The Flashpoint 500C LED Light
February 19, 2013
Light emitting diode (LED) lights are the lighting of choice for photographers who shoot video with their digital SLRs. These same photographers are finding that the LEDs work equally well for shooting still photos in the right conditions, and the lights are finding a place with portrait, wedding, and even small-product photography. Among its appealing features: LED lights consume very little power for their light output and they run cool.
Adorama has introduced a new LED light panel, the Flashpoint 500C, which contains 500 LED bulbs. I have not had any experience with the company’s Flashpoint 500 LED light, which has some negative reviews on the Adorama site, but I found the new 500C to be a sturdy, well-built unit with some great features. The light measures 14 x 7.5 x 3 inches and weighs about 6 pounds. Barn doors are permanently mounted to the light and fold over the front for protection when traveling. A carrying handle is integrated in the body (but I would like to see a carrying bag or case included or at least offered as an accessory).
Also supplied with the light are a light stand/hanger adapter for a 5/8-inch stud and the power adapter. The stand adapter is a separate unit that slides and locks securely anywhere in a groove in the bottom of the light. It should be no problem to buy or make other adapters if necessary.
Above: The back of the light contains rotary switches for each light bank. The left switch controls the daylight-balanced lights and the right switch controls the tungsten-balanced light. Above them is the holder for a V-mount battery. You attach the power adapter to the Charger Port XLR socket.
The 500C is powered through a universal AC-to-DC power adapter that can be connected to voltages from 100 to 240. The power adapter connects to the light through an XLR connection that locks securely to the back of the light. Also on the back are a holder and connections for mounting an optional V-mount lithium-ion battery to power the light when AC power is available. A battery wasn’t supplied for testing, but power consumption is specified as a low 42 watts, so battery life of the 162.8-watt Adorama V-mount battery should be at least four hours.
But light output is more important than power consumption, and the output of the 500C is both versatile and impressive. The 500 LEDs of the 500C are divided into two banks of 250 bulbs. Each bank is controlled by a separate rotary switch on the back that adjusts the light output of the bank from off to full power without changing the color temperature. One back consists entirely of bulbs with a color temperature of 5450K as measured with my color temperature meter. The other bank consists of bulbs with a measured color temperature of 3400K.
With both banks at full output, I measured the color temperature as 4350K. But by adjusting the rotary switches, it is possible to achieve any color temperature from 3400K to 5450K. This versatility can be important for videographers, but it is also a convenient way for still photographers to warm flesh tones or shadows, particularly if the light is used in conjunction with electronic flash.
Light output is pretty impressive. No affordable LED light panel has much impact if used outdoors, but indoors the 500C shines. At a distance of 4 feet, I measured light output to be precisely 1000 lux maximum from each bank. That translates to an exposure of 1/50 sec at f/5.6 and ISO 400, good enough for still and video. With both banks at maximum, the output reaches 1900 lux, gaining a stop of exposure.
Above: Add a simple reflector fill to the shadow side of the face, and the 500C is all the light you need for simple talking-head video interviews. (Exposure: 1/60 at f/8, ISO 1600.)
When shooting video, the 500C’s light quality is very good, even when you don’t add diffusion. It offers good contrast and saturation, without a hint that the light is supplied by 250 or 500 individual bulbs. For portraits, the undiffused light produces a fairly strong shadow with a soft but distinct edge. With multiple lights, diffusing one for a fill would produce a flattering look.
Having started my photographic career using hot lights and view cameras in the studio, and then moving to electronic flash when I could afford to do so, it is a pleasure to foresee the day when I might work with small-format cameras and continuous lights again.
Seeing your lighting as you will capture it is always a better option than shooting test shots and panning around an image on a computer monitor. The Adorama 500C is a step in the right direction for still photographers and videographers.
The Flashpoint 500C LED Light sells for $199.95 directly from Adorama; the accessory battery is an extra $199.95.
Stan Sholik is a commercial/advertising photographer in Santa Ana, CA, specializing in still life and macro photography. His latest book, Lightroom 4 FAQs, is published by Wiley Publishing.