The CAME-TV 55w Boltzen – a less expensive alternative to a Dedolight?

For a long time it was very difficult to find a decent LED equivalent of the popular Dedolight DLH4 tungsten light. The DLH4 is a workhorse lighting fixture even today and can found in many ENG camera kits. A lot of these lights are more than a decade old and still going strong. They are very versatile and robust, but get very warm and become too hot to touch if you use them for an extended period of time. The DLH4 is able to focus light extremely well thanks to the use of Dedo’s own Aspherics lenses. They also have to run off mains power and for a long time they were only available with either a 120v or 240v AC ballast. In short, they have been the compact, hard light source to beat.

Quite a few companies make LED lights that look similar to the DLH4 from the outside, but a lot of them lacked the output, colour accuracy and light focussing capability. One of these was the Litepanels Sola ENG kit, which I bought back in 2012. I used this kit all over the world as it was very versatile, especially because it could be run off small camera batteries, but it was relatively low powered (by today’s standards) and it was not the most colour accurate of lights. More recently other fresnel style LED lights such as the Fiilex 180E and Kinotehnic Practilite 602 have appeared that do a much better job than older solutions such as the Sola ENG.

It took a while but Dedo also eventually came out with their own range of LED replacements for the DLH4, including the DLED4.1 and DLED7. I own a set of the Turbo Series DLED7 Bi-Colour 90W lights, and although they are great, they are also very expensive.

It’s important to remember that these lights by their very design are hard light sources and they will produce strong shadows. They are not designed to be used as a soft key light even though you can add diffusion or attach a soft box. Most shooters would use fresnel style lights like this to light up backgrounds, or when they need to specifically direct and control a light by spotting it up on a small item or area. There are of course other areas where lights like this can also be used to good effect.

One of the newest LED focusable lights is from CAME-TV. Their Boltzen series comes in both 55w and 30w versions that are available in either tungsten or daylight.

The Dedolight DLED7 Bi-colour on the top and the CAME-TV 55w Boltzen on the bottom.

The Dedolight Turbo Series DLED7 is arguably the gold standard for this size and type of LED light and the CAME-TV lights come in at a fraction of the cost. So how do they stack up? I am going to compare the CAME-TV Boltzen 55w (daylight and tungsten versions) directly against the DLED7 Bi-Colour to find out. At first glance this does seem to be a David v’s Goliath battle. My intention is not to declare a winner, but rather to see the differences between the lights and whether the much cheaper CAME-TV can prove to be a reasonable alternative for those on a budget.

Weight
The CAME-TV Boltzen 55w with barn doors and mounting bracket weighs in at 970g (2.13lb), and its AC power supply and cable weighs 550g (1.2lb). The Dedolight DLED7 Bi-Colour head unit with barn doors weighs in at 1.4kg (3.086lb) and the power supply ballast is 1kg (2.2lb).

Build Quality
The CAME-TV Boltzen 55w is made out of a type of hardened plastic, with some steel. It feels solid in the hand and the on/off and dimmer switches feel well made. The light does have a built in fan and there are large exposed vents all over the back of the fixture.

You can see a lot of wires inside and I would be reluctant to use this outdoors in the damp or rain. The barn doors are solid but they come permanently attached to a screw in ring that goes onto the front of the light. The Boltzen uses a type of push pull mechanism to focus the fresnel from a flood to spot position. This has a nice amount of resistance to it and feels like it would stand up over time.

One of the things that did concern me was that the power connector on the light faces straight down, so if you have the light up quite high on a light stand, then all the weight of the power supply ends up being put straight on the connector. I’m not sure how many times you could do this before you risk breaking the cable or connector.

The mounting bracket for the light is ok, but the locking mounts don’t really tighten well and you can still physically move the light even when it is supposed to be locked off. This really isn’t an issue if you plan on using the light just as it is, but if you want to add a soft box or some type of light modifier to the front of the fixture the additional weight will likely cause it to tilt forward.

The Dedolight DLED7 Bi-Colour head unit and power supply ballast are built like a tank. Just the DLH4, these new LED fixtures are designed and manufactured to stand the test of time. The light feels heavy and incredibly solid and there are no exposed vents. You can’t see any of the wiring or internals of the fixture from the outside. Everything about the light screams quality. The ballast is also super strong and well made and features the nice touch of having an adjustable loop so you can hang it off a light stand.

The DLED7 has a safety protection class III, SELV, and IP20 rating. This means it is not protected from any type of liquids, so you really shouldn’t be using it outdoors in moisture, rain or snow.

Design and Operation
The CAME-TV Boltzen 55w doesn’t operate in exactly the same way as a traditional fresnel light, but the results are the same. With most fresnel lights the reflector/lamp tray moves forwards and backwards away or towards the lens. As the lamp (with its reflector) is moved towards the lens, the beam becomes wider, and as it moves away from the lens, the beam becomes narrower. With the Boltzen however the LED element stays still and the lens is moved forwards or backwards. This is intended to accomplish the same idea in a slightly different way.  Overall the spot and flood functions still work well.

One of the most unique things about the Boltzen 55w is that you can actually remove the lens that sits in front of the LED element. When used without the lens, the light allows for a far wider flood than you can achieve with it in. If you want to control the spill when using the light this way you can use the barn doors. You do however lose a lot of the intensity of the light as the LED is having to spread the light over a much further area than usual. Despite this it does make the light quite versatile and it allows you to use it for other purposes.

The light has a very basic LED display on the back which shows you the brightness level, battery level (which stays on full if you are using mains power) and the colour temperature, which is slightly odd given it can’t be changed. There is a on/off knob and dimmer to adjust the brightness. The light can be dimmed in 1% increments from 100% all the way to 1%.

The built in fan seems to come on once you reach the 30% brightness mark. It is relatively quiet and shouldn’t be of too much concern unless you have it placed very close to microphones.

It’s a good thing there is a fan though as the front of the fixture gets very hot in a short period of time. So much so that there is a warning on the light that states: Note- High Temperature.

As the power connector faces straight down all the weight of the power cord and power supply is transferred back to the connector. This is a problem if you need to place the light up high on a light stand.

The power connector definitely seems to be the weakest link in the design of the light. As it faces straight down all the strain of the cord and power supply go straight back up to the connector. I was able to make the lights flicker and turn off just by lightly touching the connector. This was something that I found to be a quite alarming and would want to devise some form of strain relief if using them regularly.

Even though both the CAME-TV and the Dedolight can be adapted to take soft boxes I wouldn’t recommend using them as a key light for an interview. From my experience small, hard source lights just don’t make for a very flattering key light, even if you do use a softbox. Yes you could use one in a pinch if you wanted to travel light, but if that was the case I think a 1×1 flexible panel makes for a far better solution.

The Dedolight Turbo Series DLED7 Bi-Colour requires two parts to make it work. The first is the lamp head itself and the second is the AC 90-260V ballast. The DLED7’s basic size is almost identical to that of the older 47W DLED4. It uses the same double helical focusing mechanism, but unlike the DLED4 it features a very quiet active cooling system that enables the use of much higher wattage LED light sources. This gives the light drastically more light output than the DLED4.

The DLED7 works in much the same way as the CAME-TV Boltzen, but instead of using a push pull mechanism to go between the spot and flood settings you turn a large yellow ring that moves the lens towards or away from the LED source.

The light is quite clever when it comes to how the Bi-colour operation is achieved. Most Bi-colour LED lights lose quite a lot of output when you switch from daylight to tungsten. The DLED7 however alternates between two 90W light sources to achieve a more consistent output when changing the colour temperature.

The Dedolight Turbo Series DLED7 Bi-Colour is fully kelvin tuneable between 2700K to over 6000K. This obviously makes it a lot more versatile for use in different lighting scenarios than the CAME-TV Bolton, that is currently only available as a daylight or tungsten only source.

The DLED 7 also has the ability to be spotted and flooded between 60-8 degrees which is a far wider range than most competing lights like this thanks to the use of Dedo’s Aspherics 2 lenses.

The DLED7 utilises a very robust 6 pin power connector that provides a very strong connection to the ballast. The Ballast itself has an on/off switch, a LED display to show both the colour temperature and current output, as well as dimmer and colour temperature dials that are nicely recessed so you can’t accidentally bump them.

Power and Powering Options
The CAME-TV Boltzen comes standard with three different ways to power it. You can choose from mains power, using a Sony NP style battery via the built in battery sled on the light, or you can use the included d-tap power cable to run it off compatible larger V-Mount or Anton Bauer batteries. Just a word of warning if you plan on running the light using a Sony NP style battery, you need to make sure you use one that can provide at least 55W. Batteries such as the popular Sony NP-F970 (47.5Wh) will not work as they cannot provide enough output to meet the light’s demands at full power. If you do try to use a battery like this the light will power on normally, but then once you increase the brightness level to a certain point the light will just shut off. CAME-TV do make their own version of a NP-FP60 battery that is designed to work with this light, you can purchase this as an optional extra.

The light can be run off certain Sony NP style batteries.

The 55W Bolton, as its name suggests, draws 55 watts of power and this is what allows it to be run off certain NP series batteries from the built-in sled on the fixture. This is a nice option and makes the light a very attractive prospect for solo shooters and small crews that may be shooting in locations where mains power is not an option.

The DLED7 requires the use of an optional AC or DC ballast to be powered. Unfortunately if you want the option to run the light off both mains power and a camera battery, you need to buy two different ballasts which is far from convenient or economic. The DT7-BI AC Ballast costs $706.88US and the DT7-BI-BAT-AB DC Ballast is $552.19US. Unlike the CAME-TV Boltzen the DLED7 is not nearly as versatile when it comes to powering options and portability, but then the power draw is much greater at 90W.

Photometric Scores
I tested both lights in their flood settings at distance of 1 meter in a controlled environment using a Sekonic C-700 to see how they compared in terms of output and colour accuracy.

On the left is the CAME-TV 55w Boltzen 3200k version and on the right is the 5600k version of the same fixture.

Above you can see the output results for the CAME-TV 5600k and 3200k versions. The 3200k version had an output of 3110lx at a distance of 1m (3.28ft). The 5600k version recorded 3800lx at the same distance. There is quite a difference between the output of the two lights when you compare the difference between the 3200k and 5600k versions. As far as re creating accurate kelvin temperatures goes the 3200k version registered 3395k and a ⊿uv score of 0.0005. The 5600k model recorded 5835k and a ⊿uv score of 0.0016. This shows me that both versions of the light are fairly accurate when it comes to re creating the correct colour temperature.

The DedoLight DLED7 Bi-colour set at 5600k on the left and 3200k on the right.

In comparison the Dedo’s output at both 3200k and 5600k can be seen above. The DLED7 recorded an output of 2900lx at a distance of 1m (3.28ft) when set at 5600k and 2670lx when set at 3200k. This shows me that the output is able to stay fairly consistent across the colour temperature range when operating the light. The reason the DLED7 has a lower output than the CAME-TV when tested in the fully flooded position is that it has a much wider beam angle. As far as re-creating accurate kelvin temperatures goes at 3200k the light recorded a reading of 3126k and a ⊿uv score of -0.0047. When set at 5600k it recorded a reading of 5746k and a ⊿uv score of -0.0039. The DLED7 is very good at replicating the correct colour temperature no matter what it is set on.

The CAME-TV on the left and the Dedolight on the right.

As both lights can be both spotted and flooded I also tested the output when they were both set to their narrowest beam angle. Above you can see the results comparing the two at 5600k.The CAME-TV recorded 11700lx in its full spot position, while the Dedolight achieved 15100lx. This was interesting to see as in most cases with lights like this you will tend to use them in a spot, rather than a flood position. While the CAME-TV has a higher output in the flood position the Dedolight definitely produces a stronger light source when spotted up.

CAME-TV 3200k

Above you can see the CAME-TV’s colour rendering scores for the 3200k version. At 3200k the light recorded an average CRI (R1-R8) of 96.7 and an extended CRI (R1-R15) of 95.8. For replicating accurate skin tones it recorded 95.9 for R9 (red), 97.7 for R13 (closest to caucasian skin tones) and 96.3 for R15 (closest to caucasian skin tones). These scores are extremely good.

CAME-TV 5600k

At 5600k the light recorded an average CRI (R1-R8) of 96.4 and an extended CRI (R1-R15) of 95.3. For replicating accurate skin tones it recorded 97.5 for R9 (red), 98.8 for R13 (closest to caucasian skin tones) and 94.6 for R15 (closest to caucasian skin tones). These scores at 5600k were also extremely good.

Dedolight DLED7 set at 3200k

The Dedolight DLED7 when set at 3200k recorded an average CRI (R1-R8) of 97.3 and an extended CRI (R1-R15) of 96.3. For replicating accurate skin tones it recorded 97.2 for R9 (red), 98.0 for R13 (closest to caucasian skin tones) and 97.3 for R15 (closest to caucasian skin tones). Just like the CAME-TV these scores are extremely good.

The DLED7 when set at 5600k.

When set at 5600k the light recorded an average CRI (R1-R8) of 95.0 and an extended CRI (R1-R15) of 92.4. For replicating accurate skin tones it recorded 77.1 for R9 (red), 94.4 for R13 (closest to caucasian skin tones) and 89.6 for R15 (closest to caucasian skin tones). It was interesting to see that the CAME-TV tested slightly better than the DLED7 when it came to colour rendering at 5600k. The DLED7 does of course have the disadvantage as I was testing the Bi-colour version and not the single colour models.

The CAME-TV 5600k version when used with the included CTO filter.

Even though the CAME-TV Boltzen 55w is only available in tungsten or daylight versions, if you do purchase the daylight version it does come with a CTO filter that you can use on the light to make it more closely resemble a tungsten source. Usually included CTO filters are not very good, but I was still interested in testing the light out with the CTO filter to see how it performed. The output did reduce a significant amount when using the CTO filter. The lights output was cut from 3800lx to 1970lx. The light did however record a very respectable 3709k colour temperature when used wth the CTO.

The CAME-TV 5600k version when used with the included CTO filter.

I was surprised to find that the 5600k version of the light with the CTO filter still managed to produce very good scores for colour rendering. Above you can see that with the CTO filter on the Boltzen recorded an average CRI (R1-R8) of 93.6 and an extended CRI (R1-R15) of 91.0. For replicating accurate skin tones it recorded 78.6 for R9 (red), 95.0 for R13 (closest to caucasian skin tones) and 94.4 for R15 (closest to caucasian skin tones). If you really were on a budget it would probably make sense to just buy the 5600k version and use the CTO filter when you needed to replicate a tungsten source. You lose quite a bit of output from the light by doing this, but it also means you only need to buy one fixture instead of two.

Using the Lights
Now that I have got all the specifications and photometrics out of the way, how are the lights to actually use? Both lights offer similar functionality as they can both be spotted and flooded up. The DLED7 has a much greater range in terms of being able to go from a very wide to tight beam angle, but the CAME-TV can also produce a wider beam angle if you remove the lens that sits inside the housing. Both lights are capable of producing nice results, but I did find that the DLED7 produces much cleaner edges on shadows – a characteristic of Dedo lights.

The CAME-TV has all its controls on board, but this does make it harder to make adjustments to the light once it is up high on a light stand. Conversely, the Dedolight has its dimming and colour temperature controls on the ballast which are easier to get to when it is on a high light stand, but then you end up having two separate components. The setup that works best for one operator may not suit the next, so which you prefer will come down to personal taste. CAME-TV do have a wi-fi app that should be available sometime in February that I believe will be an optional extra. This will allow you to adjust the lights output remotely using an iOS device.

Unfortunately, on the first shoot I used the CAME-TV 55w Boltzen lights on, one of the fixtures completely just turned off half way through an interview. The light was hooked up to mains power at the time and I could not get it to turn back on again. I had to use another light as a substitute to complete the interview. Once it was finished I tried to trouble shoot the problem and even tried using the faulty light’s power supply with the other Boltzen head. I concluded that it wasn’t a problem with the power supply. After I got home from the shoot I pulled the light back out and it turned back on straight away. I then decided to leave it running for a while to see if I could replicate the problem. Sure enough after about 15 minutes it shut itself off again. I contacted CAME-TV about this problem and they sent out a replacement unit. The replacement light doesn’t seem to suffer from this problem. UPDATE: It turns out that the problem was due to a wrong power supply being used. It seems that the 55w and 30w use different power supplies, even though they look identical. I had mistakingly got the two power supplies mixed up by accident.

For me, not only does a product have to be good, but most importantly it has to be reliable. I can’t afford to use products that aren’t bullet proof and won’t stand up to the rigurous environments in the field.

Dedolight has a strong reputation for making battle tested lights that are designed to stand the test of time and rigours of field use. The DLED7 is easy to use and produces a nice quality of light. As I mentioned earlier it has so far been super reliable and it gives me confidence that I can use it at any time without experiencing any problems. Of course this quality comes at a price.

Included Components and Value For Money

It has to be said that the CAME-TV offers very good value for money. The 5600k or 3200k 55w Boltzen fixtures retail for $298US. For that you get a 55w Fresnel Focusable LED light, a soft carry bag, a 1.8m D-tap cable, a power supply and a filter set that includes Soft and Milky-White filters. With the 5600k version you also get the CTO filter. The included bag is very cheaply made and unfortunately it only fits the light in once you remove the mounting yoke. This is an oversight as nobody will want to take their light apart just to put it into the bag.

Optional extras include a Bowens accessory mount adapter ($28US) that allows you to mount a wide array of cheaper photographic soft boxes and other light modifiers. There is also a V-mount battery plate option with light stand clamp ($78US). CAME-TV’s own high output NP-FP60 battery cost $98US, and a 2.4 meter (7.87ft) light stand costs an extra $48US.

In comparison the Dedolight DLED7 Bi-Colour doesn’t really come with anything. A single DLED7 Bi-Colour head unit is around $1800 US and then you need to add either a AC ballast ($706.88 US) or DC ballast ($552.19 US) just to get it to work. Even barn doors are an optional extra at $52.70 US. You could of course choose to just buy a single colour 5600k or 3200k version of the DLED7, but even this will set you back $1031US without a ballast.

To buy all the components (light head, AC and DC ballasts, and barn doors) needed for the Dedolight DLED7 Bi-Colour to match what comes standard with the CAME-TV you would have to spend more than $3000US. To put that figure in perspective, you could buy five CAME TV 55w 3200k versions and five 5600k versions for the same amount of money.

Conclusion
As I mentioned earlier this is not about declaring a winner, as both lights are aimed at different kinds of users. The comparison was merely to give you an idea of whether the CAME-TV Boltzen could be used as an alternative solution to the Dedolight. The CAME-TV 55w Boltzen is a more than capable light that, despite having some minor build quality issues, offers a lot of bang for your buck. It has a good output, good colour rendition and is very versatile when it comes to powering options. As a Dedo alternative it does a good job considering its low price point. My only concern with the light concerns reliability. I just don’t know how well it would stand up to the test of time being used out in the field. Yes it only costs $298, and if it does break after a few years you could easily buy another one if you needed to. For some shooters the price point will definitely be one of the light’s biggest selling points. For others, reliability issues over a long period of time may well be cause for concern.

Is it as good as a Dedolight DLED7? no its not, but then again it hasn’t been designed or priced to compete with a light like that. Despite the few small issues I have with the light, it is hard not to like it. I think CAME-TV have done a good job in making a cost effective fresnel style LED light that will definitely suit a lot of shooters needs.

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