 or higher. There are other, more exacting measures but this is a good place to start. 

Each successive generation of LEDs made for photographers and film makers has just gotten better and better. And more and more powerful.

Probably the biggest breakthrough was a technology called COB (chip on board) which moved LEDs from a collection of big, discrete lightbulbs spread out on a panel to a single, more concentrated light source that acted more like a focused light than a soft, panel light. These new LEDs generally have a light source that is flat and anywhere from an inch to an inch and a half across. All of a sudden we had lights that acted, in terms of size and beam spread, far more like our traditional, monolight, electronic flashes. 

The Bowen's flash/modifier mount quickly became the "standard" of most makers of economical COB LED units and let all of us working stiffs use the reflectors and speed rings that we were already using on a wide range of flash equipment. Now we can make use of soft boxes and umbrellas in a way that large, flat panels didn't allow. 

My first COB lights came from Fiilex. They were small and not the highest output but it was obvious that they had mastered, to a much greater extent, color accuracy. 

I have owned many other COB LEDs since then, all with Bowen's mounts on the front end. I kept selling them off as newer, more accurate and more powerful lights came to market. 

A year ago I bought three lights from Godox called SL60s. They were the same kind of design style as a monolight flash but all LED. They had 60 watts of power output which was supposed to be the equivalent of a typical tungsten light fixture with a 300 watt bulb. But reality rarely matches conjecture physics....

The SL60s are a great adjunct to four of the Aputure LightStorm LED panels I own and it's really nice to be able to use them quickly, along with modifiers like soft boxes or octabanks. I used all seven of my mix of LED lights  (not counting small, battery powered, on camera-type versions) on my recent shoot at a technology lab and I came away from the shoot wishing I'd had one more higher powered COB LED to provide a giant fill or to use through a window to mimic sunlight.

I started researching what's out in the market right now and came across the Godox SL, FV, and VL series lights. The SL is a traditional COB that runs only off A/C power and provides a fan cooled light fixture with a Bowen's mount and nice controls. It also allows you to turn off the fan and run the light in a lower power mode for close-in video work were good audio is critical. The FV is also a non-battery light but it combines LED illumination and flash (it uses the LED as a flash source so it's not quite as powerful as a much smaller hot shoe flash).  The VL series is the product line that goes toe-to-toe with the Aputure 120D and 300D lights (but at half the price). It uses a three piece power set up that also allows one to use professional video batteries instead of just A/C power. But the VL lights have the separate boxes and cables for the power supply and the control box which take up so much visual space...

There are different power levels available through the product lines. 

Most of my use of LEDs is in studio or on locations that have ready access to power. I was most interested in getting the best mix of light power, price and usability. I went with a traditional SL150 ii. I thought long and hard about the more powerful lights but you gain, in most instances, a bit less than one extra stop of light while you pay for it in dollars and weight. I'd rather have two reasonably powerful lights than one big, monster light. 

The new light arrived last week and works perfectly. It's more efficient than the generation of SL60 lights so it actually puts out more than double their output. The new, faceted reflector is also more efficient. The kit came with a longer-than-usual, and thicker, A/C cable as well as with a set of four way barn doors, complete with a grid spot attachment. Useful for many video lighting situations. 

The power output is both prodigious and accurate. In a large light bank, used five feet from a subject, I'm getting a meter reading of something like ISO  250, f5.6, 1/80th of a second. 

We'll be lighting a live broadcast show in the next month and several of these in good soft boxes will make great key lights. I'll supplement with the smaller SL60's in smaller boxes or used directly on backgrounds. 

This light even has enough output to be used as a mild/weak fill light in full sun. But just barely.....

As I add more powerful LEDs to the inventory I find less and less use for flash. We'll see how it all pans out. 

I'd love to have an even more powerful light in the toolbox but I doubt I'd get that much use out of the difference. 

Fun with lights! KT

The importance of doing fun stuff.

I saw this videographer crossing the street in Montreal. He had a great smile.

Okay. So I'm officially having a fun August. I'm learning to take things one day at a time and to do something I consider "fun" every day. 

My first choices are always to swim and take photographs. Sometimes you have to punt when you can't do your first choices. I guess the secret is not to hold on too tightly to those priorities. 

Today I woke up to booming and crashing thunder and lightning (and some very, very welcome thrashing  rain!). I watched the clock with one eye and the weather with the other and as the minutes clicked by I came to realize that I would not get to swim practice this morning. A bit of a let down since this would have been my first Saturday morning masters swim workout since the dawning of the pandemic shut down. But it's hard to argue with minute-by-minute lightning strikes...

I made a cup of coffee and walked out onto our back porch, sunk into an Adirondack chair, looked over a small forest of trees and enjoyed the smell and coolness of the rain in the early gray of the morning. Except for the occasional peel of thunder it was a soft and quiet way to wake up with the day. 

I'm booked on my video project tomorrow morning so the next swim will be on Tuesday. That's okay. I was a bit sore after four in a row...

Now it's midday and the sun is out. The temperatures are still in the 70s. What a fun afternoon this will be for a long, long walk with an eager camera. I have no plan or agenda for the walk other than to get out and feel the weather on my skin and to see what my city looks like with its ozone creatively rearranged by nature. That means I'll probably take along a less than serious camera. Probably a Canon point and shoot. 

If I get out in time I'll make sure I plan my route to slip by one of my favorite coffee shops for a toasty cappuccino. Because that's fun.

But before I head out the door Ben, Belinda and I will have our traditional Saturday lunch together. Last time I was in the house I got the distinct impression that we'll be having burgers and fries from P. Terry's. Almost healthy fast food... When we get our chow we'll sit around the dining room table and talk about all the different things we're up to and laugh and kid around with each other. Later, I'll circle back to my job/hobby. My "Jobby"?

I always couch my purchases of things like monitors and lenses as necessary for the execution of the business but the reality is that I love how some of my equipment can make photos and videos look so good. I've been making video for Zach  Theatre using the Lumix S1 with the 10bit/422 upgrade and it's been looking great. I did a cursory look at footage we shot on Wednesday right after we shot it, just to make sure we had the basics covered. 

But this morning I had time to bring it up on the 5K screen in Final Cut Pro X to see what we "really" got. I had such a contentment rush. The footage looked incredible. We shot video of a beautiful and talented Zach dancer in the parking lot of a grocery store, early in the morning. I won't go into all the details but the story line is that as she walks up to her car to stow her groceries she hears the lyrics to Dancing in the Street. Our dancer starts moving to the rhythm of the song and then breaks into a full on dance. (Sponsor's grocery bags with prominent logos in the background). 

I had such a feeling of satisfaction today when I really looked at what we'd created. The acting and the motion of the dancer was so natural. The video stuff was just about perfect and the feeling of happiness as expressed by our actor/dancer felt so genuine. I'd worked in enough video sessions in the week leading up to that scene that my camera holding looked steady and I followed my actor perfectly. The color balance (hey!!! do a custom white balance!) was on the money and the exposure was airy, open and still clinging to every last highlight (although I would have been happy to let the bright spots go, if I had to). 

So, in the moment of looking at the footage (and making sure it's backed up in three places) I felt like "fun" had come home to roost in my office once again. Now I'm looking forward with a certain giddiness to the next video shoot. 

That would be this evening. I heard the pre-professional kid actors would be rehearsing this evening for their part of our upcoming production. The rehearsal will be outdoors and I want to catch some great incidental shots that we might use in the final piece (also called: B-Roll). So I asked if I could attend with a camera. 

Since I have a new Ninja V digital recorder and monitor I'm excited about switching gears, camera-wise, and using the Sigma fp for a change. I've got it encased in a Smallrig cage so I can anchor the Ninja monitor right on top. I'll be recording the 10 bit raw files (24 fps) directly to the Atomos Ninja and bypassing the need to write the raw files to an external drive and then transcode them. I can't wait to see what kind of color I can get and also how minimal I expect motion artifacts to be. But most of all I want to capture the expressions, gestures and energy of the dancers. I want to see kids having fun making art.

Tomorrow is another early morning of video shooting with three or four locations scheduled before noon. I'll be back on the comfortable camera (familiarity brings serenity when it comes to some gear) tomorrow but I'll still be digging in to the Atomos. 

But I'll drive the director a bit nuts because I also intend to bring along my new phone gimbal to try out. 

Fun means so many different things to so many people. To me it's being able to do something extra and unencumbered to generate...satisfaction. Creating is fun. Family is fun. Projects that have a good heart and nice goals at their center are fun. And yes, of course, playing with really good gear is fun. Swimming is fun but so is watching movies on the big couch at home with Belinda. And fun is that great novel that's sitting there, bedside, patiently waiting for me to read. 

That guilty Snickers candy bar I munched on this week was fun. Getting back to work is a lot more fun that I remembered.

Being up and out and alive and engaged and surrounded by love and happiness is so much fun it almost feels dangerous. Just what I'm thinking about on a Saturday while waiting for the rest of the family to get hungry. 

note added: Ben just came out to the studio to take my lunch order. Looks like I was right. It's burgers and fries. I did make one nod to "healthy eating," I asked if they could make my burger with a whole wheat bun. That ought to make everything okay!