By technical editor Matt Allard:
The Zylight F8 LED Fresnel features all of the hallmarks of a traditional HMI fresnel light but with the efficiency of LED technology. A fresnel lens is flat on one side and ridged on the other. They were first used in the 1800s as the lens that focuses the beam in lighthouse lamps. The basic idea behind a Fresnel lens is simple. Imagine taking a plastic magnifying glass lens and slicing it into a hundred concentric rings where each ring is slightly thinner than the next and focuses the light toward the center. By taking each ring and modifying it so that it’s flat on one side and has the same thickness as the others when you stack all the rings back together, you have a Fresnel lens.
The F8 uses a very clever design to keep the physical size of the light to a minimum. Most traditional Fresnel lights need to be quite deep to accommodate the movement of the lens away from the bulb as you adjust between spot and flood. The F8 uses a concertina construction so that the light can go between flood and spot modes without the need for the light to be so large. This menas the Zylight weighs only 9lb (4.08kg) and measures 15′ x 12.6′ x 4.6″. By comparison the competing Arri L7-C Fresnel light weighs in at 24lb (10.8kg) and has physical dimensions of 16.0″ x 15.5″ x 18.0″.
According to Zylight the F8 incorporates a blend of Quantum nanoparticles with traditional phosphor and has a CRI of 97+. Renowned tester Alan Roberts, one of the UK’s most respected experts, spent his career at the BBC evaluating and creating standards. He recently published a full list evaluating most of the current lights on the market with a new way of measuring that he has developed. Alan’s results for the Zylight F8 can be seen below.
The Zylight F8 features both wireless and DMX control, a water-resistant IP54 rating, and as far as construction is concerned it’s built like a tank. All the switches, mounting points and spot/flood adjuster are extremely well made and the quality of the components used cannot be faulted.
One area where the Zylight’s competitors have an edge is colour adjustability. The Zylight F8 is only available in either 3200K or 5600K color temperature versions, while the competing Arri L7-C output is completely adjustable from 2,700K to 10,000K.
The Zylight F8 can be powered by both a worldwide AC power adapter or a standard 14.4V camera battery, something the Arri L7-C and most other competing high output fresnels definitely can’t do. By giving the F8 this ability Zylight have made it into very practical and portable solution. Its thin design and shape allows it to pack into small cases and be taken anywhere. I can pack the F8 into a Pelican 1520 carry-on hard case with all its accessories. The water-resistant IP54 rating means you can comfortably use the F8 in falling rain or snow. This makes it perfect for news crews and people wishing to work in unpredictable weather environments.
The F8 comes with a worldwide AC power adapter, a nice soft bag where you can keep and mount the AC power adapter or optional camera battery plate and a metal safety cable to make sure the barn-doors can’t be knocked off the light. Zylight’s attention to detail makes a lot of difference to the overall experience using the light.
The light also features continual focusing and an adjustable beam spread between 16-70 degrees. The F8 uses a 8″ round Schott glass Fresnel lens and has an equivalent output of a traditional 650 watt tungsten light.
All these features and specifications are great, but how does the F8 actually perform? I was very pleased with the F8 both in terms of the output it produced and also by the quality of the light. There does not seem to exhibit any spikes in the colour temperature, regardless of how far you dim the light down. The ability to control the angle of light between 16-70 degrees was impressive. You can control that spread even more using barn doors. There is an optional soft box available if you want to diffuse the light but I also found that an old Chimera soft box I had laying around from a Litepanels 1×1 fitted over the barn doors really well.
Another big plus is that the light runs completely silent and it produces very little heat. This is perfect for use in interviews and indoor environments where fan noise can be very noticeable. One of the small features I also like is the little hinged barn door recepters that allow you to put on and take off the barn-doors very quickly.
The ability to run the F8 off mains power or a camera battery is a big plus for me. I ran some tests and a 100Mwh V-lock battery and it ran the F8 at 100% for 55 minutes – pretty impressive given the light output. I’m not sure there is another LED light with Fresnel lens and such high power that can be used in this way. Even though it is lightweight given its light output, it is still ultimately a serious bit of kit. Be aware that it still weighs 4Kg and I would recommend using a heavy duty light stand to keep it steady.
The light comes included with barn doors and a steel reinforced ATA flight case is available as an optional extra.
With its compact size, build quality and quality of light it produces, the F8 is a great solution for news and documentary crews looking for a very versatile hard light. Users will enjoy years and years of use out of the F8 because it is built to last. You can purchase the Zylight F8 at B&H for $2400 US.