Simple Studio Photo Video 1344 LED Light Panel

February 26, 2014

By Ibarionex Perello

Just as with stills, the quality of video revolves around the quality of the light. And though today’s HDSLRs are promoted based on their ability to perform under extreme low-light conditions, the resulting video quality is more about being acceptable rather than being exceptional. This is why I utilize various external light sources for our multimedia productions. Because I often work on smaller productions, I always have an eye out for lighting that provides a lot of light in a relatively compact package.

The Simple Studio Photo Video 1344 LED Light Panel offers the promise of both. Though I favor Kino Flo lights for bigger productions, the Simple Studio 1344 LED is incredibly compact, measuring just 6.10 x 4.60 x 2.60 inches and weighing just 2.65 pounds.

The Simple Studio Photo Video 1344 LED Light Panel provides a powerful but compact LED source for capturing quality video with an HDSLR.

Contained in a well-constructed metal housing, the small unit includes 1344 LED lights that deliver 30,000–35,000 LUX at a distance of 1 foot. When using my 5D Mark III set at ISO 200, the unit allowed me to shoot at an aperture of f/5.6 when the light was positioned about 3 feet from my subject. When diffused using a reflective umbrella, I can shoot at an aperture of f/3.5. This provides ample light for sit-down interviews. When I desire greater depth of field, I simply boosted the ISO to 400 or 800, which delivers excellent quality video footage on the 5D Mark III.

Controls on the unit are kept clean and simple with a red On/Off switch and a control dial for increasing or decreasing light output.

The light output is easily adjusted using a large control knob on its rear panel. Though the unit lacks any percentage markings on the rear panel, the output can be adjusted from 0 to 100 percent. It manages to maintain a constant 5600K-color temperature even when power is reduced, which is extremely important for consistent color accuracy. The controls are simple and straightforward with a red On/Off switch and a port for power, which is delivered via a 2.5mm/5.5mm 19V 4.74 AC power supply. The power plug into the unit lacks a positive click stop to secure it into place. So, sometimes it would loosen when the unit was being handled a lot. Once the light was in position, however, I had no problems with the unit turning off.

The unit includes built-in barn doors for controlling the spread of light.

The light includes built-in barn doors, which controls the spread of light. They also help to control light bleed when using an umbrella, which can result in stray light hitting a wall or ceiling.
The unit keeps itself cool using a pair of rear fans, which results in the housing being cool to the touch, providing for easy handling even during lengthy use. Vents are found on all four sides as well as the rear panel to maximize air circulation. Despite the presence of two fans, they are relatively quiet producing a sound comparable to a desktop computer. Though I would prefer a noiseless light source, it’s one of the small compromises that need to be made in order to deliver a stronger light source. The sound didn’t produce any real problems with respect to sound recording, as we always capture room tone, which helped eliminate any noise picked up by the microphones used to interview our subjects.

Vents are located on the rear and four side panels to maximize airflow. The unit includes two fans to keep the unit cool during extended use.

The simple design includes a fail-safe warning, which activates a built-in audio alarm should any of the fans or a key component malfunction or completely fail. This is a nice feature, which I thankfully didn’t experience during my use of the equipment.

My experience with LEDs has largely been with small battery-powered units that I mount on my camera’s hot shoe or camera rig. The advantages of a relatively cool, compact light source with a long life are one of the reasons why they have become so popular for portable use. So, I was eager to see how well it would perform under circumstances in which I would have defaulted to larger, more powerful light sources.

During the past few months, I have found myself using this light as my default light source. I rarely found myself wishing that I had access to the Kino Flo. I actually found it to be a great advantage to minimize the amount and weight of the gear that I needed to tote to each location. I was relegated to just one unit and used a reflector to serve as fill. Keeping the kit to such a bare minimum allowed me to easily pack the light and the power source in my photo backpack along with my other photographic gear. I quickly found this preferable to carrying the larger light sources.

A two-unit kit is also available, it includes a carrying case for the light and its accessories.

Simple Studio offers a kit with a second light and carrying case, which provides greater flexibility, but does result in another item to carry to the locations. The complete kit is much smaller than a comparable setup with the Kino Flo. At a price point of $529 for a single unit and $999.99 for the dual system with case, the light provides an affordable alternative to comparably powered units, which makes it an attractive choice. However, it’s an investment that shouldn’t be made on price alone.

I found that the system worked very well for me because I’m frequently working with a simple two-person crew. So, the size and portability of the gear becomes an important consideration not only when it comes to transporting, but also setup and striking. This unit provided me an advantage on both counts, while still delivering ample power for lighting a subject and a location.

Straight-on lighting with the unit delivers a strong, hard light, which didn’t work for the purposes of our interviews. For this, I recommend either a reflective or shoot-through umbrella, which results in a soft, flattering light for illuminating your subject. The umbrella is easily attachable using the included umbrella mount that is located on the base, which includes a fully articulating ballhead. I would love for there to be an easy way to use my preferred softbox, but even with just a simple umbrella system, I was able to achieve a nice quality of light for my interview subjects.

The light has held up well under our use for the last several months with no problems, and I believe it can and will delivers years of use. It comes with a one-year manufacturer’s warranty.
The unit is available directly from the Simple Studio website through Amazon.