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What lights are great for night photographers? What’s useful? What’s great for light painting? How about for illuminating?
The best LED panels I know of are made by Luxli Lights. These amazing lights are extremely color-accurate and absurdly bright, if that’s what you really want. No night photographer I know actually blasts light super bright because it blows everything out, especially from a stationary light. But for some reason, night photographers still get really worked up about how many lumens lights have.
Regardless, I have the original Luxli Viola. Luxli Lights has since released the next generation, called Luxli Viola². Either one features a dimmable output that can be adjusted from either 3000 to 10,000K or 0 to 360° RGB. The unit incorporates two endlessly rotating knobs. One knob controls the flicker-free dimming adjustment from 100 to 0% brightness, while the other knob controls the color output of the unit. As the Viola is flicker-free, you may also use the LED panel for video as well as photography without any strobing, banding or flickering effect.
Luxli also makes several other sorts of LED panels, each with 360° RGB and adjustable Kelvin temperatures. In the hands of a light painting Jedi, it’ll produce stunning results mounted on a stand, tripod, or handhold it to light paint. Available here.
The ProtoMachines are arguably the Rolls Royce of handheld light painting devices. No other handheld device produces such high-quality light, has so many presets, offers 0-100% control over saturation, or has control over brightness over 8 f-stop range in 0.1 stop increments. Oh, and it has a timer as well. Available here when in stock.
RGB Critter 2.0
The RGB Critter 2.0 by Ants on a Melon is primarily designed for flow artists. However, the light produces rich RGB colors, has a solid comfortable build, and offers numerous attachments.
The three-button user interface is a bit confusing and requires some practice and muscle memory. Thankfully, most of the time that you are light painting subjects, you will not need to access the more complicated three-button controls while the camera shutter is on. For instance, you can turn the backlit buttons off, choose between PWM or Analog output, and for the most part, adjust the desired brightness before activating the shutter button of your camera. You may keep these settings for the rest of the time you are photographing.
Flow art, light drawing, and light painting of subjects are different branches of the same glow tree. And the RGB Critter is flexible enough to do all three very well. Despite not being designed for light painting subjects, the RGB Critter 2.0 shines brightly above the competition. At $125, more than fair-priced for what is easily one of the most comfortable, highest-quality RGB flashlights currently on the market. Available here.
Zhiyun-Tech FR100C RGB LED Tube Light
The Zhiyun LED Tube Light shines in its versatility and brightness. Just about everyone can find great uses with this light. Photographers will find this useful and easy to use for portrait, product, fashion, model, macro, light painting and product photography. Aside from night photographers, videographers will also find it useful for a variety of video instances. Either will be able to illuminate their subjects using stands in a variety of settings or handheld.
It is not the best as a light wand, but to be fair, it’s not designed or marketed to be one. It has no remote control. For most lighting applications, this won’t matter, but if you’ve mounted this farther away or high up in the rafters, this could be an issue for you.
I wish that the controls were less finicky. Also, I would love to see this power up to the last light setting it was on rather than defaulting to CCT every time. However, this is a high-quality light that excels at illuminating large surfaces when light painting and is excellent for many other purposes as well. Available here.
Wurkkos FC11 pocket LED flashlight
Light painting with just warm white light is fantastic. You don’t always need color. And if it’s a high-quality light for less than $30, even better. The Wurkkos FC11 pocket LED flashlight is a joy to use for light painting subjects with a handheld light. You can immediately see an amazing amount of detail in anything that it illuminates. The “throw” of the light is wide, but not too wide for light painting. Also, it is even throughout, not having any real hot spots in the center to mar any light painting. It is also nice and small. Having the ability to ramp the brightness is also extremely useful, as this goes from very dim to super bright. The flashlight remembers the last setting, so I can retain consistency. Oh, and besides all this, you can find your way in the dark quite well if you need something that has the capability of becoming absurdly bright. Available here.
Coast HX4 80 Lumen Dual Color (White & Red) Magnetic LED Clip Light with Beam Rotation, black
Sometimes, head lamps don’t work so well for night photographers. For instance, when wearing a beanie, they tend to push the beanie up and slip off. Enter the Coast light, with its strong clip, holding it firm to the brim of a baseball cap, the straps of your backpack, your pocket or your jacket. The light is fully adjustable for hands-free operation. And yes, it produces red light so you can preserve your night vision a bit better. Available here.