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LED light panel instead of flash?

Chris Jones , Feb 08, 2011; 12:57 p.m.

I was wanting a Sigma Super 530 flash, but then I saw LED light panels have great reviews. They look nice because of being daylight balanced and dimmable (some of them at least).
Can one of them replace the need for a flash unit? Pros and cons? Can't afford both.
They seem bright enough for most uses. I don't feel like I need flash for most pics I take, but I would use it to balance out the scene and add a little extra.
If I used a flash unit I would diffuse the light. Are there diffusers for the panels, or is there a need for that?
I am hoping the panels can tilt and swivel too. I am guessing a panel could be off-camera but wired in... wireless ones may cost too much for me? I like that the Sigma flash can be wireless.
Also, I don't need to do a lot of video, but it would be great to have when I did video. So that's one factor that makes me want a panel instead of a flash.


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Josh Root , Feb 08, 2011; 12:59 p.m.

Panels are cool, particularly for video. But I wouldn't say that they can come close to replacing a flash for still photography. For one thing, it would take a pretty huge panel to equal the light output of even a small flash.

Eric Friedemann , Feb 08, 2011; 01:14 p.m.

What Josh said- for still images, panels are an interesting alternative for macro (close-up) photography. However, the relatively-small panels cannot match flash tubes for putting out a bunch of light.

Craig Shearman , Feb 08, 2011; 01:21 p.m.

Agreed, they simply don't put out much light and for any given amount of light are probably more expensive.

Jim Momary , Feb 08, 2011; 01:48 p.m.

B&H have LED studio lights, 12" x 18", 77 leds, 360 lumens. If my shaky math is right that's about 0.54 watt-sec. A Nikon SB600 (full blast) I believe is about 60 watt-sec.

If I'm right ...

Bob Sunley , Feb 08, 2011; 01:54 p.m.

Well a $2500 Litepanel puts out enough light to give you f4 at 4 feet, 200 iso at 1/30 - 1/50 sec which is the speed range for 24fps in video. Which is the approx the equiv of a 500 watt halogen bulb according to one retailer, or a really small under $35 electronic flash.

Great for video, long battery life for the light output, not so much for still work.

George Ghio , Feb 08, 2011; 07:04 p.m.

My entire lighting kit consists of LED lights (well except for the on camera flash). The self portrait was a test of LED lights. They can be very effective for photography.

LED lighting test, self portrait.

George Ghio , Feb 08, 2011; 08:50 p.m.

Then there is this taken at night in an old stage coach inn. LED lights again.

Cobb and Co. stage coach inn(c1850s), centreal Victoria, Australia

George Ghio , Feb 08, 2011; 08:57 p.m.

And LEDs again.

Night tanks

William W , Feb 09, 2011; 01:32 a.m.

The TYPE of Still Photography should be taken into consideration.

As well as being about the AMOUNT / POWER of light: it is also about the CONTINUOUS nature of the light vs. the short FLASH of Light.
Continuous Light can be quite useful for Still Photography and also the panels lend themselves to Light Painting and other stylistic adventures in Portraiture. Continuous Light allows a modelling light whereas a camera mounted / off camera cord Flash, does not.

On the other hand, shooting with Continuous Light, one is reliant on the Tv (Shutter Speed) to address Subject Movement (and Camera Shake). And also Continuous Light does not as easily lend itself to the Photographer BALANCING the Continuous Light with the Ambient Light; specifically Dragging the Shutter Technique, is (almost) impossible.


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