I've needed an on-camera light for a while. I owned and rented little Litepanel Minis and Micros, but they were never powerful enough to cut through strong daylight, or, in a darker space, throw light a long distance (a dozen feet or more). When Litepanels introduced the Sola ENG at NAB, I thought this might be the light for me.
- It's fairly lightweight (about 13 ounces).
- It's about as bright as a 300w tungsten light (according to Litepanels), but draws a minimal 30w.
- It's daylight-balanced.
- It's got a fresnel lens, and is focusable from 10-70 degrees.
- You can dim it to zero without a color shift.
- It draws power from a D-tap, so no need to worry about charging batteries, or extra battery weight (provided you use it on or near the camera)
- It's about $500, which isn't cheap, but not bad as far as on-camera lights go.
Sounds pretty good, eh? I've got one on loan from my dealer, with an eye towards buying. So far, I have a few quick impressions:
1) It's definitely very powerful. I used it in shade on a very sunny day this last weekend, and it did a good job filling in someone's face, and other objects. This thing is about 2-3 times as powerful as any of Litepanels other small lights, and if you spot it, it seems even stronger. In fact, indoors, the light can be quite harsh unless you dim it down quite a bit and/or slip in an included diffusion filter. It would be nice if Litepanels offered a mini-softbox option.
2) The focusability is also very helpful for controlling the throw, along with included barndoors.
3) On the downside, the light has an internal fan that my camera's on-board microphone definitely picks up. I wouldn't call the fan loud, but it's noticeable. I don't shoot much stuff using my camera's on-board microphone (usually there's a mic on a boom, or a wireless mic on talent) but the noise could be an issue if you do, or if your talent is fairly close to the light. Interesting: the fan runs at the same speed regardless of dimming level.
4) The light occasionally rattles when you tilt it up and down (or your camera). I think it's fan-related.
5) You turn the light on by twisting the dimmer dial. The weird thing is when you turn the light on, it starts off at its brightest position, which can blind the hell out of someone who's standing in front of your camera, waiting for you to strike the light and start rolling. That means you have yet another detail to worry about when moving fast--ie, make sure you don't blind your talent when you turn the light on. I would much prefer twisting on the light, and having to dim it up to full power.
That's it so far. I'll have some more impressions and mic tests in the next couple of days....