Digital cameras have come a long way from the amateurish early days of the 90s to become the revered choice among professionals within the first decade of the 21st century. For a while camera accessories have been mere carry-overs from the film camera days but today, the use of LEDs that have revolutionized the lighting industry as a whole, has likewise propelled camera lighting accessories into the same high technology league as the digital cameras they support, both for video and stills. In terms of light power per unit weight and dollar, LEDs have transformed portable and studio lighting systems without the heat and power consumption of standard tungsten lighting solutions. One of the industry leaders in camera lighting solutions, Litepanels is the first to introduce digital lighting technology with its LED Sun Guns and now, an on-camera LED Fresnel.
Redefining features in camera lighting
The new Litepanels Sola ENG is the world’s first camera-mounted Fresnel lighting instrument and one of the best in its class. What stands out is that for its equivalent 250-watt tungsten light, its LED lighting technology draws only 30 watts of power, or about one-eight the power for its tungsten counterpart. And as a result, it runs significantly cooler than equivalent halogen tungsten light so you don’t accidentally burn yourself focusing it while peering through your camera eye-piece in a shoot.
Just like any LEDs, the Sola ENG benefits from its better daylight color temperature balance without using any tungsten filter (though the package kit comes with one). There’s complete continuous dimming from 0 to 100% without any noticeable color temperature shift. You only need to twist the smaller dimmer ring at the back of the light while still looking through the camera eyepiece.
The Sola ENG draws power using a D-tap to your camera so you need not worry about battery charging or added battery weight, as long as it is used on or near the camera. While the unit is designed to be mounted on the camera, you can mount it on any standard light stand but that requires using the ENG 14.4v rechargeable powering unit.
As a light source using the Fresnel lens, you can vary the focus from 10° to 70° with the larger focusing dial ring at the back. You can’t miss it even while looking through the camera eyepiece. At 10°, maximum lighting is 5,800 Lux diminishing to 160 Lux at 2 mtrs. At 70°, maximum light is 1,200 Lux declining to 32 Lux at 2 mtrs.
The compact Sola ENG measures just 10 x 10 x 12.5 cm with a Fresnel lens diameter of 7.5 cm and weighs less than a 450 grams without the attachments. The unit incorporates a cooling fan and comes with accessories like a two-door barn door, three gel filters and a ball head shoe mount adapter and strong padded black case to house it and its accessories.
Light weight, heavy performance
Lightweight in everything except performance, the Sola ENG improves over previous Litepanels minis and micros with a light throw that is more powerful. At distances of up to 3.5 mtrs from the camera and in dark outdoor night shots, the subject gets the right exposure. Beyond 3.5 mtrs, you need to compensate it by adjusting camera gain. Effective range is limited to 7.5 mtrs where you may have to adjust camera video gain up to 12db for decent exposure. While the Sola ENG has the the best punch in its class, it’s really meant for small area and close subject shooting.
But it’s not the lightest unit going however when you add in the barn doors for shadow control and tighter bean focus and the swivel mount, at 580 grams its still fairly decent on a handheld videocam. The mounting post does the job with a 6mm threaded bolt you can directly attach to the Sola Eng head and lock down from 30° to 60° in either direction.
Its ability to adjust focus and light spread coupled with its adjustable light intensity hitting the subject are quite useful in coping with shadows when you have no secondary light. This opens up more flexibility in adjusting depth of field, colour saturation and detail level in the background. These features all add to your creative options when shooting.
The premier choice for photographers & videographers
There’s no denying that the Litepanels Sola ENG is a breakthrough in on-camera lighting accessories. At its price point, you get a high value high performance unit that does the job, and then some. For most, if not all, on-camera applications, the Sola ENG has become the premier choice amongst professional stills and video shooters. An updated version will soon be arriving at John Barry’s and we are now accepting pre-orders.
UPDATE: Litepanels has recently upgraded the Sola ENG kit – it now comes with both a 2-pin D-tap cable and an A/C adapter as well as a stand adapter.