By Matt Allard
Litepanels has been one of the big players in LED lighting in recent years. I have used their 1×1 LED lights for the past few years and have found them to very good. I have used them in extreme locations and weather conditions and they have never failed me once. Being able to run them off V-lock broadcast batteries makes them indispensable for the type of work I do. I do tend to prefer the softer illumination that comes from a fluorescent Kino Flo light but they can’t be run off V-lock batteries and require mains power. The Litepanels 1×1 are great for working in a news or documentary environment where ease of use, portability and reliability are key.
This brings me to the new Litepanels Croma which I’ve been testing. It is the company’s latest offering for onboard camera lighting. Designed for video cameras and DSLRs it is a similar size and shape to the popular MicroPro and can be run off 6 AA batteries (although it will not work with lithium rechargeable AAs) or mains power. This is a mixed blessing as you can find AA’s just about anywhere but they only power the light for about 1.5 hours. You can also run the Croma from a d-tap or power supply with the right cables or power distribution. I would of liked to have seen a d-tap power adaptor on the actual Croma itself.
Now the really interesting thing about the Croma is that it is fully color adjustable from 3200-5600k as well as being fully dim able from 100% to 0%. A lot of cheaper LED top lights start to flicker when you dim them right down – not this one. There is no noticeable shifting of color temperature when dimming the light which is a big plus.
Being fully dimmable as well as color adjustable makes it ideal for people who need run and gun on camera lighting. You can instantly adjust the light to the conditions that you require. Being an LED it also runs cold so you won’t have that annoying heat distribution near your head while your filming hand held. It is also flicker free at any shutter speed or angle.
It looks a bit like a children’s toy but it is built tough like all of Litepanels bigger stuff. The buttons, controls and battery latch are all very solid and well made. You can mount it on a camera or a tripod and it is very light in weight, just 0.34kg. This light is perfect to use as fill, soft light in compact places, run and gun applications and as a general camera top light.
The croma comes with a ball and socket mount but one thing I would of liked to have seen included in the kit is an arm of some sort for mounting the Croma on a camera. Top lights look traditionally bad mounted front on and it would of been perfect to be able to put the light out to side of the camera.
I would highly recommend this light as it does what it says it does extremely well. While there are plenty of LED top lights out there you really do pay for what you get. If you buy a $70 top light don’t expect it to be perfect – there is a reason it is only $70! Buying quality equipment is an investment and if it is we’ll made it will last for years.
You can download the full Croma spec sheet here.
About Matthew Allard, Aljazeera Senior Field Cameraman, Kuala Lumpur:
Matt has been a Camera/Editor in TV news for more 20 years, previously working for both Channel 9 and Channel 10 in Australia. Twice Network Ten Australia’s cameraman of the year as well as being a Walkley Finalist for outstanding camerawork in 2006 (for coverage of the Cronulla Race Riots) and a Logie Finalist for outstanding news coverage 2006 (Bali 9). He is a multiple ACS (Australian Cinematographers Society) award winner. His Sword Maker story that was shot on a 7D won the prestigious Neil Davis International News Golden Tripod at the 2011 ACS Awards. He has covered news events in more than 35 countries, from major sporting events to terrorist bombings. Based out of the Kuala Lumpur broadcast centre in Malaysia he is an avid user and follower of new technology, shooting stories on HD broadcast cameras, the Sony F3 as well as new Canon DSLRs.